As all good things must, our time in Puerto Rico came to an end and we headed back to the valley of the sun for our next undertaking: The Darla Initiative.
Who is Darla? Darla is a classic romance damsel—young lovers are torn apart as victims of circumstance, tormented by the distance mandated by a corrupt society. She’s left to yearn for her love from a distance, their only communication handwritten encoded notes sent through their friends.
Just kidding. We really like the movie The Little Rascals, and “Dear Darla: I hate your stinking guts” just felt right.
Let’s rewind: while in Puerto Rico, we spent some time thinking about where we wanted to go next. We’d left the desert and gone to some of the oldest, most iconic cities in the world; we’d been to the countryside, the rainforest, and the tropics. What was left? The wilderness. More specifically, the mountains and forests of the western USA. It’s interesting how traveling half way around the world can make one curious about their own backyard.
We bought a 2001 25’ Salem Light travel trailer, named her Darla, then gutted and renovated the interior. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the inside of a travel trailer, but I can tell you that whether it’s a 2015 or a 1985, they look the same: drab beige wallpaper, hideous green or blue carpet in places it truly doesn’t belong, cheap looking window valences with either palm trees or that ‘90’s paint swatch look, and an equally atrocious matching couch. The appliances are ether black (you hope) or a weird shade of almond-y white. The cabinets are fake wood, and ALL OF the hardware is polished brass. The sink basins and the faucets are plastic—yellowed and brittle if it’s been sitting in the AZ sun. This was our undertaking.
The first thing we did was rip out the built in dinette, creating a vast amount of space in this otherwise cramped kitchen/dining area. This would be replaced by a long counter of blonde birch butcher board (alliteration points) with two armchairs. In addition to creating floor space, it would also give us more counter space and a more comfortable place to sit and type, draw, read, etc. The dinette originally converted into a “two person bed”, if the two people were very small humans, but we’re confident it won’t be missed.
Let’s talk about this couch: it was an obvious eye sore, but it was really comfortable and in perfect functioning condition. When Sean’s mom offered to recover it for us, none of us had any idea that would entail 54 bizarrely shaped pieces of fabric, about a hundred hogties to remove and replace, and hours of measuring and stitching. It was a ton of work, but she did a bang up job and now we have an awesome couch/bed to tie our whole color scheme together.
Next, we primed and painted all the walls, cabinets, and interior door, then added brushed nickel hardware. We put white trim around the couch to replace the weirdly padded corduroy trim that was previously there. We also cut out an armrest next to the couch, which has proven to be one less place to bang a knee or hip on…those space creators become really valuable in such a small space.
The kitchen renovation was my favorite. In addition to painting the cabinets, we replaced the counter with butcher block and installed a deep single-basin sink with a sleek black faucet. We used Rustoleum appliance paint on the vent hood over the stove…which I actually had to do twice because I failed to sand the original surface the first time. Rookie.
We used a chalkboard spray paint on the panels of the fridge, and decided to leave the original grey/beige plastic on the doors. It matched the walls well enough and I was worried about paint chipping on such a high traffic appliance. So far I am very pleased with that decision!
The bathroom was pretty straightforward—replace the counter with butcher block, replace the sink hardware with brushed nickel, and slap on the paint.
The very last thing we did was the flooring. We used Allure brand vinyl flooring in Cabin Hewn Oak. The dark floor contrasts so well with the neutral gray walls, and working with the material was a dream. It can be cut with exacto-knives, then it’s pretty much peel and stick the puzzle together. That’s not to say it didn’t take us a long time—there are tons of weird little corners in a trailer so our measuring and fitting skills were certainly tested but we were thrilled with the result.
Some other projects we did along the way included a ceiling panel replacement (due to water damage we weren’t informed of before purchase), insulating and recovering the cap over the wheel well (previously carpeted behind the dinette…why??), covering the sides of the bed and nightstands in a metallic silver backsplash material, and a few minor wall patches. My mom sewed new curtains for us, which we hung on brushed nickel wrap-around rods. Adios, tacky palm tree print!
We still have a few more projects to do, but we’re pretty proud of how far she’s come. The following blog posts will talk about where we’ve taken her so far!