It’s not very often that a tired, worn-out vintage RV gets a new lease on life. But in the post-COVID work-from-home era, one old van named “Love Shack IV” became the perfect candidate for an office space, with a retro twist, of course.
In early 2021, Kristen and Phil, who own and operate a community property called ‘The Radish’, contacted Bay Area-based interior design studio iSPY Home Design with a predicament. Kristen’s mother had driven the tired old RV from Nashville, Tennessee all the way to Oakland, California and parked it in an unfinished backyard space at The Radish property. They had to figure out what on earth to do with it, but knew they wanted it to be transformed into something special.
It would predominantly be used as a work-from-home space but would also come in handy as accommodation for out-of-town guests. It wouldn’t be easy, but Catherine Hooper, Owner & Lead Designer at iSPY Home Design, visited the space to start brainstorming.
It didn’t take long for Catherine to come up with the concept of a business-by-day, happy-hour-by-night configuration. Catherine felt that so many RVs were leaning on minimalist, modern, and Southwestern-inspired makeovers, but she and Kristen and Phil weren’t sold on that trend. They all were aligned that this needed to feel more vintage, more aligned with the history of Northern California and how the RV may have been used way back when.
With this in mind, Catherine started picturing a sort of time capsule: Mad Men meets Haight-Ashbury – a nod to the Counterculture movement that put San Francisco at the heart of the country’s social, political, and cultural conversation. Picture vibrant patterns, shag carpets, and bright color palettes – the works. Kristen and Phil loved this idea, and Catherine was off to the races. The result: the ultimate retro bungalow on wheels that stayed true to its era.
Love Shack IV was a charming yet tired old RV that was in dire need of some TLC. Kristen’s mother had driven the deteriorating van from Nashville to Oakland and parked it in Kristen’s driveway while they pondered what to do with it.
After consulting with iSPY Home Design’s Catherine Hooper, they settled on a retro-inspired hangout, workspace, and accommodation for overnight guests all in one.
Starting From Scratch
Before: It’s clear to see that Catherine and her team would essentially be starting from scratch. It was tired, partially stripped out, and ready to be transformed into something truly spectacular.
When you’re creating an authentically retro bungalow on wheels, new furniture will look out of place. Love Shack IV was lovingly decorated with authentic retro furniture sourced from Oakland consignment shops, Facebook Marketplace, and flea markets.
Everything from the classic Banker’s lamp and velvet mustard swivel armchair to the multicolor shag rug were all sourced with the intent to be as funky and historically accurate as possible.
iSPY Home Design thought of everything – right down to the minor details. Not only did they opt for a warm and retro paint scheme, but they installed shelves and filled them with retro odds and ends.
Many of the best pieces came from Urban Ore, among Berkeley’s most famous salvage yards. From books and glassware to artwork and vases, there’s nostalgia everywhere you look. They even managed to tie the whole look together with antiqued copper switch plates and socket covers.
Catherine didn’t just select décor based on whether or not it looked like it was retro. She thought long and hard about what each piece represented. For example, the Doctor Zhivago record and Secrets of the Vietnam War book represented what was happening at the time – including the Counterculture Movement.
All the colors, textures, and patterns in Love Shack IV work in harmony. In the lounge area, the painted walls in Behr’s ‘Wine Not’ combined with Tempaper Elements Collection SILHOUETTE Peacock Blue and Gold wallpaper are a match made in heaven. They also tie in the antiqued copper switch plates and socket covers beautifully.
Wallpaper and Copper Ceiling Tiles
The 1960s were all about bold, beautiful, and making a statement. iSPY Home Design captured this vibe well. They paired the stunning wallpaper with copper ceiling tiles from American Tin. Everything in this area is repurposed except for the rolling cart, which was purchased new from Target.
The rolling cart might be new, but it looks like it rolled straight out of the 1960s. It has been used as a display table for knick-knacks and doubles as a bar cart.
You can’t forget that the RV’s primary purpose is a work-from-home space. Catherine put a great deal of time and effort into this goal, sourcing a mid-century retro desk, vibrant leather swivel chair, and authentic Banker’s lamp. She also purchased bamboo blinds from Etsy for extra privacy.
The gorgeous dark teal velvet curtain might look like it’s nothing more than a display piece, but it serves two functions: It separates the driving area from the main living space and can also be used to enclose the bathroom, which was previously open to the rest of the RV.
Naturally Retro Bathroom
Before: You could definitely tell that this RV was built in the 1960s, going by the bathroom design and materials. While it’s naturally retro, it wasn’t retro enough for Catherine, who convinced Kristen and Phil that they couldn’t overlook this space.
They opted against entirely renovating the bathroom. But a couple of coats of Behr’s ‘Little Sun Dress’ paint, a new mirror, and Oakland artwork really brought the room back to life.
The previously yellowed sink in the bathroom wasn’t overlooked either. Catherine recovered it with Rustoleum’s tub and tile epoxy paint. It now looks brand new! She also replaced all the knobs and pulls on the cabinetry. The cabinetry is nearly unrecognizable from its previous drab brown color.
Before: The bedroom area of Love Shack IV had good bones, but it was tired and drab. The brown wood stood out for all the wrong reasons, and the walls were dull and lifeless.
Catherine managed to achieve miracles in the bedroom area of the Love Shack IV. It was painted in a two-tone teal color scheme to give it the zest it was missing. Behr’s ‘Undine’ was painted on the walls, while the built-in components were freshened up with Behr’s ‘Tidewater.’ The space was made to feel much larger with the addition of soft white cotton curtains, yellow bedding to complement the newly painted bathroom, and more texture with a shag throw pillow and purple nightstand lamps from IKEA that almost have a lava lamp feel.