Designing the interior of a Frida Kahlo-inspired campervan
As co-founders of camper van hire company Quirky Campers, Lindsay and David know a thing or two about van life. Last year, they set about creating the ultimate campervan for their family of five. Wanting this to be their absolute, all-time dream camper, Lindsay and David enlisted my help to ensure its interior reflected their vision, whilst also being cohesive, fun and functional.
Here’s how I helped them turn their wildest Frida Kahlo fantasies into interior design reality.
First things first: Choosing the theme
Just like a home, a camper van should be a reflection of its owner; their personality and passions. A campervan, however, provides a unique opportunity to indulge your playful streak; allowing for a braver, bolder themed interior than that which you might feel comfortable trying in your front room.
For their van, Lindsay had her heart set on a Frida Kahlo-inspired interior, so that’s where we began our research. Luckily, artist, activist and all-round-icon Kahlo has a rich and instantly recognisable visual identity that is vibrant, bohemian and full of joy. Bursting with layer upon layer of texture and colour, Kahlo’s look is all vivid flowers, geometric patterns, chunky jewellery and intricate embroidery – and that’s before you get to her paintings, which come alive with the colourful nature and folklore of her home country, Mexico.
Frida Kahlo’s art and style made for a wonderfully eclectic and rich source of inspiration
Initial Concept board created to portray the feel of the space
Lindsay and David especially wanted their van to embody Kahlo’s spirit of non-conformity and living life on her own terms: ideal qualities for a nomadic camper van!
When pulling an interior theme together, you’re looking for recurring textures and colours which can be translated into a winning combination of paint, fabrics, flooring and accessories. For Frida, we zoned in on some key elements, such as: bold botanical prints, lush greenery, a curated mix of pattern, copper details, vibrant colours, natural wood and cheerful, folky accessories.
“To have Hannah’s support and get the vision that was in my head turned into reality was amazing! I like to be quite bold, but there is the potential for it to turn into a bit of a jumble sale, so it was great to have Hannah’s help in forcing me to focus in – but also encouraging me to be bold where it worked too.” – Lindsay, owner of Frida
Colour me happy: Creating the colour palette
Whether for a room or a camper van, I always recommend selecting one key colour that will lead your interior theme. Try to keep any additional colours - whether they be complementary or contrasting - for accompaniments and accents. Bear your colour scheme in mind when shopping for accessories: cushions, tiles, bedding and crockery should all work with your chosen palette.
When creating the colour palette for Frida, we looked to a gorgeous portrait of Frida Kahlo which Lindsay had sourced. In the photo, Frida stands next to a vibrant turquoise wall. Her signature scarlet lipstick pops against the fuchsia flowers and ribbon she wears in her hair, whilst a geometric orange pattern decorates her dress.
The iconic photograph of Frida formed the starting point for the colour palette.
Available from Wayfair.co.uk
I would recommend creating a colour concept board, featuring the colours you want to use in your scheme and perhaps adding an image of your van or room to make it feel more real. Print this out to refer back to throughout the build.
Using the above image as our muse, we formed a colour concept board containing six colours, ranging from carmine to shamrock – all anchored by our one main colour; a beautiful blue. Which we narrowed down to Farrow & Ball well loved Hague Blue which was used on the walls and woodwork. Once we had this palette finalised, all fabrics and accessories stemmed from it, with the earthy tone referring to the woodwork and copper accents, such as taps and light fittings.
The colour palette board created for Lindsay and David’s ‘Frida’ campervan.
“I really went to town on Frida, even though I needed her to be rentable, because I wanted to create something I adored. When you go bold, it will inevitably put some people off, but the people you do attract are going to be REALLY attracted and will want your specific van because they’ll absolutely fall in love with it! So, I would say, go for what you love. But do spend the time establishing your colour palette and getting really clear about what it is – having that unifying concept – because that’s what’s going to tie everything together.” - Lindsay, owner of Frida
The boring but important bit: Defining practical requirements
As with any interior project, a van comes with its own specific requirements, which are essential to consider before implementing any design ideas. The small space of a van functions as bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom - all rolled into one. Throughout the day, dirty shoes will touch the floor, doors might be flung open, exposed to the elements - and then closed during the evenings.
Right from the start, I worked with Lindsay and David to plan in any practical and storage needs. No one wants the nasty surprise of discovering you don’t have anywhere to keep your toilet, after all!
Key considerations for Frida included:
Space for 5 pairs of shoes
A wipe-clean floor
A clothes basket for each member of the family (meaning you can only bring as much stuff as you can fit!)
A stow-away toilet
Space to store drinking water
Fixed beds for the kids
A built-in door mat to keep things clean without causing a trip hazard
Child-friendly fittings e.g. curtains that can’t be tugged down
Making a house (van) a home: sourcing soft furnishings and fittings
We didn’t want Frida to feel crowed by clutter (take a read of the Quirky blog for more Camper van storage tips), or totally overwhelmed by colour and pattern - but we definitely wanted to incorporate Lindsay and David’s personal style and home comforts, whilst also staying true to the bohemian Frida Kahlo theme.
For the flooring, we went with patterned vinyl tiles, which have real impact, wipe clean and tie in perfectly with the eclectic mood.
“I’ve always been a bit snobbish about vinyl flooring and wouldn’t even have considered it a few years ago”, Lindsay said, “and then I was just blown away by how beautiful it looks – it really does look like ceramic tiles and was so easy to lay and just totally transforms the space.”
Working within the curated colour palette, I helped Lindsay and David select two main fabrics for the upholstery – a blue velvet and a botanical print - then Lindsay chose a few additional complementary fabrics for the cushions. We then had to source another fabric that would work within the palette for the bunk bed curtains.
Upholstery Fabrics; Left to Right
Bunkbed Curtains - Sanderson - Terrariums in Eucalyptus / Bengal
Seating patterned velvet - Prestigious Textiles - Journey Beyond, Hidden Paradise in Calypso
The print on the two chosen fabrics may clash but when combined with a plain velvet to work alongside they all tie in nicely together. The colours from these two sit within the selected colour palette. Piping was used to add in a nice bright pink, velvet piping can be sourced from VV Rouleaux.
We needed our fabrics to be washable, and also flame-retardant (In the UK, there are laws about the safe use of fabrics for upholstery and in rentable campervans, for further information visit legislation.gov.uk) If the fabric you choose is not flame retardant, you do have the option of spraying it with a fire-retardant spray – but this can be difficult to maintain, as Lindsay found:
“You can spray fabric and it won’t ruin it, but with that amount of use – like the seats in particular - you’d need to respray at least every 6 months – which was way too high maintenance! So, in the end, we got a fire-retardant backing, and Anita (of Simple Rustic) who did all the upholstery, did everything in an initial fire retardant envelope and then used the fabric we wanted over the top. It wasn’t too expensive – obviously, it did add a little – but that was my preference, because I really wanted the velvet and the printed fabric.”
Giving the space some soul: finishing touches
Personal touches and thoughtful details can often be the key to pulling an interior together. Whilst shopping for accessories for Frida, I advised Lindsay and David to keep the Frida Kahlo theme firmly in mind, and to study their colour palette board - trying to only select things that would work with their scheme.
Copper accents – the kitchen sink tap, curtain rails and light fittings – bring the leafy prints and green tones within the interior to life, whilst vivid pink cushion piping gives a luxurious finish.
Leaf patterned plates feel in keeping with the tropical vibe, whilst artificial cacti and trailing plants look cool and bring a touch of the jungle (plus they’re impossible to kill!). And, of course, the icing on the cake – a framed portrait of the lady herself.