This Brooklyn-Based Couple Bought and Restored a Vintage Shasta Camper During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Affectionately dubbed Rosa—a nod to the blush exterior—the RV is a cozy "surf house on wheels," say its owners.
Keva Niver was in college when she began entertaining dreams of renovating a vintage Volkswagen bus—today, however, as a mother of four, she knew she was dreaming too small. So, she and her husband, Rudel Felicein, thought bigger and bought an RV, instead. "Honestly, this was something I talked about, but never really thought would happen," she tells MarthaStewart.com. "COVID-19 changed things."
When family trip to Barbados was decidedly canceled in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, Keva felt the loss. So, shortly after, as she settled into working from home (Keva's a project manager for a construction company that focuses primarily on renovation and design), she and Rudel began brainstorming safe ways to travel. They craved adventure, but most of all, fresh air. "We're surfers, so we're always seeking outdoor escapes. Camping during COVID just seemed to fit with our lifestyle," she explains. "After being stuck indoors so much getting a camper seemed like and amazing idea."
"When we decided to start looking for a camper," Keva continues, "I had my heart set on something that was from the 60s or 70s." She quickly fell in love with the vintage Shasta for its iconic retro shape and signature wings—and the search began. She scoured Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace until she found what she was looking for: a Shasta with good bones, something with minimal water damage that "we could easily bring back to life." They couldn’t have gotten luckier. Rosa—as they now affectionately and aptly call their pink RV—was ready for pickup just two hours outside Brooklyn. "It was in such good shape," says Keva.
Good bones aside, Rosa needed work, something Keva relished in. "This was absolutely my quarantine project—or as I call it, my sanity project," she shares. "It was so amazing to have something right in my backyard to focus my attention during such trying times. The renovation process was hard work, but so fulfilling." She and Rudel fully gutted the camper in the yard behind their Flatlands, Brooklyn, home, adding new electrical and full plumbing (she's the electrician; he's the plumber). And while some renovation tasks required additional hands, Keva was determined to tackle as much as possible herself. "I wanted to run the wiring and plumbing so that I would have the ability to problem solve any issue while on the road," she explains. "I became a carpenter, plumber, electrician, and overall handy-girl."
But rewiring the RV's innards couldn't compare to the process of making its interior and exterior beautiful, says Keva. "I was beyond excited to get the camper to a point where I could decorate," she explains, noting that the goal was to create a "cozy surf house on wheels." Since the exterior's pink hue was statement-making, she kept the interior more neutral, opting for iterations of black and plenty of earth tones; she added blush back in once she established the base, to connect the inside to the exterior.
And though coronavirus closures made sourcing décor difficult ("A lot of my favorite home stores were not shipping," she explains), she made it work. The RV's textiles were purchased online; curtains and pillows were sourced from Target. "Once IKEA opened, we ordered the kitchen cabinets and some storage items," she explains. She introduced texture via rattan accents—the pendant light was purchased from Urban Outfitters; the jute-lined mirror is from H&M—to make the mobile space feel cozy, like a miniature apartment. Which it is, thanks to a full-size bed (this pulls up and out of the seating area), with lots of storage space underneath. Sheer and linen curtains provide warmth; comfy rugs and macramé wall hangings complete the vibe. A chalkboard door, designed and executed by Keva's 16-year-old daughter, welcomes all who enter.
The tile that appears along the kitchen backsplash and stretches across the majority of the shower is a major talking point. "We get a lot of questions about the shower," says Keva. "The walls are actually vinyl—I had people actually touching it and still think that it is real tile." They decided against ceramic accents for a practical reason: "With all the movement a camper experiences, a comparable tile would not only add too much weight but would most likely crack. We purchased the vinyl on Etsy—it's sheet flooring that we used on the walls."
The final result met their overarching goal: to create a peaceful place for their family and, they hope, for others. "We plan to rent Rosa out using RVShare or Outdoorsy in the tristate area," says Keva. "If someone wants to rent the camper, we will drop it off and set it up at their campground." And Rosa is just about ready—Keva and Rudel pulled the camper two-and-a-half hours upstate to visit a friend ("That trip was a great opportunity to work out some of the kinks, like how to secure things while traveling," she notes). The family embarked on a big trip at the end of August, traveling through Maine, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island to camp, hike, and surf. As for where Rosa and company are headed next? "We plan on staying local for a few months and going to Montauk and camping near the Delaware River," says Keva.