A couple have transformed a vintage caravan into a spectacular holiday home on wheels dubbed “Stevie”.
Katie Gassner, 57, and her chef husband Steve, 59, spontaneously purchased a 1973 Viscount Royal with an unsightly interior for $6000 in June 2020 after they sold their café business just before COVID-19.
WATCH VIDEO ABOVE: Look inside Stevie the caravan
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“We found an ugly van painted all black, even the interior. It had good bones but was very unattractive,” Katie tells 7Life.
The pair turned the derelict van into a “perfect little getaway” that sits on their secluded 12-acre farm in Pumpenbil in rural Northern NSW near the Queensland border.
After walking away from the dining scene, the couple – who have two adult daughters and three grandkids – started offering their lovingly restored 17-foot (5m) caravan as a unique accommodation option on Airbnb in January 2021.
Described as a “hidden gem” by guests, the one bed space with en-suite is much more than a typical caravan.
With picturesque mountain views and natural surroundings, the property offers a ”little slice of paradise” with luxurious features – including a hot tub and an in-house private chef.
The listing quickly turned into a lucrative business for the couple after they made more than $100,000 in the 18 months since they decided to become Airbnb hosts full-time.
“We definitely do not miss our old jobs or business,” Katie says.
“When we sold our business before COVID, we felt like we dodged a bullet. Yes, we’ve had a few months where we were affected by COVID due to border closures, and this year with the floods, but all in all we have been extremely busy.”
Long before Stevie, the couple were owners of a restaurant during their 20s after meeting in the hospitality industry.
They continued to work in hospitality after selling their first restaurant after five years, either as managers or owners.
In 2019, the pair sold their family home in Lennox Head and their Alstonville café to move permanently to their rural farm in Pumpenbil.
It was here the idea came to mind to buy a vintage caravan, do it up and rent it out.
As they were fascinated with the “appeal and look of vintage vans”, the duo started looking at different models and styles online until they stumbled across a run-down Viscount Royal.
And Stevie was born.
“As we are Fleetwood Mac fans, we wanted to call the van after lead singer – Stevie Nicks,” she says.
Keep vintage charm
With the help of a professional renovator, their daughter and son-in-law, Stevie was given an extensive makeover in just six months.
“We wanted to keep the vintage charm as much as possible, so we kept most of the cabinetry, added windows and a new door,” Katie says.
“Our daughter has a natural gift for interior design, and our son-in-law is a builder, so he built the deck.
“Renovations were finished by early August 2020. After having to still finesse it a little and get it how we wanted it, it wasn’t ready for our first guests until January 2021.”
Bringing Stevie to life
After bringing Stevie to life, the van now features a reverse-cycle air conditioner, shower with a little hot water system, environmentally-friendly compost toilet and a water tank.
“Following 18 months, we added a roof to completely cover the van for longevity and for added protection from the elements,” Katie says.
“Eventually, we added fences around the van for added privacy for the guests. And of course, the hot tub. The hot tub was our biggest expense but it is by far a big drawcard for guests.”
Her husband Steve, a chef of 43 years, has been offering guests a culinary experience – serving up gourmet dishes – including breakfasts, afternoon antipasto and dinner.
Magnificent farm stay
“We offer magnificent views and quality food based on every guest’s dietary needs and we come with decades of hospitality experience and industry knowledge,” she says.
With more guests booking unique stays, Katie and Steve have been able to earn a real, stable income through Airbnb.
“The beauty is we get to choose when we want to work,” Katie says.
“If we have a family event on for example, we can block the calendar out. We have the opportunity to only open four days per week.”
She adds: “Stevie is different from other caravans for a couple of reasons.
“There are beautiful vans out there but there’s nothing like Stevie.”
7NEWS.com.au has not received any monetary benefit for this story.