Many have said that color affects our mood, but I would go even further to herald the benefits of great design—which incorporates color, but also pattern, balance, placement, directional movement, function, and light and dark values into the composition. Most importantly, great design with intention makes us feel good, whether one is a trained professional or the recipient of said professional’s expertise. Some of us are fortunate enough to be intuitive designers with no formal design education, who “just know” what looks and feels optimal and beautiful, fun and fanciful, bringing forth our style, in style, but what does that have to do with camping? Isn’t Nature the ultimate artist?
HONOR THE MEANINGFUL
Nature is my muse—my inspiration. In terms of camping style, I’ve tent camped growing up and as an adult, with travel trailer experience a more recent addition. I prefer a mindful approach to writing, art, and design, appreciating the beauty of things as they unfold, enjoying the story. The same applies to my camp style.
Creatively, I’ve found my yellow Winnebago Minnie Drop 170K travel trailer, “Daisy,” to be a most inspiring canvas for my camp design aesthetic. To begin this journey, my first acquisitions to set the tone were a serendipitous find in a gift shop of red, green, white, and yellow trailer salt and pepper shakers; a reversible black “Happy Camper” outdoor rug; and black and yellow Kijaro Dual Lock camp chairs. These items served me as my sole accoutrements for months and are still looking new and wearing well after much use. A grouping of toss and lumbar pillows that married the yellow and black exterior with the cream interior with green-gray and black upholstery, followed. Their solid yellow, and floral, leaf-like and daisy-like fabric patterns in similar colors on cream and black backgrounds helped further this endeavor.
Adding a yellow and black Jeep Rubicon with 4.10 Dana axles for proper towing continued the outward expression of moving with intention, thoughtfully by design. It also proved useful in obtaining even more smiles and waves along our travels!
Full disclosure: I’m a published writer/author/journalist and a Pantone fan-carrying, watercolor brush-wielding, professional artist/designer and Arts Instructor, with formal education in Fine Art. I still have the repetitious dream on occasion of making from primary colors, secondary and tertiary colors within minutes in my Color Theory class in college.
At my core, I must be moved, emotionally and/or spiritually, to create works of great meaning that honor my true nature. My mother’s nickname for me, of being a “Purposeful Person,” is part of that compass that guides. She was also my camping champion, having accompanied me individually, and as a family, on my campouts growing up and in sharing in the delight of the outdoors. Not long ago she passed away. I camped in my little yellow trailer, a color and pastime she too loved dearly, singing our song,
“You Are My Sunshine” (with our amended lyrics of, “you’ll always know dear, how much I love you,”), out loud to the heavens to honor her soon after her passing. It was a healing experience. My art and camping backgrounds and cherishing my mother’s memory play integral roles in my artistic palette for Daisy.
Where do I begin in designing my own camper style? Generally speaking, choose a color palette based on colors that match and/or harmonize with your camper’s interior and, if possible, exterior as well, and include a complementary color (opposite color on the color wheel from one of your major color elements) as an accent. In my own example, I chose red as the complementary color, as it’s opposite on the color wheel from green. Yellow is the primary exterior color of my camper; however, inside, it acts in tandem with cream cabinetry and the green and black upholstery, hence the red being an impactful addition. Additionally, red and green are a great nod to retro camping décor.
If your camper has a silver exterior and a blend of blue colors inside, you could choose red, white, and blue, or blue and yellow with a splash of white, or blue and purple, or primary colors of blue, red, and yellow, plus many other combinations. If subtle offerings are your mantra, or the bold must be manifested, then rejoice either way in your aesthetic decisions, because it’s yours to decide!
HEARKEN THE HISTORY
My mom came to Southern California as a young teen. After school, packing lemons for the fruit industry became her way to help support her family. Naturally, with yellow as a primary color in my trailer’s artistic composition, and nature as my constant inspiration, lemons were a welcome design element. Like the fruit itself, great care was taken to not overindulge. Bath towels, bed sheet sets, and a kitchen apron were procured as accents, each adorned with the lemony fruit on the fabric. Linens are a versatile way to showcase personal style in your camper and for me, my love for my mom through accessories. A future acquisition may be in a small grouping of framed vintage citrus packing labels for my trailer wall.
CELEBRATE THE MOMENTS
I am drawn to wild birds, and gratefully, they to me. I’m also a novice bird watcher, perhaps even a birder, when it comes to visiting locations just for the sake of finding a specific wild bird. I especially appreciate the spritely joy of the Chickadee, so I selected two matching shower curtains with birds of similar colors in the yellow, black, cream, and white color schemes for both the shower and for tidy concealment when using the top bunk for storage.
I’ve been blessed with several treasured occasions where owls have swooped right in front of me, including turning their head as they pass by, making direct eye contact. Those momentous connections had to be represented in my camping style as well, so a woven cotton blanket with owl motif was purchased for Daisy for summer fare. Redtail hawks are another visitor I’ve shared special moments with, so a matching woven blanket, this time in the hawk design, was also procured. Two Pendleton blankets were given to me as gifts, celebrating camping and the earth’s richness, with a green, red, black, and yellow-striped Yakima wool camp blanket, and a Cedar Mountain robe blanket. A wool plaid throw blanket from Scotland, in complementary hues, added another layer of warmth in the linen and ancestral legacies. My mother’s traditional red, green, black, and yellow plaid blanket became the perfect addition to my evolution in camping design. Inspired by our mutual affection for Maine and our special times together there, a green “Maine” wool felt pennant made by Yoho & Co. was added for that “just right” touch. Aspirations for additional pennants, such as their “Acadia,” “Yosemite,” and “Grand Canyon” designs are also being considered, as they remain places of wonder and grandeur for me that need to be marked in a tangible way. My patch collection from National Parks, including Hawaii Volcanoes, Joshua Tree, Acadia, and Yosemite, are being considered as either a frameable piece, or perhaps sewn onto an accent pillow. I have hesitated on completing this project, as I am missing patches from Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, as well as my planned future NP excursions. Having only recently acquired most of these items and accessories, they will all be on display in my future campouts.
What am I drawn to? Let that be your guide! If you’re a yoga practitioner or surfer, gardener or writer, photographer or cartographer, engineer or teacher, each can influence your décor, from stick-on wall art to linens, and curtains to dishes, and rugs to kitchen gadgets—even your clothes (LifeIsGood camping t-shirts, anyone? Hemlock Goods bandanas as a clothing or camper accessory? I’m a huge fan!)! You can even design your own custom fabric via several vendors. Does a topo map of Yosemite on the wall sound appealing? Does a string of pennants made of typewriter fabric make you wax poetic? Do pineapple string lights bring on the Aloha for you? Do surfboard placemats make you stoked?
Are you shabby chic in your style, bohemian, western, modern, farmhouse, or vintage camping? Perhaps this effort in styling seems contrary to simplifying your life through camping, with function and getting away your primary motivations, and you wish to just ease into a few throw pillows? Comfort + Good Design + Camping = Triple-win!
Do you have collections that you can blend with your camper décor, that also travel well? Hello Kitty collection, anyone? Paw print or other doggy designs? Favored nature tomes to display? Your grandpa’s whittled animal figurines? Your grandma’s apron hung from a hook, or her embroidered dishtowels? A favored camping spot or National Park spark your ideas? Items that represent the elements, such as earth, wind, fire, and water? Each (and many, many more ideas) could be showcased through numerous décor possibilities. If you run a business from your trailer or RV, then that could easily dictate your accessorizing.
One misgiving I have was purchasing a sewer hose combination on recommendation from my RV dealer that was apple green and black. While it still serves its purpose well, I’ve since found a terrific product by Camco that is yellow and black, my camper’s signature colors. As soon as my existing hose completes its usefulness, I’ll be replacing it with the Camco. Not to have missed the boat completely in the matchy-matchy accessory department, I’ve been fortunate to buy other useful trailer accessories from Camco that are all yellow, or yellow and black, such as leveling blocks, stabilizing jack pads, and wheel chocks, so Daisy is parking in style! (Dear Camco: Please don’t change your products’ yellow color!)
Are you an artist with a favored piece, or collect art that can serve as your stepping stone to style? Is there a loved one who may serve as inspiration, perhaps the same person you named your trailer after? These are but a few ideas to consider. You can keep it minimal, or go full-on Designer—it’s up to you! Just remember that camping is all about connection, and for many, peace and healing, so set your own pace.
TREASURE THE LEGACY
Nostalgia and family also provide creative insight. Having grown up camping, and having been gifted the beloved, vintage camping and picnic gear of my mother’s, such as her woven green Hawkeye picnic basket I remembered from my childhood, as well as the red, white, and black-striped, wool-covered canteen, and green Coleman gas lantern and camp stove, my lifelong love of camping is being detailed in full measure, through accessorizing my trailer.
Family is ever-present in my life, through the ties that bind through loving relationships on Earth, as well as through the history of those who came before me and are forever a part of me. My experiences in nature and deep meaning—moments that are indelibly etched upon my heart—have come into the forefront in everything this Camping Creative does. Daisy, my cute-as-a-button trailer, is the hallmark of much of what moves me. Her welcoming environment, and the joy I experience in camping with her, have become a love letter of abundance, a most-fruitful gift.
With nature as a recurring theme, Loretta is the author of six books of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, including the Misthaven of Maine Series, her memoir, The Nature of BEing: A Healing Journey, and her latest work, Meet Me on the Other Side of Wonder: Selected Poems. An award-winning artist and designer, her original watercolors and design grace the covers of all her books. When she isn’t out in nature, you can often find her writing or painting at the campsite. Visit LorettaBoyerMcClellan.com and McClellanCreative.com for more information.