For years I had been admiring the beautiful flower filled trucks and vintage campers that adorned Pinterest boards, pinning everything I saw and desired and I knew that one day, it was the direction I wanted my floral journey to take. The ability to travel and transport was always high on the 'must have' list not only due to our active military lifestyle but also because personally, I enjoy freedom and change - maybe that's the free spirit in me? When the opportunity arose to own and convert a horsebox, well, wouldn't that be an adventure...?
Basil was not always as eye catching as he is now. I was browsing through market place on social media when I spotted the vintage, white and rusty looking Rice trailer for sale. It was intended for a bar/cafe conversion but due to COVID-19 the gentleman was having to sell his barely started project. Bouncing ideas around with the family and checking out blogs on trailer conversions, I decided that this trailer was the perfect blank canvas. Upon viewing, I fell in love with the original features; a small jockey door to the front, the original canvas on the loading and offloading ramps nestled neatly between hoof-worn wooden slats. It had character and charm, as well at the horsey/farm smell which was a gentle reminder of its past, whilst I developed plans for its future.
The plywood floor of the trailer was installed by the previous owner. He had lined it with a black plastic membrane to protect the wood from any splashes it might receive from its travels. Since that was done, our (I say our, as my husband did lot of the work with me) first job was to get the batons and walls put up which would allow me to add shelving and allow the flower stand be attached to something to keep it steady when driving - as I found out after our first journey! We used roofing screws to drill through the thin metal sides to hold the batons in place, then mounted the cut-to-fit MDF onto the batons. At the beginning of lockdown and until the DIY stores had opened, material gathering was extremely difficult and sourcing everything online became laborious due to the length of processing and delivery times. Don't get me wrong, I understood the NEED to close businesses and why lockdown was put into place, and I don't doubt that delivery companies were inundated with internet orders, but I am an impatient lady and I like to get things done. This leads me to talk about the trailer colour. Originally I had wanted it to be resprayed in a gorgeous emerald green, similar to the colour green on my business cards and I thought a respray would give it the essential professional finish I thought I wanted, that is, until the quotes started to return. One look at the images of pre-painted Basil and businesses were quoting anything from £800 - £1500! This was way out of my small but expanding business budget! I went back to the drawing board (Pinterest board) and stumbled across a lady who had painted her horse trailer with a direct-to-rust metal paint so I searched the internet looking for my emerald paint. I placed the order for a custom mixed direct-to-rust meta paint named "Emerald Stone" that evening, going off a thumbnail sized image on my phone of the colour - "close enough", I thought and I waited. From a local DIY store, I found pre mixed, direct-to-rust, white metal paint and began painting the interior from a yellow/mustard primer colour. I was so pleased with the results! It is amazing what a lick of paint can do and the quality and finish of the paint was reassuring that the order I had placed for the exterior would be just as good. The MDF walls were then painted in the funky colour "Jazz Berry" and the tops were chalkboard.
*WAITING FOR EXTERIOR PAINT* Next, we needed to work on the rear door. On this Rice trailer, it never had doors and horses/livestock would be protected from the elements by a sheet or canvas stretched across the gap above the rear ramp. For security, the previous owner had attached a very heavy hatch style wooden door which would be propped up by a length of wood which wasn't going to be practical or safe when customers would enter my shop. I wanted 2 doors, hinged at the side that would rotate all the way round and provide me with extra space for signage but I wasn't to be. I, very poorly I will add, cut the wooden hatch in half(ish) and my patient husband drilled 2 sets of holes, tried 2 sets of hinges and neither allowed us to fully rotate the doors flush. This was down to the thickness of the wood and a little metal lip that ran the length of the trailer. I was all for purchasing two metal doors off eBay when I came across an advert for heavy duty gate hinges (we all know our phones listen to our conversations!) which worked almost how I wanted. What the gate hinges do allow me to do is completely remove the doors allowing customers access to the shop without bumping their heads.
*STILL WAITING FOR EXTERIOR PAINT* I had a particular vintage boho theme I was aiming for in terms of decor in the trailer and in-keeping with business themes and also within budget, I wanted to reuse what I had, rather than buy new. In an envelope, in a trunk that stores craft bits & pieces was a floor stencil that I had purchased years ago and the pattern was perfect. I painted the floor in a white/cream exterior wood paint applied with a roller, and one that was dry, I began stencilling with a sponge each 'tile' with a sample pot of grey/black masonry paint. 3 hours or so later with sore knees and sore back, it was finished. It is my 'Instagram floor' and I strongly urge customers to use it as a backdrop to their flowers and make the labour of love worth it.
*STILL WAITING FOR EXTERIOR PAINT* With the interior looking good, I moved to the exterior. Lots of converted trailers have new shiny wheels but there was nothing physically wrong with the wheels, they just weren't aesthetically pleasing. My husband suggested that I use the remainder of my white direct-to-rust paint to cover the grey/rust wheels. With the help and tools from a friend, we removed the old wheels and began painting that evening. We then spent a few hours polishing the original wheel centres with good old Brasso and some elbow grease. We were left with beautiful, retro style wheels which perfectly complimented the interior.
*STILL WAITING FOR EXTERIOR PAINT* A few weeks had passed with no hint of a delivery date for my "Emerald Stone" paint. With such beautiful lockdown weather and plenty of time and support available, I was beginning to get impatient and one calm and positive phone call later, my paint had been dispatched. YES! This means I am nearing the end and I can finally get this trailer looking good. A few days later the paint arrived along with a change in the weather which brought high winds and heavy frequent rain showers. I was determined that Mother Nature would not stop me, so early mornings and late into the evenings I painted and painted every inch of that trailer and by the second coat it was looking awesome. The set colour was a lot brighter than i had anticipated but it was an impressive change from the rust stained white than it was before. You could describe the colour as 'sea green' perhaps, and that would be a reminder of the trailers rebirth in East Suffolk as Basil, The Flower Box. You can find Basil and I providing beautiful, British and locally sourced flowers in East Suffolk for the time being, but maybe he will be nearer to you very soon.
If you've made it to the end of this blog post - well done! I documented most of this for myself really to remind myself of what I can do and how far I have come. I would like to take this opportunity to thank a few people who have supported me through this renovation.
My husband - for his patience, experience, carpentry skills and not allowing me to injure myself with an angle grinder or drill.
My Mama and GDK - for their experience, talking sense into me, support and for always for believing in me.
My neighbours - for their support, tools and patience.
Viva La Quirk - a small business owned by a fellow mil spouse and friend who provided the superb quality exterior vinyls and who is always cheering me on and celebrating my small wins.
And finally, my customers - for their continued support and encouragement on this floral adventure. Without all of you, this would not of been possible. Was it hard work? Oh yes! But I've loved every minute of its renovation. Are there things that I would change? Probably, but like everything in life, we grow, we adapt and we don't quit.