Ask any 12-year-old girl what she likes to do in her spare time and she may well say that make-up, shopping and pampering rank high on her list.
Brooke Dowey from Marske-by-the-Sea in Cleveland is no different, except she has turned her passion for nail art into a business based in an old tourer.
“I’m a bit obsessed with nail art,” says Brooke. “I’d been messing around in my room for a couple of years, doing friends’ nails and making a mess. My mum was fed up with me ruining things with nail polish, so she bought me a proper nail table for Christmas and it all went from there.
“I did a few family and friends’ nails and posted pictures on Facebook. Then people started asking me to do their nails.”
With word of Brooke’s nifty nail work spreading, ‘Nails by Lottie Lace’ was born. Still continuing to use her bedroom as a makeshift salon, Brooke’s mum Lindsey came up with the idea of buying an old caravan to move her venture out of the house.
“Me and my mum love anything vintage so we really wanted a retro-looking caravan,” Brooke says. “She also wanted a small one she could tow and we could use for holidays.
“We searched the internet and local papers for months and in the end had to travel to Birmingham [a three-hour drive], where we found ‘Lottie Lace’, a little 1982 CI Cadet 10. We fell in love with her immediately.”
“She was in good condition for her age, with no damp,” Brooke says. “There were a few dents so we took her into a body shop to be repaired and painted. We wanted to keep the outside quite original so we stayed with the green colour scheme.”
The restoration has been a real family affair: Brooke’s mum and grandma painted the inside, laid new flooring and made curtains.
“We gave all the walls three coats of white paint and painted the cupboards and shelf pink. My Grannie Annie made all the curtains and knitted bunting. We also bought vintage things from car boot sales, charity shops and online to add finishing touches. It took around two weeks for the inside to be done. We wanted to use it as soon as possible.”
The Cadet 10 proved to have the ideal layout for a mobile salon, so it didn’t need structural changes. “It has a long day bed/seat at one end where people can wait, and two sofas with a table in between at the other end to do people’s nails,” she says. “The only thing we had to add was a couple of extra power sockets for the nail lamp and the heater.”
“Brooke works very hard and is passionate about ‘Nails by Lottie Lace’,” says her mum, Lindsey. “She would do them every night if she could, but I limit her to two or three people a week, now that she’s in secondary school. If she isn’t doing other people’s nails, you can guarantee I’ll find her in the caravan doing her own!”
When the diary isn’t bulging with bookings, the Doweys get away in Lottie Lace, often visiting Wombleton in the North York Moors or Scarborough. “We have the best times when we go away in her,” Brooke says. “We get lots of smiles driving along with a tiny caravan, and on site there are always people coming and asking for a look inside.
“We found an original awning on eBay. So we now have more space, which we definitely need. When I get older, I plan to take it around country fairs and shows, and do nails,” she says of the caravan. “I’ve already used it to do nail parties. We turn the area above the kitchen into an old-fashioned sweet shop, with jars of sweets, striped paper bags, sweet scoops and lemonade.”
As we finish chatting, Brooke offers: “Come and get your nails done if you’re ever in the area.” I might just take her up on it; I’m obsessed with getting my nails done. It’s a girl thing, no matter how old you are.
She was in good condition for her age, with no damp