After being grounded for months, we’ve become antsy, craving adventure and escape. But with social distancing recommendations still clipping our wings, plane, bus and train travel seem worrisome.
Home still feels safer than anywhere else. What to do? Why, take that home on the open road. That’s precisely what a motorhome or camper lets us do. It’s no wonder that the RV Industry Association reports a sharp uptick in RV sales and rentals.
“Our inventory is down to a dozen vehicles,” says Autumn Quinn, marketing manager of Dylane RV Center, Denver. “Normally we would have about 80 vehicles on the lot. Spontaneity and freedom are key attractions to travel by RV, and they are precisely what families are looking for after all those COVID constraints.”
Lee Vought of Stoltzfus RV of Adamstown agrees. “We have four RVs in the lot. Normally, we’d have 100.”
Dealers say that RV manufacturers are working hard to improve motor homes’ interiors, but at price tags of $50,000 to $100,000 for new motor homes, or even more depending on sizes and features, older models are obviously popular. However, their interiors are an issue for design-minded buyers.
Some RVs practically beg for design intervention. But it seems a daunting task. RVs are smaller spaces, so every decision counts, and plywood walls and boring cabinets make you want to start from scratch and tear everything apart.
Chic comes to old RV
Designer Anastasia Laudermilch of Annville understands this problem. She faced it herself when she and her husband bought a 1999 Winnebago.
“We bought it for weekend trips,” she says. “We like the escape once in a while. But I couldn’t live with its interior, and I ended up changing every inch. It was a DIY job, lots of work, but also very satisfying. Rolling down the road in a comfortable, attractive vehicle makes weekend adventures so much better.”
What in the past may, to some, may have given RVs a reputation for tackiness has been all the woody surfaces. So Laudermilch started right there, painting the walls light gray and the upper cabinets black.
“That alone made a dramatic difference,” she says. “I found a great product called Zar, easy to use because it is just wiped on. New hardware on cabinets and drawers followed.
“In the kitchen, a pretty glass mosaic backsplash and a new vinyl plank floor were big upgrades. The ceiling light over the kitchen table was boring, so I covered it with a gold-finished basket,” she says.
“I cannot emphasize enough what a difference all those little things made, and they were all inexpensive,” she says. “For example, I used moldings to create a nice mirror frame in the bathroom, and I found a lovely crackle-finished lamp on eBay. In the dining area, I used textured wallpaper found in a sales bin for $1 per roll. I enhanced it with nail trim. For a window treatment, I painted a pattern on cotton.”
In the bedroom, she upholstered the oak base of the bed, painted the cabinets white and added all new bedding. Finally, no interior would be Laudermilch-worthy without unique and well-chosen accessories, in this case throws, pillows, an animal head, a moose figurine from Alaska and a bird cage.
Laudermilch even redesigned the exterior. It now features jaunty sweeps of color sure to set it apart from any other RV rolling down the road.
In Laudermilch’s opinion, the biggest decisions in RV upgrading involve form versus function.
Consider storage: Removing the cabinetry above the sofa and dinette is popular, she says.
“This does make the space look more like home and expands the space, but you lose valuable storage space. The same thing happens if you replace banquette seating with a table and chairs. While a table and chairs are more homelike, you also lose the drawer space under the benches. In addition, typically, the table drops down and the bench cushions fit on it to create an oversize twin bed.”
Furnish with care: While it may be tempting to switch out RV furniture for something more residential and cozy, keep in mind that the manufacturer likely sized that furniture for adequate traffic flow, Laudermilch says.
“However, interesting accent tables and chairs, dinette seating poufs and ottomans can really make a space feel more like home,” she says.
Floor and more: Replacing carpet in older RVs with vinyl plank that looks like wood is a strong trend, she says. “And changing the wall color can be huge, of course. White and gray are the big colors right now, but you might also consider wallpaper for drama, or even shiplap.”
The right lights: “I’ve seen people create unique chandeliers by stringing their own wood beads,” she says. “And if you decide to keep the existing wall sconces, you can change the finish and shades.
“This is just one example of the big impact of small touches. They are the icing on the cake, the way to truly personalize your space,” Laudermilch says. “So do bring in the baskets, potted succulents, throws, decorative hooks for coat storage and lanterns. You’ll love your RV more when you have things you love around you.”