A Portland Couple Renovate a 1982 RV, Turning It Into Their New Home

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When Liz Kamarul first set her eyes on a 1982 Winnebago for sale a few blocks from her home in Portland, Oregon, she saw past the dingy wood laminate cabinets and the dirty beige carpet that was consuming the floor. She saw potential.

"The RV was spacious compared to most I had looked at. It had lots of windows, and the flat front and angled bumpers gave it so much character," says Kamarul. She envisioned how she could transform it, imagining white cupboards, interesting wallpaper for the ceiling, and texture introduced by textiles. 

The new, modern-bohemian interiors of the renovated RV.

The new, modern-bohemian interiors of the renovated RV.

Before

Kamarul's RV pre-renovation.

Kamarul's RV pre-renovation.

As a professional home stager with a knack for thrift shopping, Kamarul worked with her graphic designer husband Tim to renovate the motorhome. She optimistically assumed it would only take two weekends. "It quickly turned into every weekend...for four months," she points out. 

After

Kamarul had a custom mattress made by Brentwood Home to fit in the RV.

Kamarul had a custom mattress made by Brentwood Home to fit in the RV.

The couple had already committed to quitting their jobs when they forked over $5,000 to make the RV theirs. In December, they each told their work they'd be leaving in May. They had plans to take a road trip across America, looking for a new place to put down roots. Initially, they thought they’d rent out their home in Portland through Airbnb on a long-term basis, but instead, they rented it out just for a year in order to allow them the freedom to roam without worrying about being permanent hosts. 

Kamarul removing wallpaper from the ceiling.

Kamarul removing wallpaper from the ceiling.

Transforming an RV that’s been on the road for more than three decades was rife with challenges. Some obstacles were obvious—everything was outdated. Others problems bubbled to the surface unexpectedly. "We discovered there was a leak in the back corner of the RV, so we had to take down some of the ceiling and replace it," Kamarul says. "Luckily, Tim is even handier than I knew and was able to fix it in one weekend." 

Kamarul describes herself as a lifelong DIY'er, but had little experience with renovations beyond paint and interior design. Once they started the process, they quickly realized their weekend social life was dead in the water. 

Tim Kamarul working on the RV's plumbing.

Tim Kamarul working on the RV's plumbing.

They turned to YouTube to learn the ins and outs of renovation. Making over a space on wheels had its own set of difficulties. Particularly, the size and weight of everything they brought in or installed had to be considered. "Every pound we brought in meant worse gas mileage," Kamarul says. The RV is about 176 square feet, so there wasn’t any room for new furniture. 

Before

The Winnebago's original dinette area before they renovated it.

The Winnebago's original dinette area before they renovated it.

After

Kamarul used an acrylic tabletop for the dinette to open up the space visually.

Kamarul used an acrylic tabletop for the dinette to open up the space visually.

They reupholstered the orange-and-brown dinette seats that looked straight out of the '70s. Using fabric from the Whole 9 Yards in Portland, Kamarul covered the seats in gold palm leaves. 

Before

The RV's kitchen space before they stripped away the old wallpaper and updated the cabinetry.

The RV's kitchen space before they stripped away the old wallpaper and updated the cabinetry.


After

Kamarul added depth to one side of the kitchen by cascading triangles made out of plywood down the wall.

Kamarul added depth to one side of the kitchen by cascading triangles made out of plywood down the wall.

The original wallpaper was stripped and peeling at the edges. So, Kamarul covered the walls and ceiling with new wallpaper from Hygge & West and NewWall. Their goal was to make the space particularly interesting. 

Kamarul gave the bathroom a playful upgrade with pink flamingo wallpaper and a neon sign.

Kamarul gave the bathroom a playful upgrade with pink flamingo wallpaper and a neon sign.

Kamarul had help from Rejuvenation when it came to choosing the faucet and hardware for the cabinets.

Kamarul scavenged for the driftwood handles that make a statement on the cabinets.

Kamarul scavenged for the driftwood handles that make a statement on the cabinets.

After four months of spending their weekends renovating, Kamarul and her husband transformed an eyesore into a bohemian dream on wheels. "It’s so much brighter and cleaner than when we got it. We feel excited to call it our home," explains Kamarul. 

One of their dogs, Cudi, blends in with textiles that overflow on the bed in their RV.

One of their dogs, Cudi, blends in with textiles that overflow on the bed in their RV.

The couple left their home in Oregon on June 1 to start their adventure. Their first stop was Sandpoint, Idaho, where Liz grew up. They spent two weeks making minor adjustments to the Winnebago, then headed south through Oregon and California. 

Tips for Renovating a Space on Wheels 

  •  Paint is one of the biggest and best thing you can do for the least amount of money. Putting fresh white paint on old, dingy cupboards immediately updates the look. 
  •  Switching out old flooring—carpet in our case—for a lightweight laminate can make even the smallest space feel more open. 
  •  Wallpaper! Give it a chance, there are so many fun and interesting prints available now. 
  • Old cabinets can look brand new with updated hardware. 
  •  Don’t forget the exterior. We repainted the logo on the outside of our Winnebago and it gave it a much more modern appearance.