This story was written for Dwell.com and the original article can be found by clicking HERE.
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.
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.
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.
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 Some obstacles were obvious—everything was outdated.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.
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.
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.
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 had help from Rejuvenation when it came to choosing the faucet and hardware for 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.
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.