I am not crafty and Eric is not handy. So when it comes to RV projects, we’re nearly useless. But seeing our little one’s due date on the horizon was the push we needed to finally tackle an RV redesign of our living area. Also known as half our home (see? It sounds like a massive project when you put it that way).
With help from friends, we redesigned our bedroom a year ago. We’ve been really happy with the finished product, so we decided to make similar changes in the living area. Including:
- Taking down the cornice boxes (torn up by cat) and blinds (circa 2004, dirty and breaking)
- Painting the walls
- Mounting curtains
Somewhere along the way, the project extended into our bathroom area, where we have a sink and shower on one side, and toilet and second sink in a separate room on the other side.
Typical of us, the process has been rife with hiccups, spills, breaking things and disasters you can only laugh about much later. Well, you’d probably laugh about it now. We still need some time.
1/ Taking Down the Cornice Boxes and Blinds
Oh, upholstered cornice boxes…you bane of RVers everywhere. I felt so accomplished when I reupholstered our cornice boxes back in 2014 (with help from a friend, naturally). But our feral kitten, Rhythm Jasmine, did a number on them with her claws after we rescued her from a Kentucky campground last year. Sigh.
Regardless, the fabric didn’t match the nautical theme we decided on afterwards, and the breaking day/night shades absolutely had to go. We had one blind by the dinette that we hadn’t been able to open for about two years because of a broken string.
We had a vague recollection of what we had to do to get the cornice boxes and blinds down, since we’d done it once before. The project requires a drill, screwdriver and patience. I don’t know what your set-up is like, but our blinds are next to impossible to unclip from the cornice boxes. Since we were going to trash them anyway, we didn’t have any qualms about handling them roughly in order to get at the cornice box hardware.
It was so satisfying to see the mass of blinds on our floor, ready for the dumpster. We gave the cornice boxes to our painter for repurposing.
Our living area seemed so open with the cornice boxes gone. Of course, the natural light was a big part of that. But the mass of the cornice boxes adds up in such a small space. Down to the window frames, we were ready to paint.
2/ Painting the Walls
I successfully painted our bedroom last year, but that was a much smaller area. It’s shocking how long it takes to tape off all the small areas of an RV, before painting around the many corners and angles. This time around, Eric was concerned about how the paint fumes would affect me (and more importantly the baby), and I’m admittedly not as flexible or energetic right now.
So we decided to find someone to help us paint. We ended up connecting with someone in one of our Austin networking circles who was really excited about assisting, and wanted to donate her time to do so. She spent two days painting, and went the extra mile to paint the bathroom areas, too.
We used Valspar Reserve paint and primer with a satin sheen from Lowe’s. This is the same paint we used in the bedroom, and I love the quality. We wanted a light grey, and “Polar Star” ended up calling to us. Eric actually did a tour of duty on U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star, an ice breaker that took him to the Arctic and Antarctica. Our nautical theme come full-circle!
After the painter was finished, I did some touch-ups and clean-up (thank goodness for Goo Gone Paint Clean-up). I still have some work to do in the bathroom. But within a few days, we were ready to mount our curtains in the living area.
3A/ Making Curtains
The final piece of this redesign puzzle was having curtains made. We vacillated over the years between replacing the day/night shades with the same product, going to another type of blinds, or doing curtains. The bedroom was our test area. The curtain option was low-cost and added color and homeyness to the room. After a year of living with those curtains in the bedroom, we were confident about replicating the effect in our main living area.
We started asking for seamstress recommendations once we arrived in Central Texas. A couple of people directed us to Gloria at Victory Cleaners, located only 10 minutes from our RV park. She was a breeze to work with. We provided her with:
- Measurements. We measured each window–not the frame itself, but the actual length and height where we wanted the curtain to fall. Length doesn’t have to be precise because the gather of the curtain covers up small measurement mistakes. Height is more important. For example, one of our curtains is directly above the dinette, and I didn’t want the curtain to brush or lay on the dinette itself. We made sure to measure carefully here. Gloria divided each length by two, to make two panels for each window. Then she added gather so the curtains would have attractive ripples. I don’t know how much extra fabric is supposed to be added for gather, but I’m sure that information is easily accessible online.
- The fabric we wanted to use. We picked it out at Hobby Lobby, then ordered online once we gave Gloria the measurements and she replied with how many yards she would need. We ordered online because the store didn’t carry the amount of fabric we needed.
- Curtain backing. We opted for Roc-Lon Rain No Stain Drapery Lining. It provides protection from oil- and water-borne streaks and stains, and it’s wrinkle-resistant, made in the U.S., and can be washed or dry cleaned. There was a massive roll at Hobby Lobby, so we were able to purchase in person. When buying from Hobby Lobby, don’t forget to download the app and use the coupon. It’s good for items that aren’t already on sale.
Gloria made one curtain, then had us come in to check it and make sure it was what we wanted. We gave the thumbs-up, and she had the rest of the curtains done within days. We’re really grateful we were able to find a reliable, talented seamstress in our local area.
3B/ Mounting Curtains
While the curtains were being made, we ordered 5/8″ rods online, based on the lengths we needed. 5/8″ was about as big as I was willing to go because I wanted to keep the weight down.
By this time, we had been without privacy in our living area for about a week. Time for mounting!
It was a busy time, so we mounted a couple of curtains at a time, then came back in a day or two to mount a couple more. Below was our process for each curtain. Basic and intuitive for most of you, but maybe it will help others like us!
- Put the rod together and the curtain on the rod.
- One person holds the rod and curtain with a mounting bracket on one side, just like it’s going to fit against the wall.
- The other person stands back to direct the positioning of the rod.
- Once the rod is in place, use a pencil to mark the correct spot for the bracket screw.
- Set the rod and curtain aside.
- Use the drill to make the hole.
- If the drill strikes a stud, the screw should be sufficient to hold up the rod. With the drill, secure the bracket with the screw.
- If the drill does not strike a stud, use a hammer to place a wall anchor. Then use a screwdriver to secure the screw inside the anchor (using a drill isn’t advisable because if you tighten the screw too much, the anchor will break). Eric placed the anchor and screw first, with just a little bit of room left to slide the bracket behind the anchor. Once the bracket was in place, he finished securing the anchor and screw.
- Set the rod and curtain into the bracket that’s already in place. On the other side, hold the bracket against the wall.
- Second person stands back to ensure the rod is lying flat.
- Repeat steps 4-8.
This process went smoothly for four of our six curtains. But on either side of our slide, the far end of each curtain rod sits across from cabinets. There is only 6-8″ of clearance–not enough to fit a drill.
Thus began many days of experimentation. To hold the bracket, we tried Command Velcro strips. We tried Scotch Velcro strips. We tried Scotch Velcro strips with super glue. Nothing could take the weight of the rod.
At our wits’ end, Eric queried an online RV forum. Multiple people quickly recommended a right-angle attachment for our drill, a lifesaver for many RVers. We were able to find it at Lowe’s and follow our multi-step process to get the final brackets screwed in!
How Much the Redesign Cost Us
- Curtain fabric for seven curtains: $83
- Curtain backing: $25 (estimate! I lost this receipt.)
- Seamstress: $227
- Paint: $43
- Misc. painting supplies: $19
- Painter: $0
- Curtain rods: $175
- Right-angle attachment for drill: $24
Compensating a painter would’ve been the biggest line item, so we saved there. Having said that, we would’ve preferred going with a professional who could knock out the entire project. We’ve had to do touch-ups and clean-ups, and still aren’t done in the bathroom area.
On the other hand, we don’t regret the savings we achieved from going with curtains over shades. There are a lot of options out there. But just for one example, Camping World sells custom-made day/night shades that are almost identical to what we had before. They start at $52.49 each, so our base price would’ve been $314.94, and surely would’ve cost much more when all was said and done. And we still would’ve had to reupholster the cornice boxes if we went with this option (about $120 for fabric last time).
RV Redesign in Progress
Our RV redesign isn’t quite finished yet. In the living area, we need to repaint our slide trim and dinette, which still reflect our old color scheme instead of the new one. We also need to find new kitchen rugs, new decorative pillows for the sofa and chairs, install a backsplash around the stove, and replace our windshield curtain. We also want to put a backsplash in the bathroom. But all those follow-ups are relatively minor and we’ll tackle them as we can.
It always feels good to stop procrastinating. I’m looking forward to bringing Baby Nomad home to our cozy environment. Less than eight weeks now!
Rick and Jenn
Congrats on a wonderful job on the paint and window coverings. I really like the difference that your curtains made vs. the original blinds and cornice boxes. Great job…
Thank you, @rickandjenn:disqus! It definitely feels more airy and light inside now. When we get rid of/cover our brown dinette cushions, that’ll make even more of a difference!
Aw, man. I don’t know whether to praise you or curse you. Those look fantastic! It’s just that until I read this, I thought I could live with our 2008 cornice boxes and shades for another year. Sigh. Please pass the tape measure…
@OwnLessDoMore:disqus I definitely empathize!
Awesome job! I was on the Star from 1999-2002. Deep Freeze 2000 and 2002, Arctic West 2000 and 2001.
That is amazing, @disqus_N62olQgpbN:disqus! Are you an RVer now? Eric’s years on the Polar Star were 1993-1997. He did two south trips and three north trips.
Yes, we have a Winnebago View. Right now we do two long trips per year and some local weekend stuff, but we are looking at full timing once my wife retires in two years. I was a Marine Science Tech and the Star was my last tour before I retired. Soaking up all the information we can and blogs like yours really help.
Great job. I’ve wanting to paint the. Bedroom. Was told that since we had wallpaper it could not be done. ( I hate the wallpaper we have.) So I will follow your lead. I did replace the bedroom shades with curtains from Penney’s.
They were 84″ long, cut then in haLa and had a tailor sew them correctly. Looks great.
I do not like the cornices, they make the interior look smaller. They will be gone pretty soon.
Love to redecorate. Good job.
@disqus_bdXgXNOPZB:disqus, I have heard of people removing the wallpaper before painting. But that is way beyond my expertise. If I did that first, my projects would never get done! We did some sanding, filled in holes and wiped down the wallpaper before painting. That’s it. Yes, there are some imperfections in the wallpaper, but they’re mostly around the window frames, so they’re hidden by the curtains. I’ve had zero issues with painting over the wallpaper.
Thanks for this! I’ve always been leery of modifying an RV, but you’re giving me confidence that updates and modifications are possible.
Also, I loved this line: “It always feels good to stop procrastinating.” Yep. 🙂
Sharon Eldridge Rasmussen
Congratulations on an outstanding job! Everything looks so warm and inviting….and just lovely! David and Sharon “Two Lanes of Freedom”
Thank you, @sharoneldridgerasmussen:disqus! It’s not as fancy as what others can do, but it’s quite an accomplishment for us. :p