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Last year, we shocked many of you when we sold our first RV and bought a much older motorhome. We bought it with the intention of renovating it, to truly make it our own ultimate home and office on wheels. As we make significant upgrades to our RV, we’ll be sharing what we did and why, the costs, as well as links to the gear and decor we added. We hope this RV makeover series inspire you with great ideas for how you can modernize, customize and personalize your RV, without breaking the budget.
Whether you’re considering renovating an RV, remodeling or updating a home, apartment or tiny house, or just coming along for the ride – this inspiring, entertaining and educational blog and video episodic series truly offers something for everyone.
We didn’t do this alone. We had incredible help from some good friends. You’ll get to meet them here in Episode 1 and see them throughout the series.
As you’ll discover, this RV makeover provided us with a unique opportunity. We share the transformations that took place inside our RV. And we also get to show you different aspects of our RV lifestyle, including the challenges we faced. Progress updates will be in each episode plus a beautiful “after reveal” that showcases how it all turned out. All while telling an entertaining story that will make you smile and inspire you to refresh your own living environment..
Throughout the RV Makeover series, we’ll be sharing episodes that cover:
- The “before” story, including what worked and what didn’t
- RV mods and upgrades we made and why
- The demolition and construction process
- What we did to flooring, walls, lighting, furniture, bedroom, bathroom, and work space
- Updates on progress for each zone with a sneak peek how how it looks
- Design tips and tricks
- Systems and appliances we installed
- Decor and gear we bought to transform our CC
- Ideas for storage and organization
- And how we managed to do all this off-grid, with our battery and solar system!
You can dive right into Episode 1 here
About Our Motorhome CC - 1999 Country Coach Intrigue
In case you’re not familiar with us and the backstory of us buying our CC, you can get up to speed with some of previous blog posts and videos. Below is a list of them, including our first tour, our reasons for buying an older RV, and our first RV shakedown trip here:
In a nutshell, our CC is a 20 year old original diesel pusher motorhome. Built by Country Coach, which had a reputation for building high quality motor coaches back in the day. Sadly, they went out of business in 2009, during the global economic meltdown. Many other RV manufacturers shut down then too.
Back in 1999, CC sold new for about USD $230,000. That’s about USD $340,000 in today’s dollars. But we bought the coach in March 2018 for the bargain price of just $25,000. That is pretty much dealer wholesale. It’s not common to buy a coach like this for that price. But I guess you could say we were both educated buyers and good negotiators 🙂 which ended up being a winning combination.
We knew when we bought the motorhome that we wanted to do a significant RV makeover. But we also wanted to live with the coach for a few months so we could get a feel for what worked well for us. Also what didn’t work for us, and solidify our plans for the renovation and upgrades. We talk a bit about this in our RV Shakedown blog post and video.
The process started by taking photos of CC ‘before’ and making notes by ‘zone’ as to what we wanted to change, with some initial thoughts and ideas around those.
Navigating Our First Big Challenges
One of our first challenges for this makeover was figuring out WHERE we would do it. As full time traveling RVers, we do not have a home base. Renovating an RV isn’t so simple when you’re living and traveling in it full-time (as we do) and don’t have a home base to park the RV to do the work.
Most RV parks don’t have enough space to spread out, and many won’t allow such projects. This is understandable. We’re sure neighbors in a campground wouldn’t appreciate hearing a construction project next door 16 hours a day for weeks on end. That said, we do know people who have renovated their RVs at a campground, but of course, got permission first. This part of the process definitely takes some forethought and planning.
What we would need in order to be able to pull this off:
- Find a location where we could park the RV, without having to move it for at least 4 weeks
- Choose a place and time of year with predictably good, stable and dry weather, as much of the work would need to be done outside.
- There was also the challenge of needing tools, a convenient hardware store, and access to a dumpster/dump
- We also knew we’d need some extra hands to help us with some of the bigger jobs
We’d been racking our brains trying to think of somewhere suitable for months. I woke up one morning with a lightning bolt of clarity. Our RVing friends Brett and Danelle who we had met a year earlier at an RV park in Palm Springs, CA. We had hit it off immediately and stayed in touch. They had been wanting us to come and spend time on their property in Oregon. This project was the perfect excuse to finally make it happen. We picked up the phone and called Brett and Danelle, who were on board immediately.
Meet Brett and Danelle Hays
Full-time RVers, AirBnb Property Owners
Brett and Danelle are empty nesters who have been living full-time in their RV since September 2016. They own a beautiful property in north eastern, Oregon that they rent out as an AirBnb house and studio apartment. Brett is retired from the Air Force and Danelle is a former hairdresser and business owner. The revenue from their property rentals helps subsidize their RV travel lifestyle.
Brett and Danelle had done their own RV makeover a year before. They also built an RV pad with full hookups (water, electric and sewer), patio and bathhouse where they can park their RV during the summer while managing their summer rental guests. In winter, the property is rented to longer term tenants so they can head south for the winter and travel. They are a fun, generous and hard working couple who we’re proud to call friends. If you’re going to spend a month plus on someone’s property, you want to be pretty sure you’re going to get along!
Every need met
Their property met our every need and desire. Not only was it in a gorgeous and quiet location, the summer weather was perfect. We had a huge space to spread out. And there were not neighbors close enough to be bothered by our construction noise and mess. There is a hardware store just a mile away, and a grocery story even closer. Brett had a tool shed with just about every tool we could possibly need. They even offered us water and electrical hook ups if we needed them. More on that in a minute.
We did, however, need full hookups for another camper. Brett and Danelle were able to find for us to rent and set up on-site for our special guest Jane to live in during the project. (Thanks Ted and Sharon!)
You can check out Brett and Danelle’s amazing Airbnb properties located on a lovely duck pond here:
Meet Jane Brown
Interior Designer at Jane Brown Interiors
When we told Julie’s long time Aussie friend Jane Brown that we had bought an older motorhome. And that we planned to renovate it and asked for her help, we expected that would come in the form of Skype or Facebook calls! After all, we had done that before when updating our Colorado townhome.
Instead, Jane’s effervescent answer was “why don’t I just jump on a jet and come over there and help you do it?”
As a former international flight attendant, Jane jumps on a jet like the rest of us grab an Uber. She flew over 8,000 miles from Sydney, Australia to join us in rural Oregon. Jane generously offered her professional design talents and hands-on help. Jane’s pretty handy with the tools, has a keen eye for design, and a kind of magical intuition that allows her to just “know” what to do for each client and home. She knew exactly what to do to tune into our taste and transform CC into our ultimate glamping home and office on wheels.
Jane’s design experience
Jane has been styling homes all her life. Her parents would buy old properties, gut and renovate them, furnish them and sell them to newlyweds! She’s traveled extensively – from caravanning around Australia with her parents as a teenager, to jetting around the world as an international flight attendant for 15 years. She has had her own interior design business for over 10 years.
Jane has helped design and decorate many of my previous homes over the years. This includes the last home that Marc and I shared together in Colorado before hitting the road in 2014.
Knowing us and our style, our trust of Jane made for a great fit when taking on this big project. She’s a design powerhouse who was in the driver’s seat of this RV renovation, and the magician behind CC’s transformation.
Jane is famous for transforming the lives of her clients by transforming their home environments. Seriously, every time Jane makes over one of my/our homes (or that of her many other clients) something incredible happens! So it will be interesting to see what unfolds for us after CC’s transformation!
Learn more about Jane here at her website www.janebrowninteriors.com
Living in Our RV During the Renovation - Off Grid!
Since there is lower resistance, lithium batteries can accept a charge up to five times faster than lead acid batteries. This is a huge advantage because it means you are able to fully capitalize on external power for charging. If you only have a few hours of sun for solar panels, or are only able to run your generator for a few hours, you want to absorb every ounce of power possible. Lithium batteries allow you to capture more energy faster which means less hours of charging time. Less fuel needed to run your generator. And maximum gain from solar or shore power.
Some lithium batteries are designed to be drop-in replacements for lead acid batteries. But, with the different charging profiles, you should not mix lead acid and lithium batteries together. In our application, we use our lithium batteries for the house, plus an AGM starter battery that can all be charged from our inverter/charger. But, we have special battery isolation components to keep them safe. You can see these components, which came with our kit from Battle Born.We lived in our own RV during the entire construction project. This allowed us to work almost every waking moment, motivating us to finish the project even faster. It also reduced space and complexity by not needing yet another RV on the same site. And of course, this saved us money by not having to rent another place to stay during the remodel.
Living in the RV during the renovation also gave us the opportunity to live with and test out our new off-grid system.
We had decided we wanted to do our renovation off-grid, at least regarding power. We wanted to try out our recently installed 6 x 100ah Battle Born lithium batteries as well as a new inverter.. Click here to see the main components of our kit. Battle Born has been absolutely amazing to work with every step of the way, and we have them to thank for making this video series possible.
We also added 1,020 watts of solar panels. This was a pretty awesome system that allowed us to camp off-grid comfortably, and we wanted to put our new system to the test during this RV renovation.
We did hook up to Brett’s city water spicket, but relied entirely on our batteries/solar system to keep us powered throughout the entire renovation. More about that in an upcoming episode. We also did NOT have a sewer hookup, so keep watching to learn about how we dealt with dumping our tanks!
Getting Set Up and Settling In
Arriving at Brett and Danelle’s property a week before Jane helped us get settled in, get a lay of the land, set up her camper. It also gave us time to catch up on some of our regular work before diving completely into our Ultimate RV Makeover project. We knew that once Jane arrived we would only have a little over 3 weeks to pull off this massive renovation and it would be all hands on deck.
We did have a bit of time in the calm before the storm to visit the nearby town of Joseph, Wallowa Lake. It was great to enjoy some meals with our friends and even attend an air show at the local airport. Northeastern Oregon really is a beautiful part of the country and if you ever get the chance, you should totally go visit Wallowa County. It’s now one of our favorite places in the country!
As soon as Jane arrived, we dove right in, tackling the RV by Zones, which we’ll be sharing in these episodes:
- Introduction – setup and meet the team
- Walk through – planning what we’re going to do
- Paint and Cabinets
- Office/Work Space
- Power Systems
- Living Area
- Final Reveal
Let the renovation begin!
Ready Set Go!
We are so excited to be sinking our teeth and tools into CC’s Ultimate RV Makeover. Yes, we know it’s going to be a big job. Yes, there are going to be unexpected challenges. But there will also be a ton of great creative ideas bubbling that we can’t wait to share. We’ll also be sharing some tips and tricks with you along the way.
Our next steps are the walk through, assessing what works and what doesn’t, and what we plan to change. It will be out with the old to make room for the new.
We know you will be amazed at what we do with this ole girl CC in less than a month. So stay tuned for Episode 2 where we will be sharing our initial thoughts and ideas following Jane’s first walk through of CC and our discussion about what we plan to do.
GOT COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?
We would love to hear from you. Drop us a note in the comments section below.