Excited to welcome Ella and Collin to RemodelYourRV.com and feature their farmhouse-inspired 1998 travel trailer.
They stumbled upon a great deal on their RV from a family friend, not thinking that one thing would lead to another (like most of us!) and that they’d end up renovating almost the entire camper.
They completed their remodel with a $1200 budget, the help of family and friends, and a bunch of sweat equity.
Let’s take a look at the before and after photos!
For an RV, this kitchen is HUGE! It has a full size faucet and sink with ample countertop space.
The medium-tone gray cabinets contrast against the white curtains and beautiful wood countertops. It adds a clean but very warm and cozy feel.
Bright and simple colors gave the bathroom a completely different look. Clean, modern, but still functional, Ella and Collin kept the original cabinets, countertop, sink, and faucet.
With new flooring, paint, and hardware, the bathroom was completely transformed.
Since Ella and Collin love to entertain, having a large and open space to hold friends and family was important to them. The living room flows seamlessly into the kitchen, creating a great hosting space.
They built out a storage locker next to the front door, which is SUCH a great idea. Not only does it keep day-to-day stuff organized, but it can also serve as extra seating in a pinch.
I love their custom Jeep key holder and art, highlighting their dog and their favorite lake. It’s the little touches like this that really make a camper feel like home.
Simple and serene, Ella and Collin created a bedroom that matched the look and feel of the rest of the travel trailer. New hardware and a little bit of paint is all they needed to transform this bedroom.
Interesting to note is that they initially tried wallpaper, but struggled to get it right. Ella said, “We tried the wallpaper thing and don’t recommend it.”
Instead they used a 4’x8′ sheet of fake wood, which turned out great.
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Collin and I met in 2013 and started dating in 2014. Since then we both have begun college. He completed his degree in Agronomy this spring and I have two more years left for elementary education with learning and behavior disabilities.
We live in a small town in central Iowa on my family’s farm. We love to go boating, camping, tractor pulling, motorcycle riding, jeeping, and racing.
We have a crazy busy life and to add to the craziness, we have a black lab mix with so much energy named Piston.
Did you buy an RV to renovate or did you already own it?
We already owned it. We bought our camper, a 30-feet 1998 Dutchmen Classic, in 2017 from a family friend for a whole whopping $1,500 dollars.
We knew it needed a little help but just planned on putting a bandaid on it for a while.
Why did you decide to renovate instead of buy it already completed?
Mainly because we are a few broke butt college students.
We weren’t even planning on getting a camper in the first place. Collin has a habit of buying things with sometimes little thought. I thought it was a terrible idea, I was perfectly happy staying in his parent’s 2017 Momentum with heated and massage couch seats…But again, he proved me wrong.
I wouldn’t think twice about it today.
Did you have a budget in mind before you started? Did you stay under it or go over it?
We didn’t have a budget at all.
We are both pretty sensible people when it comes to what is expensive and worth it, and what’s not. Both our sets of our parents are very handy and mechanically inclined so they helped our budget a lot with no outsourcing of work.
We think we spent around $1,000-1,200 in total.
Our reno started in 2017 with the bandaid and finally ended in 2019 with camping in between. In total it was about seven weeks of work spread over three years.
Do you travel with your RV or do you have it parked?
We travel maybe 5-6 times the whole camping season, which for us is April-October/November.
We are volunteers at our local fairgrounds so we get to camp for free and our whole family camps there every weekend. When we do travel we go normally an hour away to small lakes where we can run our boat.
Collin likes to ski. We also go to the bluest lake in Iowa, Okoboji, once a year. If I could move anywhere in the world, it would be there.
How long have you been RVing?
Collin has been camping his whole life with his parents.
He introduced it to me in 2014 with his parents and we’ve been camping on our own since 2017.
Was it easier or more difficult than you thought?
Camping in general, it is pretty easy for us. We have our pack up and unpack system down to a science and it takes us less than 20 minutes.
We share the responsibility of pulling it. I normally take care of the inside and he does the outside.
For our reno, we didn’t have too tough of a time. We had great help from friends and family, and like I said before, we are both pretty handy. The only difficult thing was planning beforehand to stay focused and not waste money.
We are both sort of ride by the seat of our pants people.
What was the most intimidating thing before you got started?
For us it was the pressure of not knowing the extent of our rot.
We never fully stripped the WHOLE thing down to its bare bones; we are still wary of hiding rot. We only fixed where rot was visible and kept tearing it out until it wasn’t rotten anymore.
Some people strip the whole thing, that was not financially an option for us and it didn’t really need to be done anyway. Our camper had two owners before us. Both owners kept it in our town and didn’t use it often. Everything inside was practically new.
What was the hardest part of the whole renovation?
We both don’t like caulking. I don’t think anyone does. We had a big mess of caulking that needed to be peeled and reapplied, and we knew how much work that was going to be.
It was the very last thing we did and took almost 8 hours. We were left with bloody knuckles, sore hands, and angry attitudes.
A hard thing for me was trusting Collin. Not to say I don’t trust him, I trust the guy with my life. But I will admit, he is smarter than me in the reno area and when he would explain some things to me I’d get frustrated if I couldn’t understand. I did learn to just trust the process.
For Collin, the hardest part was money and time management as a college student (he’s super long-winded if you can’t tell!).
Would you do anything differently if you started it again?
Our camper is a 30ft fifth wheel with no slides. We have lots of friends and family and they have lots of dogs. When they come to visit and we are all inside, it’s a little cramped and we find ourselves wishing for a slide.
We weren’t that ambitious with our reno. Before our reno, we looked into buying bigger and newer. After looking at campers in the 2000-2010 range we soon realized the true gem we have.
Many of them were further gone than our own. When in a meeting with a camper salesman talking trade-in info he asked us what we were looking for. We said we wanted lots of room for friends and family, he said, “Well you’re not buying a camper for your friends.”
On the ride home, we were talking and figured out we are totally okay with “buying a camper for our friends” because we love to camp with them. It’s part of the experience for us. I like to think, having a cramped camper full of friends and family is not a problem, it’s a blessing.
What is your favorite part?
For Collin and I both our favorite part is waking up in the morning and cooking a big breakfast with our family. I’m talking about ALL the fixings.
We also enjoy sitting under the awning just relaxing together after a day on the lake. To end the day we love sitting around the fire, drinking, and laughing with everyone.
Any favorite materials that’d you’d recommend to someone who wanted to do it too?
We highly recommend our sticky vinyl plank floor. Some people seem to have issues with it sticking and it may depend on the climate you’re in.
We are hard on our floors if you can’t tell from reading everything beforehand and they have lasted three years so far, we plan to get many more.
We also highly recommend using a paint sprayer if you have access to it for walls and cabinets. The prep takes a while but it is perfectly applied and looks flawless.
Not to mention it took 10 minutes to do all 30ft.
Thank you Ella and Collin for sharing your RV remodel!
As another family that has a black lab and is looking for a dog-friendly floor solution for our camper, it was great to see how you guys were able to pull off such a beautiful result within such a reasonable budget.
You can follow Ella and Collin on their adventures on Instagram, @ellalouise33.