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If you spend much time in Facebook groups for RV owners looking for interior makeover and renovation ideas, you'll soon come across one of the most common complaints about the interiors of most campers and motorhomes: “There's too much brown!”
Karen Smith, a member of a Facebook group called “RV Exterior/Interior Ideas”, agrees with this sentiment. “Why are RV companies stuck in the 80's?” she posted recently in the group. “I have been shopping for a travel trailer and dislike 90% of the upholstery and decorating as it looks the same as it did 35 years ago! Anyone else notice this? Why don't they give more modern choices?”
And though it might seem like no one in the RV industry is listening, some of the RV manufacturers are starting to take notice, as I realized last January when I attended the Mid-America RV Show in Kansas City and walked into this brand new, 2019 Keystone Fuzion toy hauler:
How did this RV interior makeover come about?
“The ones designing all these dark brown RV interiors must all be men,” is another comment I frequently see variants of in Facebook groups focused on sharing ideas for RV interior decor, but ironically, a man is the one responsible for the fresh new gray and white interior design of the Keystone Fuzion. His name is Jeremiah Dumka, and he oversees the production and design of the Fuzion brand.
Whenever Jeremiah would attend RV shows and listen to what people were saying as they stepped into brand new Keystone Fuzion toy haulers, he kept hearing the same words over and over again: “It's too dark!”
“Five to seven years ago the toy hauler was such a man cave,” he says. Toy haulers were frequently designed with their typical buyer in mind: motorcycle and ATV owners. Dark gray or black interiors were accented with orange or red and chrome or diamond plate trim and fixtures to match the branding of the “toys” they were designed to haul.
But the “typical” toy hauler owner profile is starting to change. More people are buying RV's while they are young instead of waiting until they retire, some of them with the intent of traveling for extended periods of time or even living in them as a primary residence, and many of these buyers look at the back of a toy hauler not just as a garage for hauling off-road vehicles, but as a blank canvas that can become additional living space, an office, or an extra bedroom. “I don't even like using the term “toy hauler” anymore, says Jeremiah. “They're really just a multi-purpose RV.”
Autumn and Rusty Bailey are one example of the non-traditional RV owner. In 2016, they bought a Keystone Fuzion to live in full time so their growing family could be together when Rusty's job required him to travel to different parts of the country. On her website, Autumn shares how they renovated their toy hauler to accommodate their needs, including converting the garage into a bedroom and extra living space.
However, most people who buy a brand new RV would rather not spend thousands of dollars and hours of labor renovating it, as much as they might prefer a more modern look. That was why Jeremiah knew the Keystone Fuzion's traditional interior needed an update to reflect the changing needs and interests of the people buying it.
What took them so long?
While updating the traditional brown and beige RV interior might seem like a no-brainer to anyone who regularly watches TV shows about home remodeling, it's not quite as obvious from a business standpoint.
Unlike a home remodel or DIY camper renovation, developing a product for mass production takes months of planning, customer research, finding and negotiating with parts suppliers, training the assembly team, and building and testing prototypes in order to ensure it will sell. For example, Jeremiah says it took several prototypes for the design team to find a shade of gray paint for the cabinets that didn't appear blue or purple under certain lighting.
This process requires significant financial investment without any solid evidence that it will pay off. Since campers and motorhomes with brown interiors have sold well for years, convincing RV manufacturers to spend money redesigning a successful product wasn't easy.
Jeremiah says although he met with some initial resistance both on the production side as well as from some RV dealers when they first heard about the new design, the new look has proven so successful that their doubts have been put to rest. “It was definitely swimming upstream in various regards,” he says. “Now they believe in it.”
Some people like brown.
Another reason the industry has been slow to shift gears is that historically, the majority of people buying RV's have been retirees, and while some of them enjoy decorating with light, “beachy” color palette, many still prefer a more traditional look. Wayne Brown, general sales manager of Lifestyle RVs in Grain Valley, Missouri, personally prefers the look of real wood, and he says many of his older customers do too.
However, he also recognizes that a growing number of buyers, particularly those who haven't yet reached retirement age, are more drawn to the new interior option that he refers to as “the Pottery Barn look.” “It's very modern,” he says. “There are a lot of people who will like that because it’s more of what’s happening in the housing market”.
“Of course Fuzion is always on the cutting edge of stuff,” he adds. “Like the swing-out stools–they’ve got some stuff that nobody else has.”
What has been the response so far?
The response to updated interior design has so far been overwhelmingly positive. Posts featuring photos of the new interior on the Keystone blog and social media pages receive comments like, “Finally!” and “It's about time!”
When I shared my pictures of the Fuzion I saw at the Mid-America RV Show on the RV Inspiration Facebook page, the post received hundreds of likes and positive comments.
And Wayne says the new interior option for Keystone Fuzion has been a huge hit with buyers in the Kansas City area. “We sell more of the new colors than the old colors,” he says.
Is this just a trend? Is wood a better long-term investment?
Hardwood cabinets have definitely stood the test of time, but lighter cabinets have been around for quite a while too. Jeremiah points out, “If you look inside a 10-year-old RV, the ones with white cabinets are the least dated of any of them.” This should help ease the minds of anyone thinking about purchasing an RV with a lighter interior who might be worried that the look will be dated if they decide to sell one day.
Jeremiah and his team chose a gray and white color palette because it's a color scheme that has remained popular for several years now. While Jeremiah personally loves some of the more recent kitchen trends, such as the navy blue cabinets with gold hardware that many people are choosing for their homes, in order for the new interior to be a success, he needed to go with a more neutral look that would have a broader appeal.
Jeremiah hoped that gray cabinets would appeal to female buyers, who are statistically more likely to be focused on the appearance of an RV's interior, without alienating men, who are often the target buyers for toy haulers and may not be as attracted to white kitchen cabinets.
According to Wayne of Lifestyle RVs, Jeremiah's theory seems to have worked: “Most wives walk into the Keystone Fuzion and say, ‘Wow, this is awesome!' and most husbands say, ‘I really don't care as long as she likes it!'”
Buying new vs. buying used and renovating yourself
While a ten-year-old camper might benefit from a new interior paint job, many RV owners feel hesitant to customize a new or nearly new camper out of concern that these changes might hurt the RV's resale value. Wayne of Lifestyle RVs believes this concern is valid, as the next owner of your RV might not share your taste: “If you try to sell it, that doesn’t mean the next person will like it”.
An “Instagram-worthy” RV renovation can be costly, too. Autumn Bailey shared on her website that she and her husband spent over $6,000 on their gorgeous toy hauler renovation. If you plan to replace the furniture and buy new rugs, bedding, and decor to match the new look, that further compounds the cost.
Additionally, painting all of the walls and cabinets inside a camper or motorhome is a BIG JOB, as any RV owner who has done it will tell you. There is a host of things that can go wrong if you choose the wrong primer or paint, follow the wrong process, or aren't particularly skilled at using a paintbrush. Buying an RV that was painted in the factory means the paint will be of an industrial finish that's much less prone to chipping and peeling, and applied with the professional precision you'd see on residential cabinets.
“The cool thing about Fuzion is you don’t have to customize it,” says Wayne. “You get what you want and just add some wall decor or some pretties on the counter and it still looks great just the way it is.”
Will other RV's start coming in lighter colors?
We will definitely start seeing more RV's with lighter colors in the near future. Keystone has already introduced a lighter “Coastal Cottage Interior” in its 2019 Bullet line, which includes all Bullet, Crossfire, and Premier travel trailers. These campers are smaller, lighter, and often more affordable for first-time RV buyers.
The overwhelmingly positive response Keystone's new interior options have been receiving is certainly turning heads within the RV industry, and other manufacturers have already started to build RV's with lighter interiors as well.
This may indicate that RV manufacturers will be more inclined to follow home interior trends in future years. “What I see this doing to the RV industry is making us a lot less resistant to change,” says Jeremiah. With forward-thinking people like Jeremiah working in the industry who are willing to change with the times and listen to what customers want, I'm sure that will be the case.
Where can I find an RV with this new interior option?
You can browse all the available floor plans, download brochures, and see more photos on the Keystone website:
See all Fuzion toy haulers here.
See all Bullet travel trailers here.
If you need more information, click here to connect with a Personal Shopping Assistant at the Keystone factory who can answer questions about product, help you find the RV you’re looking for and put you in touch with a dealer in your area.