How to Make your RV Feel Bigger Than It Actually Is

Nothing beats adventuring in your RV but sometimes living in such a small place can get difficult. If you’ve been in search of inspiration on how to make your RV feel and appear bigger, look no further.

Do you ever find yourself wishing your RV slideouts extended half a foot farther? Or, think you should have bought a different, larger RV? The good news is that there are ways to make the interior of your RV feel larger that don’t involve slideouts or a bigger RV.

Living in an RV can sometimes feel a bit cramped especially when you realize that an average size for an American house is 2,500 square feet but the LARGEST RV allowed on the road by law can only be a maximum of 400 square feet.

Whether you’re selling, renting out, or if you just want the feel of a larger space, how you decorate the interior of your RV can change the effect a room has. Most know mirrors can make a room feel larger but it’s less known that color choice and other design tools can create or diminish the perception of space.

Your RV’s living space should feel as comfortable as possible. While travel trailers, fith wheels, and motorhomes bring modern luxuries to the outdoor camping experience even the largest options can sometimes feel confining. For example, a typical 40-foot RV has about 320 square feet while a two-bedroom house is generally more than one thousand. For the veteran RVer or tiny-home owner, this is still plenty of living space for day-to-day living. But why not make the area feel bigger?

We can’t make more extra space in our RVs but we can definitely make them appear larger.

Here are my eight tips on how to make your RV feel more spacious.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Declutter and pay attention to storage

Clutter doesn’t only make the space look untidy but it also makes it look much smaller. Get rid of everything you haven’t used for over a year/six months. Keep the decor minimalistic with not too many knick-knacks on display. Consider creating seasonal display or organize them by color?

Look into getting some pretty, simple in design storage baskets, for a coherent look.

Consider these ideas for preventing and eliminating clutter:

  • Give everything a home. Storage bins and other space-savers help reduce clutter.
  • Repurpose and multipurpose. For example, would one knife in the kitchen work instead of three different types?
  • Expand vertically. Use hooks and hanging storage to keep tables, seats, and couches clear.
  • Identify and discard items you no longer use. Keep track of the last time you used a non-essential item and purge anything you haven’t used in at least a month.
Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Go for light colors and simple patterns

A classic decorating tip for small spaces: light and cool tones make space appear larger as they are reflective and maximize the natural light effect.

Simple is usually better when you want your space to appear larger. Use a simple color palette and pick only a few colors, three to four usually work the best. Use the same color palette throughout the RV to create an illusion of space and flow.

3. The 60-30-10 Rule

A standard rule exists for both new and veteran interior decorations: the 60-30-10 rule. While not every room and paint scheme follows this, it’s a good starting point when thinking about how to decorate your RV spaces. The idea is this, broken down:

  • 60 percent of the area is your base color
  • 30 percent consist of your secondary color
  • 10 percent are accents

Once you’ve chosen some lighter colors to create more space in your RV, this combination gives you a simple plan of where and how to use them.

Note: the 10 percent accents give you an opportunity to use some darker colors without overwhelming the area.

Keep in mind: the 60-30-10 rule incorporates more than just your paint scheme. You can also use the color of the furniture, pillows, rugs, blankets, curtains, blinds, wall art, and just about anything else to include in the formula. Your focus should be making sure that everything falls within that 60-30-10 rule overall.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Accents, lighting, and accessories

Painting schemes aren’t the only way you can modify the different spaces in your RV to create a bigger feel. Lighting, accents, and accessories can help personalize, highlight, and develop your interior RV living spaces.

When designing the interior of your RV, lighting is unique. You can manipulate it potentially changing the feel of a room from one point of the day to the next. If you know the cozy feel of a single lamp on the bedside nightstand the opposite can be used to make a room feel bigger: spread out multiple lamps and use them to give light to corners or dark areas to make the room feel bigger. Wall lights, if you can make them work will also help expand the room visually.

Mirrors are another way to make a space feel larger than it is, and you’ve likely used them to expand the feel of your room. But have you considered pairing them with lighting? This can help further illuminate the room and give an ever-greater feel of expansion.

The use of accents as colors as mentioned in the 60-30-10 section, are the throw pillows, curtains and blinds, blankets, rugs, and picture frames you use to personalize your space that can match the color scheme as well as the spots you choose to accentuate with painting.

Think creatively about how to use that 10 percent. Could your cupboards and shelves be painted in the accent or highlight color? What about lighting fixtures?

3. Improve your lighting

Natural light is the key to a spacious feel. The more natural light you can draw into your RV, the better. If you only have small windows make sure your lighting is bright enough—several lighting elements make space look more expansive as there are no dark corners. Swap your old-fashioned fluorescent lighting to LEDs and it will also save your battery.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Swap your window treatments

As mentioned above, natural light is the key. Swap your old thick, bulky, and heavy curtains to light fabrics—they let the light through. Light colored valances and also creates an illusion of space.

Also, as with any vehicle, the windows get really easily dirty when driving. Make sure you have clean windows to let the maximum light in.

5. Hang your curtains higher

This is a classic tip from a house decoration that can also be used in an RV. So to create an illusion that your rig is higher inside than it actually is, hang it from the ceiling.

6. Choose the right furniture

Could you replace some of your furniture for ones that can be folded or stacked like your dinette with a folding table and chairs? If you choose low furniture this creates an illusion of higher ceilings. Also if you find suitable furniture with exposed legs this gives an impression of more open space.

You could also look for multi-functional furniture that has some hidden storage compartments. Ottomans, for example, are great—they work as storage, seating, and a coffee table.

Motorhome interior © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Replace the carpet with hard flooring

Carpets and big rugs make the space cozy but they can also make it appear smaller. Hard flooring is easier to clean and you can still add some small area rugs to create coziness.

8. Finally, use mirrors and reflective materials

As mirrors reflect the natural light, they are a forever interior design classic in creating the illusion of space. Mirrors can be quite heavy though so consider plastic ones that are easy to hang on RV walls. You could also include mirrors in other elements in the RV like in a kitchen backsplash, tabletop, or in decor items like trays.

Worth Pondering…

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.

—Socrates

Common RV Interior Design Flaws + Solutions

The most common RV interior design flaws and what the RV design industry should do about it is the topic of this timely post

As a nearly $30 billion dollar industry, you can only imagine how much money and man-hours go into designing functional and attractive interiors in the RV Industry. But sometimes even the best plans don’t translate to the best real-world results. The only real way to know what works and what doesn’t is to turn to the people using it.

RVers learn to adapt to the tiny lifestyle coming up with all kinds of clever solutions and hacks. God bless the RV designers who have given us a good head start but there’s always some kind of impracticality to overcome.

Living room and kitchen areas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most common issues with RVs

Most issues revolve around the kitchen, laundry, shoe storage, and accessibility.

I think the solutions for these problems are certainly achievable even if they’re offered as options instead of standard features.

Impractical oven

Some people love their oven but many find the oven to be too small or too ineffective to be worth the space it takes. It seems many RVers are content to use convection microwaves or air fryers in their place.

Here are some suggestions for RV designers:

  • Option for convection microwave and dishwasher drawer instead of an oven
  • Option for 9-in-1 built-in air fryer instead of an oven
  • Larger oven that can hold at least a small turkey

Understandably, preferences can vary widely when it comes to ovens and cooking. So, it really seems the best solution is to have more options! Let the RVer have more of a say in their cooking appliances when they purchase an RV.

Micro-wave and kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More counter space

RV designers have tried to maximize counter space without encroaching into the living space too much. Two main solutions they’ve come up with are boards that cover the stovetop and sink when not in use. While these are helpful sometimes, they aren’t really useful when you’re in full cooking mode.

After all, isn’t it while you’re cooking when you need the most counter space? You end up having to push those boards aside when, say, sauce is simmering on the stove and pasta is draining in the sink. That just takes up more room, not create more.

The most sensible solutions seem to be:

  • Sturdy pull-out boards
  • Sturdy flip-up boards from side of cabinet
  • Pull-down shelf from underneath the cabinets

I particularly like the pull-down shelf idea as it seems we just need more room to set things down that we take out of the pantry or fridge. The pull-down shelf takes advantage of the vertical space making a pseudo-double-decker counter. Once the ingredients are put away, the shelf hinges right back underneath the cabinet.

Living room with pull-out table and built-in desk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adjustable shelves (and more shelves)

Adjustable shelves seem like such a simple solution… because they are! I’d bet it’s one of the cheapest yet most effective changes every RV manufacturer could implement in every class and model. This problem came up with both pantry and closet storage.

Take advantage of vertical space and what better way to do that with shelves. Being able to customize the height based on the products you store would be a HUGE help.

And designers shouldn’t be stingy with the shelves!  Give us at least a couple more shelves to work with!

Drop-down upper storage

A lot of storage in RVs is in the form of small cabinets above the couch. It turns out that a lot of people either because of their height or their age have a hard time reaching these spaces. They’re high up plus we have to reach over a couch. Yet, these cabinets often store the everyday items we need to get to often.

It seems like one of the best solutions follows that same idea as the pull-down kitchen shelf―make these small storage cabinets hinge down and out towards us.

Bedroom with overhead cupboards © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dirty laundry hamper

Where do we put the dirty laundry?

Maybe RV designers haven’t heard that we’re not supposed to air our dirty laundry because they haven’t given us a good place to put it.

We need a designated place for dirty laundry that’s not the shower space!

Shoe storage

Where to put all the shoes?

Shoe storage! Shoe storage! Shoe storage!

It seems everyone agrees we need more of it. Yes, there are after-market door hangers but why not integrate shoe storage into RV design?

It makes sense to incorporate shoe storage by the front door. We all end up leaving shoes by our doors and they become a tripping hazard. A cubby or space for a couple of pairs of shoes by the entrance door would be ideal.

Some models have this near-the-door shoe storage now. If this is important to you, make sure you check to see if the model you are viewing has it.

Living room with pull-out table and built-in desk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Better accessibility

The RV Lifestyle is about freedom and discovery and it should be possible for people with disabilities and mobility issues. Not to mention, a big part of the RV community is seniors that are only getting older.

Newmar has wheelchair accessible luxury diesel motorhomes and Winnebago has several models they called accessibility enhanced.

One of the biggest obstacles for people with disabilities and seniors with more limited mobility is the front entrance. The big steps become a serious safety hazard if not a complete blockade to the inside.

RVers would like more options when it comes to how they enter their RV. Some suggestions include:

  • An electric lift (like a miniature version of moving truck lifts)
  • A slide-out ramp
  • More graduated steps
  • Swing-out or collapsible hand rail alongside steps

The next biggest area of concern in this area was a more realistic emergency exit for seniors. Many older people worry about the idea that they might someday have to escape through the escape window. Would they really be able to get out the window? Would they hurt themselves doing so?

A second emergency exit door in lieu of an emergency window seems like an option many people would pay extra for.

Worth Pondering…

Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.

—C.W. Ceran