Carving out extra space in an RV

When you first move into an RV, it can be hard to find room for all the things you need or think you need! Each RV has a different layout & storage options. Often you need to think outside the box to maximize space for what you need. That extra 1/2 bath? Maybe that’s where the litter box goes with a cat door installed, or maybe it becomes a hanging closet after removing the toilet. Some have changed their 2nd bathroom into a baby’s room or incorporated that space into the kitchen. Dinettes can be removed in lieu of a free standing table and chairs and some add a built in bench with a hinged lid for storage. Look around online! There are so many folks doing RV renovations now and there’s always an idea or two you can glean from them. My favourites to follow are @rvfixerupper and @theflippingnomad. Both are very knowledgable and have done extensive RV renos and both have businesses doing just that. They also share their wisdom online.

In our master bedroom, we had a very short “closet” with two shallow drawers underneath. It was fairly useless as nothing could actually hang. I could have just built shelves in there and gotten a ton of storage space but instead I pulled out the bottom of the closet space and the drawers underneath, placed decorative mesh behind the drawer openings and now we finally have enough hanging space for dresses, shirts (hubby is XXL Tall!) and some shoe storage on the floor. That was worked best for us. To make up for the 2 drawers I removed, I made a shelf to go inside hubby’s bedside cupboard to fully utilize the space for t-shirts, shorts and hoodies, instead of having one huge stack of clothing in there. I’m not a professional. I reused materials from pulling out the drawers and it isn’t pretty but it’s sturdy and it works!

If you have followed along on Instagram, you know that we had custom bunk beds built in the back of our toy hauler for our two boys. The bunk beds, which we love, still have yet to have the big drawers on the bottom installed. When they are they will hold a ton of stuff and will be where the boys keep their clothes and personal stuff, and where toys, art supplies and games will be so the kids can actually access that stuff on their own. If there’s room left over in the drawers we will store toilet paper and paper towel, etc. The custom bunk beds also allowed us to utilize the full height in the toy hauler section.

Original bed and couches, which took up the whole space and you couldn’t walk through to the deck.
The whole back view! The bottom of the bunk beds where there will be large drawers installed.
The finished bunks. We love them and they have sure changed the space back there.

Opposite the bunk beds in the back I made a small desk for one of my sons and his computer. It has a small bookcase at one end and is narrow enough to allow us to still walk through when the back deck is down during the summer. Functional is always at the front of my mind when designing these items. He kept a few books he really loves and he got a Kobo reader for Christmas so we could downsize the rest of the books we had kept. Weight is always an issue in an RV and I am still, one year later, downsizing and getting rid of things to try and make it lighter. It’ll be an ongoing battle for the life of this RV I think!

My son’s small desk.

Out in our large U shaped kitchen we have a lid cut in the counter top and underneath is supposed to be the garbage can, with an outside accessible door to empty it. Trouble is, that lid/hole in the counter top is right where the dish rack needs to go and the hole was really too small to be effective. Most of the garbage ended up around the garbage can, not in it. So instead, I peeled back the front facing of the lower cabinet (it’s thin and bendable), enough to see that there was no electrical, nor framing on the side of that garbage can space. Using a saw-z-all, I cut through the side and opened up the side completely, then installed a door. Next I installed a board over the outside access door (on the inside) and attached a shelf. No one can come in through the outside access door because it’s all blocked off and I now have a big storage cupboard for all of our baking flours (I have kids on special diet that require multiple gf flours to bake with)! By staining the door the same dark brown as the lower cabinets, you can hardly tell it’s there, it blends in. Maybe you don’t need baking storage. Maybe you could use something like that for larger appliances, a shoe cupboard, an art cupboard, toy storage, pet food or sleeping nook for a pet. Don’t be afraid to get creative and make the space work for your needs.

Highlighted area is where the garbage can area is inside the cabinet.
Rough cut opening. You can see the outside entry door, inside on the right.


The built in shelf. The opening is still rough cut, don’t judge hahaha! I’ll eventually fix it but probably in the summer.
I used a couple pieces of scrap boards to cover most of the right hand side wall. The shelf bracket underneath is screwed into the all the pieces plus the side of the cabinet. With the shelf installed from inside, there’s no way anyone can gain entry through that outside door. It’s all solid and secure. You can see at the top, the hole in the counter top. That piece lifts out to access what used to be the garbage can space. Maybe one day, I’ll replace that whole piece of counter top 🙂

Our living room space consisted solely of a 5 seat couch and all 5 seats reclined. Oy! It was huge and took up all the space but had no table for us eat at or do crafts or school on. One week into owning our unit, I removed the middle 3 seats and pushed the two sides together to make a love seat on one side. Then I bought the Norden table from Ikea because its sides both fold down and there are 6 drawers (3 on each side) in the middle. That’s where I keep the bulk of my crafting supplies! It could also be used for utensils, linens, school supplies, candles, food storage (think snacks for kids!), tools, spices, you name it! Eventually, we will get a loveseat with a pull out single bed to go beside it in the rest of the living room space. That pull out bed will be for guests and eventually for our daughter when she outgrows the loft. If you don’t need a large table, you could get a couch that has storage underneath or a bigger pull out bed, and a small table for 2.

Removing sections of the couch and the flimsy tables.
Our 5 seat couch reduced to a loveseat.
The Ikea Norden table. My craft supplies reside in those drawers!

So what’s on my list next? Well, I’m starting to tackle under the sinks. The manufacturer has put the plumbing so that it angles to a front corner and cuts off space on one whole half under the sink, making it impossible to put a garbage can, or anything else, in there. The bins I have been using under the other side aren’t deep enough so there’s a ton of space behind not being utilized. I plan to build custom pull out drawers on one side, utilizing the full depth of cabinet (Or maybe I should install a mini dishwasher?) and I want to reroute the plumbing along the back so we can put the garbage can under the sink. A bigger dream would be to replace the large under-mount sink with a smaller sink, get a new countertop for that whole side so there’s no longer a lid/hole for the old garbage can space and add a backsplash piece behind the faucet. The counter top with the sink is a separate piece so that makes it much easier to do. With my new desk right behind the sink, I find my computer gets splashed a bit and the over hang of the countertop pushes into my desk area. A vertical piece would also hide a bunch of clutter around the faucet.

You can see the plumbing angling to the front corner, just above those two bins, leaving no space for a garbage can.
There will be 3 pull out drawers to replace these bins, and they will be full depth of the cabinet.

Then the kitchen drawers would get an overhaul. Currently they are split into 4 small ones but one large one across the whole width would fit more things! Haha! Really, it would make it easier to store larger utensils like BBQ tools that are too long for those small drawers.

The top drawers will combine into one large drawer like the bottom one.
You can see how much space will be gained by making one large drawer for the space. The junk side will move elsewhere and this large drawer will be for all the utensils, and will hopefully get rid of the can of utensils off my counter top as well. Having them all in one large drawer will give more counter space and make them easy to find for everyone.

So, I have my work cut out for me in this next year. I love making the space fit our needs. It makes it more comfortable and user friendly for us. How about you? Have you carved out extra space in an RV? Let me know! I always love tossing ideas back and forth and hearing about things that have worked for others 🙂

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