For many people, RV living is a temporary solution that allows a couple to save up for a “sticks and bricks” home later down the road, but for the Behrens, life in their camper has lasted for an entire decade!
The couple went from trade school right into RV life, and for 10 years they’ve followed husband Spenser’s line work across the country, often moving with little to no notice. As their family grew they did upgrade to a larger new fifth wheel, but they’ve renovated the interior to make it look like home!
We got to interview Libby about their decade on the road, and she shared some gorgeous before and afters of her home that are sure to inspire you. Follow the family on Instagram here for updates.
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This Family has Lived in a Renovated RV for 10 Years (Interview Below)
Here’s what their living room started out as…
Wow! What a difference those white walls make.
Here’s the original furniture that came with the RV.
And now look at it! Looks comfy.
The original, dark kitchen space.
The Insta-worthy transformation.
There’s a sink, large fridge and stove/oven.
Such gorgeous cutting boards!
How fun are those little circles of wood?
The original Master bedroom area.
Wow! What a gorgeous space it is now.
Typical RV bathroom.
Now what a glamorous place!
Shower after! Love the black accent wall.
A second powder bath becomes….
A sleek closet with hanging storage!
Part of the kids’ bunk space *before.*
Now it has tons of extra storage!
This dark vanity space becomes…
An adorable corner with a Highland Cow picture we all need.
What a splendid home! Using hats as decor.
Finally this outdoor kitchen transforms into….
The laundry room! No more laundromats.
Libby Talks about 10 Years of RV Living
What are your name(s)?
-Spenser and Libby Behrens
How many people (and animals) are living in your home?
-Two adults and one rambunctious two year old. No pets.
How long have you lived tiny?
-We have been full-time RV living for 10 years! (If you can believe that).
What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?
-Spenser is a Journeyman Lineman. A dangerous job that requires us to live and travel full-time in our RV as we follow his career around the county. Libby is a domestic engineer, raising our two year old son (Axel) on the road.
What are you hoping to get out of living tiny/small?
-We always say that we “traded the material for the memorable”. And that is exactly what we hope to attain by living a nomadic lifestyle, acquiring a collection of memories and experiences rather than things. Not having to wait until you retire to pack up and travel the country. Giving our son a life that few can say they’ve lived and getting to do so together as a family.
Describe your decorating style and philosophy.
-My decorating style has been characterized as a mixture between modern and bohemian where minimalism, functionality, and simplicity are key. I love the juxtaposition between the masculine and earthy all the while playing with a primarily neutral aesthetic.
What inspired you to choose an RV (rather than say a tiny house or a bus)?
-We have to pick up and move regularly, quite often at the drop of a hat. We felt that an RV was the best option for our lifestyle.
How did you acquire your home? Did you do a lot of renovations?
-We began our RV journey in a 26ft bumper-pull camper, but as our lifestyle changed and our family grew we had to upgrade to suit our needs, which landed us in the rig we have now. We have done all of the renovations ourselves, while living in our fifth-wheel full time. Even though we purchased our RV brand new, we knew we wanted to make some changes and truly make this rig our home.
What are bills/utilities like compared to before?
-We have only ever known this as “home” and what is considered “normal” to us. There was no ‘before’ to really compare our life to, this is all we have ever known.
Before going tiny, what was life like?
-We have been traveling and living tiny for a majority of our adult lives. We went from college and trade school to immediately living tiny and traveling in our RV. This is all we have ever really known.
Is there anything from your old life that you miss?
-I don’t believe that you have to give up much of yourself to live a more simple life or to live with less. However, we will forever miss being close to family.
What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?
-Debt free is definitely a benefit of living tiny. The freedom to travel where you want, when you want is something we will forever cherish. Also, the closeness of our family. The proximity of your living translates into the intimacy of your family and that is truly something beautiful.
What about some challenges?
-Due to Spenser’s job we have to pick up and move quite regularly. The most challenging part about traveling and being on the road is having to constantly leave the friendships you’ve made and the people you’ve met along the way. It never gets easier to say goodbye.
What makes your tiny home special?
-Our tiny home is epitome of less is more. Meaning that you don’t have to completely demolish or entirely renovate your space to make it feel like home, show your personality and your space will instantly be transformed.
What is your favorite part of your tiny home?
-Transforming our outdoor kitchen into an on-site laundry room was an absolute game changer for a family living and traveling full-time on the road. It had never been done before and I am always flattered by the response we get from our neighbors when we open the door to do some laundry. Definitely my favorite part of our tiny home!
What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?
-Give yourself patience and grace when transitioning into tiny living. It is an adjustment and a complete lifestyle change. Welcome the challenge and appreciate the experience for what it is. Reflect on what is really important in your life and take the necessary steps to reach those goals. Don’t be afraid of change and living outside the norm.
Can you remind me of your instagram handle?
– Our Instagram is: @behrnecessitiesrv (Behr, like our last name, Behrens)
- Family of 3’s Debt-Free Tiny Home with Amazing Split Loft Bedroom
- Joy, Austin & Baby in Their Oregon 5th Wheel RV Conversion
- From 2,700 to 314 Square Feet: Family’s RV Travel Lifestyle
Our big thanks to Libby for sharing! 🙏
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Natalie C. McKee
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This is beautiful. Nothing I don’t like. Cutting boards are real nice, the kitchen looks usable. White walls make it look bigger and it is very clean. Classy.
What a beautiful home! On my list of the top five! So well planned and decorated! Assuming Libby did the decorating, in which case she should do it professionally!
She did it! And it’s awesome.
The whole house is beautiful, but that washer/dryer conversion takes the trophy for amazing ideas and use of space. Very clever!
Right? How brilliant!
Yeah… but they’ve lost the outdoor kitchen… oh well, trade offs. Agree with the comments about the planning & decorating… but a bit hard to work with a customer base when you’re moving around the country so much.
I really enjoyed the tour from when to now
RV manufacturers should take a cue from this transformation! Seems like every RV I’ve ever been has been some form of drab wall colors and weird fabrics. I mean, who picks those terrible fabrics? Probably a man because no woman…or anyone with any taste at all…would think they were attractive. *Nothing against men, mind you, but my experience has taught me that they are less concerned about esthetics than economy and speed and will choose whatever will give them that…and only that.* This renovation is fresh and so very livable! Love the daybed instead of that ordinary sofa! And I would agree that the laundry addition is remarkable…life changing, really. I hate laundromats so having the full-size washer and dryer is, well, remarkable…and life changing!!!! Beautifully done!
Have to be careful of stereotypes, any design that is particularly appealing to one person can be considered ugly by another and vice versa.
Thing is any business has to follow what sells the most, but that just may not be what some of us think it should be as what we like may only appeal to a small percentage of the population and actually make it harder to sell the product.
That said, you may see some change soon. You can check out one of the first female CEO’s of a RV company, Geneva Long, who is the founder and CEO of Bowlus. An ultra-luxury RV company featuring modern technology and exterior design with art deco roots from the 1930s… Mind, the original Bowlus was the first all Aluminum trailer manufacturer and have a very distinctive aerodynamic design, more so than Airstreams, and it’s the high class luxury RV’s that you’ll see more selection of materials and design optimizations… It just may also come with a strong sticker shock but that’s the RV industry for you… but basically, she’s bringing it back and looking to change the course of, and face of, the RV industry while doing it…
I suppose there might be some who like the paneling that is generally used in RV’s and they might like the fabrics, too, and I don’t disparage them their likes or dislikes. Most of the people I know would much rather have the plainer walls and fabrics so they can customize it to their personal tastes and consumers shouldn’t have to buy high end RV’s to get that. Don’t get me wrong, those luxury RV’s are fabulous and people with money to spare can choose those high end materials but toning things down a bit shouldn’t have mean higher prices. I would think that basic materials could mean lower priced materials. I could be wrong. I agree that any business needs to cater to their market and a lot of people are looking to have their RV’s…and tiny homes…be calm sanctuaries and most of the interiors I have seen don’t deliver that. Based on so many of the comments I see here on a variety of tiny homes, the ones that get the most reaction are the ones that give people white walls, natural wood and classic cabinets, all with less than luxurious materials. Again, most consumers want affordable products. At least offer a choice and if people don’t want uber “smart” homes, let them skip the elaborate technology, too. Basics…quality basics…are appealing to many and that can include just basic technology. Choice is always welcomed and when it isn’t offered, people move on to others who might offer that.
True but it also depends on the nature of the market as choices can come at a high cost. Most of the market for just about any product these days is dominated now by almost generic mass produced products because they can be offered at up to a tiny fraction of the cost of a custom built product. Phones, vehicles, and even most houses, etc. the choices are usually limited and that has become the norm for most markets.
You can look at examples like furniture, you can get complete furniture from companies like Ikea that mass produce them for less than just the hardware or raw materials would cost a custom furniture maker.
Similarly, in the RV industry, custom usually starts at a premium which can be over $100K for 5th wheels, over $300K for Class B’s, and over $500K for Class A’s. There’s some travel trailers and adventure vans that can be customized for much less than $100K but they tend to be more basic designs focused more on a specialty use.
On the other hand, Tiny Houses are one of the rare markets where custom dominates the market with custom starting as low as $25K and sometimes a little lower for commercial builders and up to much lower for DIY’ers…
But RV’s are for recreational usage, which means people won’t be as invested in them as they would be a home and thus much less likely to splurge on customization when they can just get another RV if they want something different. Versus Tiny Houses that can be something people will be more invested in and thus more likely want to personalize beyond basic options and personal renovations. While it does help that customization for Tiny Houses typically starts lower than comparable product markets.
People do generally want options but they also want what they consider affordable or at least a price range they would prefer for what value they put on the product they want to have. While options don’t necessarily have to be full custom to be considered good enough, especially for products that will eventually be replaced. In most cases, with all the disposable products we have today, people are fine with just having a selection even if that selection is limited as that’s what they’re used to…
There are always trade offs, people are just not always aware of them until they want something that isn’t available, and options are often dependent on what’s popular with the majority, but as long as people are free to renovate and DIY, those pitfalls don’t have to be crippling and prevent people from getting what they want…
And most women are more concerned with aesthetics than operational practicality 🤣. “ooh, look a lovely picture on the wall”. Only joking😉
I looked through all of the photos again just so I could enjoy and appreciate what they have accomplished and I got to thinking. Not sure if you can do this but could you order it with a different kind of wood? Though the dark looks beautiful with the white walls, wouldn’t it make it look oh so Scandinavian if the wood was lighter, like maple or birch? I’d like to at least see one done that way. Either would be so much better than the drab things the manufacturers put out. Great job and kudos!
Well, when renovating, like they did here, you can do whatever you want to it and just depends on your budget and how far you want to take it. Maple is nice but it’s also expensive when using a lot of it…
While there are services and certain manufacturers that will do custom orders but they typically charge a lot and is why you usually only see these done by their owners with a renovation/remodel…
The concept of ‘expensive’ is relative.
2003, we converted a 1997 Ford CF8000 commercial truck to our concept of an ExpeditionVehicle.
In our 7 x 12 box, I finished over my massive insulation with clear-coated maple (veneer) plywood.
After nearly two decades of full-time live-aboard, our cost-per-use is next to nothing!
Irregardless, we are looking at that Behrens worsher-dryer set-up, and picturing a way to fit it in our rig…
Well, the problem is presently material prices are much higher than normal. Lumber, especially, has skyrocketed, though, it has eased off presently during the winter months but is still higher than historic average. So it would cost more to do now than years ago…
Otherwise, yes, relative is definitely true, you can get around some costs by going for things like just the appearance of something. A lot of times it’s just a question of how real someone wants it to be or whether it’s enough to just have the appearance of something, and there’s ways to provide faux appearance of just about anything like granite, marble, brick, etc.
However, there are always trade offs, veneers are only a thin layer and other faux products are usually also not as durable as the products they’re replacing and if damaged can be harder to repair, which can ruin the appearance over time and long term maintenance and repairs can end up costing more. Versus the benefits like lighter weight, more stable (like avoiding real wood also means avoiding wood movement), usually lower cost, and easier to replace and renovate.
Caveat being anything well maintained, can last a long time and things like less durability may not be an issue in all environments. So YMMV as well, but there are many ways to choose to do it…
I hope you can figure out a way to do it! It looks very handy.
I would love to see a Scandinavian one!
This transformation is wonderful – I agree that too many RV’s are just too dark! Did you have to pre treat walls etc before painting? My Husband says that since our trailer is not used in the winter and here in Michigan it gets very cold, painting cabinetry/walls that freeze and then thaws is iffy and likely will peel – is he just getting out of helping me or is this true? We have oak cabinetry so it isn’t dark, just dated with glass inserts in some doors.
You can just paint over existing paint but otherwise you’d typically apply a priming layer before applying the paint to ensure a strong bond to the surface. Otherwise the paint layer may not be that durable and long lasting. Also, the priming layer can help mask any imperfection of the surface for a smoother finish once the paint is applied. Plus primer creates a barrier between wood and paint that prevents the tannin in the wood from bleed-through, which oil-based primers (like the paints) do a better job penetrating and sealing the wood and block tannins more effectively than water-based primers.
While real wood moves as temperature and humidity levels changes, and extreme environmental variations would result in the most movement… So yes, it could be a issue with paint that the movement can cause peeling and cracking over time but it also depends on the paint and what it’s rated for in temperature and durability/flexibility.
There are more durable paint options, including paint specifically made to better handle cold conditions but plywood or MDF cabinetry would be more stable and make it easier for the paint to handle the extremes… But you can apply a sealer over the finished painted wood surface to help protect it and make it more stable and resistant to changing conditions.
The main problem is any flaw in the coating, scratch, etc. will allow the moisture to reach the wood and induce wood movement. So it’ll have to be something maintained and monitored over time.
How will school for their son work? Will they home school? If so, is there a home school program that is country wide or will they have to pick a particular state curriculum?
There are hundreds of home school curriculum options out there, from religious ones to play-based ones to Montessori-inspired ones. There is no country-wide home school curriculum that I’m aware of (unless you were to implement Common Core, but at home). And perhaps some states have curriculum you could teach at home but I’ve never researched it.
After revisiting this post, I am wondering where their child sleeps and plays – babies can sleep in parents rooms in a pack n play for a long time but a permanent area is needed and renovations seem to have filled all spaces – any updates?
Check their Instagram page…
There is a bunk room for the baby. They took out the bunkbeds and have a crib and dresser storage.
I also live in a 5th Wheel. So LOVE the laundry area!!! We have an outdoor kitchen as well and I’d really like to copy your idea. How did you plumb the washer drain?
Would love to know how they changed the shower door