With big trips out, RV rentals, decor hot this summer

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The call of the open road is getting especially loud this summer.

As COVID-19 continues to reshape our lives, even after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted her lockdown orders, road trips are the hot — and safe —  way to travel this summer.

And RV trips are an especially popular way to travel and socially-distance. According to RVShare, a peer-to-peer RV-sharing marketplace, RV rentals have increased 1,600 percent since early April.

Sarah Lemp, a busy mom of five from Livonia and RV flipper (she was featured in Homestyle last summer), has taken several small RV trips with her family this year. They don’t have to use public restrooms, go to restaurants or come in contact with other people.

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on RV sales!” said Lemp in an email. “Many people are hesitant to visit their normal vacation destinations and are opting for places with fewer crowds. RV-ing is the perfect way to social distance while traveling!”

If you have your own RV or are looking to get your own, do your homework, says Lemp, who shares her experiences flipping RVs on her blog. Make sure you know what you want —  do you want a travel trailer, a motorhome, a Class C or a Class A? — and see it in person before you buy it so you have a sense of what it might require to update it. Make sure the engine and appliances are OK.

The Airstream Party Cooler is hand-cast in aluminum to look like an Airstream. It’s finished with a coat of lacquer. It costs $169. (Photo: John Merkl/Pottery Barn)

But even without an RV, you can still capture that outdoorsy look for your own home. Pottery Barn and Airstream teamed up on a new 30-piece collection introduced in June that’s all about “evoking a sense of limitless possibilities and wanderlust,” said the retailer in a press release. It include tableware, sheets, bedding, pillows and other home accents. There’s even a fun RV-shaped cooler. 

Airstream makeover

Mike and Jeanne Antulis don’t need an Airstream-inspired cooler. They have the real deal.

The Lincoln Park couple spent two winters completely renovating a 1961 Airstream Overlander, gutting it and redoing the electrical, plumbing and insulation. They kept it in a Wyandotte storage facility so they could work on it.

“I’ve never done this before so the challenges where many,” said Mike. “It’s like building a house.”

Jeanne says Mike and her brother built the seating and beds and the cushions were custom made by a Taylor business. The textiles are from JoAnn Fabrics, cabinets from Lowe’s and leather drawer pulls are from Etsy.

And the couple spent 200 hours alone just polishing their Airstream. They took it out for their inaugural trip in May and again for a trip to Ludington in June.

“We are still rookies and learning along the way whatever we can to save on space and what to take and what to leave,” said Jeanne.

Now they just have to come up with a name for what exactly it is.

“My wife says a house by a lake is a cottage and one in the woods is a cabin. She thinks we have both depending where we park her so say hello to the cabbage,” jokes Mike.

For those interested in finding their own RV and fixing it up, Mike echoes Lemp’s suggestions. 

“My best advice would be for anyone to do is do your research — tons of research — on all systems that you would be working on such as electrical and plumbing,” said Mike.

Covering imperfections

Sarah Lemp has flipped several RVs, buying old, outdated ones and fixing them up and selling them at a profit. She calls traveling by RV or motorhome the “perfect way to travel during a pandemic.”

Lemp has renovated everything from a 1956 vintage trailer to a 1995 Class C RV. She almost always paints everything inside, including the cabinets. They also update cushions, flooring and curtains.

One of the most common questions Lemp gets is about painting the interior walls. Don’t remove the faux wallpaper or paneling, she suggests, but if you have water damage somewhere, find the source and fix it before moving forward. Her favorite paint to use inside is Behr’s Marquee paint and primer in one. She recommends a low luster paint in a satin or eggshell finish.

“Semi-gloss will show up too many imperfections, but flat paint will not ware well in high humidity,” she wrote in a blog post on her blog, All Things with Purpose. “I do not recommend using oil based paint.”

If you have an RV or trailer with damaged walls, try something other than paint to cover it up, suggests Lemp. Wallpaper, peel and stick tile or even paneling may be a good choice to cover up an imperfect area.

And think functionality and durability when it comes to decorating, says Lemp.

“Keep things lightweight and evenly balanced throughout,” she says. “You also need to consider changes in temperature and humidity.”

With RVs and campers in high demand these days, Lemp recommends checking local buy, sell and trade groups regularly along with Facebook Marketplace. And be ready to move fast if a good deal comes your way.

“Be ready with cash in hand to snag a deal,” she says. “Sellers wont wait around for you when they know there is a long line of people, eager to buy!”

And as long as COVID-19 is around, that eagerness is likely to only grow.

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