Customized RV goes from ‘beige to beauty’
Gearing up to move their family from Michigan to California, Rob and Treger Strasberg of Birmingham could’ve done it the boring way with a moving van and some plane tickets.
But this fun couple is anything but boring. They decided to take a different approach: a six-week road trip across the country. They could see Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon and so much more along the way before ending in San Diego in late July. And they’d do it all in their own RV, customized just for them by local interior designer Kristen Armstrong.
Late last week, the couple and their two kids, Henson, 11, and Tuesday, 10, hit the road in their glammed up 2017 Forest River Sunseeker RV (they bought it with 10,000 miles on it).
Gone are the 34-foot RV’s Formica countertops and brown upholstery. In their place are gorgeous gray upholstered cushions with white piping, a super sleek gold backsplash in their kitchen area and three-quarter inch thick Carrara marble counters throughout.
“This whole thing has gone from beige to beauty,” said Rob, who with Treger, co-founded Humble Design, a Pontiac-based nonprofit that furnishes homes for families and individuals coming out of homelessness.
The couple — who are moving to San Diego, Treger’s hometown, to be closer to family — says they contemplated renting an RV for their big trip but it would’ve cost at least $12,000, so they decided to buy their own instead.
“We wanted to customize the RV because we wanted to feel like it was home,” said Treger. “Design plays a large role in our lives and we want to create and appreciate art wherever we are. It is important for us to live a creative life. So of course our camper had to be a glamper.”
Armstrong, who has done other design work for the Strasbergs at their home over the last decade, said stripping away the RV’s standard brown interior gave her “a blank canvas” with which to work.
From there, she used a color palette of white, gold and Sherwin-Williams’ Oceanside blue along with several natural touches, including faux wood wallpaper.
The blue “pays tribute to the fact that they’re moving to the ocean,” says Armstrong. “...It’s just the right pop.”
Rob and Treger are no strangers to big road trips — or big vehicles.
In the early 1990s, Rob drove the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile for a year, zigzagging the country for gigs and appearances (drivers are called “hotdoggers”). And for the couple’s 10th anniversary, they rented an RV and drove to Yosemite National Park. They accidentally sheared off an awning early in their trip, but they endured.
“We were going through one of the tunnels into Yosemite and I heard a bang,” remembers Rob. “I didn’t think much of it. ... The next morning, we were making breakfast over the fire and I literally sat down and thought, ‘I think I got this.’ We both looked up and the awning was hanging off.”
Customizing their own RV — a project more than six months in the making — had its own challenges.
A March windstorm that left thousands without power in Metro Detroit leveled a tree in the Strasbergs’ yard, which took down a basketball hoop backboard and slammed it right through the front of the RV. It caused significant damage, which meant design work that was supposed to start earlier this spring had to pushed back roughly eight weeks.
Moving cross country from Birmingham to San Diego, Rob and Treger Strasberg and their two kids are doing it in style: in their own customized RV.
Once work began, the tight space posed other challenges, meaning various trades couldn’t work at the same time. Armstrong relied on Dan Murphy Carpentry for several projects, Jason Allain Painting to paint the cabinetry, Tom’s Custom Upholstery to reupholster all the cushions and the Mary Barton Drapery workroom for the fun window treatments.
Still, even with a tight timeline, which was less than 30 days to transform the entire RV, Armstrong made it work.
“That’s where Kristen shines,” said Treger, standing inside the RV last week. “As of two days ago, there was no upholstery in here.”
Armstrong chose a heavy-duty performance fabric from Crypton for the seating so it could hold up to the wear and tear of a family on the road for six weeks. She replaced the dining room table with a commercial grade reclaimed tabletop that would be both durable and easy to maintain. And she selected a faux birch wallpaper that’s actually vinyl so it can wiped down easily.
“It’s wipeable and it adds texture,” said Armstrong, running her hand along the wallpaper.
Faux wood and birch actually is incorporated throughout the RV. Sleek black-and-white birch tree decals that Treger found on etsy.com cover the exterior.
“Etsy has been my friend,” said Treger.
The 240-square-foot RV has two bump-outs to make it a little roomier and each family member has his or her own sleeping area, including a queen bed in a back bedroom area for Rob and Treger. Built-in cabinets provide all the storage they have.
Treger says downsizing her family’s belongings to fit in such a small space for six weeks has actually been liberating.
“There’s this drive in me to downsize,” said Treger. “This makes me happy. This is all you have and that’s fine.”
To personalize the space, Armstrong added a few fun details such as throw pillows that pay homage to the family’s dogs, Gypsy and Louie, who didn’t come with them.
Their kids, meanwhile, are super excited about the big trip. Treger and Rob have joked with them that the trip is “zombie apocalypse” training.
“We’ve told them they have to learn how to fish, gut a fish, cook a meal and they have to lead 30 minutes of calisthenics every morning,” says Treger. “It’s Camp Strasberg.”
There’s only one portion of the RV that’s been left intentionally blank: the back exterior.
“Every place we go we want to buy a sticker from that place” and they’ll put it on the back, said Treger. “The first sticker we’re putting on is a Detroit sticker. We’re going to build from there.”