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Living in and Designing Small Spaces
There are always going to be compromises when designing a new RV.
Words and Images by: KEA

One of the little challenges in writing this column is that we have a very wide variety of motorhome experience among our readers, so while the subject of this column might be old news for some, we hope it’s going to be helpful to others - especially those considering the purchase of a motorhome.

In designing any campervan or motorhome there are going to be compromises, it doesn’t matter how large or small. In a VW/HiAce campervan space is going to be at a premium and all kinds of concessions, like making the bed up every night, are going to have to be accepted but the plus factors are (mostly) a less costly vehicle and smaller vehicle that will readily fit into most car parking space or along narrow bush tracks. At the other end of the scale, a 10.6m/35ft motorhome will have all of the desired comforts, along with space to move inside but its general manoeuvrability will be more difficult and it’s certainly going to be a big dent in the wallet at purchase time and with ongoing running costs.

For couples, one of the first questions to ask and this might sound really odd but are you happy travelling and living with your partner in a relatively small space? There are many couples who can live quite contentedly in the same house but put them in a confined space for a lengthy period and the whole living together dynamic can change.

While many couples desire an island double bed, that is not always practical and sometimes the bed has to be fitted into a corner. Not all like single beds but often they are the most practical and simplest to design in. Electrically-operated elevating beds are on the rise (no pun intended) but sometimes lowering them to an acceptable height requires more than a flick of the switch. In any bed a lie down test is essential, like, is the bed long enough?

While a campervan might appeal for a number of reasons, a large van conversion, although a bigger vehicle might not be much more expensive and does offer considerably more practicality for designers and users. Large van  conversions are often ideal for the solo traveller – self contained, yet easy to get around in.

It seems to us that RV kitchens are getting smaller (whatever the size RV) – mostly we think because bathrooms are generally getting bigger. If you are the chief cook and bottle washer, then do go through all the motions of cooking in particular. Large cupboards might look to be a good storage space but often empty space is difficult to use effectively – drawers are often much better. Our favourite problem in kitchens is microwave ovens – frequently they are set high for design reasons but awkward to use by shorter persons.

Dinettes, whether they be cafe, club or L-shaped style do come in various sizes – some are knee bangers and some have room to stretch out. Whatever, they are always a great place to sit down in for a while and contemplate any potential purchase. Sit back, relax and let your eyes and mind roam – going through all the stages of motorhome living, in particular observe the positions of lights, switches and power points. Sometimes they can be in odd or inconvenient places.

Bathrooms are an interesting case study. As noted above, they are generally getting large but how much time are you really going to spend in there? Bathrooms can take up considerable space and for many we reckon a combo shower/toilet cubicle will suffice for most occasions.

This might well sound like a bleedin’ obvious statement but we’d be recommending a lengthy test drive of any purchase. Apart from anything else, if having never driven anything else other than a sedan vehicle, then getting behind the wheel of what in some cases is a truck conversion can be a surprise.

Here at KEA, we reckon that one very effective way of figuring out what’s acceptable and what really annoys is to try before you buy. We can certainly help you out there with our range of two- to six-berth rental motorhomes. We might not have the motorhome of your dreams but it’s a great way to find out what you are really looking for.

Tags: KEA Small Spaces Storage RV Campervan Motorhome Campervan Caravan Conversion Vehicle Parking Shelter Bathroom
Category: Features
Written: Mon 01 Dec 2014
Printed: December, 2014
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