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Our Future Family RV

Over the next while, I’m going to be giving details and discussion on our future family RV that isn’t as much a pipe dream as I thought it was. Since we’re debt-free and have such low daily expenses, our financial needs are easy to exceed. Thus we should be able to save for this new home very quickly. Built and paid for by the end of 2011!

Starting from the trailer that we’re already in, we have some practical experience with RV living to consider design options and usability for our family. We’ve also been scouring RV websites for layout plans and design options. With the majority of RV owners being senior citizen retirees, most RVs (like the Tiny Houses) are only designed for couples or single people. But, as you are by now familiar, we’re traveling with our “larger than average” family. While some RVs will convert like a Transformer to accommodate 8 in the short-term, few will sleep 8 or more in the long term.

3 Designs for a Shipping Container RV

What would you prefer to live in and why?

Instead, we’ve come up with the three evolving designs in the image to the left. All three are based on converting a 40 x 8 x 10 steel shipping container (“High Cube”) into a livable rolling home. These designs will sleep 8 without transformation with extra room for more people with just a little bit of rearranging. I’ll go over the main features that all of them share now then deal with different areas and design features in later posts.

The left-most end is the nose of the container, the very back without the doors. The width is split in half. One side is a “wet bath”. A wet bath is mostly a toilet and sink, but the entire bathroom is waterproofed with a drain in the floor and a handheld shower wand to allow for showers in the bathroom without a separate shower stall. This is mostly going to be used as a 1/2 bath but an extra shower could be useful at times.

The other half of the width is a bunk bed with a full-size bed on bottom and a twin-size bed on top. The top bunk has a storage bin / book shelf that fills in the extra width and allows the top bunk sleeper to have their own “special place” to put stuff. Bottom bunk sleepers’ storage would be below the bottom bunk. This area would also house certain utilities in the very back that would be difficult to access from inside.

Next to the bathroom is the laundry center (W / D). We’ve been looking into washers and dryers for the RV and have found some that are recommended. Our laundry bill runs ~$50/WEEK going to the laundromat. (That’s 2-3 wash loads every 1-2 days.) We have a minimum amount of clothes so we have to keep up w washing them.  The laundry center would either be a stacked washer/dryer on one side with clothing storage on the other OR separated washer and dryer on the floor with clothing storage on top. We want to be convenient, but we do need to deal with little kids who like to get into things.

Next to the laundry center is the Entertainment Center with the public computer, DVD player, etc. We have a similar setup to this now, but it’s smaller and only has a laptop computer. The bottom section would be lockable storage for movies and computer accessories. The public computer will likely still be a laptop w cordless keyboard and mouse like we have now. Also like we have now, a large monitor would be wall-mounted to allow for dual displays for a wider angle of viewing.

Across from the Entertainment Center and next to the bunk bed is the couch. This would be a couch that converts into a bed in some form or fashion. Some fold out from under the cushions while others lay down like a futon. Either way works so long as the mattress that the sleepers lay on is thick enough and durable enough to be comfortable in the long term. If the couch itself folds out into the bed, we could use the space under the couch as a storage for both the couch sleepers and the top bunk bed above the couch.  The top bunk could be either stationary or it could be on a fold out platform to increase headroom during the day for the couch sitters. The window above the couch doubles as the primary emergency exit in the event of a fire or other problem.

What comes next in the RV is largely determined by the other end of the trailer. In all 3 designs we have at least 3 desks for the kids to do their school at. We also have a large pantry, upright freezer and fridge, and the dining booth and table. The kitchen is mostly left intact in all 3 designs also.

The main differences between the 3 designs is the master bedroom and bathroom. In #1, the master bedroom is turned width-ways with access to the bed from the long-side of the trailer. The idea with the bed in all 3 designs is to elevate it, thus the ladder/stairs needed to access the bed while below the bed would be a desk or two and a dresser or two. In #1, the bed could either stay at the same height requiring us to duck to use the space under it OR could be on a system to lift it completely out of the way to the ceiling, then lowered at night for sleeping.

In both #2 and #3, the bedroom is turned length-ways with access to the bed from the bathroom side. The advantage to this is that we get more storage space on the walls at bed level and are able to walk from the inside of the RV to the opened doors at this end where a fold-down deck can rest. In addition to having the bed raise and lower, the bed can also roll out of the trailer the length of the doors onto rails that align with the rails on the walls. Further, we would have more room to access and use the desks and dressers under the bed.

The main difference between #2 and #3 is access to the master bathroom. In #2, access to the bedroom is in the middle of the trailer splitting the bathroom in half. While this gives more space to the bathroom that would otherwise be a hallway, it also cuts the kitchen counter and separates it from the sink. #3 keeps the kitchen counter intact but makes for a tighter bathroom. In all 3, the master bathroom has an actual bathtub instead of just a shower (wife’s request). It’ll be small but deep.

Because of the extra room taken up by the master bedroom, the family area loses emergency doors and desks. Three desks should be sufficient and a lot better than the NONE we have now. The table/booth area would have storage under it and can be used as a bed if needed.

All in all, we have sleeping for 8 with additional room for 2 more.

Wanna count ’em?

  • Rear top bunk (1)
  • Rear bottom bunk (2,3)
  • Couch (4,5)
  • Bunk above couch (6)
  • Master Bedroom (7,8)
  • Dinette (9,10)

Of course, while the kids are little, we’re piling 3 to a bed, and it’s been a long time since it was just the wife and I alone all night.