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DIY Updates—RV-Style with Lonnie and Guntars Asmanis-Graham

The desire to renovate doesn’t just hit homeowners. Camper owners can’t resist making minor tweaks and in some cases, major renovations to their home-on-wheels. That is the case with Lonnie and Guntars Asmanis-Graham, who, in the past two years, have made significant updates to their 2017 Cirrus 820—even though they “loved our Cirrus truck camper the moment we laid eyes on it!”

We reached out to the couple to find out what they’ve done, why they’ve done it, and what tips they have for other RV-ers who are toying with the idea of making upgrades to their camper. (You can also check out their Instagram page and YouTube videos.)

Let’s start with your life on the road. You’re a full-time camper couple, correct?

“Yes, we’ve been full-timing for over two years now! We’ve covered nearly 40,000 miles of the US so far. The Cirrus 820 is our first RV.”

What prompted the changes? Was it just for your taste or did you have a specific need or goal you wanted to meet?

“It was a little bit of both! Our decision to full-time in this specific camper definitely required us to change more than a few things. It is our full-time home for the foreseeable future, so we wanted to personalize and customize it just as anyone does in their living space, mobile or not! Most people only take their truck campers out for short trips so it wasn’t exactly designed with full-time living in mind. But that’s okay! We’ve definitely made it work and have done quite a few improvements beyond the interior as well to fit this lifestyle.”

Your renovations started with the kitchen. What did you do in that area?

“We knew the Cirrus would need a few modifications to better fit our full-timing lifestyle and aesthetic preferences. First, we looked to change the kitchen. We love to cook our own meals on the road and cooking leads to a lot of dishes, so we desperately needed to upgrade the factory-installed Dometic fold-down sink and faucet combination to something fit for a full-time kitchen.”

“The factory-installed sink for the 820 isn’t very wide and is definitely much too shallow to be practical. Another problem with its design is that the faucet is attached to the inside of the sink so that it can fold down, but it takes up valuable space in the basin. It is also very tiny and can’t move in a multidirectional manner.” 

“Instead, we wanted a standalone faucet that swiveled with a pull-out hose for more functionality. We were willing to give up the folding feature of the sink for these things.”

“Luckily, the kitchen countertop in the Cirrus 820 has more than enough space to install a larger sink and standalone faucet so we knew this was our solution. We found the perfect stainless-steel sink on Amazon. With a 10-inch deep basin and a 17-inch width, it fits the space beautifully. For the faucet, we opted for a brushed stainless-steel design with a swiveling, pull-out nozzle featuring two spray settings.”

You changed the lighting as well, correct? 

“Yes, we replaced the original overhead light fixture in the kitchen/foyer area. We prefer warmer colored light, so we replaced the white LED fixture with a larger and more illuminating fixture. We installed an exposed 12 volt Edison bulb for that cozy, amber glow.”

What did you change in the dining area?

“We wanted a luxurious, cabin aesthetic in the space, so we started by replacing the white laminate tabletop with a custom-made walnut butcher block slab. It’s probably our favorite upgrade! It completely changed the whole vibe of the interior. It is also more durable than the original particleboard.”

“Next, we changed the light fixture here, too. We opted for a caged industrial-style, single-bulb pendant, also outfitted with a warm Edison bulb. One issue that we ran into with this upgrade was that the original fixture wasn’t even centered with the table. It also barely cast enough light for the large space. So, we installed a hook in the ceiling to swag the fixture so that it illuminates the area evenly. We also use this hook to secure the fixture while driving.”

“Also in the dining area, we decided to reupholster the dinette’s cushions. The original fabric wasn’t the most comfortable to sit on and wasn’t our preference in color, so we found a soft, yet durable wool fabric in a subtle gray and white plaid pattern to continue with the cozy cabin theme. We chose a complementary, cognac-colored faux-leather backing to tie it all in with the new walnut tabletop.”

You also made some changes to maximize storage.

“Yes, we did a few, less work-intensive, upgrades around the camper to make practical use of all surfaces. In the bathroom, we mounted a total of four stainless steel baskets to the walls for extra storage. The original plastic pouch on the wall wasn’t cutting it for all of our things!”

“Our latest storage improvement in the bathroom is a replacement of the factory-installed towel rack. The original only held one towel, so we opted for a unit that has multiple swinging bars. This definitely maximizes the utility of that small area.”

“In the dining and kitchen areas, we also mounted a few baskets to the wall. We now have one under the main window to store a few plants and books as well as one in the kitchen for our soaps. The baskets are great for keeping everything safe and secure in transport. We also have numerous hooks mounted all around the camper for more storage and organization.”

Was it a DIY project or did you have it done by professionals?

“Everything was either done by myself, Guntars, my dad, or a combination thereof, save for the walnut tabletop. This was custom created for us by a local countertop maker. Guntars installed it to the existing base though!”

How long did it take?

“We didn’t do everything at once. It’s not ideal to live in a tiny construction zone so everything has been done over the course of these past two years. None of the actual installations took more than a day, though!”

What advice do you have for others who want to customize their camper?

“Measure ten times and cut once! But in all seriousness, my best advice is to not be intimidated. It’s okay to learn as you go. For example, we had no idea how to replace a light fixture in a camper before we did this, but we learned by doing. Anyone can do any of the things we did with just a little research and patience!”

“Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is a wonderful community of camper and RV owners who have probably done what you are looking to do, you just have to find them and ask. We belong to the Cirrus Truck Camper Owners Group on Facebook and have learned so much! Now it’s our turn to share a little knowledge!”

 

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