Flip Your Furniture
Lippert’s new line of RV furniture makes replacing worn, uncomfortable living-room seating easy and practical
Take a look on TV or the Internet, and it’s easy to find some program or posting about sprucing up the interior of an RV. After all, a recreational vehicle is a home on wheels, so it should be comfortable, attractive and welcoming.
Unfortunately, an RV’s interior can become worn in a relatively short time compared to a regular home, and for good reasons. An RV is a tight living space where most of the surfaces are high-traffic areas. In other words, RV surfaces get a lot more wear and tear. Also, some RVs are equipped from the factory with less durable furnishings that are affordably priced. But, for those looking to update the interior of their RV and make it more comfortable, there are some good options out there.
Whether you’re replacing furniture, flooring, or simply paint and wallpaper, the biggest concerns when doing this kind of work revolve around the quality of the materials and any affect the proposed changes may have on the structure of the RV and its weight and balance. After all, if you equip your RV with marble-tile floors and granite counters, you’ll be in a lot of trouble. But with modern lightweight alternatives, the sky really is the limit on what you can do. Just remember to plan well, particularly when it comes to upgrading furniture and other heavy items.
Furniture for mobile living is built the way it is for two reasons. First, RV furniture is designed to be functional yet lightweight to keep the RV within its gross vehicle weight rating while giving the owner the most cargo-carrying capacity possible. Second, most RV furniture is made to be secured in place to avoid the effects of cargo shift, which can harm the stability of the RV in an emergency maneuver and prevent interior damage that can occur if furniture moves around inside the RV.
The answer for some people is to buy residential pieces to replace aging RV furniture, but this can be a dicey proposition. Residential furniture is not designed for mobile use, so it’s important to look at your options carefully. I have played with various RV furniture options over the years, and have modified furniture and cabinets and built them into RVs. What I found is that the furniture may be much heavier than the original items, particularly if it’s a good-quality piece built with hardwood. This is fine, provided the placement and additional weight is taken into account when loading the RV. Then there are the questions of whether the new piece will fit through the entry door, how it will be secured and whether it can handle being knocked around during travel.
An alternative to residential furniture is furniture designed specifically for RVs. A practical new option is the Thomas Payne Collection offered by Lippert Components. We recently had the opportunity to install some of this furniture in a 2013 Dutchmen Coleman CTS330RL travel trailer and were pleased with the outcome.
The CTS330RL is a big travel trailer at 33 feet with three slides. Its rear living area is nice and open, with a four-chair freestanding dining table and two rockers on the curbside and a foldout sofa-sleeper on the street side. Between these are a faux-stone fireplace and an entertainment center. A cabin-in-the-woods theme carries through the trailer, making a warm and comfortable living space. The furniture that came with it was good but not great, and the more time we spent in it, the more we thought about other options.
The Thomas Payne Collection is a line of upholstered furniture for travel trailers and motorhomes that includes trifold and jackknife sofas, modular theater seating and three types of recliners, all covered in what the company calls PolyHyde Euro Leather Vinyl. The seating is available in two to five colors, depending on the piece selected.
For our project, we settled on replacing the two rockers with theater seating and the foldout couch with a trifold sofa in Majestic Chocolate, which matches the vinyl on the original dining chairs. This was a departure from the other beige furniture in the trailer, but we thought it would look nice, and we were correct. Positioning the pieces into the trailer was pretty simple, as most RV furniture fits certain common space requirements. We took careful measurements for the spaces we wanted to fill and compared them to the specs for the products we were considering.
Most RV furniture is easy to install and remove once you know where to look for attachment points and how to take it apart. Where RV furniture will make your project much easier is getting it through the door. RV doors aren’t overly large, so knowing that you’ll be able to take apart the furniture to get it through the door is paramount. In our case, we were able to dismantle the old rockers and couch enough to get them out easily. The rocker mechanisms came off with a few lag screws, and then the chairs were ready to move. They weren’t screwed to the floor but were held in place by a set of clip straps.
The sofa was screwed to the floor but was easy to remove. Opening the bed revealed the brackets that were used to screw it down. We noted where the screws were removed and used the same hardware when screwing in the new sofa, when possible. Once we were able to move the sofa, we could see that the best way to disassemble it was to take off the arms and legs. Removing them was fairly easy, and the hardware we needed to access was visible once we opened up the sofa.
The new furniture was delivered to the Berkeley, Massachusetts, Camping World, all boxed and strapped down to a single pallet. Everything was protected for shipping, with many of the sections in large cloth shipping bags. The furniture came disassembled, and while there were no directions on how to assemble the pieces, it wasn’t difficult to figure out. For the theater seating, an online manual is available on the Lippert website, but we didn’t need it. In addition to the left and right theater seats, we ordered the optional center armrest, which includes a storage compartment and cup holders — nice touches, if you have room for the 8 inches it adds to the width.
With these recliners, and most others found in RVs, the backs have two clips that slide into vertical tracks on the base sections of the chairs. The theater seating has clips on the bases that allow the modular pieces to lock together to become one unit. We found this system a little tough to work with and recommend climbing underneath to drill the steel frame, and screwing or bolting the seats together once they’re in place, unless they’re getting screwed to the floor, in which case, only the seating sections need to be screwed down, as long as the sections are attached as designed.
The sofa came with the back section removed and stacked with the back cushions. The back attached with four nut-and-bolt sets that were loose in the box. Since the sofa differed from the previous one, we had to move the floor attachment brackets.
It’s important to decide where the sofa (or any piece of furniture) will be screwed to the floor, so start by placing it in that position. In some cases, marking that position with masking tape may be of help, while fabricating the attachment points, so the piece stays where you want it and square to the wall. In the case of a recliner or sofa bed, be sure the piece can operate fully before attaching it to the floor. Next, find your attachment point on the furniture, making sure the hardware does not interfere with the operation of the piece.
When screwing to the floor, it’s important not to screw down too far, especially in a slideout. Make certain you’re not screwing into the wiring or plumbing, and if you’re not sure, check with your RV manufacturer or dealer. The original screws should be a good gauge to how far into the floor you can go, but I have seen screws that were too long from the factory, causing damage under the slideout floor.
Replacing the furniture and adding a few interior accessories transformed an already nice space into a great one. The new seating is very functional and comfortable, and it looks great. The armrests are nicely padded, and the seams are neatly sewn. The upholstery has a rich soft-leather feel but can be easily cleaned, according to Lippert, with a warm-water and soap mix and a clean towel or sponge.
The sofa folds out into a queen bed, and the recliners are good-sized and quite comfortable. They extend all the way back with minimal wall clearance needed, so moving the seating before reclining isn’t necessary. The cup holders are a huge plus, as having no place to set a drink or a snack was something we fussed about with the old rockers.
The Thomas Payne Collection trifold sofa has a manufacturer-suggested price of $1,128, theater seats retail for $600 each, and the cup-holder storage console adds another $200. All in all, replacing the original furniture with a new sofa-sleeper and theater seating was a smart move, and the new pieces will go with any future decor changes we might wish to make.
Lippert Components, Thomas Payne Collection