Modern Retro: Riverside RV’s Contemporary Classic

The Retro 199FKS features a distinctive 1950s-era look but adds elements inside and out that speak to modern convenience, including updated appliances, optional exterior speakers and a power patio awning.
The Retro 199FKS features a distinctive 1950s-era look but adds elements inside and out that speak to modern convenience, including updated appliances, optional exterior speakers and a power patio awning.
photos by Shawn Spence

Riverside RV’s 199FKS combines top-line amenities with classic craftsmanship for a blast-from-the-past travel trailer

We could spot it a mile away.

The clean curves and white-and-aqua stripes on the Riverside RV Retro 199FKS test unit called to us from across the campground, eliciting oohs and ahhs from my daughter Annabelle and her camp-along friend, Tori. Getting that kind of immediate and positive response from a couple of 17-year-olds was, I thought to myself, a good portent. We did a quick walk-around, noting the whitewall tires with painted rims that matched the color scheme and the diamond-pattern lower-body stone shield on the front. I unfolded the manual step, and we entered, eager to see how else we might be transported back in time once inside the nearly 26-foot travel trailer.

Riverside RV’s Retro 199FKS features a fun throwback-diner feel, with its white-and-aqua decor.
Riverside RV’s Retro 199FKS features a fun throwback-diner feel, with its white-and-aqua decor.

Walking in, we were again delighted by the eponymous retro design, with white-and-aqua dinette cushions and a black-and-white-checkered linoleum-look floor that reminded me of a 1950s-throwback diner. The birch-look laminate covering the walls and ceiling is a good choice. The light color helps open up smaller spaces, and the pattern is appropriately reminiscent of that era. (If the look didn’t reach that far back and instead stopped on the ’70s wood-plank paneling, we’d have a problem. That will probably be a hot trend for the next generation, but for now, too many of us remember it firsthand.)

The main control panel and refrigerator are to the left, and the rest of the kitchen lines the front wall of the trailer to the right, with the dinette slideout straight ahead, which extended farther than expected. The girls dove into the dinette to lay out their snacks and play cards, an initiative I interrupted in typical Mom fashion by scooching them over so
I could slide in to evaluate the space. We could fit two on one side without too much trouble, though there wasn’t a lot of room for arm movement.

 Riverside RV’s Retro 199FKS has a surprisingly spacious kitchen (left) for a smaller trailer. It provides a good amount of counter and shelf space that helps to make up for the absence of overhead cabinets.
The Retro 199FKS has a surprisingly spacious kitchen (left) for a smaller trailer. It provides a good amount of counter and shelf space that helps to make up for the absence of overhead cabinets.

One element I immediately appreciated was the table’s sliding bar that adjusts its proximity to either side, and I liked its metallic rounded edges and light color with a gray-relief pattern. There is one power outlet on the wall under the table, into which I promptly plugged my laptop, and another on the opposite wall for a TV. There are no overhead cabinets here, but there’s space under the dinette seats. However, the front bench storage area is accessible only from the top by lifting up the seat, whereas the rear bench storage also opens from the side so that its contents are accessible while someone is seated there. Annie and Tori, having patiently waited for me to finish my scientific research, were finally left to play in peace, as I took my snooping elsewhere.


Illustration by Rob Roy

I realized quickly that it’s not just the decor patterns and colors that contribute to the overall throwback feel of the Retro; it’s also the shapes and contours. The curvature of the end caps is pleasantly noticeable, of course, but the wall corner between the kitchen and hallway is also rounded, which is a surprisingly significant contribution to opening up the main area so it doesn’t feel boxy or compartmentalized.

Keep in mind, though, there’s a give-and-take here. What’s gained in aesthetics with the end-cap curvature is sacrificed in space where the arc cuts into cabinet storage and headroom. That was evident particularly while standing at the kitchen counter. Since I’m on the short side, it wasn’t a problem for me, but taller cooks may find it more confining when working at the sink or the optional three-burner LP-gas stove. The lower curve also chops up the floor-cabinet space, so with the other sectioning they’ve done, there is no place to stash a kitchen trash can, even a small bathroom-size one.

However, there are two soft-close drawers, an open two-shelf cabinet above the 1-cubic-foot High Pointe convection microwave on the countertop, good counter space, and a window and light over the double sink, so it still feels spacious and works well, even without overhead cabinets. The 6-cubic-foot Dometic refrigerator’s full separate freezer and plentiful storage options allowed for utilization of every inch of it, including drawers on the bottom and shelves in the door. There was plenty of room for a gallon of milk, which is one of my litmus tests for a satisfactory fridge. And because it’s placed opposite of the other kitchen accoutrements, I could freely open its doors wide without hitting other appliances or cabinets.

I do wish there were additional windows in the 199FKS to allow more natural light in, or failing that, another light fixture between the kitchen and midship area. The roof vents and fans in the kitchen and bathroom let in air with the light, so we couldn’t have them open while running the 13,500-Btu roof air conditioner, which was efficient but loud. We discovered it gets pretty dark in the center of the main living space at night or when the blinds and the panel over the kitchen-sink window are closed.

During our outdoor rec time, we found the 12-foot white-vinyl patio awning did its job and fit the look. There is an optional exterior shower, plus a power outlet. A Magnadyne antenna receives over-the-air TV signals, and a Solar on the Side hookup is reportedly compatible with any portable solar kit.

Setup was simple and straightforward, although mysteriously enough, my advertising it as such to the teens did not entice their assistance. I deployed the four stabilizer jacks and got all the hookups handled solo without any trouble.

The bedroom offers overhead storage cabinets, plus shelves where power outlets are accessible from the walk-around queen bed.
The bedroom offers overhead storage cabinets, plus shelves where power outlets are accessible from the walk-around queen bed.

One thing I didn’t expect to find was a second gray-water holding tank at the fore of the trailer for the kitchen sink, which I simply emptied separately upon departure. I also didn’t expect to discover that the under-bed storage, also accessible from a panel at the rear of the trailer, is in fact the only exterior storage, and part of that is taken up by the spare tire. Add in your septic and water hoses and electrical cords, plus any tools or other nuts-and-bolts necessities, and you’re not left with much (if any) free space during travel. If you have much in the way of outdoor equipment, even camp chairs, you may need to use your tow vehicle for overflow storage, but that’s not unusual with smaller trailers.

A deep linen closet and full-size shower contribute to a good RV-bathroom experience.
A deep linen closet and full-size shower contribute to a good RV-bathroom experience.

Back inside, our explorations continued. The bathroom is arguably the single most important interior element of an RV. It’s the one thing used by every occupant, and its functionality and comfort can make or break the experience. The Retro 199FKS bathroom has a decent amount of space in both footprint and storage. The wall medicine cabinet is a good size, as is the sink cabinet, although the hoses and pipes underneath bite into the storage a bit, and the shelf inside means it won’t house even a small trash can. The linen cupboards next to the shower, though, are nice and deep. Problematic is the placement of the toilet-paper holder, which is somewhat behind you as you’re seated, requiring a 90-degree twist to reach it. It would be better placed elsewhere, perhaps on the inside of the sink-cabinet door.

Under-bed storage space is accessible via a platform with gas struts doubles as the Retro’s exterior “basement” compartment.
Under-bed storage space is accessible via a platform with gas struts doubles as the Retro’s exterior “basement” compartment.

The shower here is a little short on headspace, at just past 6 feet, but it has good water pressure, which is always appreciated. (My husband, Dan, jokes that with low-pressure showers, he has to run around in there just to get wet.) There are a couple of other caveats, including just one ceiling light, so if you’re using the shower at night with no sunshine to illuminate the room through the roof vent, it’s pretty dim. Swapping out the opaque curtain for a transparent one would probably help with that.

Also, the molded liner only comes up the walls and doesn’t cover the ceiling, which instead has the birch-look wall treatment that’s been carried into the bathroom. Overall, we were pleased with the space and feel of the bathroom, and it is workably functional.

Another critical part of any RV is how well it promotes everyone’s slumber between adventures. The dinette converted to a bed easily and will fit one person without a problem. Given that the cushions are so, well, cushy, they may get compressed quickly if used often by a large occupant.

A roomy hallway wardrobe supplements the bedroom closets.
A roomy hallway wardrobe supplements the bedroom closets.

The rear bedroom features a queen bed framed by roomy half-height hanging wardrobes on each side and topped by a full-width overhead cabinet. It still feels retro in here, particularly with the kitschy-patterned room-divider curtain that provides a little visual privacy, if not actual separation, but it’s in this room where the blending of nostalgia and modernism is the most obvious. The obligatory cable and satellite hookups for a wall-mounted TV are present, and there’s a Jensen JWM6A stereo with a radio, CD player and Bluetooth operation that can play music through any combination of the front or rear speakers (outdoor speakers are an option).

Beyond that, mindful choices speak to contemporary convenience, such as the open cubbies on top of the wardrobe cabinets with cutouts so the contents can be accessed from the bed. Each side has power outlets, with a curbside charging station offering additional 12-volt DC and USB ports. Bedroom storage is augmented by a hall closet that contains a large double-door hanging wardrobe and eight drawers.

Since the head of the bed is against the rear wall, the cap curvature prevents sitting up in bed to read, but individual lights over each side of the bed are a nice touch. The whole-room light is in the middle of the ceiling, but it has an on-device switch and not a wall switch, so stretching over the bed to turn it on or off can be a little inconvenient.

The hardest thing to live with here, and possibly with the entire unit, is the mattress. The abysmally low standard for RV mattresses continues to be an enigma to consumers, and following that trend, this one was extremely firm, with pillows that were good for decoration only. Users will need a plush mattress topper or a replacement altogether. If you keep this mattress, be aware that standard queen fitted sheets may not fit well because the corners at the foot are curved, presumably to help ease walk-around traffic, which helps since the wheel wells protrude into this space.

When it was time to say goodbye to the Retro, it was a bittersweet farewell. Our experience was a pleasant one. With a few work-arounds, which people expect when they’re choosing a retro-style trailer, the 199FKS can be a lovely blend of past and present.

Riverside RV | 260-499-4578 | www.riversidervs.net


 

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