Inside RV Renovation: Dual Desk Office Setup

A few days ago, we opened up our home for an RV tour at the RV Entrepreneur Summit! During the tour, our back desk setup received a lot of positive attention. Actually, the only reason we even signed up for the tour in the first place was because a few people had asked us in conversations if we were going to be showing off our RV, because they were interested in seeing the desk we had made.

how to build your own dual rv desk
In a rush? Pin it to read later!

Honestly, I’ve been waiting to show off the inside of the RV because there are a lot of projects inside of it that are a work in progress. We still need to get rid of all of the valances and blinds. The WeBoost wires are lying all around because we have not finished that installation. We don’t even have office chairs yet. So I’ve been holding back, wanting it to look perfect for this post. But after the tour, I realized the RV is probably always going to be a work in progress, so I decided that the time to share it is now, and I’ll post updates as the desk area evolves and becomes more pieced together!

rv tour

The Idea

RV Search

The drawing board for the desk started back in October when we began our RV search. A big part of the hunt involved finding a unit that had a spot with a large window and a couch that would be easy to remove. With Barrett going back to school and me needing a desk to work from, we wanted a dual office spot that would look outside into all the beautiful places we would visit. That way, even if we were stuck inside working all day, we would be reminded of how lucky we were to be able to have revolving scenery right outside our office window!

Layout Search

We also knew we wanted a layout with the feeling of separate living spaces. We wanted to feel like we worked in one area, relaxed in another, and then slept and got dressed in another. One more thing we knew we wanted was a lot of kitchen counter space because Barrett loves to cook! And Barrett’s cooking is a significant contributing factor to keeping us on track with our budget and keeping us in acceptable physical shape. (I keep encouraging Barrett to do guest recipe posts, so if you’re reading this and you know him, give that guy a digital nudge and tell him to share some recipes! Hell, even if you don’t know him but love recipes, feel free to email him and let him know you want to see some! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ )

Therefore, with these layout desires in mind and the knowledge that after a lot of research, we were leaning toward the Keystone brand, we went shopping. I had told Barrett not to fall in love with anything new because we were shopping for an old rig. We were just going to Camping World to look at some and get a better idea of what model numbers we liked. I didn’t want to pay for the drive off the lot gap, but when we walked in one particular rig with big back window, two counters, a kitchen island, and a little bit of a bigger fridge, we were in love, and then we found out this particular model was brand new. There were no older models of it. I knew at that moment that we were going to be buying new after all.

keystone cougar floor plan
Our model’s floorpan. Image was found on Keystone’s website.

Couch Removal

So I’ll fast forward here. Before we knew it, our RV journey had begun!

Our first day arriving anywhere with the rig was at a Jellystone Park in Williamsport, MD. The next day, Barrett was going to be gone all day, and I had one day to unpack every box and get everything into its proper place so that we could host our first family potluck that evening. We decided to keep the couch in place until after the potluck, so people had an extra place to sit.

rv couch renovation
๐Ÿ‘† The couch’s last morning in the RV

The next morning, I wish I had been able to video the removal process because it was hilarious, but I was needed to help with actually removing the couch. Eventually, we got the giant couch out of our tiny RV door, in the middle of a Jellystone Park. I like to think Barrett, and I provided the entertainment for the few cabin campers in our area that day. After a bit of cursing and frustration, we finally got the thing into the truck and headed to our storage unit. Barrett’s Dad wisely decided to meet us there, instead of at the campground. He helped us get the couch all wrapped up and into storage. So whoever buys this baby later someday will get a beautiful brand new couch with it!

I include this part of the story because a lot of people have asked us how difficult the removal process was. Many have assumed getting the couch disconnected was the hardest part. Well, guess what was holding that couch in place. One screw. You read that right. And the same could be said for the recliners we also removed later in our journey, and that screw was already halfway out of the ground. So the manufacturers do not do much to connect these pieces to the floor. My guess is they figure they’re so heavy that they aren’t going anywhere. We’ve been moving forward with that assumption with our new couch, and so far, there’s been no movement.

Desk Build – Phase One

After Maryland, we drove down to Florida with a giant empty gap in the back of the rig. Once we arrived in the sunny warmth, the desktop creation began, and it went through a couple of phases. We originally had this very basic idea of going to Home Depot, buying two pine boards, and then sanding and staining them.

Home Depot

It took us over a week to pick the wood we wanted to use and the stain color. Not because we were in disagreement. Purely because we were so worn out on decisions at this particular point of our journey. We had just spent three months deciding what we needed to get rid of in our house, which ended up being pretty much everything. It was a long, exhausting path that led us to that realization. Every day I was coming to terms with the fact that I needed less and less. Then I had to find out how to get rid of a whole new batch of stuff. During that period, so many choices were also being made on our truck, our rig, our surge protector, our water filter, and so on. You get the idea. By the time we got to Florida, we were on decision burnout.

rv desktop rernovation
๐Ÿ‘† Our original desktop idea.
Sanding and Staining

We eventually made some decisions and bought everything we needed. We had to have a tiny amount of the boards cut off at Home Depot. Once we got them back we spent the rest of the evening sanding the ends and applying stain on to the boards.

Now, I don’t know if this is the nature of pine or if it was just the Florida humidity. Perhaps a reader can inform me of this. But after a few hours, I had peeked at them out the window and thought I started to notice them curving. I went to bed, convincing myself I was crazy. However, upon waking up the next morning I again peeked out the window and nope. They had warped into a beautiful concave surface. ๐Ÿ˜‚ I was nervous to tell Barrett, and then once I did, we were both afraid to go outside. We knew we’d have to approach them and admit defeat.

So eventually, once we had admitted failure, I tossed the boards in the back of the truck and Barrett drove off with them, never to be seen again.


Desk Build – Phase Two

Storage Cabinets

Phase two starts with one piece I have not mentioned yet, the Alex storage cabinet. We had searched in several stores for a piece that could serve as the lower middle divider to split the space into two workspaces. We also wanted to make sure the piece would serve as a storage space. This IKEA piece was perfect due to its height. The 27.5″ height lent itself to the perfect height for our desktop to rest. So we had already made a trip to IKEA earlier in the week to purchase that cabinet and had assembled it. When we told my mom what had happened with the pine, she mentioned, “You know, Ikea also has kitchen countertops.” Back we went!

Tabletop
ikea countertop choices

Well, she was right, IKEA definitely has kitchen countertops, like a lot! We knew we wanted a light color. Our goal is to lighten up the inside of the RV, project by project. But which lighter color, we couldn’t decide. I could tell we were just so worn out because we’ve never been this bad at making decisions. We were between three and then between two and then found a new one to throw into the mix and then we got it back down to two again. After a few hours, we ended up buying both of the finalists, because we truly could not decide. We brought them back to the RV, picked the one that looked best, and then returned the other one later on.

The pieces they sell are specifically 98″ in length. IKEA doesn’t cut them for customers. To fill the space, we needed the piece to be 92.5″ in length. I called my handy Dad, but he initially had no interest in helping, fearful of messing it up. Fair enough, I guess I can be a tough critic. But after having the project up on some websites such as Thumbtack and Craigslist for about a week, Dad eventually caved.

We brought the board over his house, drew out all our lines and clamped down a level as a guide for the saw. Then we performed a test cut, seen below:

Side Note: Before we got going, I asked my mom for eye protection, and she gave me these:

With everything having gone successfully, we strapped ourselves in for the real deal!

Everyone was nervous, but the cut went off without a hitch! We celebrated and then took the countertop back to the RV.

Connecting it all Together

To complete the project and connect it all, we have two 2×4’s fixed underneath on the sides, keeping the tabletop level and in place. We have screws through L brackets on the top, connecting the 2×4 to the table top. Then on the bottom, we have a heavy duty command strip that holds the 2×4 into place on the cabinet that came pre-installed in the RV. We didn’t want to drill into those pieces, so someday when we re-sell, those cabinets still have a nice top and can be used in conjunction with the couch again. The table top also connects to the Alex storage cabinet. There are five 1″ long screws going from the inside of the top of the Alex unit, through it and into the desktop, holding those pieces tightly together.

Here’s the finished product (for now):

rv desk renovation

Total Cost of Project

First Phase Home Depot Losses – 
Boards, Stain, Stain Rags, Gloves, and Sandpaper: $58
Ikea Alex Storage Cabinet: $89
Ikea Countertop: $189
Second Home Depot Trip –
L Brackets, 2×4, Screws & Heavy Duty Command Stripping: $35
Dad Saw Labor: Free!

Grand Total: $371

So that’s it so far! Have you converted a spot in your RV into an office? Or maybe you don’t live in an RV, but have a killer desk set up at home? I’d love to see it! Please share your pics and links below!

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