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Maria’s White Garden Transformation; Before & After

I wrote the first rule of design (according to Maria Killam 🙂 ) in 2013 when I was working on my garden renovation.

I have had this rule quoted back to me many times by my readers and by students who attend my Specify Colour with Confidence workshops. This simple rule is so powerful that everyone, once they follow it, loves their house even more!

The second rule is equally as important.

My second sister Lea recently turned 50. That happened on a Friday (April 19) and we celebrated by spending the weekend in San Francisco. Then, one week later, her long-time partner Greg retired from his career as a Mechanical Engineer.

I find it fascinating that often, big life events happen in bunches.

A few months prior to this momentous occasion, Lea called to share that they were buying an RV camper trailer because they needed an upgrade from their old camper now that Greg was retiring and they could spend more time travelling!

She asked if I could meet her at the Chilliwack location to choose our own floors, countertops and upholstery.

And it’s a good thing they immediately opted to do this, because this is the unfortunate and extremely dated combination that comes standard:


I was quite horrified to see that this countertop is almost identical to one that my sister Elizabeth still lives with in her kitchen from the brown trend. Although we did change the backsplash ASAP here and recently we’ve added some decorating updates which I’ll post soon.

I did a search online to see what people were saying about standard colours in RV Trailers and here’s a comment that I think sums up what we’ve just seen nicely:

“We are looking at new travel trailers. The decor options are hideous! I find this to be so no matter what brand we look at. It is almost keeping me from purchasing one. The interiors are very dark. Charcoal grays, browns, black, and dark cabinets. Floors are mottled tile or ugly wood simulation. No pretty wood patterns or lighter options. Complaining to the companies will probably not make a difference. It would be nice if more options would be available. As it us now, the flooring and carpet are the same, no matter which option you choose, and the other options are fairly close in color. I’m sure these will look more dated than the trailers built in the 70’s!”

Anyway, back to our new choices. We chose an LVP that looks like wood to coordinate with the maple cabinets. The photos are all bad because the trailer was located inside a warehouse along with bad lighting.

Photographing interiors with the lights on casts a yellow light on everything and creates hotspots.

So, I will post photos when their camper is finished. We chose a floor similar to this one (below).

Centsational Style did a great round-up on pretty trailer renovations here.

We also selected a light, white, marble laminate countertop (similar to this above).

For the upholstered seats I tried to steer them towards Sunbrella fabrics in a lovely stripe like this (because my sister loves turquoise):

She chose this one instead (below) for the backs of the seat cushions.

And then we went with a coordinating blue Sunbrella vinyl for the seats. And the white in the fabric relates to the new white countertops we chose!

Mint Media

You always need a spot for a table lamp and a macrame, haha (above)! When Terreeia and I rented one for a few days with my family out in Christina Lake a few years ago, I immediately brought a little table lamp with us to add atmosphere to the camper.

Here’s my sister Lea, testing out the seats!

So whatever you do, NEVER buy a new camper with the standard colours, you’ll instantly inherit colours that are 15 -20 years behind which will make your camper look like it’s already 20 years old.

Here’s what is in common with every beautifully designed interior: choices that are CUSTOM. Which often involve WAITING for weeks even months, for those custom items to be delivered or built.

Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

There’s a huge difference between any room slapped together in a week or less from a big box store with everything available NOW, vs. waiting for your custom, thoughtfully chosen and curated items to arrive.

So instead of being upset that the items your designer has ordered are STILL backordered months and months later, remember this rule. And remember that the world of custom requires patience.

Recently I was in a clients bathroom where she showed me two faucets. A pretty one she had selected for the vanity, and one that was a-close-but-not-quite-match for the tub filler. When I asked why it wasn’t the same as the sink faucet she said it was because they would have had to wait three weeks for it to arrive.

My response was instantaneous: “Oh no, you will HATE the fact that your faucets don’t match as soon as you see it all installed”.


Waiting = beautiful. Just like boring now = timeless later.” Same thing.

Happy Mothers Day to all the wonderful Mom’s who follow my blog! I love and appreciate you!

Related posts:

First Rule of Design; Boring Now Equals Timeless Later

Warning: This Mistake Could Instantly Date your House

The Rule of More

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  • Best.Line.Ever! “…remember that the world of custom requires patience.”

  • Ow, that one photo hurts to look at with all the patterns and colors that look horrible together! I hope I don’t have nightmares, LOL. It’ll look great when it’s done. (I like that Sunbrella stripe more, though. But they didn’t ask me! 😉 ) My landscape designer friend and I drove around the neighborhood I grew up in yesterday. It really shows when someone who knows what they are doing is involved. This will be a lovely way to travel. Worth the wait.

  • Vicky says:

    I agree 100% all new trailers are so ugly.. I would have to get custom to even like it. Your sisters will be beautiful!!!! Best quote ever!!!

  • Alicia says:

    Maria is right. May I suggest really shopping around, and considering an Airstream? We purchased one because they don’t offgas like conventional RV’s. But as it happened, we much preferred Airstream interiors compared to those of other brands. And many people sell vintage trailers that are completely renovated inside with charming interiors. Sadly, so many RV’s look like someone’s grandma’s house that hasn’t been updated since 1984. They need to hire you, Maria!

  • Cyndia M. says:

    The story about the camper reminds me of when we were shopping for an RV a few years ago. I was horrified at the ghastly colors in every single one we looked at. I even asked the salesperson (a woman!) if there were any more modern finishes available and she looked at me like I was nuts. We finally decided to buy a used RV, so we wouldn’t feel bad about updating the interior. The exterior was already a yummy blue-violet, and I have never seen one like it since.

    Our first trip out was before renovations, and the shower developed a leak which flooded the carpet throughout the space. Hubby spent a whole day ripping it out as I danced for joy at seeing it go. Once we got it back home, we installed LVP in a weathered wood finish, and painted the paneled walls a rich turquoise. All the awful blinds with cornices went in the trash, and I made sunny yellow curtains. We even took out the seating/dining area and installed a wonderful recliner loveseat, which made more sense for our lifestyle as retirees.

    We had a wonderful time traveling the country, and spent a month or two each year parked in our daughter’s driveway in California, so we could play with the grandbabies. We have now passed the RV on to a younger couple, who are enjoying the updates as much as we did.

    Life is too short to surround oneself with ugly interiors!

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha I loved your comment especially the part about dancing for joy, I laughed out loud!! I agree 100% Maria

  • Julie S says:

    We have an older over-cab camper that is typically ugly inside, and the couple times a year I go with my husband on overnight trips I think how much nicer just a little fabric and paint could make it! Not a high priority on my project list at this point though. I do have to say that the ugly browns and tans camoflage the southwest desert dust and inevitable grimyness a family of four can bring to a tiny number of sq ft. I’d have to think about what color plan would work for us if I ever get around to freshening the look!

  • Lorri says:

    Ask salespeople in furniture stores just how much customers hate to wait. I’ve honestly never understood what difference some weeks are going to make.

    Actually, my own sister is angry right now because her household is waiting for a sectional to be made. The furniture store underestimated the time, and in her defense, the assortment of chairs they’ve corralled from all over the house to watch TV aren’t that comfortable.

  • Barbara says:

    Oh Maria, you reminded me of when we bought our first house. Back in 1985, the fridges and stoves for sale were so ugly. Most all seemed to have these fake wood look handles-yuck. (we were not shopping for high end german appliances….) I already knew that I was going to replace the kitchen with a white modern one, so those wood look ones wouldn’t do. I found a lovely white set that had nice looking handles and bought it. Sales guy called to say that the plant was going on summer shutdown and we would have to wait 10 weeks or so. He honestly thought I would buy something else. So, there we were in our new home, cooking on our camp stove and using a cooler for most of the summer. What a pain. But so worth it for those nice looking appliances, especially when the new kitchen was installed a bit of time later. That lovely kitchen sold our home for us, when we decided we needed bigger house a few years later.

  • Laura L says:

    You are so right about waiting for the right piece to be available. During our hall bath renovation, I found just the right 30″ towel bar and matching pieces. The towel bar needed to be mounted to newly-installed tile, so I wanted the contractor to do it rather than risk cracking a tile DIY. I had several weeks until the project was slated to begin, so what could go wrong? I ordered, only to discover that the towel bar – and only the towel bar – was on backorder. The temptation to choose something else was strong, rather than risk having to call the contractor back for a towel bar installation after the job was finished. But much additional searching didn’t yield anything I liked nearly as well, so I held out. In the end, the bar arrived the week before the project started. Every time I hang a towel, I give a little sigh of happiness that I got EXACTLY what I wanted.

  • Kristin Terkelsen says:

    Your advice is sooo solid. When I built my custom home, they plumber could not get the shower kit I wanted which was a hard YES for me. So when they told me it might be 12 weeks to get it, I said YES, I will wait! When I use my shower each day, I look at the shower bezel and smile. I love it and love knowing every day I get to wake up to something so silly, but so good for my soul! You were right there with me, using your color boards when I chose the hard finishes and my wall and ceiling colors. My home is fabulous as a result and I know it is timeless too!

  • Jean says:

    As an admirer of your work, i have to tell you I love your strong punches of color in your home.
    I am curious about your front door. You don’t have a screen door or a storm door. Does that work okay? We moved into our home several years ago and have changed a lot but the storm door is so ugly. I want to take it off and put a punch of color on the front.

  • Liz says:

    Your sister is darling! This brings back memories of 2002 when we were looking at fifth wheel trailers for full-time RVing after we sold our home. They were horrible! I found a company in Kansas that builds them to order. We flew there from Oregon in early September and spent three days with their designer nailing down the floor plan, cabinetry, window placement, etc. My goal was open and light, so I chose all the hard finishes and window treatments with that in mind…and held my breath for three months while it was being built. It was worth the wait when we walked in and saw our new home for the first time. Perfect! Thankfully, I knew just barely enough about undertones back then to choose correctly. We were very happy living and traveling in “Toad Hall” (towed haul) for eight years. I wish your sister “happy trails.” 🙂

  • Liz says:

    For a small space, I actually prefer the more muted paisley design fabric that Lea chose (sorry Maria! :-)) It will feel more spacious. And it has yellow in the design!

    One suggestion for the window treatment. We ordered “top down-bottom up” pleated shades mounted behind a plain wood valance (no dust-collecting padded fabric). Our bedroom shades were room-darkening ones. You can raise them up from the bottom just enough to block your neighbor’s view into your rig, but still preserve light and a scenic view. They were well worth the extra money.

  • Lucy says:

    All of this struck a note with me! Many years ago when my two sons came along my husband decided that we should buy a camper truck so we could travel with two little boys and our dog. Well we looked at many to buy and I couldn’t make up my mind because they were so dark and ugly inside. Finally my husband picked out one because the truck was good and brought it home much to my dismay saying that I could change the fabric to anything that I wanted. The problem was I couldn’t change the hard surfaces but we made it look 50% better. We had that truck/camper for many years and enjoyed it! Life is too short to stress over everything.

  • Kay says:

    YES!! Maria, you are so right as usual! Blame it on the internet.. Instant everything is what is expected. In the past, 6-8 weeks was very standard lead time for many custom materials, furnishings, fabrication, etc. 12-16 weeks was common for “from scratch” or imported anything. And it seemed to be a truism that the higher-end you went, the longer the lead time! But we waited and clients waited because we were confident that the results were going to be worth the wait. Getting the details right was and still is, everything!

  • Scarlett says:

    I loved this one! You know why? Because I don’t think I realized why I hated motor homes so much. It’s because their stock selections are just so darn hideous.

    Loved this. Maybe some motor homes can actually be cute and stylish!

  • Kim says:

    Awesome advice!

  • Candice says:

    Love the fresh versions, no wonder I’ve never cared for RVs and campers! Makes me want to go camping!!! Almost!! Haha ?

  • Sandy Beaty says:

    I love to watch luxury RV TV shows. I long for some client to say “These finishes weren’t even in style during the Civil War.”

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