Renovating a Minnie Winnie for a Family of Six!

Renovating a Minnie Winnie for a Family of Six!
The Wages are seeking adventure in a better, brighter rolling home.
By: Tera Wages

Wages family smiling for a photo inside their newly renovated Minnie Winnie

I knew early on in our marriage this was our future … squinting into the sun, heading for a destination I have never seen, with a full load of kids sitting behind me. In fact, in 13 years of marriage, I am not sure we have ever driven by an RV on the side of the road with a "for sale" sign in the dashboard without pulling in and peering through windows. When I married Wes Wages, I married a man with adventure in his bones.

We spent the first five years of our marriage on airplanes exploring over 30 countries with a backpack and a printed map. I can remember thinking: I have seen the pyramids, but I have never seen the red clay of Moab, UT. So, even during the time of our grandest adventures, Wes was still talking about the dream of the RV and the national parks.

First photo: Wes with kids outside Hot Springs National Park. Second photo: Wages family smiling for photo outside of Minnie Winnie

Making Our ‘Later’ RV Plan a Reality Now

I always thought it would be a "later" plan, the dream we would talk about for years. Then, in March 2020, Wes was in Palm Springs, CA, doing video production for Winnebago when I called him. Schools are closed. Our jobs are being cancelled left and right. I think we are about to be home for the foreseeable future. Within a few days, he flew home to a much different world than he had left.

When he walked in the door, I could see it in his eyes … this was the moment he had been waiting for.

Me on the other hand? Hi, I am Tera … mom of four, photographer, podcaster, and someone who doesn't own a pair of hiking boots. If I am being honest, my personal aesthetic doesn't match that of a traditional RVer. I like to dress up, be in a crisp white room, and explore places with sidewalks. I'm also the realist of the relationship who is looking at my husband reminding him that because of COVID all of our income had just been lost and our savings was meant to be saved.

But I knew this was not the time to crush his dream. It was an opportunity to say yes.

Yes to our family, yes to seizing time – which we now had plenty of – and yes to showing our kids what freedom can look like.

First photo: Child helping make pancakes on outdoor grill. Second photo: Tera and child reading books.

There was nothing holding us back from the RV lifestyle. 

Choosing the Right Rolling Home for Us

Almost immediately, the pros and cons list began. Having four kids, we knew our options were more limited because bunkbeds and seatbelts were a priority. We were also unsure if we wanted a towable for a little more space or a class C so we wouldn't have to cram six humans into a pick-up truck.

There was only one thing we knew for sure that was non-negotiable: we wanted a Winnebago. 

We have been lucky enough to work with the Winnebago team for a few years doing video production and met the names behind the scenes, like Russ Garfin and Chris Bienert from the Class B/C product team. Not only do their rigs stand apart for quality, but they are also a company we are proud to know.

So, we started looking … every day. After calling multiple times and being told "I sold it this morning," a 2017 Minnie Winnie 31H was posted for sale just three hours from our home. I called immediately, "Don't sell it, I am on my way to buy it."

Wages family standing outside Minnie Winnie

We were in love. The layout was perfect for a family of six, even the dining table was big enough to hold us all – which was unexpected.  Luckily, the furnishings were great quality and didn't need updating. This gave me the opportunity to focus my remaining budget on decor and making it match our family. Total cost was $45,000.

Making Our New Motorhome Better & Brighter

My goal was for it to be a bright, colorful space with a personality of its own. Being a photographer, I wanted light to bounce off the walls. And knowing that there were going to be so many of us in a small space, I needed it to feel big and airy. Thankfully, there are a lot of windows in our model because Winnebago understands that the RV lifestyle needs to see outdoors.

Inside of renovated Minnie Winnie

Wes and I are not Do-It-Yourselfers. Neither of us are handy and while we know how to get paint on a wall, the thought of taking something apart and rebuilding it is not on our list of skills. So, we knew that we needed to keep this renovation simple … doable, but with great impact. There was a learning curve, but we discovered the incredible online community for RVers can give us the knowledge we needed to fix any problem that may arise.

Tera painting interior of Minnie Winnie

We also realized that if we could do this … anyone could.

How We Tackled Our DIY Motorhome Renovation 

Our first step was to clean everything out. We needed bare bones to know what we were actually working with: remove wallpaper borders, cabinet doors, and take out curtains. There are a lot of cabinet doors (which is awesome!), so Wes was smart enough to store all hardware separated by room and section. This saved us from a major headache when it came time to put it back together.

Cabinet doors laid out on driveway next to Minnie Winnie ready to be painted.

While we were cleaning out, we discovered there was a water leak on the back wall of the RV. We were definitely nervous about it because, again, we aren’t DIYers. With the help of RV forums, and a good friend who is an experienced RVer, we fixed it with no problem. We were able to get everything we needed to reseal the outside from Lowes, clean out the damaged area, and we cut thin pieces of plywood to cover the wall. It was a lightweight option that added texture and dimension.

White paneling on interior of Minnie Winnie

White paneling and white bed in renovated Minnie Winnie

Cleaning, priming, and painting definitely took the most amount of time. I regret not covering the floor and spraying everything. But, instead, I rolled and brushed Sherwin Williams “Pure White” on pretty much every surface. Yes, many RVers don’t understand using white paint in an RV, and after a few trips on the road with four kids … I get it. But keeping a magic eraser nearby is an easy way to clean and freshen up. Plus, the amount of light it adds is worth the extra wipe downs.

Comparing old kitchen to new after renovation. New kitchen has green cabinets and cactus wallpaper with black appliances.

Comparing old bathroom to new. Renovated bathroom has green tile and white accents

Comparing old bunk beds to new. Renovated bunk beds are all white with white and black bedding.

Thankfully, the original layout and furnishings from Winnebago were perfect for our family. I brought in our personality through pops of color. The green in the kitchen, tile in the bathroom, and sections of wallpaper throughout really make it ours. The couch and dining were easily covered with washable covers and the rug is also washable (Thanks, Ruggable!). Spray painting the hardware black was the easiest update for less than $10. Our priorities were budget, color, and ability to be cleaned easily.

Three kids sitting at dinette playing on iPads

The Wages Hit the Road

Tera and kids sitting around a fire with Minnie Winnie in background.

Then, we hit the road. Now, just a few months later, our kids are experiencing parts of life that I know they wouldn’t get otherwise. With the opportunity of virtual school, we are doing math worksheets in the morning and heading out to the national park in the afternoon.

We have even discovered that going to our local RV park just five minutes from our home has given us weekends of disconnecting from the world and connecting with each other. And in this season, these moments are the most valuable we have.

I guess, in the end, Wes was right. And for that, I am lucky to just be along for the ride.