Updating our RV with Reclaimed Wood Kitchen Cabinets
True confession. I’m somewhat of a germaphobe. Yet that all goes out the window when I’m visiting a lumber yard and digging through old, reclaimed wood or anything with a really cool, rusty patina at an antique shop.
As soon as we visit places with these items Eric becomes a helicopter parent asking me to be careful every 2 minutes. It’s kinda funny.
And maybe I should be, but I just get so excited thinking about the stories behind these items! (In my defense, I do carry hand sanitizer so I don’t mind getting a little messy first).
DIY Reclaimed Wood Kitchen Cabinets
If you’ve been thinking about renovating your RV, we hope this post can serve as a source of inspiration in case you’re thinking about doing something similar. Or at the very least be a reminder to follow your gut and create a home YOU love!
We also have a video you can watch that gives the basic steps we took to create these reclaimed wood kitchen cabinets, which you can watch below. Please ignore me calling the lumberyard a “wood shop” 4376384573 times, haha.
Video: how we made reclaimed wood kitchen cabinets for our RV
If you follow our blog or social media channels then you may know that I originally wanted to use reclaimed wood for at least the lower cabinets in our RV. We worked on the kitchen renovation nearly 3 years ago, which is crazy when I think about it.
The problem I had at the time is that our kitchen, while outdated, was in decent condition and the cabinet doors and drawers were made out of real wood.
This website was previously called “Upcyced Treasures” and I felt challenged to make things work or repurpose them when possible. Truth is, I was worried people would judge me for removing cabinets that were in good shape.
I know this probably sounds silly to some people, but I let what I “thought” people may think, affect my decision.
Please don’t make the same mistake as me.
In fact, even after deciding to paint our kitchen cabinets many people were skeptical of the two-tone design and told me painting the lower cabinets black would make the RV look too dark and was a bad idea.
So I painted them gray, but after a water leak I painted them black and was so happy I went with my gut.
I guess in many ways this RV has been a guinea pig for us to find our style and confidence, haha.
If I’ve learned anything over the last 3 years, it’s to listen to the opinions of others without letting it weigh too heavily on what you really want. It’s your home and you should love it!
Don’t get me wrong, I love how our kitchen turned out, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to change it.
I’d be sitting on the sofa, enjoying a cup of coffee and thinking about how much I love our RV…. then look at the kitchen and feel like it didn’t flow with the rest of the RV.
In an attempt to push desire out of my mind, I’d go over all the things I loved about our tiny kitchen instead of focusing on what I didn’t like. Then I’d snap a couple of photos that would make me fall in love with it again.
I’ve been telling Eric we would eventually change it (ya know, gotta mentally prepare him), and almost let my impatience get the best of me by painting the cabinets again just to have something different. I knew that wasn’t the answer and that it would only prolong doing what I really wanted while wasting more time and money. So I fought the urge… on multiple occasions.
Fast forward to two years on the road and I finally convinced Eric it was time to add some reclaimed wood to our RV kitchen, yay! We decided to keep the bottom framing black (at least for now) and just replace the doors and drawers.
DIY Planks vs. Peel and Stick Options
While you can save money by creaking your own wood planks to create the cabinet fronts, peel and stick options require a lot less work. There are so many more options available these days, which means the prices have also gone down some.
You can purchase peel and stick planks from retails like Stikwood or Plank and Mill, or even find reclaimed barn wood planks on Amazon or hardware stores. The best part about purchasing ready-to-go planks from a retailer is they have been milled down and kiln dried so you don’t have to worry about cleaning the wood. Peel and Stick options make installation a breeze.
I wanted to buy local and there’s a lumber yard/sawmill in Auburn, CA called California Hardwoods that I enjoy visiting randomly, so that’s where we purchased our wood.
The owner milled the wood down for us to help us save on weight, which is important in an RV. We then cleaned it up with a wire brush and our steamer.
Update: We have since changed to this method of cleaning up reclaimed wood.
Without having our chop saw or table saw, I’m impressed with how Eric cut all the pieces with the circular saw. We are both embracing the imperfections of the wood and the not-so-perfect lines. I personally don’t mind them.
The Design Domino Effect
Keep in mind that each design decision affects other decisions down the road. For example, when we planned to use reclaimed wood cabinets we were going to use either white or faux concrete counters. Then when we decided to paint the cabinets I considered using reclaimed wood as the countertops or backsplash. We ended up using wood flooring for our counters (we didn’t have enough reclaimed wood at the time), and painting the tongue and groove backsplash white.
Now that our lower cabinets are made with reclaimed wood, I’m not so sure about the counter. I originally wanted lighter counters, but now if we change them we will likely stain the existing counter darker so we don’t have to spend a ton of money redoing them. The rounded counter trim kinda bothers me too. I originally wanted to have square edges but Eric really loved the rounded trim and he rarely gets excited or over-opinionated about design decisions so I let him have that one, haha.
When it comes to design I think it’s important to spend time learning about your own personal style and aesthetic and be confident in the decisions you make, regardless of what other people think! I’m inspired by the imperfections in nature, by cabins and mountain homes, and by old materials that have a story to tell.
Two-Toned Kitchen Cabinets with Reclaimed Lowers
Here are some photos of our reclaimed wood kitchen cabinets all finished up. It was overcast the day I took photos so the cabinets look a bit darker than they do in person. It’s hard to tell from these photos, I think the wood actually flows better with the rest of our RV now.
I was even able to use some of the leftover reclaimed wood to make a cookbook stand.
You may notice that I also switched out the upper hardware to these. To be honest, they aren’t the best quality but are pretty light, which can be a good thing for inside the RV.
In case you’re wondering, we didn’t stain the wood and instead used General Finishes High-Performance Top Coat in Satin. It did slightly darken the wood a tad, but not too much and it didn’t add much sheen, which I prefer.
Kitchen Counter Update:
After giving it a few days, Eric finally agreed we should stain the countertops black, which flows sooooooo much better with the reclaimed cabinets. This is something I had planned for prior to updating the cabinets, and now I love the overall look of our tiny, rustic kitchen!