Keystone RV Designer Knows the Details Make It Feel Like Home

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November 17, 2013

By Mike Gast

When he marched out of Purdue University 38 years ago with a fresh degree in interior design, Joe Kalil had no idea his life’s work would travel millions of miles each year.

Kalil is the director of interior design for Keystone RV Company, the largest manufacturer of RVs in North America.

He and his team spend their days pouring through consumer research, visiting furniture and home décor stores to watch consumer behavior, and adding just the right touches to make each RV feel just like home.

Kalil says that “just like home” feel is no accident.

“We design each RV for a lifestyle, because that’s what we’re really selling,” he said. “Most buyers want all of the amenities they have at home, but scaled to fit in their RV. That is a big challenge.”

His three decades of RV design — first at Coachman, then Winnebago and Monaco before arriving at Keystone — give him the experience to keep ahead of consumer trends. He broke into the business after a home design job for an RV executive led to a consulting gig with the company.

“We’re always looking for the trends in what people are putting in their own houses,” he said. “A few years ago, it was hickory wood cabinets. It’s a very heavy wood, but we did it in RVs and we had to account for that weight.”

He said the latest trend in RV interior design is full-size furniture and appliances.

“The furniture all has to be multi functional, and now the trend is for large, cushy leather-look couches and chairs. Small size isn’t what they have in their homes, and isn’t what they want in their RV.” He said campers now want full-size residential refrigerators in their units, and added amenities like dishwashers.

Keeping ahead of consumers is a challenge, thanks to cable TV channels like HGTV and the Internet.

“Consumers are very aware these days,” Kalil said. “They come shopping very prepared to look for what they want. That’s why you’ll see our RVs with high-end countertops, dish washers, flat screen TVs and every other home luxury.”

That can be a challenge when you’re limited by weight, budget and mult-functionality. The next challenge? Toy haulers and ultra light trailers.

“Toy haulers started as ‘man caves’ with ramps,” he said. “They have evolved now into a nice, deluxe living space with an attached space for big toys. It’s again a reflection of what people are buying for their homes. We even have toy hauler units with theater seating and power recliners.”

So the next time you visit an RV show or your local dealer’s lot, take a moment to catch the design details in your favorite rig. After all, it’s likely more than 30 years of experience went into making it “just right.”

  • Nancy Heist

    We just bought a Sierra fifth wheel with theater seating – love it! This is our fourth camper and by far the most like home. This one is a keeper for sure.

  • David R

    May I ask if many interior designers are over seven feet tall? Only that could explain all those fifth wheel floorplans with kitchen cabinets with all but the lowest shelf up out of reach. We once had a salesman demonstrate how his company’s dinette chair could be flipped around to become a ladder but even he began to see the absurdity of the exercise as he dragged it around from pillar to post, tripping on it, over it, and around it in the confined spaces.

  • Steve Schultz

    Three months in this motor home and we are ready to replace the Hobbit furniture with regular furniture. What is interesting is the cost for normal furniture is substantially less than rv furniture. Keep in mind the quality difference between home furniture and motor home quality, one for part time, one for life.

  • John Milward

    Bought a Keystone 310 Fuzion Toy hauler in the Summer of 2013, it is a great product but could be better. Lots of almost useless space in the cupboards unless you like stacking all your stuff into holes. High storage with big open shelves that need a pair of steps to get to. The microwave glass tray slides out every time you move the trailer ( try a different Microwave Keystone ) and who’s idea to put an Aircon in a bedroom and the temp sensor control in the living room. And this is one of the best of the bunch. RV manufactures need to start using their product. Sorry but seems a waste of a College education to me.

  • Louise Richards

    We have a toy hauler . There are 2 beds on the track in the back with a carpet once the toys come out . I am looking to take the bottom bed out & put in the table couch combo in . I have seen it in other toy haulers , but can not find anyone who sells them !! Anyone know a website ??

  • Ed Guillaud

    Do any of the Keystone trailer come with2 bed rooms, I do not mean a bunk house. Might be nice to have the as a extra slide out near the 2 bed rooms.

  • John Pate

    Mr. Kalil we have a living lite vrv trailer just the bare bones. The reason is because it was handicap friendly. Most trailer are not universal designed. The ones that are have bulky lifts that take up room instead of ramps with landing. So the person can do it themselves. This would be great forward thinking.

  • Andy Tillinghast

    We bought an 08 Springdale 266. Overall good quality other than the poor quality of the drawers. also, too bad that Keyston didn’t put door catches to keep the upper door open when taking things in and out. We thought about buying a new 2013 but the dark wood made the trailer seem like a cave and the furniture was hard as a rock. other than that and a few other glitches we’re happy with our used trailer. fortunately the previous owners didn’t do any mods to it.

  • Cheryl Richter Allen

    more RVs need to have closets near the entrance door. we have one in our Keystone Cougar and would never get another RV without one. have gone to RV shows and looked at much more expensive trailers and very few have a closet. where do these people put their jackets, brooms, flashlights, etc? certainly no place that’s handy.