After my husband Daniel and I purchased our 2000 Winnebago Rialta 22HD in May 2000, we spent the following month turning it into a home. We were about to embark on our great America (socially distant) roadtrip in our Rialta motorhome and wanted it to feel homey inside. Although they are very functional, Winnebagos are famous for having a bland interior design. We wanted to feel comfortable inside of the VW Rialta and also make the space livable for long-term use.
So, after sorting out title transfer issues due to purchasing a motorhome on Craigslist and reading all the manuals, we set about turning the Rialta into our home. For another perspective on this project, be sure to check out Daniel’s blog post: Our new pirate ship – The 2000 Rialta 22HD.
If you’d like more details about any of the that items we purchased for this endeavor, check out the Product Information section at the bottom of the page.
But first… a little more about our hew home away from home.
What is a VW Rialta Motorhome?
Volkswagen Rialtas are compact 21 foot-long motorhomes that are built on a Volkswagen Eurovan chassis. Winnebago manufactured these motorhomes from 1995 to 2005 so they are becoming a bit of a rarity these days. Recently, Rialtas have developed somewhat of a cult following for their innovative design – especially with regards to the telescoping bathroom that folds away when not in use.
While we love our VW Rialta motorhome, they aren’t for everyone. They have an exceedingly low weight capacity and it’s easy to overload them. It can be challenging to find a mechanic that will work on Rialtas when things go wrong (and trust me, they *will* go wrong). Parts are becoming harder to come by since they haven’t been manufactured for over 15 years.
But they are so cute and easy to drive! It’s hard not to love Rialtas.
Personalizing the Rugs and Dinette Seat Covers
Our first order of business was to choose throw rugs. The interior was covered with grey carpeting when we purchased it, but we wanted to protect the carpets and also add some visual interest with some throw rugs. My favorite rug is the colorful 6 foot Persian-style runner in the back. It was hard to find one that was just the right size and this fits perfectly. We also got a smaller matching Persian-style rug to protect the carpet in the walkway by the kitchen.
I also added covers to the dinette seats for when we are not using the area as a bed. The covers add a nice pop of color and also protect the seats from food and debris. Eventually we hope to reupholster the seats, but that’s a project for another time.
Customizing the Bedding and Mattress Topper
After choosing rugs, we moved onto the bedding. At 48″ by 80″, the bed is not exactly a standard size. We ended up buying Full XL sheets and a twin comforter – neither of which fits exactly but they were as close as we could get. Shopping for a duvet cover was fun and I *love* the llama-themed duvet cover that we ended up with. Plus it’s made from microfiber and is super soft.
The bed was not comfortable on its own so we also added a 3″ memory foam topper to go on top. We had to cut down our old queen-sized topper with a box cutter to fit the space. I sewed a cover to fit around the topper because we wanted to protect it and because it was shedding little bits of foam all over the place. We roll up the bedding with bungee cords and store it on the back window area when we want to use the dinette seats.
I’ll be honest – after travelling for a few months we found the bed still wasn’t comfortable even with the memory foam topper. We could feel the metal structure from inside the dinette seats even through all that memory foam. We would love to get the seats re-upholstered and replace all the worn out stuffing inside someday. That would solve the problem.
But in the meantime, we switched to an air mattress which is much more comfortable (and portable).
Installing Curtains and Door Pulls
My favorite addition to the VW Rialta motorhome is the privacy curtains that we placed in the back of the RV. This separates the bed from the rest of the motorhome – which is important as Daniel and I have different sleeping schedules.
The curtain was originally too long to fit into the space so I customized it with my sewing machine. I originally just planned to take up the bottom of the curtain, but we really liked the fabric along the bottom. So I ended up removing about 10″ of fabric from the middle of the curtain. It was a lot of extra work but it was well worth the effort. I absolutely adore the results.
We hung the curtain with an adjustable tension shower curtain rod which fits between the upper cabinetry in the back. I originally planned to position the rod against the walls, but the wall curves just under the ceiling and it kept falling down.
We also ditched the faux gold door pulls on the cabinetry and added nice new chrome handles instead. It’s amazing how such a small change can make such a big visual difference.
Internet and TV
As travel bloggers, having a dependable Internet connection is an important consideration for Daniel and me. After talking to some other full-time RVers, we purchased a Verizon hotspot jetpack device which provides wifi for our devices while on the road. The hotspot usage data is capped at a certain point, however, so we have devised other strategies to keep our internet usage down.
Daniel purchased a wifi extender which enables us to amplify faint or distant wifi signals. This is especially helpful when we are in certain campgrounds.
We also decided to bring along an old iPhone and download tons of movies and tv shows onto it. This way we don’t have to stream content when we want to watch television. We bought a super lightweight TV which connects to our DC power supply with a cigarette lighter plug. The TV connects to the iPhone with an HDMI cord and easily stores in the closet while we are driving.
Daniel and I purchased a DC 12 volt 14-foot extension cord – this plugs into the cigarette lighter up front and runs all the way to the back. This way we can set the TV on top of the refrigerator and watch it in the back. We also added a 3 socket cigarette lighter adapter that also has 4 USB ports to the extension cord. This enables us to charge our phones in bed at night when we aren’t hooked up to electrical power.
After traveling in the RV for months now, I’m very happy with this setup. The TV only weighs 6 lbs! We use the TV all the time and even bring it with us when we stay in AirBnBs that don’t have televisions (we have an adaptor so it can plug into the wall).
Daniel and I also spent quite a bit of time measuring all the nooks and crannies in the RV so that we could organize the space. Given the small amount of storage available in the Rialta, we wanted to use the available space as intelligently as possible.
The item which took the most time to install was our shoe organizer. The shoe rack fits along the outside of the refrigerator so that we can easily access our shoes as we enter and exit. It took some time to find an organizer that would fit the space, and when it arrived I had to make several alterations as most of the shoe slots were too small to fit our shoes.
We also replaced the sink cover with a cutting board (well 2 cutting boards to be exact) and installed spice holders onto the outside of the bathroom wall.
Painting the Door Blue
The most visible change that we’ve made to the VW Rialta motorhome is the bathroom door. After 20 years, the door was yellowing from age and didn’t look very nice so we decided to paint it. We originally considered painting the door grey to match the rest of the interior, but eventually decided to go with a more fun blue color.
The Outdoor Setup
Although most motorhomes come with an attached awning for extra shade and privacy, ours does not. Daniel and I have decided to put off installing one for now, due to the cost and also the added weight to the vehicle. Instead, we’ve purchased a lightweight outdoor shelter that stands independently and also comes with bug netting. This awning paired together with camping chairs and our outdoor rug makes a nice outdoor space for relaxing outside the Rialta.
Weighing our Rialta Motorhome
A common problem that many Rialta owners face is overweighting the motorhome. Rialtas have a notoriously low load capacity (which is probably why they have so little storage space). Our Rialta only has a 500 lb capacity (after taking our weight into account) – and this includes water, gas, propane and food. Daniel and I are no strangers to traveling light but this is taking it to the next level.
This point was really driven home to us last week when we weighed the Rialta at a truck stop. Daniel and I packed up the motorhome with everything we planned to take on our trip and filled up the gas tank – only to find that we were 200 lbs overweight. And this was before we had added food or water to the vehicle! Yikes!
We then went through a major exercise to ditch every possible thing we could think of – from tools and clothes to armrests and even the third seat up front. We got rid of about 100 lbs. When we re-weighed the Rialta the following day, however, we found that we were 240 lbs underweight. This was great news – but it didn’t make much sense at first.
We eventually figured out the discrepancy. When we first weighed the Rialta, Daniel was standing off of the platform so he could speak to the weighmaster on the intercom. We assumed his weight wasn’t included so we manually added it into the total weight after the fact. Turns out, his weight was included after all and we were underweight the whole time!
Now that we’ve removed the third chair and the armrests, we’ve decided we like it that way. So we’ve added an additional shag carpet which covers the spot where the bucket chair used to be. We’ve also purchased a small folding chair for use if we ever want a third seat up front (when we’re stationary, of course). Now we can bring along a full tank of water and lots of food without worrying about going over carrying capacity.
Before and After Videos of our Rialta Motorhome
I took the following video of the Rialta’s interior before we had a chance to make any modifications:
This video shows what the Rialta looks like now:
Rugs and Dinette Seat Covers
- Nourison PSN20 Passion Persian Light Grey/Pink Rug Runner 1’10” X 6′
It was really hard to find a rug that fit in between our dinette seats in the back. This fits perfectly.
- Nourison PSN20 Passion Persian Light Grey/Pink Rug 1’10” X 2’10”
This smaller version of the runner protects the walkway in the front of the RV.
- Easy-Going Stretch Cushion Cover in Peacock Blue
This is one probably my favorite modification to the Rialta. Covering the old fabric on the dinette seats makes such a big difference and is relatively easy to do!
Bedding and Mattress Topper
- Rajlinen Full XL Cotton Bed Sheets
Full XL is the closest sheet size we could find to fit our Rialta’s mattress.
- Kingsley Trend Down Alternative Quilted Twin Comforter Duvet Insert
A Twin-size blanket is about the right size for our bed. We bought this quilt and have liked it so far.
- Senya 3pc Microfiber Llama Duvet Cover Set Twin
This cute Twin-size duvet cover has llamas and flowers. It’s made from microfiber and is super soft. I love it!
- Hikenture Double Camping Pad Two Person Air Mattress
We added this air mattress to our bed which fits perfectly and makes the bed much more comfortable. Plus it’s easy to put away when not in use.
Curtains and Door Pulls
- Barefoot Bungalow Shangri-La Window Panel Pair
We hung these curtains to create privacy between the bedroom and the rest of the RV. The curtains were originally too long so I shortened them with my sewing machine.
- Adjustable Tension Shower Curtain Rod
We used a shower curtain rod like this one to hang the curtains.
- Amerdeco 10 Pack Brushed Satin Nickel 3.75 Inch Cabinet Pulls
We bought new drawer pulls to replace the ugly faux gold ones on all the cabinets. I can’t find the ones we originally purchased anymore but these are practically identical.
Internet and TV
- Verizon Wireless Jetpack 8800L 4G LTE Advanced Mobile Hotspot
We have this hotspot but we bought it directly from Verizon and signed up for a data plan at the same time.
- Bearifi BearExtender USB Wi-Fi Extender Antenna for PCs
This wifi extender allows us to amplify distant or faint wifi signals, which is helpful in many campgrounds.
- Free Signal TV Transit 22″ 12 Volt DC Powered LED Flat Screen HDTV
This tv is amazing! It only weighs 6 lbs.
- SCCKE 14AWG Copper 12V 24V Car Cigarette Lighter Socket Extension Cord, 14.8ft
This extension cord enables us to run 12V power to the back of the RV so we can plug in the TV.
- BESTEK 3-Socket Cigarette Lighter Adapter with 4-USB Ports
This adapter plugs into the 12 Volt extension cord so we can charge our phones and plug in the TV in the back of the RV when we’re boondocking.
- CozyCabin Over The Door Shoe Organizer
We made some modifications to this shoe organizer so it fits the space. It works really well!
The Outdoor Setup
- Quest 12 Ft. X 12 Ft. Recreational Mesh Screen House Canopy Tent
This canopy tent is super light-weight and takes the place of an awning attached to the RV. The bug netting is a nice plus.
Other Essential RV Supplies
- Yolafe Armless Lightweight Portable Camping Chair
We use chair this in place of the heavy barrel seat up front when we want extra seating
- PackTowl Personal Quick Dry Microfiber Towel
This little microfiber towel is amazing! It’s lightweight and dries quickly so it doesn’t smell bad inside the RV.
- 15 Amp Male to 30 Amp Female Dogbone Adapter
This essential piece of equipment enables us to plug our 30 Amp Rialta into the power supply coming from most homes.
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