Let’s Talk RV Design with Interior Designer Renee Gillis

By:  Heartland News

28th Sep, 20

RV Design


Renee would be considered a veteran in the RV world, having spent the last 30 years working in the industry. She began her career as a college Design intern, and now designs RV interiors for some of the most popular towable fifth wheels, travel trailers and toy haulers on the market. In a continuously evolving market, no year is the same and Renee is constantly challenged to take the ideas and “hot”, new trends, and create many new looks that satisfy both dealer and retail needs – and make each model stand out from the competitors.

For inspiration, Renee is always looking for details that catch her attention – whether it be at hotels, restaurants, on TV or the infinite sites on the internet. “Anyone can Google ideas, but the real trick is having the ability to sort through all of the “cool” concepts and decipher what is feasible to create while staying within budgets and deadlines,” shares Renee. “The key is to be able to “RV-lize” these ideas and concepts.”

Where do you get your inspiration?

Renee: A designer’s work is never done, and I’m always on the “look-out” for inspiration both in-person as well as on the internet. Sometimes the creative spark ignites from one of my off-the-wall napkin sketches, which then transitions to a revised version of what can realistically be achieved from that notion. Or maybe someone else brings a picture and we collaborate from there. Other times, I might be motivated by a certain geometric shape or pattern or even a texture.  Believe it or not, all of these can be the start of the process for a particular interior scheme.  For example, just like at home, if you have a painting or focal point that will be used in the room; you build the room appearance around that one item.


What inspired the 2021 interiors?

Renee: I took a good hard look at where we have been in the last few years and where I wanted to see us end up this year. Our team pulled inspiration from studying the residential world and also taking dealer and retailer requests into consideration.  We have taken new leaps with high contrasting wood colors and some pops of strong pattern here & there which have received positive feedback from the previews. All in all, this year’s interiors were derived from a combination of customer feedback, reaching for a substantial visual change (which dealers and customers deserve) and of course, closely watching the residential market. Design is a continuance as I’ve already pulled together next year’s plan.


What is one of your favorite elements or material to use?

Renee: This year, my favorite material we are implementing is the woven flooring that will be in every single Heartland RV brand. It replaces the carpet and is mildew resistant and easy to clean.


Why do you think RVers will be attracted to the new 2021 interiors?

Renee: Years ago, we used to say that the RV interiors were several years behind the residential market.  The internet has bridged that gap closer together for sure. I truly believe that there are more and more similarities with RV interiors relating to “home looks” than in the past years.  With all that being said, customers and dealers will be attracted to the new 2021 interiors as they will resemble & have more similar characteristics as their home interiors - high contrast with lighter and brighter interiors, and of course, no carpet.


With so many brands, how do you differentiate and make each one of them their own?

Renee: That is the fun challenge I have each year. It takes a lot of planning and forethought to ensure we have unique features displayed in each brand. No single person makes all of this happen. We work together as a team to brainstorm numerous concepts and start the process of narrowing down to what makes sense for that particular brand’s budget and customer.  Of course, I also make sure we are implementing designs and elements that are smart decisions for the company.  There is a lot of time involved in making sure we develop interiors for each brand with some distinct individuality. Many departments have input to ensure we are producing great looking, competitively priced and dependable units. 


Where do you see interior design for RVs going in the future?

Renee: As far as appearance, we have been lightening the wood color for the past two years and are pushing that even further this year by incorporating complimentary accent colors. However, everything has a threshold – including design. We will hit thresholds and eventually need to start warming up the units. It’s a continuous cycle, but the cycle never repeats itself in exactly the same way.


How do you feel about the big trend of RV renovations, tiny homes, etc.?

Renee: The RV renovation projects shown on TV and customers that post before and after photos from their own personal RV facelifts are always interesting to see. Whether they are purchasing from a local store or ordering items off of the internet, that world is different than my design world. The difference being that they are producing what we would refer to as “one-offs” and I design for mass production that has set budgets and codes – such as fire codes and weight limits, but every year we are trying to push the limits.  “We have some exciting things happening here at Heartland.”


Heartland News

Heartland News


Your source for official Heartland News.