This week on the RV Podcast we talk to one woman about renovating an RV, learning about her fascinating story and how she’s now helping others do what she does.
She’s Cortni Armstrong, known as The Flipping Nomad, who was almost homeless a few years ago and discovered her gift for renovating and redesigning RVs after she moved into one to avoid living on the streets.
You can watch the entire episode (#415) of the podcast in the video below, which features Corni in our interview segment.
If you prefer an audio-only version, you can listen to it in your favorite podcast app or click the player below.
Cortni is an expert on how to renovate an RV
In fact, she is such an expert that Keystone RV and several major RV suppliers approached Cortni a while back because they were so impressed with her skills that they wanted to build “the ultimate RV” and gave Cortni a Montana Fifth from 37-foot luxury. Wheel and told him to go there, design it and adjust it as he thought best.
And he never did!
If you want to see how this project turned out, check out this video we made last week on our YouTube channel. This Ultimate RV is amazing. Click the player below to watch:
Jennifer and I loved what he did and asked if he would take a look at our Arcadia fifth wheel and suggest some design tweaks to give me a dedicated work area. Come back to our YouTube channel on Saturday if you want to see how it turned out!
Cortni’s Story: From Homeless to VR Design Queen
On this week’s podcast, Jennifer interviewed Cortni about how The Flipping Nomad came about. Here is an edited version of the podcast interview.
Cortni, you have a great story of how you learned how to renovate an RV and it became the Flipping Nomad. So can you tell us a little bit about that?
So most people when they get into RVing have a story that is almost straight out of a movie. They got tired of life and sold everything and bought the camper and hit the road.
And it looks like a fairy tale. But my story is very opposite to that. It started eight years ago. My father had a stroke and had two businesses, but neither was doing very well. So I had to drop everything and take them. And basically I was dealing with a dog type situation?
And it was pretty terrible. And I found myself in desperate need of affordable housing. And a family friend turned me into living in a trailer, just standing still. I wasn’t traveling. And so I basically moved there. This was the only option I could find. And at first I hated it and I was ashamed and I felt like I was at rock bottom.
And then a year passed and I had fallen in love with the lifestyle. And I said, maybe this isn’t so bad and maybe I could get my feet under me faster if I live this affordable lifestyle. And so I said I would really like an RV that looks more like a bachelorette pad.
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He was 25 at the time. I searched high and low for something that felt as good as living small felt, and nothing fit. And so I thought I might as well revamp one, right? I don’t know, can you refurbish a caravan? And I did a quick Google search and nothing came up, but now I realize that’s because no one else was doing it at the time.
Now it’s a bit of a different story. But I had the courage to renew a caravan. And then two years passed and I fixed everything with the family, I said: OK, now it’s my turn. What will I do with life? And I went back to my buying experience and wondered if maybe other people didn’t like their RV interiors either, and if maybe there was a trade-off.
And so he started in the RV restoration business and then the business started to take off, fueled by social media. And then Keystone RV Company found out, which was the shock of a lifetime. They watched online for several months without my knowledge. They reached out in March 2019 and said, Hey. They said: What you are doing is really cool and we would love to be involved with you.
So they said, How about we take a new Montana off the line and give it to you, give you a quote, and tell you to go build the craziest thing you can think of? And I said, done.
Cortni is now helping others learn how to renovate an RV
So going from desperate house hunting and almost homelessness to this beautiful RV has been like the craziest story and now you’re helping other people.
Yes, I am. So we had a shop in Texas where we were doing renovations for people and it got to the point where we couldn’t keep up and we were just turning people away left and right.
And so we were like, how can we be creative and help these people live this lifestyle and this dream that they have in mind without having to build their RVs for them. And that’s when the light bulb moment went off where we could just create an RV refresh course, where we infuse all our years of knowledge into fellow nomads.
And that’s what we did.
He now has a course on how to renovate an RV
Last year it took us four months to film the course and get it up and running and it took a little longer than we expected. Still a bit in beta right now it’s about 80% of the way done. But that’s what we’re focusing on this year, finishing the course completely, and then we’re going to travel around the country and go to dealerships and RV shows and do face-to-face workshops.
And so teaching people in a hands-on way if they can get to us or if they can’t get to us and they want to do it on their own, then we have the course that they can do.
I’m listening now”We are.”
Yes. It’s actually me and my mom. So she’s a partner in the business and through the turmoil of how I got into a caravan, with the family breakup she also got divorced.
He is finding his starting point, now in his sixties and also reinventing himself. So there’s a lot of emotional ties and depth, I guess you could say, that goes with RVing and it’s more than just an interior design project for us. There’s a lot going on.
The Challenges of RV Renovation: Weight, Size, and Furniture
So what are some of the challenges that people have to face?
Yes, it’s a tricky line with renovating an RV, because at the end of the day, people want them to feel like home. They are an RV and should work like an RV.
And one of the biggest factors with RVing, especially renovating, is weight.
Weight is the name of the game with RVs. And these are things we put people through.
Like flooring, for example, is always a hot topic because in the residential world, people use planks, three-foot-by-six-inch-wide planks that are glued together and that’s the whole floor of the house.
If you did it in an RV, the planks are extremely heavy. So you will annihilate your carrying capacity right away with this floor.
And then also the RV goes through temperature fluctuations and also vibrations on the road. And so with so many joints on the floor, you run the risk of something happening.
This is why we choose to work with laminate vinyl flooring. This is also what all manufacturers use. Therefore, it is a floor wash. But this is just one example of the differences between residential renovation and RV renovation.
What do you do with the furniture? If they want to update furniture, what options do they have?
They can upgrade or cover what they already have or replace it entirely.
We only really use residential furniture and I will say it’s tricky, especially finding couches that can fit in an RV. Because most residential sofas are like 98 inches and a standard in RV is about 72 inches. So it’s a bit tricky to find parts, but at least with the furniture, we use residential options for those.
Are you thinking of renovating your caravan?
Let us know all about it in the comments or social posts. Where do you want to go next?
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