Thursday, July 23, 2015

Home, Sweeter Home

As much as I enjoyed the comforts of my sister and brother-in-law’s house for nearly the past 2 months (and Holley’s delicious dinners), it felt really good to get behind the wheel of the Winnie and head back out to the local campground yesterday.  The prairie sure has grown taller with all the rains we’ve had in Chicago this summer!

new lounger at Burnidge FP

Holley and Mike didn’t send me away to the same old Winnebago, though.  I’ve been the lucky beneficiary of their considerable carpentry and sewing skills for a few desperately desired upgrades to my rolling home—a new bed and new dinette cushions.  First up, the new bed!

When I bought this 2007 J-model View in 2013, it came with the original “split” mattress.  A nice enough looking bed to maybe sleep on for a weekend every once in a while, but certainly not a good solution for a full-time RVer.

original bed

Winnebago came up with this unique design as a “selling point” for J-model View/Navions (up until 2011).  With a split mattress, you could simply slide the outer half up onto the inner half to now store bigger and taller items such as a bike, skis, or golf clubs via the oversized external hatch door.

original bed hatch view

Nice feature for selling motorhomes, but one rarely used (and never liked) by most owners!  Why?  Because to support such a design, Winnebago glued a metal “ladder” frame into the middle of the mattress section covering the hatch.  Ouch!  Then, they decided to make the inner curved mattress too soft. With the split down the middle, the bed was a complete disaster!

Up until now, I addressed the problem by adding 2 Big Agnes backpacker air mattresses to the bed (1 rectangular, and 1 mummy-shaped), as well as a thick featherbed mattress topper to try and make it all feel like a single, more comfortable mattress.


The solution was more comfortable than the stock bed, but never really solved the issue of the crack down the middle.  The air pads were not quite wide enough for the bed and were constantly sliding apart—especially whenever Millie would jump onto the bed!

The ultimate fix was not as simple as just finding a custom, curved mattress.  Oh no.  I first had to solve how to modify the original bed platform’s large, gaping hole on one side without eliminating it’s absolutely fabulous feature on the other side—a huge “secret” storage compartment with flip-open door.  This storage area is often unnoticed by thieves (and customs/checkpoint guards).  A nice place to store photo gear or a 2-month supply of “contraband” American dog food when heading to Mexico!

original bed platforminternal storage

Various J-model owners on the View-Navion Yahoo forum had come up with solutions over the years to try and fix the problem.  But these usually added considerable weight (i.e. a 3/4” solid piece of plywood covering the whole platform), a brace down the middle of the external hatch (preventing long items from being stowed there), or eliminating the “hidden” access to internal storage by adding visible side access doors. 

Finally, a few weeks ago, a fellow J owner on the Yahoo View-Navion forum posted an absolutely brilliant solution—fabricating a new “hollow inside” platform to replace the original, while still re-using the original flip-up door (and furnace cover behind it). 

Mike studied the pictures carefully and said “I can do that!”  Within minutes, we were standing in his garage workshop, eying a nice piece of 3/4” plywood that he’d use to build the new internal frame.  Within a couple of days, this is what he created--

A new frame constructed of 3/4” plywood pieces glued and biscuit-joined together:

new bed platform frame

A sheet of 1/4” birch paneling was glued to each side of the frame to add strength and stability--new bed platform w one side gluednew bed platform with both sides glued

A hole was cut in the corner so that both the original furnace cover as well as the flip-up door could be reused (although Mike did have to add 1/4” shims to the existing frame to fit these due to the new platform being 1/4” thicker than the original).

new bed platform before sealing

Once sealed with polyurethane, the new platform slid right into where the old one had been and looked like it was original equipment!

new bed platform installed

The new platform screws into the frame exactly where the old one did.  Here you can also see one of the 2 notches required to allow clearance for the exterior hatch door struts--

new bed platform cutouts

To avoid a fixed center brace in the middle of the exterior hatch, Mike came up with a great solution here too.  A folding support leg.  It can flip up while traveling or to give me full access to the hatch for longer items, and flip down once I stop to camp.  So far, the bed platform has proven strong enough to not need the support leg when it’s just me sleeping on the bed…but if I ever get a 500 lb. boyfriend, it will be nice to have the added support! Smile

new bed w leg upnew bed hatch view

With the bed platform issues solved, now on to solve the mattress dilemma.  Some other J-owners have just put a thick foam mattress directly on their new platforms and topped them with memory foam, etc to improve comfort.  Others have ordered custom, “sight-unseen” inner-spring mattresses.  I shuddered at the thought of multiple truck freight returns to test out various mattresses trying to find just the right one.  Then I remembered reading about the beds in the new Winnebago Travato vans that use the Euro-designed Froli Sleep System (a set of high-tech springs much loved in the boating/marine community that give “bounce” and comfort to standard foam cushions).

I ordered the Froli Travel system as they offered half-sized springs that would fit the curve of bed a bit better.  Specifically, I ordered the Large V-Berth Kit for a total cost of  $329.

Although expensive, the springs are made of a high-quality plastic that allows both strength and flexibility.  The beige grid pieces easily snap together and blue springs twist into place on top of them.  No glue, screws, or nails are necessary.  The light blue springs are slightly more flexible (softer) to improve comfort of shoulders when side sleeping.  I sometimes like to sleep “backwards” on the bed facing the windows, so I softened both ends of the bed.  Here’s what the final assembly looks like (albeit, before trimming up the grid pieces on the curve).

new froli travel springs

froli springs close up 1

For the mattress, I went over to the local IKEA warehouse and tested out a variety of their offerings.  They happened to have a high quality 7” foam mattress (the full-sized Morgedal) that was comfortable, yet still rather lightweight—perfect for an RV!  Even better, it came with a 25-year warranty and was on sale for only $199!!!

Once I tested it out on top of the Froli springs on the floor of the guest bedroom for a couple nights, Holley pulled out her electric knife to cut to fit the Winnie (shaving 3” off one side and cutting the curve). She then re-sewed the removable mattress cover to fit the new shape.  It looks (and feels) fantastic.  No additional foam topper or featherbed needed!

new mattress

To finish things off, the new bed sports 2 new pups—a little white Labrador puppy that that I got while in the hospital, and a “Happy Camper” pillow (with a bandana-wearing yellow Lab at the door of a teardrop-shaped trailer) that the wonderful couple renting my house sent to me recently.

new bed complete

I’m not ready for another dog yet, but these two will sure keep me company and remind me of Millie (and our T@B camper) every day!

new puppy and pillow

Sure is nice to be home again!


  1. So glad you're back home. Your bed renovation is great. I've always wondered about those split cushions. How could they ever be comfortable? Looking forward to reading about your next RV adventure.

  2. Great work-around and it looks nice, too! It's so nice to have friends/family who can build and sew things to make our little homes just perfect. That bed looks really COMFORTABLE! I've been sleeping on a 2" memory foam topper for over four years, and so far so good, but I'm comfortable sleeping on the floor if I have to. That's probably my best RVing ability! LOL Love all your storage, too. :)

  3. Welcome home! We hope you're feeling better and ready for adventure, we have missed your stories and beautiful photographs. the improved mattress and spring system is awesome!

  4. Your solution looks great. Nice work be your brother-in-law. The mattress and spring look like they wok work well.

  5. That looks like a fantastic solution, both the woodworking and the mattress. Here's to many years of comfortable slumber.

  6. Creativity and ingenuity solved the issue. Enjoy!

  7. I think the three of you need to go into business together. Great solution. Sleep well.

  8. Ya know, after surgery, most people 'recover'. You, Holley and Mike take RE-COVERING to an entirely new level! Glad to see you're back home again ;) Lacy

  9. Saaawwweeeettttt! You get the "most creative sleeper" award and I love the idea for the mattress springs. I thought that might work in my trailer but dang realized then the bed wouldn't go up high enough. Still... Glad you are getting back into your own space and how nice to have some handy folks to help you sleep!

  10. Happy to see you are back in your place and doing so well. Great job by your brother in law and sister. I love the View's and Navions. Nice to have people who can do these things for you and do them well. Enjoy!

  11. Looks great!!!!, very professional!!!!. Saw the link on the Yahoo Forum.

  12. I'm wondering why the builder didn't just use a solid sheet of plywood and cut-out the holes instead of piecing it together. The only thing I can think of is his method uses less material.

    1. He already had the long skinny pieces of 3/4" plywood, so decided to use them up (rather than buy a large new sheet to cut holes in). I also think he was looking for a reason to bring out his furniture-making clamps and wood glue! He loves doing woodworking projects. Thus far, the bed platform has proven to be lightweight and rock-solid-- no warps or delamination issues of any kind.

  13. Very nice mod. Does your storage compartment lid still raise up for access to the inside compartment? Do you raise the mattress first and then the lid?

    1. Yes and Yes! That was a big "must-have" requirement for me to still have access to that "hidden" storage compartment. Basically, I just leave a half-row of the Froli grid disconnected (where the short edge of the compartment door meets the furnace behind it). The Ikea foam mattress is very lightweight, so it's easy to lift the rounded corner up high enough for the compartment door to open and keep it propped up.

  14. Thank you very much for this very informative instruction set. I have two questions. 1) Is the 1/4" plywood added to both sides of the 3/4 inch "holey" piece that you constructed? Also, did you add any large piece of 1/4" plywood to the door that flips up? Also did you select the firm or medium mattress, although this is likely different for each of us. Again, than you very much for this illustration and all of the work it took to put it together.

    Also if you know of a link that shows any more photos of the process, I would appreciate as well. I am particularly interested in how the underneath is attached to the cabin heater box and how any spacing issues are resolved under the flip door after it has been screwed onto the plywood assembly you created.


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