Revamp Your Home On Wheels

Creative Van Conversions to Simplify Life on the Road

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Revamp Your Home On Wheels
Build Your Bed Sideways To Maximize Space

build your bed sideways to maximize space

Positioning the bed sideways in the van (perpendicular to the length of the vehicle) can help maximize your living space — but make sure to get a van wider than you are tall. “The ProMasters are six feet wide on the inside,” Kaya Lindsay of One Chick Travels says. “Sprinter vans are 5 feet 9 inches wide. If you’re under 5 feet 4 inches, you can sleep sideways in a Chevy Econoline.”

Hang A Hammock For An Additional Sleep Space
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Bunk Beds Can Double Sleeping Quarters In Tall Vans

bunk beds can double sleeping quarters in tall vans

Another way to sleep extra people in a van is bunk beds. Jack Richens’ design at This Moving House hides a bed in a staircase so it can fold out when it’s bed time. The Fite family hangs their bunk from the ceiling.

Beds Can Be Hidden Or Converted For Other Purposes

beds can be hidden or converted for other purposes

There are also several different ways a bed can move when not in use. It can slide, fold like a Murphy bed or fold couches. A bed can even slide out of the van for sleeping under the stars.

A Dining Table Can Convert Into A Bed

a dining table can convert into a bed

Audrey Desjardins has the instructions for building this combination table-bed combo and Kaya Lindsay has a similar set-up. “When you want to go to sleep and get into bed, all you do is take out the bottom of the table,” she says. “There’s a pole that keeps the table up and then the table top drops into place.”

Create Under-bed Storage

create under-bed storage

Kaya Lindsay suggests keeping larger items under the bed. “It’s nice to be able to have a mountain bike, snowboard, skis, or camera equipment [under the bed],” she says. “For me, it’s rock climbing gear.”
Explore Low-profile Lighting Solutions
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explore low-profile lighting solutions

Gnau’s husband turned an overturnedbucket and lightbulb into overhead lighting. “Head room is very important in a van, so finding a low-profile lighting option is key,” Melanie Gnau says. “We were in the hardware store one day and my husband found that small galvanized bucket, so we cut a hole in the bottom, turned it upside down and screwed it in — creating a light for less than $10.”

Elevate Your Cabinets To Maximize Storage

elevate your cabinets to maximize storage

Line the top of your walls with cabinets for more storage space. “There’s a wraparound series of cabinets on the top, which is a lot,” Adam Nawrot says. “For living in it full time, it’s a great amount of storage. For weekend trips, it’s a bit too much.”
Add Lips To Shelving To Keep Objects From Sliding Out
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add lips to shelving to keep objects from sliding out

Since drawers are going to get jostled on the road, build a lip in the front to keep things from falling out. “I really like the concept of shelves with a lip on them,” Kaya Lindsay says. “It requires a really simple build-out and it looks nice. You don’t have to deal with things falling off of your shelves.”
Use Ropes And Hooks To Keep Drawers Closed
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use ropes and hooks to keep drawers closed

Van Dog Traveller Mike Hudson has a simple way to keep stuff from spilling out of drawers — tie a rope to a hook. Kaya Lindsay agrees that traditional locks can’t withstand the wear and tear of driving thousands of miles. “Drawer locks are not meant to move,” she says. “The way we build houses doesn’t translate perfectly to tiny houses on the move.”

Simplify Your Sink With Low-tech Solutions
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simplify your sink with low-tech solutions

Kaya Lindsay regrets installing an electric sink pump, preferring a more low-tech solution for her water needs. “Battery power can be scarce,” she says. “It’s also really loud. There’s this little hand-powered pump that you can buy instead. The spigot mounts on the countertop, and then you run a hose from the spigot to your water tank. There’s a pump built into the top, so it’s literally one piece that you buy and have plumbing.”

A Well-hidden Emergency Toilet Can Come In Handy
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a well-hidden emergency toilet can come in handy

A van is too small for a flushing toilet, but Melanie Gnau does have a portable toilet in her van just in case. “If we have the choice, we'd rather not use the toilet in the van, but it's nice to have for emergencies,” she says. “We built a box around it, so it's hidden.” Gnau recommends a similar portable toilet.

Install A Ceiling Fan For Better Ventilation
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install a ceiling fan for better ventilation

A larger fan is worth the money, as it can save a van from being overwhelmed with smoke, odors, and more. “It’s the same size hole that you have to cut in the roof, but the fan itself is just a little computer fan essentially,” says Adam Nawrot. “Some of the nicer ones are a full 14-inches.” Kaya Lindsay even has a video showing how to install a fan.

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use thin panels for floors and ceiling to maximize space

If you’re tall, use thin panels for the floor and ceiling to make the most of limited space. “The walls and the ceiling are a decorative plywood, so it looks like individual planks of wood but it’s thinner so you maximize your standing height,” Adam Nawrot says. “It keeps the weight of the whole vehicle down too.”
Build A Subfloor To Keep Out Moisture

build a subfloor to keep out moisture

Since vans were originally made to hold cargo, Kaya Lindsay recommends laying down a subfloor to fill the van’s drainage holes. “Particularly if you’re going somewhere super moist and damp, make sure you fill those drainage holes in,” she says. “All of them have weird, ridged, bumpy flooring, so make sure you make it flat. It’s nice to have flat floor.”

Get Creative With Salvaged And Repurposed Wood
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get creative with salvaged and repurposed wood

Melanie Gnau and her husband saved money by buying fence woodand using it for their walls. Reclaimed wood is also an option. Whitewashing the wood also made for a modern, less rustic look.

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install ceiling panels securely

Kaya Lindsay installed Home Depot cedar panels but had to reinstall them because she didn’t glue every possible point to the ceiling ribs. “Glue down the paneling on every rib of your ceiling,” she says. “I didn’t do that for a long time. Panels were falling off because I thought the glue was going to be enough to keep them up and it wasn’t.”


get creative with window treatments to maximize space

Inside a van, the extra inches a curtain rod takes up are vital. “My husband is tall and didn't want to use a standard curtain rod because he thought he'd hit his head on it,” Melanie Gnau says. “Instead, we put two hook eyes into the ceiling and a wire in between them to hang the curtains.” Kaya Lindsay just skipped curtains altogether. “Most of my window covers are actually Sun Shield,” she says. “Get those, then cut to fit the window, and sew them together with some quilting fabric to give them a little insulation. I tape them up with gaffer’s tape.”
Utilize The Exterior Of The Van For Additional Storage

utilize the exterior of the van for additional storage

In addition to maximizing interior storage space, there are plenty of exterior solutions for storing additional cargo. You can tie lots of gear down to the roof, and even put more gear inside that gear. Adam Nawrot put his bike rack on thefront bumper for practical reasons. “I put the bike mounts on the front because I wanted the back doors to be easy to open at all times,” he says. “If you have a bike rack on the back, it becomes kind of a pain opening the back.” Nawrot also puts his kayaks on the roof. “The kayaks don’t really help with aerodynamics for the van, but the nice thing about having the kayaks on the roof is that you can keep a lot of your kayaking gear inside of the kayak. There is a big cavity.”