We dreamt about this van and this lifestyle for years before we finally decided to go for it! We had watched so many YouTube videos, searched forums and really asked ourselves what we would need to be comfortable and happy inside a very small home.
By being honest with ourselves about what we truly needed, valued, and desired in our small home we feel we really built our dream home on wheels. It should go without saying but build your van for you NOT for what will look cute in Instagram pictures later.
We’ve been living in our van for a little over a year and a half at this point and we are still largely head over heels with our design so we wanted to share 5 of the things we love about our build.
Use this list to help you reflect on what may or may not be important for you to include in your van conversion!
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1. Slide Out Bed
This one is first on the list for a reason. Our bed platform has a slide out portion that works like a drawer - which give us the best of both worlds (convertible bed vs fixed bed designs).
During the day we have the bed drawer pushed in, folding the mattress into an L shape, and this gives us back a good portion of the van! We have 2 35” benches and a good sized table that we can both work on.
Then at night we pull out the bed drawer, the mattress slides out and we have a super comfy full size bed.
The whole process takes less than a minute and the bedding is able to stay on the mattress at all times. This is also a key feature because if you can’t keep the bedding on the bed, then you need a big enough space/cabinet to store it!
If you’d like more details on our bed design check out our other blog post here: Slide Out Bed Build Guide
2. Full Bathroom
We talk about this one a lot. Maybe too much. We love the fact that we have a full indoor bathroom with a toilet and shower. This means we don’t have to constantly be searching for public bathrooms or squatting in the bushes. We can also take a shower whenever we want even if it’s winter or rainy outside.
We love it so much we have a dedicated blog post explaining the pros and cons: Pros and Cons of a Full Bathroom in a Van Conversion
3. Large Sink
We like to cook most of our own meals while traveling in the van and typically only allow ourselves to grab takeout twice a month.
Not all of our meals are one dish wonders, so we usually have to clean lots of dishes by the end of the day. To accommodate the dishes we chose to install a rather large sink. Our sink is 15”x17” and 10” deep. This is much larger than most sinks we see inside vans but it makes doing dishes SO much easier.
It’s not a problem to wash full size pots and pans or even a small cookie sheet. This also means we can let the dirty dishes pile up a bit between washing sessions. We usually go 24 hours and do dishes in the morning in the morning after breakfast.
Overall it just reduces the frustration of living in a space that’s already small. Trust us, remove as many irritants as possible you can’t ignore problems in a small space!
When we were building the van KJ was insistent about installing a skylight and James was a bit on the fence due to the added difficulty and cutting another hole in the roof. After living in the van for over a year, it’s safe to say that James have been won over. He’s a fan of the skylight now too.
The skylight is great because it lets in additional light toward the rear of the van. When we are in cities or somewhere where we cover the windows on the side of the van, we can still get great sunlight through the skylight.
When you combine the skylight with the Maxx Air fan it also creates a fantastic cross breeze and great ventilation during the summer. Especially on those hot sticky nights when it’s harder to sleep.
5. It feels like home
This one is a bit cheezy but it’s probably the most important one, especially for us. We designed and build the van knowing that we would be living it in full time. This meant we wanted it to look and feel like our home.
Everyone’s vision of a home is different so we can’t tell you what to do to make your van feel like a home. If you’re building a van as a weekend warrior you might not even care. But if you do plan on living in your van for any length of time carefully consider what creature comforts and finishing touches you’ll need to capture that “homey” feeling. We strongly believe this is one of the best ways to set yourself up for a successful and long-lasting vanlife experience.