So here it is. The grand tour of our tiny little home from home. It was a long and hard labour of love not without its problems and help but here it is and still standing well over a month on. There are so many people who have helped with this build all our friends and family. Whether it is inspiration, travel advice, where to go or even getting their hands dirty and helping with the build. This whole adventure couldn’t be as it is without each and every one of you.
The whole dream seems like a distant memory, at first that is all it was a pipe dream that seemed so far flung from reality. Our lives changed so much in a year that we decided f*ck it we are young and have no responsibilities so we have to do this adventure now. Jobs are your life but ours haven’t started yet so what is a break.
Our journey started in December when after many talks about our lives and what we wanted to do with it we decided upon converting a van into a pinterest worthy home on wheels. We are so fortunate to be gifted our shell, a Vauxhall Movano 3.5 MWB all ours and ready to do with it what we wanted. We didn’t get it in the flesh as such until the beginning of May which left us with plenty of time to prep the conversion itself. Many hours of research learning our limitations and inspirations for how we can fill this shell claimed so many arguments and triumphs before settling on the below blueprint. It is nothing more than our rough guide from measurements to show an approximate idea for how we envisioned the layout. The dimensions pulled from things we found online as an idea for what we needed and how big they were.
It was so hard at first, not knowing if this was just a summer project for the odd festival and weekend away in the lakes. But we knew we wanted to make this thing as self sufficient as possible. The budgeting made this even harder, how could we commit what we feel is a substantial amount of money for something if it was only a small project or on the flip side afford it if we needed up quitting our jobs! The likes of the camper van and caravan motor show on the NEC showed us some dos and don’ts as well as some unexpected things we hadn’t even considered whilst on the road.
It took some mega big balls to start asking the questions with work for both of us. We made a deal between the two of us. This is to be equal. We both agreed that we want some sort of normality to come back to. We were so used to our lovely house in Handbridge and knew we weren’t ready to go back to starting from scratch in regards to our lifestyle so we needed to have a fallback. We agreed we didn’t want to live in our rented place, not because we don’t love it but because we wanted a fresh start and if anything we wanted something to call our own when we get back. In order to do the type of thing we wanted it meant discussing extended leave with work. It’s a scary thing there is no denying that but thankfully we both work for some amazing companies. Me personally class my colleagues as friends. When it came to taking the plunge, it was heartbreaking to hand my notice in but everyone understand and couldn’t wait to see what adventures we went on. Id been so apprehensive about spending money on the work if it was just a summer project but now it was all so real and it meant investing some of our savings.
We set a budget of £5000 after looking at rough costs for the big spends, researching how much other conversions cost and also what we could afford because well we did need to have enough left in the bank for the adventure itself. Here is the spreadsheet with all the spends and where we got them from which hopefully will help anyone else who is thinking of doing this. Trust us its so rewarding! Before we even got to the purchasing though I needed the inspiration for how it would all look. Joshua is amazing at the handy work (but did have a lot of help from his family in this area) and left all the design to me. I adore interior decoration so this felt like my contribution to the project and I had so many storage ideas, colour themes, aesthetics I was so nervous it wouldn’t look as good! Here is the link to my brain dump of a Pinterest board. Not much of it will make sense but I hope it helps.
I thought I could write a bit about some of my favourite features which is basically all of the van but hey its now our pride and joy. The colour scheme of white was one element we clashed on a bit, yes it might not be the most practical and Joshua was concerned it would look a bit cold but I think it looks slick and modern. I didn’t want loads of mismatching wood and loved the clean finish of white to keep it looking bright and airy.
The wooden floor is a favourite element of the van. It is a reclaimed squash court floor and after planing the old varnish off the top it was laid, sanded and filled. We chose a dark stain to ensure it was protected and would withstand wear and tear. We also used this varnish on the contour tops which were a beech finish super thick Plywood and even though it was expensive we managed to use only one piece for the surfaces and the table top.
Deciding on the colour scheme wasn’t that bad, I love a minimal feel with accents of either colour or texture and despite Joshua wanting colour I thought it safest to go for black. Gross as it is I knew it would be good at hiding stains and plus I loved this theme of white with black accents and wicker texture. I kept the black to a bare minimum but enough to bring it all together. The kitchen area shows this the best I think. The black glass hob looked much nicer than the basic camper stainless steel ones I was seeing online, we were tempted to sink a lot of the items on here to give us more counter top space but to be honest we didn’t need it. The sink as well is probably a favourite. The tap is matt black to follow the theme and was only cheap from eBay, we could have got a cheaper steel one but again I am aesthetics over function as Joshua would say as the hot tap isn’t hooked up to anything. We didn’t need hot water here to having another water butt and heater would waste the under counter storage. The sink itself is actually a salad bowl. Yep thats right it should have some fresh greenery in it but instead we cut a hole in the bottom and put in a spray painted plug hole. I loved the outside but also the touch of copper on the inner which made it look way more expensive than the wilko bargain it was.
The bed was a tough job. Most vans seem to use the length down the van and the width to equal a double which would make sense however me and Joshua don’t do sense and wanted more storage as well as being able to open the side slider door and have our toes in the fresh air of a morning. It was hard to get a structure right with it folding out twice. WE do need to use pins to hold it together at night but we can live with that. The mattress was a hard find and it determined the width of the bed. I would class it more as a 3/4 but we knew it would be a luxury. I trawled the internet for hours, days and weeks looking for what would be best for us, even contemplating buying foam and making the damn thing myself but I came across this black trifold on eBay which , was more by luck fitted near perfectly widthways in the van. I think it is about 10cm too big which means it tips up at the end but for the price it was so worth it. Folding away into a sofa we use this the most as its a comfy base which is a nice change form the cabin seats. I love putting up the table and enjoying dinner looking out of the open door. The table top as mentioned early is the same as the contour tops so it flows nicely and I spray painted the removable base a matt black.
The opposite countertop is more of an empty space where we can use the unit for food preperation. It is a lot wider than the kitchen due to the fridge underneath but it has provide a perfect area where I could pop some items to make it feel a little more homely. I love our little neon Love light, again an eBay purchase. The warm white glow is perfect for when we don’t want our overhead lights on which can be a bit too bright at night and attracts the dreaded mosquitos. I made Joshua the calendar for Christmas and it has come in so useful now as we write down each day where we are as a reminder. The hanging plant was something I was adamant on having. It looks so amazing in its macrame hanger and I wanted it as a feature. Not only this but I chose the Aloe plant as it will come in useful after a day in the sun plus it doesn’t need that much care and can take the hot weather. Note to anyone planning on doing this – do not I repeat do not drive with it hanging up! We have had a few bumps in the road which meant soil EVERYWHERE!
Keeping the van private and dark was another hurdle. We discussed those curtains campers had and I was not keen at all, they were expensive and looked so gross. I was adamant I would find something more stylish. The idea of blinds across the front cabin windscreen and windows made me want to vom. I got some blackout curtains and we hung them across the back o the cabin and they not only hide the back area when we go out for the day but they are very good at blocking the light out when we sleep. The bamboo blinds are amazing, I love the texture bringing in the hues of the wicker and also they fit perfectly, not only that but they were height adjustable to I lobbed a bit off the bottom and they fit perfectly. The attachment of only a couple of screws meant easy installation. They don’t however keep out such light which is not a problem for me as I wear an eye mask (Josh luckily wakes up early anyway) but something to bear in mind.
Storage space was something I was desperate to have as much of as possible. Every nook and cranny was an opportunity to store items. The overhead storage is for all our personal belongings, the toiletires and clothes. Under the bed is where the leisure batteries live and then there is enough space for our shoes. Under the kitchen area is for all the pots and pans. The gas canister and the water butts for the sink. I have also managed to sneak in some bags at the end as well as some electical bits and bobs. Next to the fridge is where we have two large boxes filled with all our dry store food. Pasta, rice, tins and jars.
I said to josh I would live in the van on one condition. I had a toilet. This soon spiralled to a shower and so became the biggest job. It need all the pumps, showerhead and also needed to be watertight. I ended up buying two sets of shower units because the first although it had the right tap facility it was too heavy to attach to the wall. We used some elements to fashion our own show unit but instead got a head with a tap on it. Our toilet is a very sexy chemical number it does the job in case of emergencies!