The Swift Chalet Is a Minimalist Van Home for Travelers

This Toronto couple turned their passion for van life into a business.

The Swift Chalet van conversion by The Van Dads

The Van Dads

The lockdowns brought on by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year gave people a lot of extra time to take on new interests and hobbies, like baking, knitting, making art, gardening, and even bird-watching. Others took on even more ambitious projects, like Toronto, Canada-based couple Gui Figueiredo and Jeremy Vandermeij, who decided to build themselves a campervan conversion during the winter of 2020, in the hopes of traveling in it when restrictions eased. Vandermeij and Figueiredo have since tested out their solar-powered van conversion on a road trip last year and are now offering their customized design and build services under the moniker Van Dads.

Vandermeij, an interior designer, tells Treehugger how he and his life and business partner Figueiredo, a former lawyer, became interested in van life:

In September 2020, after contemplating another winter of pandemic confinement, my partner Gui and myself happened upon the popular #vanlife hashtag. Like others, we were enamoured with the possibility of a life untethered where we might reduce the scope of what we own and the space in which we lived. Both Gui and I have a passion for design and travel.

Like many other North Americans who became interested in van life during the pandemic, the couple was captivated by the idea of building their own campervan and setting out for new destinations. Within a month, had purchased the van for the project, a RAM Promaster 2500 High Roof with a 159-inch-long wheelbase, as well as the materials and equipment needed to transform it into their own space.

The Swift Chalet van conversion by The Van Dads exterior

The Van Dads

Nicknaming their van The Swift Chalet, the couple completed the renovations in a mere six weeks. The Swift Chalet features an open plan layout, as well as a number of clever space-saving furniture pieces, all done in a modern aesthetic that feels clean and streamlined.

The Swift Chalet van conversion by The Van Dads interior

The Van Dads

For starters, the van's insulated interior has the kitchen laid out on both sides of the van. At the entry, we have a stylish coal-black composite sink set into a storage cabinet, which also offers extra space for preparing food.

The Swift Chalet van conversion by The Van Dads kitchen

The Van Dads

On the other side of the central zone in the van, there is another bit of counter space that holds an induction cooktop, as well as a mini-refrigerator and storage drawers underneath. Part of the volume that makes up this counter has been sliced away to make way for the swivel seats located at the front of the van.

The Swift Chalet van conversion by The Van Dads kitchen

The Van Dads

The range of overhead cabinets is ideal for stowing away food, cooking equipment, or other items. In keeping with the overall sleek look of the interior, there is a magnetic knife rack that is actually hidden in the wall—a very cool feature.

The Swift Chalet van conversion by The Van Dads hidden kitchen knife rack

The Van Dads

Past the kitchen, we have a set of thickly upholstered seats that serve as the sitting area for the van, as well as a place for extra storage, which is hidden under each bench. Paired with the hidden table that slides out, it becomes the perfect space to eat meals, or to work from.

The Swift Chalet van conversion by The Van Dads bench

The Van Dads

At the very rear of the campervan, we have the bed, which is elevated on top of a platform to make space for the storage "garage" under the bed. During the day, it functions like a daybed. During the night, part of the platform slides out to create a ledge upon which the bench cushions can be rearranged to form a larger bed. It's a great design idea that maximizes space in a smaller van.

The Swift Chalet van conversion by The Van Dads bed

The Van Dads

As Vandermeij tells Treehugger, this efficient set-up of having a kitchen, bed, and an area for work and dining allowed the couple to travel extensively, and to live and work comfortably at the same time:

We had the pleasure of taking the van on an extended test drive this past summer to Tofino, British Columbia and back. After being caged in our small apartments for a year and a half, being on the road was like letting a domesticated bird out of the cage for the first time – at first, we didn't know whether to fly away or stay inside. After seven days of adjustment, going through Northern Ontario and experiencing the practically holy place of Lake Superior Provincial Park for the first time, we felt free and connected to the earth in ways we hadn't in years.

I worked from the van full time while Gui drove. It was a fantastic experience to explore this beautiful place.

After having experienced the novelty and freedom of van life, the pair realized that they could share their passion for van life, and help others do the same by offering their design services. As Vandermeij notes, Van Dads tries to strike a balance:

When we decided to take the plunge and turn it into a business, there was a big gap in the industry between overly engineered Class B motorhomes (campervans) made by large RV companies and DIY vans put together by people fleeing their former lives and our vans fill that gap. The engineered vans also have a sterile and airplane-like feeling to them, where ours feel like a Nordic sauna on wheels – hence the name the Swift Chalet for our first model.

Van Dads now offers The Swift Chalet as their base model, which is built out of the RAM Promaster 2500 High Roof model, and which clients purchase separately (either used or new). Features like certain finishes, cladding, flooring, and window coverings can be customized, with prices starting at around $37,000—the solar power kit is included in the base model.

You can find out more about the purchase process here, or visit Van Dads, their Instagram, and Facebook.