Brilliant Camper Van Conversion Uses Space-Saving Boat Design Ideas

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van conversion to tiny mobile home Screen capture

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For many, the adventure and variety that comes with going on a long road trip can be an extremely fulfilling experience. But living full-time in a vehicle can get old -- quick -- if it isn't set up well, more so when you're traveling in a family with kids.

Having had fond times with a previous conversion made out of an old mail delivery van, Oxford, England's Jack Richens of This Moving House decided that it was time to knuckle down and start another project, this time using a second-hand 2012 Mercedes Benz Sprinter van with a long wheelbase. The result is an exceptional conversion that takes a few design cues from boat design.

Design and Inspiration

Richens, who is a broadcast engineer by day, tells us that he's a big fan of the van life, and chose to renovate this particular vehicle himself for various reasons:

Following the undignified death of my old post office camper conversion my girlfriend and I found that life without a van is considerably less fun. After a great deal of shopping around we found that, almost without exception, camper vans are impractical, motorhomes are ugly and canal boats don't do 80 miles per hour.
We set about creating a vehicle for the next chapter in our lives which we rightly suspected would welcome children. So the main remit was to design a van that could accommodate a family of four on a typically British, rainy holiday to a windswept coast and not want to kill each other by the end of the week. I'm glad to report we are alive and well.

Richens credits his girlfriend with the lovely design, which he built mostly on his own, with a bit of advice from his father. The main feature here is a smart layout that stacks the bunk beds in a way that maximizes space (note the handy porthole window for the top bunk):

The clever bit of design is an old boat bunk construction technique. [..] The beds are only full height from the waist up and your legs slide into a space only as high as your hips are wide. Importantly this enables you to sleep on your side or rollover without getting wedged or tearing your kneecaps off. Using this space-saving technique three tiers of sleeping can be cunningly shoe-horned into the available area.


The kitchen area is compact package, with a long, narrow sink, a two-burner stovetop, and just the right amount of counter space.

The dining area features the original captain-style chairs (apparently two of them swivel around), clustered around a table.

The interior of this impressive conversion feels spacious, with the curvaceous detailing making it feel very much like you're onboard a ship of some kind. No toilet, but as serious nomads know, this can be worked around with the right gear or going au naturel.

All told, the van cost about USD $10,000, while materials, fixtures and equipment cost $8,500; the biggest expense was time and labour. Best of all, the conversion has proven extremely popular; Richens has received numerous queries for commissions from all over and is now planning to build more conversions in the future. You can read up on the whole construction process over at This Moving House.