It's amazing to see the creative variety that is coming out of small spaces, whether it's designing for tiny houses on wheels, cabins, as well as bus and van conversions. The range of clever ideas to maximize these spaces and make them feel like well-designed homes is impressive.
Nomadic couple Richard and Sophie are yet another two members of a growing global "van life" trend. Originally from New Zealand (and France it sounds), the two are now travelling through North America in a Dodge Sprinter van they converted themselves with a tight budget, using a bag of tools, some IKEA items, as well as some unexpected solutions to expensive problems. Watch the tour of their simple but well-made home, via Tiny Home Tours:
The van is pretty roomy, thanks to its simple but functional configuration. As soon as you come in, you face the kitchen counter, which has a propane stovetop, and an inexpensive sink made out of a metal salad bowl with a drain cut through. The counter is made out of bamboo (bought from IKEA), and there is a stainless steel sheet for the backsplash.
All the cabinets and soft-close drawers are also from IKEA. There is also a small portable refrigerator, which can be removed for more space. Above the counter is a shelf with a rail to prevent things from sliding out; the couple have used soft, fabric containers to store stuff, so that when driving, they don't rattle around. The 12-volt LED lights, which connect straight to battery, are from -- wait for it -- IKEA.
Under the sink are two 4-gallon tanks, one for freshwater and one for greywater. Though it's not a lot of water storage, these were chosen because their size makes them easy to refill almost anywhere -- gas stations, drinking fountains and so on.
Now here's the couple's clever solution to a common problem: RV water pumps are rather large. Unfortunately, they left the water pump installation to the end, when they had already made their cabinets and fitted in their tanks. Their solution: to use a water pump for marine applications, which they bought from a boat shop, and which is meant to be immersed in water. The marine water pump apparently has a changeable filter, is super-compact and works just as well as the more costly RV version.
The van is fully insulated with spray foam, and the couple got it professionally done, as you get a higher-quality product and job when it's done professionally. The result is that the interior temperature is well-regulated, it's more acoustically buffered and there's less condensation and humidity inside. More light is brought in using a custom-cut skylight that can sealed off with a mosquito netting or foam, depending on the situation.
The couch is where the couple eat their meals and can potentially even be made into a guest bed, if the portable fridge is removed. The dining table is actually attached to the van's sliding door; once the door is closed, you can unlatch it and unfold it down for eating or working on. A clever idea that eliminates the "removable leg" of RV dining tables or having to store a bulky folding table.
Under the couch are three IKEA plastic bins, which hold clothing and books and which can easily slide out. To save money, the couple decided to go with simple bins rather than installing drawers on rails. Another advantage is that if you're using the van as a weekender kind of deal, you can easily take the bins out and carry them into your house.
The van's front can be sequestered off using thick, Velcro-ed fabric panels, from IKEA. Even with the lights on inside, it's completely not apparent from the outside that there are people living inside.
The rear of the van is the "garage" where extra full water tanks and more outdoor gear are stored under the bed platform, using more plastic bins.
There are lots of smart design ideas here, using items that could be easily purchased off the shelf. Richard and Sophie are continuing their travels around North America, and are doing vehicle conversions for others; to reach them, you can email them at customstealthcampervans [at] gmail.com.