This furniture designer's stealth van conversion has been created as a "test lab" for mobile, "democratic" small space design.
Converting a van into a tiny home on wheels is generally a do-it-yourself affair, with results varying from the all-out impressive renovation to more basic, affordable versions. But what happens when a furniture designer decides to take up such a project?
Based out of Germany, Michael Hilgers (featured previously for his space-saving furniture designs) created his own mobile home and office out of a standard Fiat Ducato van. Here's a quick tour (it's in German but that's where YouTube's auto-translation tool can come in):
As Hilgers explains, he was prompted to undertake what he is calling the Vanjoy project because he couldn't find anything that suited him:
To be honest, I just needed a new car and after some unsuccessful market research I decided to build the van of my dreams by myself because there was absolutely no product on the market which could fulfill my really simple needs. I wanted a compact van to transport material I need to create prototypes. I needed a standard car which is compact enough for parking spaces in Berlin and I loved the idea of having a simple minimalist camper van. So rather than buying three cars, I created this hybrid solution.
It's quite a conversion, needless to say. From the outside, it looks like any regular van. Inside, there's basically two zones: a 'wet' zone for cooking and getting ready in the morning, and a leisure zone that combines sleeping, sitting, dining and working.
The cabinetry was made with European birch plywood; the kitchen includes a small gas stove and a cooler that's accessible once you open the cabinet underneath the sink. There's oodles of storage, even under the floor; there's a hidden dry toilet and even an outdoor shower feature.
The leisure/work/sleeping zone has a double-configuration, L-shaped upholstered bench seating that can be transformed into a double bed with flip-down supports, and a swivel table. However, components like the rear benches and table are also removable here, to make space for hauling larger things. Most of the time, Hilgers uses the van as a way to visit clients comfortably while on the go, or transporting things, but he now also has the option to live in his own tiny home while travelling further afield.
In order to realize the 4.5-square-metre (48.43 square feet) project, Hilgers made a lot of hand-drawn sketches and 3D drawings on the computer, before moving onto making stencils and mock-ups, and then finally building it out. Instead of using glue, he used form-locking connections instead. Certified recyclable foam made from synthetic rubber was used for the insulation; for an autonomous power supply, the van is equipped with a rooftop solar panel and a gel battery.
It's an impressive design that Hilgers calls a "multifunctional travel tool" and now hopes to offer to others, potentially built out in other vehicle brands; he's currently looking for partners to collaborate on a commercial version of the Vanjoy that's sleek but affordable:
As I made the prototype by myself the costs were manageable. The biggest part of course was the van itself and then I just needed some plywood, a lot of screws, some technical stuff and a lot of time. For a possible serial production my target is to create a 'democratic camper van.' The average price Germans spend for a standard RV is approx. €72,000 (USD $83,470). My target is to offer the final Vanjoy for less than €40,000 (USD $46,253).