We've seen a number of awesome van conversions recently that allow people to live in them comfortably year-round, be they equipped for the quirks of film-making or off-roading. Even with step-by-step photos and video tours, they make it look so easy. But behind these modified vans, there's a lot of work, as Chris(tine) On of Defying Normal shows in this revealing time-lapse video that condenses 32 months of intense work to modify her van into 4 minutes:
Now, you may think 32 months is pretty long for a DIY conversion project like this. But consider that during that time, On was working full-time, in addition to taking care of her father (who has dementia) and also renovating her condo and moving house, then you realize that it's actually a pretty impressive undertaking, in addition to the fact that she basically went in with zero experience with building stuff, and made do with basic power tools. She says:
Around February of 2013 I decided to build a camper van from a 2004 Chevy Express passenger van. Did I have any construction experience? Nope. Did I have any electrical experience? Nope. Plumbing? Woodworking? Basic experience with hand tools? Nope, none of that. Eager and willing to learn? YES. And that’s all it took. Two years and almost 9 months later, my camper van was finished. I had an unusual set of circumstances that prolonged the amount of time it took for me to finish the van; it just goes to show you that anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard enough for it.
In addition to adding a fiberglass high top for extra headspace, On's solar-powered camper van now includes a bunch of amenities that allow her to live in it full-time and in comfort. On's van, nicknamed "Gypsy", includes a number of interesting quirks, including under-floor storage, a projector and projection screen, a full-size bed that converts into a chaise. There are lots of windows that allow for a good view, and curtains that provide privacy.
But all this pales in the face of one big distinction: there's a kitchen sink that doubles as the shower. Yep, you got it, an extra-large IKEA sink that can also be used as a shower! On explains:
I have yet to run into one person who hasn’t balked at the thought of showering in a sink. Even van dwellers—people who are already used to atypical thinking and living—think I’m crazy. And maybe I am, but if I’m going to live in a van then showering in a giant sink really does seem to make sense to me. Because that’s all a bathtub really is anyway, right?
Let’s just talk about the giant elephant in the room. As I understand it, the concern is preparing food and washing dishes in the same area that one washes one’s bottom, is that correct? Well, I don’t know about you, but when I prepare food, it never touches the sink. And when I wash dishes, after I rinse them, they never touch the sink either. And when I shower I really don’t rub my bottom all over everything. So I’m not convinced that the sanitation concern is valid one.
It's unorthodox for sure, but On's persistence and creativity on the whole certainly shines through. She admits that though her intention was to become more minimalist, she lost count of the money spent on the project, and probably splurged too much on gadgets (she provides a long list of the gizmos she's now using in her van for other potential van-dwellers). Whatever the result, she says it's the kind of project that teaches you a lot about yourself. Chris On is now offering a free guide on how to select a good van, and there are more details on insulation, framing and other technical stuff here. You can see more over at Defying Normal.