In this post we are going to look at another very simple and cheap conversion that turned out extremely well. I’ve been inside hundreds of different home-made conversions, but this is the one I like the most. It is beautiful, functional and incredibly comfortable. So your first thought must be that Cheri is either very handy or very wealthy to have taken a simple Ford high-top cargo van and ended up with something this wonderful, but nothing could be further from the truth. Cheri is on an extremely limited budget and has very limited skills as a handyman. She made this fabulous home by shopping at thrift stores, department stores and Ikea. Anybody reading this can duplicate what she has done if you are patient. The only difficult thing was using “L” brackets to attach the furniture to the floor and I did that for her. The one thing she added that some of us can’t is her sense of style which is what makes it so beautiful, but even a total clod when it comes to style like me has friends who would be willing to help if they are asked. So let’s look at some pictures of her van to see how she did it.
In this picture we are looking in through the side door at the van and in it we see many great ideas:
- She bought the roll-top desk at a thrift store very little money. Installing it was simple and as having them carry it out into the van for her!
- On the left hand side of the door you see a build-it-yourself drawer unit she paid $80 for. She liked the inedible organization it gives her so much that it was worth the money to her and she has never regretted it. Assembling the furniture kits is simple enough anyone can do it.
- She turned her passenger seat around which makes spending casual time in her van very comfortable. The seat tilts back and it becomes a recliner!
- Between the roll-top desk and the drivers seat is her ice chest
- Under the desk is her porta-potti.
- She found nice accent coverings to make her home beautiful and hide some of the bare functionality of it all.
In this close-up of the roll top we see several more good ideas.
- Notice her butane stove on top of the desk. She replaced the drawer that would have gone under the desk with a slide-out that she uses to cook on. She places the stove on the slide out and cooks on it which leaves the entire surface of the desk as a counter-top work area. The stove pulls out and there is nothing above it or around it to get hot and be damaged by the burner.
- The area below the desk would have been wasted space so she stores her Porta Potti there when not in use. To use it she just slides it out and when done it goes back underneath. The throw on top of it hides it and makes the van beautiful!!
- She wanted to make full use of bookcase on top of the desk so she found some plastic “fences” that she screwed into the desktop to hold things in place while she drives.
I took this picture standing in the front looking at the back.
- The first thing you should notice is how very tall this van is. Only the very tallest people will have to stoop when standing inside. It’s hard to over-estimate how important that is. I find the constant stooping over in a van to be very hard on my back and for me a high-top is essential for a comfortable life in a van.
- Her bed is across the back which is fine for Cheri because she is fairly short. Her bed was extremely easy to make! She went to Ikea and found three end tables the perfect height and width to fit across her van. She bought and installed them and measured to see how big a piece of plywood she needed and then went to Home Depot and had them cut it to those dimensions. She took the plywood out to the van, laid it on the coffee tables, and her bed was done!! Simple and cheap!
- Another thing to notice is how many work surfaces she has. The top of the drawer unit and the second desk behind it give her lots of counter-top.
- Between the bed and the roll-top on the right side of the picture she has plastic storage totes with blankets stored on top. She never found anything to fit in that space so she just left it open and used the totes for bulk storage.
I took this picture sitting on her bed looking at the second desk she has.
- One problem she had was the very long wheel-wells, they made it very hard to find furniture to fit. She just happened to find this desk which had an exceptionally wide area for the office chair to go in. It was wide enough to straddle the wheel-well. She found it at a thrift store and it cost her practically nothing.
- She wanted to make use of the space under the desk so she found the plastic drawers units at a discount store and they fit perfectly under the desk and in front of the wheel-well.
- At the top of the picture you can see her solar controller. She wanted solar but didn’t want to mount it on the fiberglass roof. So she ended up with a Unisolar flexible solar panel that she carries inside with her and rolls out on the ground when camped.
In this picture I am sitting on her bed looking at the front of the van:
- Her high-top covers the whole roof, so she has quite a bit of storage above the driving area.
- She has a curtain that divides the front driving area and the back attached to the storage area. When not in use she ties it back to one side.
- You get a better idea of just how very comfortable the seat is when turned around
- Between the seats is her Coleman Catalytic heater which keeps her comfortably warm in even the worst cold.
And there you have it, a beautiful, comfortable and very cheap and easy van conversion that rivals any home or apartment. Cheri and I hope you got some great ideas from it and are inspired to make some changes of your own!