This will be the final post on how we converted Judy’s van for two people and I’m going to cover how we built the bed. But first I’m going to remind you about the recliner we built for it because I consider it to be indispensable for a couple in a van. Today, I’m just going to briefly touch it because I already did a full post on it here: https://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/creating-recliner-storage-area-front-seats-van/.
If we were going to be comfortable with two people, we each needed a place to lounge. She was already comfortable on the bed so we needed a place for me. We had previously decided we had to be able to use the space between the seats and built a shelf unit to fit that space. Totally by accident we realized it would make a very comfortable recliner! By pure chance we had made it the exact same height as a milk crate so we added one to the end of the shelf unit, covered it with foam and added pillows as a backrest. And that was it, a great recliner. We found it a little bit of a hassle to have to move the milk crate to get into the bottom drawers of the shelf unit, but we adapted to it.
It turned out to be absolutely crucial to our living together! It allowed me to get out of her way when she needed to move around and vice versa. Plus, I was able to keep all the things I used every day within arm’s reach of one place and she could do the same near the bed. We had many days of rain when we were stuck inside together and having a different place where I could go and she could go made it bearable. It wasn’t genuine privacy, but it was a close second. Now let’s look at how we built the bed.
Neither of us are very tall but we simply could not figure out how to make the bed long enough for us to stretch out. The two drawer units came back so far we couldn’t sleep stretched out the length of the van. We could have built the bed as an “L” and cut it out around the drawers, but that would mean losing the use of at least one drawer, and probably two. That wasn’t acceptable.
You may be wondering why not sleep across the van from side-to-side? Because it is a Chevy Express passenger van. For some reason, Chevy made the Express to have very swept in walls, I assume for better aerodynamics (it worked, Judy can pretty easily get 18 mpg out it). Plus, they have very thick plastic walls that make it very comfortable for passengers riding in the van but it takes up so much room you can’t sleep across it. Had it been a cargo van or had we been alone we probably could have slept at a diagonal but not with two people.
Two years before I had known a couple at the RTR in a Roadtrek Class B camper van and they had this same exact problem. He was too tall to sleep across the van in back on the bed, but it wasn’t long enough to sleep the length of the van. They had found a solution by putting a Rubbermaid Tote in-between the front seats and at night they slid it back in front of the bed and put a pillow over it. That way they slept the length of the van but the Tote added the length he needed. They both had to sleep at a slight diagonal but neither found that to be a problem. In the morning they threw the pillow up on the bed and they slid the Tote up between the seats where they found it very handy for holding maps and drinks. I suggested we do the exact same thing!
But instead of a tote we would use Judy’s 5 gallon bucket with Luggable Lou seat that was our toilet. We already needed a place to store it and this would be perfect. We built the bed so it fit snuggly underneath it and so during the day we could slide it under the bed and at night we slid it out to be the support for our feet. Rather than use a pillow we cut an “L” out of the 3 inch memory foam pad we were using a mattress. We had bought the Memory foam at Costco for a very good price and had found it to be very comfortable. We also found it to be very flexible and would let us fold it back underneath itself so the part that extended past the plywood bed could be turned under and disappear during the day but at night we just pull it out and sat it on top of the 5-gallon bucket and it gave us all the support and extra length we needed.
I am addicted to cold Diet Pepsi so I needed a place to carry my 17 quart Dometic 12 volt compressor fridge. Because it is so small, we found it fit quite well at the foot of the bed in front of the door—it only blocked a small part of the door, we got in and out no problem. It was slightly too tall but not so much as to be a problem. We both had to sleep at a slight diagonal with our feet meeting at a V in the middle of the van but it was plenty wide enough so we weren’t kicking or interfering with each other. If one of us had to get up in the middle of the night we got so used to just coming very slightly awake and moving our feet over that I don’t think either of us lost any sleep because of it.
The bed was large enough to give us lots of storage underneath it. One thing we didn’t like was that we had made the bed low so we would have plenty of headroom above it. We never bumped our head on the roof! It made getting under the bed to reach things a little more difficult, but it was a necessary trade-off.
Overall, I think we were both very pleased with the way it turned out. We spent a lot of time in the van together and even though we did have some tense moments, it wasn’t because the van was so small it was just the stress of traveling that far, that fast (I’ll tell you more about that later). I believe the van was as comfortable as a van could possibly be for two people and gave us a huge amount of storage and organization!
But here is the highest praise and testimony she can give: now that I’m moved out of her van and back into mine, she still loves all the changes we made to her van as a single person!