Van Conversion Design Tips: Storage, Beds, Cupboards and More!

Van Conversion Design Tips: Storage, Beds, Cupboards and More!

Aug 20, 2023

Have you ever dreamt of embarking on a journey where your home comes along for the ride? Picture this: cruising down winding roads, chasing sunsets, and waking up to breathtaking vistas—all within the cozy confines of your very own van.
The allure of van life has captured the imaginations of many, and the trend of converting vans into comfortable and functional living spaces is on the rise.
The ability to travel while having all the comforts of home at your fingertips is a dream come true for adventurers and minimalists alike. However, achieving a well-designed van conversion requires careful planning and consideration.
In this blog post, we will delve into essential design tips for van conversions, covering everything from maximizing storage space to creating cozy sleeping areas and efficient kitchens.

Planning and Layout

Creating a functional and comfortable living space within the limited confines of a van requires meticulous planning and layout design. Every inch counts, and understanding your needs and priorities will guide you in optimizing the layout to suit your lifestyle, whether you're a solo traveler seeking adventure or a family embracing the freedom of the open road.

Assessing Your Needs

Before embarking on your van conversion journey, it's crucial to assess your specific needs and lifestyle requirements. Are you a solo traveler, a couple, or a family? Do you plan to work remotely, cook elaborate meals, or simply enjoy the scenery? Understanding your priorities will help guide your design decisions and ensure that your DIY van conversion meets your unique needs.

Space Utilization

In a van conversion, every inch of space counts. Prioritizing multi-functional spaces that can serve multiple purposes throughout the day is essential. For instance, a bench seat can double as both seating and storage.

A well-thought-out layout can transform your van into a comfortable living area, a dining space, and a workspace, all within the same limited square footage.

Traffic Flow

Creating intuitive pathways within the van is crucial for maintaining a comfortable living environment. Avoid clutter and obstacles that can hinder movement. Imagine walking through your van's interior and consider the most efficient routes.

By ensuring smooth traffic flow, you can enhance the overall functionality and livability of your van conversion.

Storage Solutions

Efficient storage solutions are the cornerstone of a successful van conversion. Maximizing every nook and cranny for extra storage space ensures that you can carry all your essentials while keeping your living area organized.

Custom Cabinets and Shelves

Custom cabinets and shelves are your best friends when it comes to efficient empty space. Utilize vertical space inside by incorporating tall cabinets that can accommodate items of various sizes.

Pull-out drawers can make accessing your belongings a breeze to maximize storage space. For example, a cabinet with vertical dividers can store baking sheets and cutting boards efficiently.

Under-Bed Storage

Make the most of the entire space beneath your bed by building storage compartments. These compartments can house items that you don't need to access frequently, such as spare bedding or camping gear. You can also make place shoe racks there.

Utilizing this often-overlooked storage area can help keep your living space organized and clutter-free. Consider adding sliding baskets for easy access to items stored under the bed frame.

Overhead Storage

Installing overhead compartments is an excellent way to store lightweight items such as clothing, books, and smaller personal belongings.

By using this small space efficiently, you can keep essential items within arm's reach while preventing clutter from accumulating on surfaces. Overhead shelving or cargo nets can help secure items during travel.

Bed Designs

The bed is the heart of your van conversion, serving as both a restful haven and a space-saving storage solution. With various bed designs available, from platform beds with built-in storage to foldable options that maximize daytime space, choosing the right bed design will be key to achieving a cozy sleeping area that meets your needs.

Platform Beds

Platform beds provide both sleeping comfort and ample storage. By building a sturdy platform for your bed, you can create a designated sleeping area that also doubles as storage. Consider incorporating drawers or cubbies into the platform to keep items organized.

Additionally, opt for a hinged platform that allows you to access storage underneath without having to remove the mattress.

Folding Beds

Folding bed frames are perfect for those who need extra space during the day. These beds can be designed to fold up against the wall, freeing up valuable floor space.

When it's time to sleep, you can easily fold down the bed for a comfortable rest.

Consider installing a locking mechanism to ensure the bed remains securely in place when folded up.

Bunk Beds

For those traveling with family or friends, bunk beds can be a space-saving solution. Careful design and proper support are essential to ensure the safety and comfort of those using the bunk beds.

Incorporate guardrails for the top bunk and utilize sturdy materials for a secure and enjoyable sleeping arrangement.

Kitchen and Cooking Setup

Designing a functional kitchen within the limited space of a van requires smart choices. Your kitchen should offer convenience without compromising on essential appliances and storage.

Compact Kitchen Essentials

Designing a functional kitchen in a van requires careful selection of space-saving appliances. Opt for compact stoves, sinks, and refrigerators that provide all the necessary amenities without overwhelming the space.

Consider a foldable sink or stove cover that can double as additional countertop space when not in use.

Countertop Space

Adequate countertop space is essential for meal preparation. Consider designing a foldable or extendable countertop that can be stowed away when not in use. This will allow you to maximize the available space while still having a functional cooking area.

Space above the countertop is occupied by our overhead storage; it would be wasted space otherwise! Additionally, consider installing a cutting board that fits over the sink for extra workspace.

Storage for Kitchen Supplies

Dedicated storage for kitchen supplies is vital for maintaining an organized living space. Install shelves, drawers, and compartments specifically designed to house cookware, utensils, and pantry items. To prevent items from shifting during travel, consider incorporating securing mechanisms such as elastic straps or non-slip liners.

Seating and Dining Areas

The seating and dining areas in your van are where comfort and functionality converge. Swivel seats can transform your driving area into a social hub, while foldable tables offer versatile spaces for dining, work, and leisure activities.

By carefully designing these areas, you'll create inviting spaces for relaxation and interaction.

Swivel Seats

Swivel seats can significantly enhance the functionality of your van's living area. By installing swivel seats for the driver and passenger areas, you can create additional seating that can be integrated into the living space when needed.

Swivel seats can also contribute to the overall social aspect of your van, allowing you to face each other during meals or conversations.

Foldable Tables

A foldable or removable table is a versatile addition to your van conversion. It can serve as a dining table, a workspace for remote work, or even a surface for hobbies and leisure activities.

Choose a design that suits your needs and can be easily stowed away when not in use. Consider a table that can be mounted on the wall and folded down when needed.

Bathroom Facilities

Bathroom facilities can add a layer of convenience to your travels. Whether you opt for a portable toilet or a compact shower solution, integrating bathroom facilities requires thoughtful planning to ensure practicality, hygiene, and privacy within the limited space available.

Portable Toilets

If you opt to include bathroom facilities in your van conversion, portable toilets are a practical choice. These toilets can be integrated into your design while still maintaining a compact and functional layout.

Consider disposal methods and hygiene practices when incorporating this feature. Additionally, choose a portable toilet that is easy to clean and has secure latching mechanisms to prevent spills during travel.

Shower Options

While showers are more challenging to incorporate due to space constraints, compact shower solutions are available. These can include portable showers or fold-out enclosures. Privacy considerations are crucial when designing shower spaces within the van.

Install privacy curtains or screens that allow you to enjoy a refreshing shower without compromising your comfort or modesty.

Lighting and Ventilation

Proper lighting and ventilation are essential for creating a comfortable and inviting living space within your van. Natural light brightens up the interior, while LED lighting ensures energy efficiency. Installing well-designed ventilation systems helps maintain air circulation, manage condensation, and contribute to your overall comfort during your van life journey.

Natural Light

Natural light can transform the atmosphere within your van. Installing windows or skylights can brighten up the interior and create a sense of spaciousness.

Choose privacy-enhancing window coverings that still allow you to enjoy the view while maintaining your privacy. Consider installing a roof vent with an integrated window to allow for both natural light and ventilation.

LED Lighting

Energy-efficient LED lighting is perfect for van conversions. These lights consume less power, which is crucial when relying on a limited power supply. Create lighting zones to provide both ambient and task lighting for various activities.

Install adjustable LED strips under cabinets to illuminate workspaces and add a touch of ambiance to your van's interior.

Ventilation Systems

Proper ventilation is essential for maintaining a comfortable living environment. Install roof vents or fans to promote airflow and reduce condensation.

Adequate ventilation can contribute to the overall well-being and comfort of your van life experience. Consider installing a fan that has both intake and exhaust modes to ensure optimal air circulation.


Designing the perfect van conversion requires a combination of creativity, practicality, and a deep understanding of your personal needs. By carefully considering elements such as storage solutions, bed designs, kitchen setups, seating arrangements, and lighting, you can create a mobile living space that truly feels like home.

The van conversion journey is an opportunity to embrace freedom and adventure while maximizing comfort and functionality on the road. Whether you're a solo traveler, a couple, or a family, these design tips will help you create the ultimate mobile living space that suits your lifestyle and allows you to explore the world in style.

With thoughtful planning and attention to detail, your van conversion can become a cozy haven that accompanies you on your journey to new horizons.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Install Solar Panels on My Van for Power Generation?

Absolutely! Many van lifers choose to install solar panels on their vans to harness solar energy and power their electrical systems. Solar panels can provide a sustainable and independent source of energy for charging devices, running appliances, and powering lights.

What Heating and Cooling Options Are Available for Van Conversions?

Heating and cooling are crucial for comfort in any living space, including a van. While the article touches on ventilation, it's worth exploring dedicated heating and cooling solutions. Some van lifers opt for propane heaters or diesel heaters for warmth, while rooftop fans and strategically placed windows can help with cooling.

Be sure to read our article on insulation too.

How Can I Ensure Privacy and Security in My Van Conversion?

Privacy and security are paramount when living in a van. While the article mentions window coverings, you can also consider installing window tinting or curtains to prevent outsiders from peering in. For security, installing locks on doors and storage compartments can deter theft.

Are There Regulations or Laws I Should Be Aware of When Living in a Converted Van?

Yes, regulations and laws regarding living in a van can vary depending on your location. Some areas have restrictions on overnight parking or camping, while others may have specific regulations regarding vehicle modifications.

How Do I Maintain Cleanliness and Hygiene in My Van Conversion?

Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene is essential for your comfort and well-being on the road. While the article briefly touches on bathroom facilities, you might be wondering about other cleanliness concerns.

Plan for regular cleaning routines, including managing waste disposal, keeping surfaces sanitized, and ensuring proper ventilation to prevent mold and odors.

The toilet is also a critical part of the van so don't overlook that!

Here's a review of our toilet by a Van Lifer! It's available here for sale.