I’ve been in full-conversion mode working on building out our '87 Toyota van. So I have been swooning over others’ builds and finding inspiration in their ideas. When I saw a photo of the bed in Rachel & Joackim’s van, I was curious how they set it up. How do you take a few pieces of plywood and create a travel-ready bed? What other items might you need for the road?
Rachel shares her experiences of how she converted a van into a bedroom on wheels.
What makes humans thrive and become alive is different for everyone. We made the decision to create a life built around what we love to do. To us, adventure, new experiences, nature and freedom is our dose of feeling the most alive.
So here it is, our journey from buying a van and building a bed in it to eventually downsizing and packing up our things and traveling cross-country to see America.
Step 1: Buy a Van
Make, Model, Year: 2002 Chevy Astro
Purchased From: Craigslist
Name: Freedom Van
Step 2: Form a Plan
Price to Build the Bed: $65
Materials: One large piece of plywood, nine pieces of 2x4s, dry wall screws and a saw.
Purchased From: Home Depot. We bought materials from Home Depot and borrowed tools from our neighbors.
The Plan: Build the bed about 18 inches high and with a length and width for a full-sized bed, leaving room for storage underneath.
Step 3: Build a Bed
Days to Build: 1.5
This bed was completely designed and built by a talented woman, Allison, who has a passion for building and designing things. There were also a couple of assistants. Allison used the 2x4s to make a platform to ensure the bed was sturdily in place, leaving room to pull things in and out of the van if needed and also ensuring enough room for storage underneath.
First, Allison started with the base platform.
This consisted of two large pieces, two medium pieces, and four smaller pieces cut into triangles. After making the base, we were ready to put the legs of the bed on. We had eight pieces of 18-inch cut (2x4s), which makes two 16-inch pieces on each corner facing up. We measured 18 inches because that landed right on top of where the old ridges stuck out from where the seats used to lay. Also, we wanted it high enough that we could keep our storage underneath, but not too high so we still had some room on top for the mattress. We added the frame around the top, so that it was sturdily in place and also so that nothing would slide off. This was, again, two large pieces, two medium pieces and four smaller cut triangles. In other words, we made another "base" on top of the legs, for extra sturdiness. After that, we were ready for the plywood. We had the plywood pre-cut at Home Depot, for the exact same measurements of a full-sized bed. All we had to do was simply drill it on top of the second level base, and viola! This bed frame was planned for a perfect fit so that it could slide right into the van and eventually be taken out.
Ladies don't know how to build? Sure they do!
Step 4: Buy a Mattress and Decorate
Price to decorate: $90
Decorations: Futon mattress, curtains, pillows, blankets, rug, portable grill, pots and pans, utensils, plates, cups, sandwich maker (extra), portable lamp, outlet charger, bins and crates to organize, umbrella, two small chairs and table
Purchased From: Garage sales and vintage shops. Luckily, the week we decided we were going to do this was during the beautiful fall season which also means garage sale heaven.
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Did you build out your Chevy van into a liveable space? Share your tips and tricks below.
Produced by Kathleen Morton.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Rachel Leah Peterson Guichard.