Our step-by-step guide from start to end of how we built the bed in our van, including all of the trials and errors in between. We’ve included the cost of all materials used to give an idea of what to expect when considering converting your own van.

 

Making a plan:

We kept our bed design simple and cheap to make, made out of mainly 2x3 wood with indents to slot together. Wooden slats would make up the base for the bed and sit resting on lengths of ¾” baton on the insides of the frame. Either end of the bed would be screwed in to the solid metal bar that is part of the van wall itself.

Underneath the bed would live our service area which would house the batteries, the electrics, the heater and the water tanks, and we would even manage to squeeze in a small cupboard and drawer. The face of the bed would also have a hole cut out and covered by an air vent for the heater blower. The whole side of the bed visible from the van would be covered with 6mm plywood. 

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Building a frame with storage:

We got our hands on a load of reclaimed wood to build the bed frame from, so rather than spending loads of money on it, we just spent an hour or so cutting it to length, removing any nails and cutting the indents into the corners so it would slot together nicely like an Ikea bed. For the cupboard frame we used 2x2 to add additional support to the bed frame that is also drilled in to either side of the van (we used 70mm self-drilling bolt head screws for this). The best way we to secure the frame is by drilling in to the wood where each vertical piece meets the horizontal frame of the bed, at an angle.

Lucy then ground down any screw heads that were poking out at odd angles through the wood so we could attach the two sides of the bed frame to the ends. Finally we screwed a lip into either side of the bed frame to support the slats, which we cut out of ¾" baton.

Finally we cut some long pieces of reclaimed baton into exact lengths of the width of the bed, totalling around 20 altogether, which would sit loosely as slats.

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Building cupboards:

We bought a 2.4m x 1.2m sheet of 6mm hardwood plywood to cover the front of the bed, and some cheap 12mm shuttering ply for the service area floor. We marked out the front of the bed around the wheel arches by measuring in and up using a compass to get the exact shape by following the curve, and marked around where the cupboard, drawer and air vent would go.

We used an offcut of this to make the cupboard door, sides and shelf, and built a custom-sized drawer using groove runners and more reclaimed wood for the front; the hinges were a whole 35p from Screwfix.

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Finishing it off:

When the service area was all installed we could finally secure the bed down in place using long screws. We added a mattress, some blankets, a coat of paint and a cosy first night spent camping in our van.

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Bed desk:

A little last minute addition to our bed area was our desk, which has been an absolute life saver when working on our laptops, as well as eating dinner and all kinds of other things. By this point we had no room for a fold out seating area and table, and we’d seen people lamenting over not having a fixed bed, so this was our solution.

It was built in less than an hour, out of scraps of hardboard and pieces of driftwood for decoration, finished off with some mahogany varnish. It has a long flat top the width of a laptop which stretches the entire width of the bed, and at either end there is a small “leg” designed to keep it on the bed, even in transit. It could also even double as a small Japanese style table- the possibilities are endless and it’s a brilliant space-saver.

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Total cost and materials used:

Groove runners from Screwfix - £1.99

Reclaimed wood - £0

2.4m x 1.2m 6mm sheet of hardwood plywood from Jewsons - £10*

12mm shuttering plywood from Jewsons - £12*

24mm hinges from Screwfix - 35p

*Trade price

 

Total cost: £14.34

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