Home Furniture in a Van: A Traditional, Normal Feel, With Great Organization

by | Feb 11, 2015 | 28 comments

Home Furniture in a Van: A Traditional, Normal Feel, With Great Organization

You are here:
< All Topics

mike-van
In today’s post I want to look at my friend Mike’s very nice van conversion. It’s not only very attractive with a lot of eye-appeal its also extremely functional. Best of all, it was very cheap and easy because he mostly used  furniture he already had and simply re-purposed it to work in his van.

Looking toward the back, you can see other than the bed, everything is furniture he brought from home or find inexpensively.

Looking toward the back, you can see other than the bed, everything is furniture he brought from home or found inexpensively.

I’ve been saying for a long time that using home furniture is one of the best things you can do when considering how to convert your van. It has these advantages:

  • It’s cheap! You probably have furniture in your home right now that could work great in your new van home if you are willing to think out of the box.  If you don’t have any furniture you can use in your van, you almost certainly can get it for very little money at a thrift store or garage sales. In fact, if you keep your eye on “Freecycle” or even on the curbs of your neighborhood, you are still likely to get it for free. You can’t beat free!
  • It’s easy! There is almost no skill required; you just move the furniture into the van, screw an “L” bracket into it and into the floor and the wall. And then you’re done!
  • It’s functional! Many pieces of furniture have assorted drawers and shelves that not only tremendously add extra storage but also keeps it organized. You can just pile things in totes and shove them under the bed or stack them in the corner, but when you need to find that one thing you are looking for you’re going to be sorry you didn’t find a place for it and keep it in that place.  Organization is the key to living happily ever after in a van!
  • They feel normal. Living in a van is so far out of most peoples’s comfort zone that bringing the normal feel of house furniture with you is comforting in the beginning.
  • It’s strong. Even most cheap furniture is well enough built to hold up very well to the vibrations and shaking it gets by being in a van, and you probably can’t damage it no matter how much weight you put in it. However, the flip side to that is that most of it is going to be pretty heavy. Generally that won’t be much of a problem, but the extra weight does reduce your MPG to some small degree.
Looking in from the front door you see the amazingly attractive and yet extremely functional furniture he's sacked on top of each other. Notice the drop down desk which also acts as a cover.

Looking in from the front door you see the amazingly attractive and yet extremely functional furniture he’s sacked on top of each other. 

You can see in these pictures that it is also very nice and “normal” looking. It can be a real culture shock moving into a van and having “normal” house furniture can ease that transition giving you more of a traditional feel. Many of us need or want that.
This is actually two pieces of furniture stacked on top of each other and screwed together. On top he has two towel holder screwed into the top of the shelf to keep things from falling

This is actually two pieces of furniture stacked on top of each other and screwed together. On top he has two towel holders screwed into the top of the shelf to keep things from falling. Notice also that there is a drop-down shelf that he uses as a desk and general work surface.

To increase his organization even further he uses plastic  boxes and drawers to create a place for everything and everything in it’s place. The furniture and the plastic compliment each other extremely well. Since he has a high-top, he was able to stack two pieces of furniture on top of each other and use the entire wall-space right to the roof.
Like many of us do, he has his bed across the back of the van which is also used for storage underneath. It’s easily accessible from the front or back. Being a mechanic he carries lot of tools and you can see in the picture they are very easy for him to reach.
With the bed across the back, he has easy access to the storage space underneath it.

With the bed across the back, he has easy access to the storage space underneath it.

In my experience, one of the most underused spaces on a van is the passenger side between the bed and the door. Many people don’t use it for anything at all, which I’ve always thought was a mistake. But Mike has found a great way to use the space. He found two matching end tables and set them in front of the bed. They do block access from one side-door, but that is no big loss compared to the great use of space he gets from them. You can see he has his Coleman propane stove on top of one and he keeps his propane bottles underneath it.
These matching end tables look nice and normal and yet they provide a great counter-top to cook and work on.

These matching end tables look nice and normal and yet they provide a great counter-top to cook and work on.

 
His propane bottle fir inside one of the end tables. One of the bottles is used Mainly for his Mr Buddy Heater in the winter.

His propane bottle fit inside one of the end tables. One of the bottles is used mainly for his Mr Buddy Heater in the winter. You can see it stored under the bed on the other side of the end tables. He screwed the end tables into the plywood floor with “L” brackets.

You may be wondering what he does about the hole left by the step into the van. It’s very simple, he built a little shelf for it to fill in the space out of scrap lumber he had on hand. It’s a very simple project and redeems all that lost space.
Placing an end table in front of the side door has little affect on being able to get in and out, and makes excellent use of otherwise wasted space.

Placing an end table in front of the side door has little affect on being able to get in and out, and makes excellent use of otherwise wasted space.

Looking forward you can see he took out his passenger seat ehich makes the van feel much more open and spacious and also frees up that space for any use he wants from it.

Looking forward you can see he took his passenger seat out which makes the van feel much more open and spacious and also frees up that space for any use he wants from it. Again, it makes it feel much more “normal” and traditional.

The little touches are important and taking out the front seat gives him a lot more room. The skylight in his high-top lets light pour in and makes it feel more open. He used a curtain rod at the top below the roof to hang a divider curtain so it is darker and he gets privacy at night.
The curtain rod for a divider curtain.

The curtain rod for a divider curtain.

I think this Mike has done one of the best Budget conversions I’ve ever seen.  It cost him very little because he already had most of it and yet it is very attractive and extremely functional. His is an example for all of us to follow!
 

Previous Floor-Plans and Bed Design for Van Conversions
Next How to Install a High Top

28 Comments

  1. tommy helms

    Much nicer than my first apartment

    • Bob

      Tommy, me too!
      Bob

      • Lucy

        Gorgeous, just gorgeous conversion, congratulations to Mike & thanks to U Bob for posting it !
        My regards, Lucy.

        • Bob

          You’re very welcome Lucy.
          Bob

  2. Harmony

    I agree! This van conversion is full of great ideas, many of which I was considering for my own conversion. I honestly wasn’t considering ready made furniture; I was thinking I’d have to build the frame and finishes; but yes, I can see that second hand furniture would work really well and easily for the kitchen. And the flip down desk – totally yes! I was going to do a slide out but this is far simpler. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Bob

      It gives a totally different perspective doesn’t it? It’s good to think out of the box!
      Bob

  3. Irv Oslin

    Talk about things going full circle; Originally, RVs, or travel trailers as they were called back then, were furnished with the same furniture you’d have in your home.

    • Bob

      That’s true Irv, then they decided it was too expensive and started putting in really cheap junk
      Bob

  4. Mark Busha

    As nice as anything I have seen. Very inspiring.

    • Bob

      Mark, the remarkable thing is how great it looks and how cheap and easy it was. Those two don’t usually go together.
      Bob

  5. Walt in Boise

    Very nice, although perhaps a bit too small for me – mainly because my wife would need a place to sit plus she wants a bit more room than this. It does certainly look well thought out, though.

    • Bob

      Walt, it’s pretty hard to get a couple into a van, I can understand your wives reluctance. What works well for a lot of people is a van towing a small trailer like a Cassita.
      Bob

  6. Calvin R

    For some people using furniture you already have is critical. Especially if a person is “involuntary,” using a van as a last resort, simply loading the most useful things into a van and securing them by whatever means are available can be both the easiest and the quickest way to make an exit into a viable mobile lifestyle.

    • Bob

      I agree Calvin, for the majority of people on a tight budget and limited time frame, used furniture is the very best solution!
      Bob

  7. Cae

    I really like how he has used the stick and barrel latch to secure the drawers on his dresser.
    Between garage sale , Craigslist and good will , you can find used furniture cheap. People even leave stuff on the sidewalk these days. Throw in the hammock set-up and you’re good to go.

    • Bob

      CAE, that would be a great combination!
      Bob

  8. Joy

    I love it! Very homey.

    • Bob

      I felt the same way as soon as I say it Joy!
      Bob

  9. Man On Run

    I presume the wheel well is ensconced within the space of the rear end table

    • Bob

      Man of the Run, its possible it may be in front of the wheel well but I didn’t look so I really don’t know.
      Bob

  10. Lenora

    What a cozy and clean home you have Mike.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Getaway Jim

    Bob,
    I find it beyond awesome how a lot of old late 80’s early 90’s GMC/Chevy vans just keep going. These vans cost little and offer an easy way to get into the lifestyle, totally reliable as well with parts readily available and cheap and a trusty old 350.
    I continue to marvel at the myriad ways people convert these. The use of furniture sure gives the van a warm feel with lots of rich looking oak. I personally like to have my propane fuel stored outside as these things vent from time to time, but a propane detector works for that. The shower curtain rod is light yet effective in adding privacy without adding the complexity of windshield shades. The side window curtains have a tapestry look and are a light colour to make the inside look much bigger. The slightly raised roof with the 2 forward facing windows help a lot in bringing in more natural light, Getaway!

    • Bob

      Getaway Jim, the Chevy, Ford and Dodge vans of that era are holding up really well and it’s still no problem getting parts and service for them. On a tight budget, they are a great choice. People who are mechanically inclined (like Mike) prefer them because they have no computers and the average guy can work on them easier. If you’e not mechanical, a new van with computers may be a better choice.
      Agreed, his whole conversion works together really well to make a very nice, cozy home!
      Bob

  12. Douglas

    I like this a lot, i’ve thought about this as well, but with as big as my trailer is, i’m trying not to add much weight. It already weighs enough.
    I can work on both the old and new vehicle systems. I avoid the new foreign luxury cars like the plague, they cost a lot to get parts and they are way too techno. I do prefer the older stuff though.

    • Bob

      Weight is a big consideration Douglas. I also avoid foreign luxury cars.
      Bob

  13. Debbie Jenkins

    This is one of my favorite van setups. Not only is it very pretty, but it’s so functional. Love it.

    • Bob

      I agree Debbie!
      Bob

  14. Nancy Negrini

    I have an armoire that has been in my family for years that I really don’t want to part with. It probably weighs about 200 lbs. Do you think this is too much weight for a high top van?

Table of Contents

28 Comments

  1. tommy helms

    Much nicer than my first apartment

    • Bob

      Tommy, me too!
      Bob

      • Lucy

        Gorgeous, just gorgeous conversion, congratulations to Mike & thanks to U Bob for posting it !
        My regards, Lucy.

        • Bob

          You’re very welcome Lucy.
          Bob

  2. Harmony

    I agree! This van conversion is full of great ideas, many of which I was considering for my own conversion. I honestly wasn’t considering ready made furniture; I was thinking I’d have to build the frame and finishes; but yes, I can see that second hand furniture would work really well and easily for the kitchen. And the flip down desk – totally yes! I was going to do a slide out but this is far simpler. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Bob

      It gives a totally different perspective doesn’t it? It’s good to think out of the box!
      Bob

  3. Irv Oslin

    Talk about things going full circle; Originally, RVs, or travel trailers as they were called back then, were furnished with the same furniture you’d have in your home.

    • Bob

      That’s true Irv, then they decided it was too expensive and started putting in really cheap junk
      Bob

  4. Mark Busha

    As nice as anything I have seen. Very inspiring.

    • Bob

      Mark, the remarkable thing is how great it looks and how cheap and easy it was. Those two don’t usually go together.
      Bob

  5. Walt in Boise

    Very nice, although perhaps a bit too small for me – mainly because my wife would need a place to sit plus she wants a bit more room than this. It does certainly look well thought out, though.

    • Bob

      Walt, it’s pretty hard to get a couple into a van, I can understand your wives reluctance. What works well for a lot of people is a van towing a small trailer like a Cassita.
      Bob

  6. Calvin R

    For some people using furniture you already have is critical. Especially if a person is “involuntary,” using a van as a last resort, simply loading the most useful things into a van and securing them by whatever means are available can be both the easiest and the quickest way to make an exit into a viable mobile lifestyle.

    • Bob

      I agree Calvin, for the majority of people on a tight budget and limited time frame, used furniture is the very best solution!
      Bob

  7. Cae

    I really like how he has used the stick and barrel latch to secure the drawers on his dresser.
    Between garage sale , Craigslist and good will , you can find used furniture cheap. People even leave stuff on the sidewalk these days. Throw in the hammock set-up and you’re good to go.

    • Bob

      CAE, that would be a great combination!
      Bob

  8. Joy

    I love it! Very homey.

    • Bob

      I felt the same way as soon as I say it Joy!
      Bob

  9. Man On Run

    I presume the wheel well is ensconced within the space of the rear end table

    • Bob

      Man of the Run, its possible it may be in front of the wheel well but I didn’t look so I really don’t know.
      Bob

  10. Lenora

    What a cozy and clean home you have Mike.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Getaway Jim

    Bob,
    I find it beyond awesome how a lot of old late 80’s early 90’s GMC/Chevy vans just keep going. These vans cost little and offer an easy way to get into the lifestyle, totally reliable as well with parts readily available and cheap and a trusty old 350.
    I continue to marvel at the myriad ways people convert these. The use of furniture sure gives the van a warm feel with lots of rich looking oak. I personally like to have my propane fuel stored outside as these things vent from time to time, but a propane detector works for that. The shower curtain rod is light yet effective in adding privacy without adding the complexity of windshield shades. The side window curtains have a tapestry look and are a light colour to make the inside look much bigger. The slightly raised roof with the 2 forward facing windows help a lot in bringing in more natural light, Getaway!

    • Bob

      Getaway Jim, the Chevy, Ford and Dodge vans of that era are holding up really well and it’s still no problem getting parts and service for them. On a tight budget, they are a great choice. People who are mechanically inclined (like Mike) prefer them because they have no computers and the average guy can work on them easier. If you’e not mechanical, a new van with computers may be a better choice.
      Agreed, his whole conversion works together really well to make a very nice, cozy home!
      Bob

  12. Douglas

    I like this a lot, i’ve thought about this as well, but with as big as my trailer is, i’m trying not to add much weight. It already weighs enough.
    I can work on both the old and new vehicle systems. I avoid the new foreign luxury cars like the plague, they cost a lot to get parts and they are way too techno. I do prefer the older stuff though.

    • Bob

      Weight is a big consideration Douglas. I also avoid foreign luxury cars.
      Bob

  13. Debbie Jenkins

    This is one of my favorite van setups. Not only is it very pretty, but it’s so functional. Love it.

    • Bob

      I agree Debbie!
      Bob

  14. Nancy Negrini

    I have an armoire that has been in my family for years that I really don’t want to part with. It probably weighs about 200 lbs. Do you think this is too much weight for a high top van?