Planning is creating on steroids.

It’s what designer’s do, we envision things. Through photos, sketches, scaled drawings and even in our minds. Once the vision is set, we project manage, breaking things down into segments, planning every element, working out budgets and buying schedules.  We orchestrate our vision to life, whether it’s a dress or a house.  Or, in this case, a van!

Boy did this design ever evolve. I started out by duplicating a van I loved. But when I thought about living in the space, I was bored and lonely.  So I started from scratch, and this is the end result. I totally recommend drawing a scaled layout on graph paper and then imagine existing in the space.

The video below walks you through my must-haves and my layout.

Size matters.

In a Promaster 1500 136″ WB, I get approximately 60 square feet to carve out an expansive space. One way to trick the mind is to reduce the proportions of everything. I googled my fingers to the bone to find a fridge and a shower pan that would give me the space that I need.

My design butts both kitchen and wetbath up against the back of the cab, which means I have to work around the six-inch rise from cargo floor to cab floor.  It’s easy to cheat it by having the kitchen counter extend beyond the cabinet, but finding a 12 volt (DC) fridge with 15 or less inches depth?  After days of Googling, I found one! The Isotherm Cruise 42. It cost way more than I wanted to spend, but the design hinged on it, so I went for broke.

Next was the search for a shower pan.  The smallest most companies offer is 24 inches. There are some narrow ones in the $400 range, but I’m keeping this conversion under $10,000, so that option was out.  I did end up finding this one that’s 21’x 35″ so i snatched it up.

Not only is this shower pan narrow, It’s built to compensate for the ridge between the cab and cargo floor, so I’ll get to eek a few extra inches of floor length.  AND I like that the toilet will sit higher.

The Bed

I want an easy-to-make bed that also has stowaway capabilities.This is what I came up with.  It’s made of slats, and in its “sofa” position, all the slats touch.  To bring it to full bed size, you pull a handle on the face of the frame and pull out a platform made of half of the slats. This platform rests on the build-out over the wheels (which is also seating when the bed is in “sofa” form.) I might eventually put a Lagun table in the middle, to create a dining area. Right now it’s an expense I don’t need.



Ceiling cans are pretty much standard for vans.  But I wanted a lamp, to give that homey feel.  It needed to look big (grand) but be really small.  I found the perfect one on Aliexpress. It’s hardwired, so it won ‘t suck up electricity, and I love how it looks.  I’m still on the lookout for 2 reading lights, one for the bed area and one for the work table. I hate working in the dark.


I took a chance and went cheap here.  I ordered foam from China.  Hopefully it will be okay.  Sewing the covers is no big deal for me. Total cost for all cushions and bedding:  $150.

My Ceiling

I ordered ceiling tiles from American Tin.  I went with the “unfinished” option. I liked a couple of the other finishes better, but they were twice as much, and not that much different.  I went all out for the fridge. The ceiling goes budget.


That starts with insulation. I’m going with Havelock Wool.  I chose it because it’s natural, effective, easy to stuff into all the cubby holes common in a van, and it handles the whole water/condensation issues common in van conversion. I ordered 2 bags. If it’s not enough I’ll do the floor in foam board.

I need to make reflective/insulated window coverings. So much heat leaves and enters through the windows. We all know how cold in the winter and hot in the summer a car gets. More on this later. I’m going to design something special.

I ordered a Maxxair fan for over the kitchen and a skylight over the bed for airflow. Both have about 1 month lead time, and both are the first task once the van arrives, so I’m glad I ordered early. Laying the roof out on graph paper is important if you’re got fans and solar panels. I had to go down from two 200W solar panels to two 180w solar panels, and even that is a tight fit, so I’m waiting to order them until the van arrives and I can see exactly where the roof ribs sit.

I didn’t want windows that open in the cargo area because I don’t want to look like a camper. The stealth approach suits the way I will be parking.

The Budget

I hope to stay below $10,000. I made a spread sheet of all the things I will need, following the DIY buying lists of the how-to videos I’m following for electric and plumbing.  The rest I can figure on my own.  I advise doing this if you need to stay close to a budget. That way you can pick and choose where to buy quality and where to cut corners. And shopping online for lower price can save you a lot.  EX: I paid $803 for my fridge, including shipping and tax.  That’s at least $150 less than its offered anywhere else.  To live off-grid even for a long weekend, you need to conserve both electricity and water. Purchasing elements that save on both of those are worth the money.

I’m following Nate Yarbrough at for my electrical system. That will consume nearly half the budget.  Woodwork about 1/3, the rest: plumbing.

I also recommend filling a notebook with dividers for each project so you can save all receipts and notes. A converted van can be insured as an RV. Every state has different requirements, but saving receipts and notes on what you did can only help you.