The key to creating anything is to work out problems before they happen.

That’s why the first step in my van conversion is to pick out the door covers, sink, stove, faucet, wet-bath, counter tops… all the stuff that I won’t be making myself.  Those are the things that will determine other measurements. You don’t have to buy everything. You do need to know the dimensions.  I started a wish list on Amazon. Ordering through prime saves on shipping for the things you can’t buy at your local Home Depot / Lowes. Since aesthetics is so important to me, this step was crucial and so much fun!

NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: I will be posting a lot, because this is me working out the process for myself as I go along.  So you might want to subscribe to the once a week newsletter if you don’t like getting lots of emails.  🙂

Tackling this for the first time is a huge undertaking.  I found it invaluable to first scour the internet for layout and design ideas I want to incorporate. l Learn from the mistakes of others. Everyone who does a DIY van conversion has an “I would have done this differently” list.  Read as much as you can and incorporate their changes.

My Van Style

I want lots of white to make the space feel big, with matte black hardware and fixtures, a full length mirror (they make plastic mirrors. I love how a mirror expands the space.) I want dark wood counter tops, ceiling and floor. Then I’ll add color and texture with the pillows and cushion covers.

The Walls

I chose this plybead paneling. I like the tongue and groove look, but tongue and groove is expensive, hard to install, heavy and twice as thick.  This has the same textured look, it’s half the thickness and probably at least half the weight. Plus, it will be easy to install.  I’ll paint the walls to match the cabinet faces and doors. 4 of these sheets should do it, for a total of $100!

I chose the Promaster 136 WB tall van because of its boxy build (that means less curve to the walls), and because it’s wider than the Mercedes Sprinter. There’s a fine balance between form and function.  While the Sprinter is better looking, The Promaster will give me a better living space while still being small enough to park in a city parking spot.

Doors and Drawers

I read one blog that recommended IKEA kitchen doors and drawer faces.  The option would be to make them myself.  I might end up doing that if these are ugly in person. But I like the style, and the price is okay. I still have to research the hardware. But for now, what is important is dimensions. The bins, dresser and kitchen build-out will be designed around those numbers.

I’ll add matte black drawer pulls. You need special latches and bin hardware so things stay closed while driving, and that gets expensive. The total cost for all of it should be approximately $700.


I’m adding a mini barn door!

The wet-bath will have a white barn door with black hardware. This will be a fun winter project.  I found the perfect size hardware to fit a 32″x24″ shower pan.


I found these countertops.  They fit the dimensions for the kitchen and the dresser, and I like the color.

For the kitchen build-out, I found a sink, induction electric stove, fridge and vertical drawer covers. The approximate space allowed is 36″x24″, 33″ high. I chose an energy efficient regular fridge instead of a fancy RV fridge.  I can’t afford the RV fridge. Hopefully there will be enough electricity!

One blog said the reason these cheap dorm fridges are a bad choice is the plastic breaks from all the road vibrations.  I’ll sit it on a cushioned rubber pad.  That might help. If it breaks, I’ll deal with it then. I don’t want any propane items onboard,  just electric.




I have a 10’x6’x6′ interior space to work with. For me, a bathroom is essential.  It will be a wet-bath; in a 36″x24″ space, which is determined by the shower pan. I might need a 32″x24″ shower pan. The 32″ pan doesn’t have the same toilet layout, but I might need the extra 4″. In fact, I’m pretty sure I will, but I’ll decide that after the van walls are done.  Insulation and plywood will reduce the interior space by a couple of inches in width and interior length.

I’m still working out the kind of toilet I want, but it will probably a urine diverting toilet. Choosing a toilet is nasty because dealing with it is nasty. I won’t be living it this for more that 2 months at a time, with lots of shorter trips. So my biggest concern is choosing something where freezing in the driveway won’t be an issue.

Two main design factors in tiny house design are 1. building storage everywhere possible and 2. the need to have things fixed to the wall and counter so they don’t move around while driving.  And for a wet-bath, you also need a special toilet paper cover!


The kitchen appliances, bathroom fixtures, doors, countertops and hardware will probably run between $2,400-$3,000. My guess is the renovation will be around $10,000.

Next up…

Insulation! I’m doing a lot of research on this subject that I will share with you.  I plan to buy the van in the spring, when the conversion can begin. Over the winter I’ll build the kitchen unit, the barn door, the dresser––and I’ll shop! Maybe I’ll even learn enough about plumbing and electric that I feel comfortable doing that myself. My first trip will be a year from now!