Speaking from our experience, seen as the bed doubles up as seating during the day, it was the most important part of the build. As soon as we fitted the bed in place it immediately transformed the space from a van into a campervan. Like most van dwellers and travellers, our days are spent exploring, hiking, busking or just enjoying the outdoors but when were inside the van we wanted a bed that was comfy and fitted perfectly with what we needed our camper to be like. When deciding what kind of bed to go for we were pretty much after 3 things:
If we were not musicians we would travel so much lighter! Everything stored at the back of the van is music equipment. In fact the height of our bed was customised specifically so that it was just high enough to squeeze our amplifier beneath it. Making use of every bit of space was important to us for the whole of the conversion so we have very little wasted storage space. Underneath the bed is open so there is room for storage all the way underneath it.
We wanted furniture that really made the most of the small space we have so we made sure there was a way the bed could easily transform from a bed at night to a seating area and dining table during the day. The bed is U-shaped with a removable middle section that acts also as a table. When the bed is in ‘day mode’ we can fit 7 people around the table, which is more than we used to be able to find seats for in out old flat!
Our van bed ended up being comfier than the bed in out flat and easily the biggest and most comfortable bed we’ve ever had. When in ‘night mode’, its a full king size with a memory foam mattress. When we bought the van, there was already a good quality small double rock’n’roll bed installed but it just didn’t do it for me. It also didn’t really maximise the storage possibilities as much of the space was taken up with metal sliders and legs. We ended up selling this which paid for the rest of the entire van conversion.
After watching a load of conversions on YouTube and sketching out many designs, what we ended up going with is arguably the most simple arrangement of all our ideas. We designed a U-Shape seating area where the middle section of the U could be removed and raised up on a cheap camper van table leg.
The legs were cut to size using a circular saw so that they were straight. The MDF bases were then screwed on top of the legs with two screws in each. The whole bed took about 30 minutes to put together.
16 Pine 2 x 4 lengths for the legs
One MDF sheet for the bed base
Old Bedsheets or other fabric to cover the foam
Two 150 lengths of 1 x 2 wood for the runners
The table has three ‘modes’. Bed mode, eating mode and it can also be suspended on the van ceiling using strong wire when we want to have the seating area but no large table in the way. This also allows us easier access to our storage boxes underneath. To protect the table we bought a strip of self adhesive wood vinyl to cover the top, which made it look a lot better as well.
For the mattress, we bought a 4 inch memory foam mattress topper from Amazon for £55 and cut it by hand to match the shape of the bed and removable sections. We were considering getting the foam properly upholstered but ended up just covering it with some bed sheet fabric to stop it from being damaged, which turns out works just as well. This made for a very large and comfortable bed which happily lasted us 6 months of full time use. We have since bought another mattress topper to make it a full 8 inches of memory foam for even more cosiness because we noticed that after time the foam does compact and get less comfortable.
Underneath the bed is entirely storage. We handmade some boxes from leftover MDF to slide out as draws that make the most of the available, sometimes oddly shaped space (where the wheel arches are). Under the bed is always much colder than above it, which is nice in summer to lie on the floor when it is too hot and in winter it transforms into a fridge to keep all our food cold. We also bought an under-shelf storage rack that fitted the Xbox in perfectly and slotted under the end of one of the sides. This was very pleasing!