Living in a tiny space on wheels needs to feel comfortable, but most importantly it needs to feel like a home. When we brought Cassie and like Bryn mentioned in Introducing our home on wheels, she definitely needed some sprucing up. Not only to make her a bit more modern, but to make our new small space feel roomy, livable and a lot more us. So getting straight to it…Here’s what I did to turn our tiny space on wheels, into a home.
Bedding, cushions + tapestries
Right, first off the bed situation deff needed some work. The original bed setup, although handy, wasn’t exactly what we were after but the beauty of buying a van, is that you can do whatever you please with it. Originally it was setup in a classic camper style with a lounge type set up with a table in the middle by day, then being able to transform it into a bed at night. This is handy if you’re not spending every night sleeping in it, but because we are, the decision was made to always have it set up in bed mode.
Due to the original set up, the mattress is sort of a puzzle of swabs that fit together to make a bed. We figured night after night, sleeping in little cracks between the swabs just wouldn’t do, so we took off to IKEA (only the best place on earth) to hunt down a mattress comforter which we’ve put down on top of the swabs and can no longer feel the cracks HOORAY! We also brought from ikea a white bottom sheet which hooks underneath both the mattress comforter and the old ugly blue swabs, the duvet itself and the pillows.
Now comes the fun part – choosing the bed linen! The bed takes up 50% of the space, sometimes more, when you’re living in a van so choosing the right linen is key in making your little space feel like home. I either wanted to go for a brightly patterned duvet cover with some plain cushions (adding cushions is important when creating a cozy space) or going for a plain/neutral duvet cover with a brightly patterned tapestry laid over top with some cushions on there too. We went to URBAN OUTFITTERS for this, because they easily have the quirkest and best bed linen, tapestries and cushions around and after falling In love with a dusty pink tapestry, the decision was made, it would be a plain/neutral duvet with the tapestry laid over top. Off to H&M to look for a duvet and sure enough a plain light grey one took our fancy. Along with this and also from H&M, we got two square 40×40 cushions, one light pink to match the tapestry, and one with a picture of a hazy green forrest and two Dark green 50×30 cushions aswell. After making up the bed and putting everything together, it definitely started to look like home! See for yourself
Get your paint on
Originally Cassie had a blue paint job on the cabinet doors and underneath the breakfast bar. Deciding straight away that it needed to go, we asked around to find the London equivalent of a Bunnings Warehouse. B&Q was the perfect place, all your hardware and tool needs, in one spot. We collected about 10 shades of white paint samples and rushed back to the van to try match it to the rest of the cabinetry. There or there abouts, we picked a colour, brought some paint brushes and started painting on the side of the road, outside Danis in Hammersmith, London. It’s safe to say we got a fair few funny looks from people as they walked past and saw the van in full DIY mode. But once all the cabinetry was white, the space straight away lightened up and became more modern. #winning
Add some baskets for your clothes
Sick of living out of suitcases, we thought of places to keep our clothes that wouldn’t take up too much room. The little space under our bed, that used to be the area for a table was the obvious place to keep the clothes, so we measured it up and searched through IKEA for two storage baskets that would fit. There were tons of plastic tubs and similar type things but I chose a white wired basket to add some texture to the room. Also so that the clothes could breath – the plastic tubs wouldn’t let any air get to the clothes at the bottom. After spending a few hours folding up our clothes into the baskets and giving Bryn a lecture on making sure it always had to stay tidy, our new and improved wardrobe was good to go! We left our warm clothes and a few things we never really wear in our suitcases, then shoved them up into the storage above the driving cab. Our shoes went up in that storage area too, aswell as our backpacks and other random things.
Add some greenery to your van to give it a fresh feeling. Sometimes even the smallest of plants can make a space go from dull to bright and at this day age, sourcing plants is easy peasy. Can you guess where we got ours? Yup IKEA and guess what? They’re all fake (we figured it would be too hard to try keep real ones happy and healthy). I put one plant on the kitchen bench, one beside our bed and the last one we drilled a hole in the back of and hung it up on the railing above the bench, which I’ll talk about now.
Hooks and railings
Again IKEA to the rescue here. Hooks and railings are super handy in getting clutter and random stuff out of the way. Why not get that random stuff up higher? It not only frees up space on the ground, or wherever else you were going to shuv it, but by adding stuff to the walls it creates a more “I live in here” feel. When living the van life you need to remember you’ve got so much stuff that needs a place to live. So get it onto hooks at railings and save space below! First we got two white knob hooks to hang our bath towels plus the toilet bag we share. These have actually been handier then we thought because random other belongings tend to hang up there too like hoodies, the camera, whatever. Luckily our van has been lined with MDF board, which is then wrapped in a dark carpet finish and even tho this makes the place far too dark for my liking, it’s let us drill into it when hanging stuff up on the walls. If it were just the metal of the van we’d have a different story. We then also put up a grundtal rail with S shaped hooks which you can also get from IKEA. On this we hang our cooking utensils: the tongs, the spatula, the serving spoon, the scissors and like I mentioned before, the plant. Since we’re cooking in our van daily (both lunch and dinner) it’s easier to keep these utensils out of the cupboard and also off the bench. Thirdly we added a cute wooden plank with 4 silver hooks to the side of the cupboard to hang our mugs. Adding pieces of cutlery to the walls really creates a home vibe because you can literally see the things that make it livable. It’s also super easy to grab the mugs off the wall to make our morning coffee. Perfecto.
If your van livin, get yourself a spice rack with some good spices. It gives the room some colour, some flavor and is just straight up good to look at. The rustic feel of it creates a homey and comfortable space, not to mention the practicality of it, easy storage, easy access. We’ve put this on the bench underneath the hanging mugs and this looks bloody good if I say so myself. We drilled it in place so that when we drive it doesn’t move so if you can, do that too.
IKEA to the rescue yet again, we saw some crates in different sizes and I straight away thought, oh yes, perfect! The top of the cupboard beside our bed has become our bedside table and we all know how much crap can accumulate on a bedside table! We got the small crate and filled it with moisturizer, makeup wipes, perfumes, hair product, sunblock, inhalers etc. All the random stuff that you need. Then we also used another small sized crate, which sits in the cupboard and filled it with phone chargers, laptop chargers, kindle chargers, the go pro, the camera accessories – basically all the gadgets we have. We brought a bigger crate too, one that we can load up with all the stuff that could fall off the top of the bench when driving. In this fits the beside table crate, the tea and coffee tins, the candles, the tissues, my makeup bag and anything else that’s loose on the bench. Every time we drive, it all gets packed up into the bigger crate (takes like 10 seconds), then when we park up, we get it all out (another 10 seconds). Super handy for keeping shit organized + the crates are trendy AF.
What’s a small cozy space without some fairy lights? A vanlife essential when turning your van into your home. We bought solar-powered ones, so every time we park up we just put the little solar panel out the door. Works a treat! IKEA again for this, can’t go wrong.
Just like the fairy lights, warm your space up with some candles. By day they look like decorative pieces and by night they not only smell bloody good but they do a daym good job of making our van warm, comfy and a little romantic too.
Art on the walls
How cliché right? We put a world map poster on the wall of our van. Well yea they don’t call it cliche for nothing so after spotting one in a homeware store in San Sebastián I had to get it. If you wanna shy away from this cliche, just put anything on your wall. If you put up something your into, it’ll straight away give your little home on wheels the character it deserves. Because our van is lined with a dark carpet we definitely needed something to brighten it up and the map works a treat. There’s also the space beside the grundtal rail for something else, like a surf or skate poster so I’m on the hunt for that too.
Every bedroom or bathroom has a mirror, so why shouldn’t a van? We hung a mirror on the back wall above the drivers cab and to be honest it’s probably too big for the wall (50×50) but it does the trick. It also makes the room feel bigger than it is.
Miscellaneous bits and bobs
Everything we’ve brought for the van has a purpose and these miscellaneous items do too. We got them all from H&M homeware and just chose ones we liked and that would go with the rest of our stuff. We got a laundry bag to fit in a cubby hole below our bed, a floor matt to wipe our feet before getting in the van (this was the best thing to get, honestly), a fruit bowl which sits on the bench (don’t put your fruit in the cupboards, keep it on the bench as it adds colour to the van too) and last but not least the tea and coffee tins which we’ve used daily.
And there you have it. A bunch of ways we turned our little van into a home we’re proud of. We’ve definitely got a bit more to do, like rigging up a spot to hang the surfboard, getting new curtains (the ones we have I haaaaaaaaaate but I don’t even know how to go about getting curtains made so we’ve just left it for now) and putting more artsy stuff on the walls but that will just come as we go.
If you’re a fellow newby to the vanlife, get in contact with us! We’d love to share ideas. And if this helped you in any way, shape or form then yay and I hope you create a dope van of your own too!
Leah | free & addicted
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