Whether you’re an explorer or a minimalist, a renovated van is an appealing choice for seeing the world in a tiny-living style. You can reduce your carbon footprint, travel on a whim, and live larger with less. It’s common to hear van bloggers and influencers sharing a meaningful experience and a closer connection to the fewer things they own since going tiny. Starry views and hillside vistas from the back of a van are also a huge trade-up from a windowless cubicle and fenced backyard.

However, it is not uncommon for new van owners to feel worried and overwhelmed within the first hours or days of owning an empty van. It may seem impossible to convert the vehicle into a complete living space. However, it is achievable so long as you take the renovations day-by-day, piece-by-piece. Once you see the possibilities for your new space, the task of customizing your van will become exciting and the opportunities limitless!

As you’re thinking about what will go into your new van home, it’s a good idea to curate a design board for inspiration. Consider ideas tested out by influencers and TikTok artists. Bring your authentic self into the design and find out which ideas make you feel right at home.

Here are 14 van customization and upgrade ideas to get you started.

Built-in Storage Cabinets

Consider a side-by-side kitchen and office with overhead storage cabinets for a cozy central area of the home. @ttthefineprinttt shows us how to utilize a small but functional space to house your cookware, linens, and other personal items.

Pull-out Dining Area

Not enough space for a full breakfast table? The cleverly-designed pull-out meal tray by @saraha.hall is perfect for enjoying your meal, then sliding out of sight once you have finished eating. This easy-to-stow table is also perfect as a desk, crafting table, or for playing card games.

Hot Water Indoor Shower

A big concern for many individuals embracing the van lifestyle is the ease of access to showers and bathrooms. Luckily, there are some solutions, like this hot water indoor shower by @van_venture_ai. It’s also stylish and may be customized along the custom interior wall to add a splash of colorful tile.

Extra Large Skylight

A simple way to liven up your new van space is to increase natural light entering the vehicle. Creator @braeden_hammond displays an extra-large skylight that covers the entire roof to allow more sunlight to enter the home. This large window immerses the homeowner in the natural scenery so that they may feel more connected with their surroundings. Homeowners can both hear and see the rain pattering on the roof. Start your day with a gentle sunrise or take a deep breath in while viewing the bright starry skies every night before bed.

Tile Backsplash

An easy way to upgrade the indoor area of your new van is to play with the color scheme. See the difference creator @vantastip’s jade backsplash makes in livening up the home and updating its aesthetic to feel trendier and more modern.

Heated Floors

Especially in locations prone to extra chilly winters, heated floors (@ourwaytoroam) are an incredible asset. Because a van is so much smaller than a house, heated floors often may be more affordable for a smaller area.

Outlets for Outdoor Use

A big incentive for making the switch to a van lifestyle is the ease of outdoor access. To fully enjoy the outdoors, it is critical to have internet access and electrical power. Consider adding outlets for outdoor use (@courtandnate), as they might come in handy on those days when you decide to set up a chair or table and work on your laptop outside your van.

Solar Panels

Many minimalist-focused homeowners choose a tiny home to achieve an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. For these purposes, homeowners might be looking for every way to reduce their carbon footprint, including the installation of solar panels (@alliebrinn) for power. Solar panels can also store battery power over time, so you don’t have to worry about losing power on cloudy days.

Outdoor Dining Table and Benches

A great way to save space inside your van is to optimize slide-out furniture, such as an outdoor dining table and benches (@teganphillipa). Simply pull out the dining table when you’re ready to enjoy a family meal, then slide it back into the storage area when you’re finished eating. You might also consider adding a slide-out roof shade above the table for extra sunny days, or a collapsible rain tent.

Slide-out Breakfast Station

Living solo or looking for a smaller kitchen camper option? Consider a slide-out breakfast station (@gooseandellen) with a griddle or stove, mini counter space, and hidden pantry below. Prepare your morning breakfast or one-pot meals in this adorable space, then slide it back in to store when you are ready to drive to your next adventure. The hidden pantry could also hold a tiny bookshelf for your tea-time reading or on-the-road cookbooks.

Wood Burner

A simple lifestyle calls for timeless treasures. Consider customizing your space with items that bring a certain nostalgia or cozy comfort to your home, such as a wood burner (@somedrifters). Especially in the winter and in colder climates, a wood burner can come in handy and provide a unique personality to your van.

Fold-out Surface

A fold-out surface, like the one modeled by @somedrifters, is perfect for a convertible workspace, auxiliary kitchen surface, or breakfast nook. Add a fold-out chair to hang on the wall as decor when not in use to optimize your space. 

Lofted Bed with Storage

An easy trick to build extra storage into your van is to loft your sleeping area and utilize the space below your mattress. Creator @bohovans takes this concept a step further by adding built-in storage cabinets and drawers underneath an elevated bed to increase storage space.

Convertible Table to Bed

With just a bit of creative engineering and building expertise, homeowners can customize their home to include a large dining set that converts to a bed. Creator @homesweetvan demonstrates how to convert their van home’s dining area, complete with full-size bench seats, into a cozy bed. This concept is not only sustainable but also maximizes your van space to allow the most room for enjoying your meals and sleeping through the night.

Get Out on the Open Road

A customized van home is perfect for one or two people living a minimalist lifestyle on the open road. Take some time to check out multiple van lifestyle vloggers to get an idea of the design that you want but remember that you can always upgrade later if you desire.

About the Author, Melanie Theriault

Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.

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