Brittany’s Whimsical Cabin in the Woods-Style 1998 Chevy Express 3500 School Bus Conversion
last updated: Jan 17, 2023
When you leave the army, the world is your oyster. From schooling to motivational speaking, the possibilities are endless. But what about trading in your belongings and embracing van life?
Back in June 2017, Brittany made the tough decision to leave the U.S Air Force. From there, she took advantage of the reintegration programmes available to her by enrolling at a school in San Francisco. She aimed to go back to basics and complete her formal education.
During this time, Brittany was renting a room and private bathroom in a shared house with 4 others. She was paying $1300 a month. Although the location was beautiful and she loved the lifestyle, she never felt at home. She would barely leave her room unless she knew that nobody else was home.
By March 2019 she’d had enough. Unhappy with her monthly overheads, Brittany started to research alternative living arrangements. Eventually, she came across the vanlife hashtag and spotted a gap in the market for black female vanlifers.
A short time later, Brittany purchased Domino, a 1998 Chevy Express 3500. . Despite being married, Brittany travels solo while in the van. Still a work in progress, Brittany aims to transform the van into a whimsical, cabin in the woods-esque living space
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- 1998 Chevy Express Van– Brittany bought the van via an online auction in 2019 for $3200. At the time it had 99,000 miles on the clock and it now has approximately 110,000. The van is nicknamed Domino after the Deadpool 2 character of the same name. The character’s special power is luck, which Brittany thought was very fitting considering that she wasn’t able to see or inspect the van prior to purchasing.
Kitchen and Appliances
- Magnifying mirror– This is held on a pivoting hinge, which allows Brittany to move it around and comfortably do her hair/makeup. The mirror is connected to the vans 12v electricity system, meaning that it also lights up.
- Towel holder– This is where Brittany hangs her hand and face towels.
- Bowl sink– Unlike a lot of other vans, Brittany opted for a raised sink that sits above the countertop. It’s a beautiful teal colour, and is one of the first things Brittany bought for her van. She loves it and has never had any issues with it.
- Tiled backsplash– For her kitchen backsplash, Brittany purchased plain white tiles from Habitat for Humanity. She decided that they didn’t have enough pizzazz, so she spruced them up with colourful patterned stickers from Amazon. For the grout, she mixed iridescent glitter with silicone.
- Wooden countertop– Much like the tiles, Brittany customised her 3ft-long wooden countertop by coating it with iridescent glitter mixed into silicone resin.
- Pull out pantry– This has two wheels at the back, allowing it to be moved in and out. It features bungee cords to hold the cupboard contents in place.
- Propane camp stove– This is a portable, 2-burner stove. When not in use, Brittany stores it in her garage space.
- Raised double bed– Brittany opted for a sideways-oriented fixed, elevated double bed. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, she didn’t want to have to convert her couch into a bed every night. Secondly, she gets grossed out by convertible couches as it means that you’re laying your head where people have been sat. Thirdly, she wanted to create a division between the living space and the loft area.
- Outdoor shower tent
- Toilet bucket
- 5ft couch– Brittany’s couch is big enough to seat approximately 2 people. The couch cushions are temporarily covered in blankets as she can’t decide which fabric to use.
- Lagoon swivel table– For the table top, she used a live-edge piece of wood. This moveable table is used as both a place to eat and a place to study.
Power and Electrical
- 320-watt flexible solar panel
- 120-watt backup flexible solar panel
- 2 x 100-amp hour batteries
- 400-watt backup battery pack
- Battery operated push lights– These come with a remote than can be used to change their colour.
- Fairy lights– These are not 12 volts like the rest of the electrics in her van, so they’re plugged into a surge protector for safety purposes.
Heating and Cooling
- Emergency exit– Ideally, Brittany would like to replace this emergency vent with a skylight or Maxx air fan. However, she’s a firm believer of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’, so she’s worried that she will cause the roof to start leaking over her bed.
- 2 x 7-gallon water tanks– One is freshwater and one is greywater.
- 12v water pump– This can be turned on and off via a switch.
Cabinetry and Finishes
- Wooden tongue-and-groove wall cladding.
- Message board
- Fake vines– Brittany wanted to fill her van with plants to give it a foresty vibe. However, her first purchase was a succulent that she killed by overwatering. So instead, she bought fake vines from Amazon and has attached them to the rear wall next to her bed.
- Framed prints
- Crystal agate door handles
- Roll-up curtains
- Fake grass– In keeping with the foresty-theme, Brittany covered the steps into her van with astroturf. Not only does this look great, it also helps to clean dirt off the bottom of shoes.
- Crawl in closet– One of the unique features of Brittany’s van is a crawl-in closet underneath the bed in her garage space. As the name suggests, this consists of rails and containers to store Brittany’s clothes.
To see the full tour of Brittany’s van, check out my YouTube channel
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