A common problem that people face when designing and converting a van from scratch is adaptability. You want a living area that is big enough to dine, work, and socialize, but you also want a spacious, easy bed set-up. What if I told you it’s possible to have the best of both worlds with an elevating bed?
At the age of 27, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and forced Callum to abandon his idyllic life abroad to return to his home country, the United Kingdom. With little money and resources to his name, he was forced into finding a cheaper, alternative means of living. After some consideration, he settled on vanlife!
Over the summer of 2020, Callum renovated his first van, an ex-ambulance that he now rents out. Looking back, he realized that the main area he wanted to improve in his next project was the height element. Even as a short male, having only a few extra centimeters above his head made the space feel cramped and closed in.
So with this in mind, Callum purchased his second conversion project, a Citroen Relay L4H4. At first, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with this extra height, but he eventually landed on the idea of an elevating bed.
During just two and a half months, Callum has transformed the van into a rustic, tiny-home-on-wheels that innovatively makes use of all the available space.
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Get the Van Conversion Guide: here
- Citroen Relay L4H4 – It has a jacked-up, heavy suspension and around 170,000 miles on the clock.
Kitchen and Appliances
- Russel Hobbs 45L fridge – This runs off the inverter. Due to his own naivety, Callum didn’t build a 12v system because he thought his 300-watt solar panel would generate enough juice. Unfortunately, he didn’t account for short days and grey skies, so the fridge often has to be switched off to conserve energy.
- Oven – In his previous van conversion, Callum’s only cooking appliance was a two-burner gas stove. This system served its purpose, but during longer trips, he found that his imagination and creativity with cooking began to dwindle. For this reason, Callum was happy to splurge £250 on a small gas oven for his new van. Thanks to this, roasted vegetables, pizzas, and baked potatoes are all back on the menu.
- Hanging storage jars – Whether your van is big or small, this is an amazing space-saver. Cullum’s jars are attached via the lid using sikaflex on the outside and a screw on the inside.
- Copper backsplash – To create this, Callum first purchased a regular sheet of copper and planished it with a hammer to create a distressed look. Following this, he covered it in salt and vinegar, then suspended the sheet in an airtight container over a bath of ammonia.
- Knife rack
- Copper vessel sink
- King-size elevating bed – To capitalize on the extra height Callum gained by purchasing an L4H4 van, he built a winch-up, king-size, elevating bed. In his own words, this took a lot of trial and error but eventually, things fell into place. The winch system is a modified garage storage device made by a Swedish company called Fuel, the whole kit cost around £100. The hardest part was figuring out where to position the different components. The mattress itself sits on two steel beams that can be folded down and stored under the seating area. The system gives him the best of both worlds – during the day he can host guests in his spacious lounge area, and when night falls he can swiftly lower the bed and get comfy.
- Hidden storage compartment – Underneath the mattress, Callum has a secret chamber that he uses to store his valuables. Since the bed is elevated towards the ceiling during the day, he figured that thieves wouldn’t know how to lower it down and almost definitely wouldn’t go to the effort of checking under the mattress.
- Soundbar speaker system
- Copper pipe light – This was another labor of love for Callum, it took a lot of time and patience. He’s not 100% happy with the end result as it doesn’t give off as much light as he’d like. Alas, the overall vibe is cozy and rustic.
- 6/7 person seating area – Underneath the elevating bed, there is a U-shaped seating area large. It is is ideal for hosting movie nights and dinner parties. Moreover, if Callum has guests the seats can be transformed into another king-sized bed.
- Exposed copper pipe shower
Power and Electrical
- 2 x 110-amp hour batteries
- 300-watt solar panel
- Split relay charger
- Switchboard – This contains superfast and normal USB ports, plus a cigarette lighter.
Heating and Cooling
- 22mm Kingspan insulation
- Diesel heater – The heater has three outlets in the living space and one outlet in the bathroom, allowing him to use the bathroom as a drying cupboard. In his last van, any wet clothes would be strung from the ceiling so if you were trying to cook you’d often get slapped in the face with a soggy sock. Nevertheless, in this van, Callum can hang up his wetsuit in the bathroom and it will be dry in the space of 12 hours. The heater itself is very efficient, with £5 of diesel you can warm the van for around 3-4 days without drawing fuel from the main tank.
Cabinetry and Finishes
- 10mm Pine board cladding
- Parquet flooring – For Callum, this was a real labor of love. He salvaged the flooring from a housing project and then spent one-week chiseling Bitumen adhesive from the underside before it was ready to go in the van. It was the longest and most tedious job in the van, but the final result is remarkable.
- Partition wall with crawl-through window
- Water heater – Having hot water on demand has been a game-changer for washing dishes and keeping clean.
- 70-liter water tank
- Alcoves – Perfect for sitting your phone while it's charging.
- Bookshelf – When he’s out and about, Callum doesn’t want to be guzzling up electricity all the time. So he came up with the idea of putting a sturdy bookshelf in his van.
- Overhead cupboards
- Pull-up bar – This is affixed to the chassis of the van with 4 bolts.