Fabric panels and Side Lights

As I did not want to have the van fully looking like a sauna, and I wanted to create a separation between the kitchen and sleeping area, I decided to have these fabric covered panels.

I had them covered with 5mm foam, and then fabric, so they are nice to touch – nice in the sleeping area. Plus I think it gives the van better acoustics!

Some have thought the yellow under side part to be a strange colour choice, but this is in part to create a nice warm glow when reflecting the side lights.

First I attached some upright batons to the van. These were screwed in directly to the metal work.

Upright batons

Afterward I basically made the panels, a narrow strip of wood for the LEDs to sit on, and created a way to attach the panels to the wall.

The distance from the bottom of the blue bit, to the LED is based on the angle that the eye gets to the side of the van. I did not want you to be able to directly see the LEDs without really going to some effort!

This also means that the light is all reflected off the yellow fabric! It is amazing!

Making the panels

They are easy to make – just using ply, 5mm foam and fabric. You need spray glue and a staple gun. One tube of spray glue was (just) enough for the four panels.

Below shows the panels in place, checking them for size. I just screwed them up temporarily to do this.

The panels are pretty simple to make;

1. Spray glue on to the wood

2. Lay down the foam, turn it over and staple the foam edges to the back

a. Note use lots of staples evenly on the edges if you want the shape of the edge to look straight

3. Cut off excess foam

4. Spray glue on to the foam

5. Apply the upholstery fabric, turn it over and staple the fabric, as above staple evenly to keep the edge looking straight

6. Cut off excess fabric!

Spray glue, apply foam, turn over.

Staple down, cut off excess.

Srapy glue on to foam, put on the fabric/smooth down, turn over

Staple fabric (evenly) and cut off excess.

The yellow panels either slotted behind the cupboard unit, or were screwed on (screws where they would be not seen).

Note: Be careful when screwing these on – I found that one time the screw bunched up and ripped the foam inside – making it uneven and a bit messy! It was hard to sort out!

Attaching the top panels so no fixing is visible

I wanted to attach the top panels without screws being visible – so they look nice! Here is how I did it.

Do it BEFOREyou add the fabric and foam!

1. Get standard electrical conduit pipe

2. Get some screw-in pipe clips

3. Make some dowels (or buy some if you can)

4. Screw the pipe clips to the frame you made (I used 5 per board)

5. Screw the pipes, with dowel in, to the back of the panel in the right places

Now you can just pop-on and pop-off the whole panel – and it is help securely without any ugly screws!

See photo below:

Plastic pipe clips & electrical pipe. The pipe is screwed in through the ply in to the dowel inside the pipe. The pipe can now just ‘pop’ on to the clip.

Get the Van Conversion Guide:


© 2019 Nate Murphy

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