You often hear about van conversions that are done on a budget, but how true to life is this?
Jacqui had been dreaming about building a campervan for many years. She is a firm believer that amazing design can be achieved on a small budget. Often, the best ideas come from thinking about practical and imaginative ways to solve a problem.
Back in 2018, Jacqui and her partner purchased a 2013 LWB Mercedes Sprinter for £12000. After plenty of research, they settled on a Mercedes due to how reliable they are. They were drawn to the additional space of the LWB, which guarantees that they have everything they need to live in the van full-time.
Jacqui and her partner spent the following 6 weeks transforming the van from top to bottom. They wanted their van to feel modern, light and airy inside, much like an apartment. So they opted for a minimalist design using white paint and industrial fixtures and fittings.
All in all, the van cost approximately £19,000 to build, excluding any labour costs. They appreciate that this is quite high, but they wanted a van that was well-designed and beautiful, and they knew they couldn’t achieve that on a drastically low budget. Jacqui also knew that she and her partner would be living and working in the van for the foreseeable future, so they wanted to ensure that it’s comfortable and suitable for their needs. For a full breakdown of costings, have a read of Jacqui’s blog post here.
- 2013 Mercedes Sprinter – They opted for a long-wheelbase due to the extra space.
Kitchen and Appliances
- Ikea cabinets – Jacqui decided to use pre-made Ikea cabinets in the van in order to save time and money. She only has basic DIY skills, so she wanted to avoid building the cupboards herself. The units weigh more than they would if you were to build them yourself, but they’ve managed to save weight in other areas of the van.
- 30cm stainless steel sink.
- LPB 2-burner hob.
- Omnioven – Instead of a traditional oven, Jacqui opted for an Omnioven that sits on top of their gas stove. Using this device, she has been able to cook everything that you would normally cook in an oven, including cakes, bread, casseroles.
- Sliding kitchen drawers – Each drawer has a 7-kilogram magnet countersunk into the frame. This holds the drawers in nice and tightly and prevents the contents from flying out while they’re driving.
- Live edge worktop – For her kitchen worktop, Jacqui used live edge pippin orc, which she bought from British Hardwoods in Skipton, UK. The wood is kiln-dried, which ensures that it won’t warp over time. In order to maintain it, she sands it once or twice per year and treats it with Osmo oil.
- Live edge splashback – With the leftover wood from the kitchen worktop, Jacqui created a splashback which sits behind the hob. The design reminds her of a mountain range.
- Spice shelf – Attached to the bulkhead is an Ikea spice rack. To prevent the contents from falling out, Jacqui customised it with copper pipes, antique pine and magnets. The shelf also has task lights installed, which come in handy when it’s time to wash up.
- Copper downlights
- Double bed – After looking at lots of conversions with width-ways and length-ways beds, Jacqui decided to opt for a width-ways bed to keep the spacious feel in the van. They designed a really simple pull of bed system which extends the bed for sleeping but goes away during the day to keep the space free. It takes 20 seconds to set up but makes the bed more suitable for their needs.
- iPad shelf – In the back corner of her van, Jacqui built a small shelf for her iPad which allows her to watch TV and films from the comfort of her bed.
- LED lights – These are remote-controlled and can change colours, though she mainly keeps them on a warm-yellow light.
- Dometic portable toilet – This slides out from inside one of the kitchen cupboards. They try to use public toilets as much as possible, but the portaloo is good to have as a backup.
- Pop-up shower – Jacqui and her partner didn’t want to lose valuable living space by installing a permanent shower. Instead they designed a really simple pop-up shower using a magnetic shower curtain, storage container, USB powered shower, and bucket.
Power and Electrical
- Gas meter – This tells them how much LPG they have left in the tank.
- 25 litre gas tank – This is underslung from the base of their van. During the winter when they have the heating on regularly, 25 litres typically lasts around 2-3 weeks. In the summer, however, it can last up to 3 months. It costs them roughly £15 to fill the tank up.
- USB ports – The majority of Jacqui’s equipment is powered by USB. For everything else, such as laptops, they’ve bought 12v adapter leads which plug into the cigarette lighters.
- Volt meter – This displays what state the batteries are in and how much charge they’ve got. It also shows the temperature inside the campervan.
- 2 x 130-amp hour leisure batteries.
- Ring charging system.
- Solar panels.
- 1500w inverter.
Heating and Cooling
- Magnetic thermal panels – Each of the windows in Jacqui’s van has a bespoke thermal panel. They’re constructed from silver bubble foil, blackout material and magnets. All you have to do is stick them to the window frame and the van will stay nice and cool.
- Propex heater – This is controlled via a thermostat next to the bed.
- Celotex insulation – When building the van, they used 50mm Celotex or Kingspan insulation in most places. In areas such as the floor and ceiling where they wanted to maximise height, they used 25mm Celotex.
- Vapor barrier – On top of their insulation, Jacqui installed a vapour barrier to protect against condensation. This is extremely important when converting a van, as you don’t want it to rust!
- Fianna turbo vent – This can be used to pull air in or draw air out.
- Fletna fan – At the back of the van, Jacqui installed a Fletna fan. When there’s a gentle breeze, the fan rotates, which helps to ventilate the van and minimise condensation.
Cabinetry and Finishes
- 2 upper cabinets – In order to maximise the feeling of space and lightness within the van, Jacqui decided to keep the number of upper cabinets to a minimum. They currently have two overhead cupboards, both in the bedroom area. Aside from this, the majority of their storage is underneath the sofas, in the kitchen units or in the garage.
- Bulkhead – Unlike most other van conversions, Jacqui’s van includes a bulkhead partition between the cabin and the living space. She chose this for safety and practical reasons. Practically speaking, the cabin area gets extremely hot during the summer when the sun is shining. Retaining the bulkhead allows them to attach a magnetic thermal panel onto partition to stop the heat from travelling through. This helps to keep the main living space nice and cool. In terms of safety, however, the bulkhead also prevents the contents of the van from flying through into the cabin should they get into a crash.
- Copper chandelier – Using leftover copper wire from the gas hob, Jacqui created a stunning mini chandelier. To do this, she attached the copper to the ceiling and surrounded it with fairy lights. In the centre, she placed a standard LED downlight.
- 6 x 10 litre fresh water tanks - The water set-up inside Jacqui’s van is rather simple. She has 20 litres of freshwater under the kitchen sink and a further 40 litres in the garage space. The containers are connected to the kitchen tap via a small flexible tube. They decided to use containers for practical reasons, as they’re easier to refill than standard water tanks.
- Whale 12v electric pump – For the first 6 months, Jacqui used a manual hand pump tap. While it looked lovely, its performance was pretty poor. Therefore, she decided to replace it with an electric pump by Whale. To do this, she installed an on/off switch underneath the sink and connected it to her existing tap.
- 2 x sofas – Each seat contains storage underneath.
- Shoe box
- Antique pine table – Jacqui knew that her and her partner wanted to travel and live in the van for a long period of time. This means they both have to work while on the road, so it was important for them to have a table space for eating, working, and also chilling.
- Bike storage – This is big enough for 2 mountain bikes.
- 12v cool box – Neither Jacqui or her partner eat meat, so they didn’t see the point of splashing out on an expensive fridge. Instead, they have a cool box in their garage to store all of their fresh produce.
To see the full tour of Jacqui's van, check out my YouTube channel: