When you think of vanlife, you probably associate it with minimalist living. You’re contained, always moving, own fewer possessions, and are required to make resourceful choices. But it doesn’t always have to be this way.
Meet Nikki, a photographer and YouTuber from Ontario, Canada. Back in early 2019, Nikki bought a 2017 Ford Transit 250 LWB High Roof Van, which she calls Wilson.
Prior to this, Nikki had spent two years living in a pre-converted van in New Zealand. But the van was unreliable and she quickly grew frustrated with the amount of money she was having to fork out. So once her visa expired, she sold the van and moved onto something bigger and better.
Nikki bought Wilson for $34,000. She opted for this model because it is the tallest and longest in the range, so gives her the largest space to work with.
Impressively, Nikki built most of the van herself, with a little help from her father and brother. The fit-out took three months of intense research and planning, plus 30 days of solid labor. Altogether Nikki spent around $15,000 transforming Wilson, which takes her total expenditure to approximately $49,000.
The van’s interior is heavily inspired by Nikki’s love of log cabins, though she sourced most of the components on Amazon. She currently lives in the van with her partner Ben. Together they’re on a road trip around the USA with plans to visit Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona, amongst others.
- 2017 Ford Transit 250 LWB High Roof van
Kitchen and Appliances
- 18-inch x 18-inch bartender sink.
- Gold pull out faucet tap.
- Stansport oven with 2 gas hobs– Nikki’s old van only had a stovetop and she was constantly getting frustrated that she couldn’t bake cookies whenever she wanted. So she decided to invest in a proper oven.
- 3-way fridge– This relies on AC, DC, and propane.
- Queen sized bed– The frame itself is made from Birchwood. Nikki purchased a 6-inch-deep memory foam mattress and cut it to size with an electrical bread knife.
- 3 x 100 watt solar panels.
- 2 x 96-amp hour AGM batteries– Nikki doesn’t recommend these batteries. She’s instead looking to invest in two Dakota lithium batteries.
- 1000-watt inverter.
- Pico monitoring system– This monitor shows how much solar power is being generated, how much energy they’re currently using, and how much water is in the tanks. It’s great for keeping track and working out how long things are going to last.
- 4 x 11 volt USB ports.
- 2 x 120-volt plugs.
Heating and Cooling
- Espar gasoline heater– Powered by a propane gas tank.
- Fantastic 2-way fan– This has three different speeds. Nikki isn’t overly impressed with this fan. She notes that in the future she will probably replace it to a max air fan that is quieter and more powerful.
- CR Lawrence window.
- Rock Wool lined walls– This is a great option because the rock wool flows into every little nook and cranny and provides quality insulation.
Cabinetry and Finishes
- Pine slab walls– After framing and insulating the walls of the van, Nikki stuck on tongue and groove pine slats. She customized these with two layers of cherrywood stain and a clear coat of varnish.
- MDF cupboards– These were cut to shape and then painted white.
- Elmwood countertops– This is the part of the van that took the most time. She covered the raw wood with 3 coats of epoxy and a layer of varnish.
- 2 x 15-gallon water tanks– One freshwater and one greywater. Nikki chose to mount the tanks underneath the van to save space inside.
- Shurflo water pump.
- Pull-out desk– This is made from a slab of pine wood that has been stained with cherrywood. Nikki designed the desk big enough for two people which allows both Nikki and Ben to sit and work from it at the same time.
- Magnetic drawers– The use of magnets prevents the drawers from flying open and their contents going everywhere whilst driving.
- Pull up Birchwood cupboards – Located at the side of the bed, these are great for storing little knick-knacks such as socks and underwear.
- Hanging mason jars– Nikki uses these to store herbs and spices, but they really tie in with the overall aesthetic of the van.
- 4 x security lights– these act as a strong crime deterrent and are great for when you’re arriving back at the van when it’s dark outside.
- Outdoor shower– this is attached to the Gasland water heater.
- Garage space big enough for a bike, 2 propane tanks, and 4 bins of clothes.
- Natures Head composting toilet– This is nicely hidden in a cupboard underneath the bed area. It has two separate containers: one for solids and one for liquids. She empties the liquids one a week and the waste once every few months. She uses Sphagnum Peatmoss to aid the composting process.
- Emergency shut off switch– In case any accidents were to happen, Nikki wanted to include an emergency shut off switch. This cuts out all of the electrical, gas, and water supply to the van.
- Sliding door between the back and cabin area of the van– Nikki is so proud of her home that she doesn’t want anyone to be able to stare in. The door maintains that element of privacy whilst allowing for easy access between the back and driving area.
Check out the full tour of Nikki and Ben’s van on YouTube: