down2earth Interior Design - Vanlife

Stephanie and the Three Tiny Homes: Vanlife Interior Design

The year was 2020 and my boyfriend and I had just finished binge watching Tiger King. We were on the search for something equally as adventurous, but a little less… wild. Enter The YouTube Rabbit Hole. I’m not sure when I first learned about #vanlife, but the pandemic was the first time we had more time on our hands than we knew what to do with. Combined with the desire to go literally anywhere other than the grocery store, we began planning our post covid adventure… vanlife. Or at least that’s how it started. Turns out finding a tiny house on wheels that fits all your needs (and stuff) is a bit harder than we thought.

Too Small

There’s no doubt vanlife took off during the pandemic and for good reason: you can basically quarantine while you drive around the country. We watched hours of vanlife tours and made notes of all the interesting interior design solutions people had come up with to fit all their possessions in a tiny van. Think Tetris, but with all your stuff. We started a giant wish list of all the ideas we liked…a retractable shower door, swivel tabletops, pull-out tabletops, a roof deck, magnetic spice racks, a faucet just for seltzer water. The list is long. Once I got my hands on some dimensions you better believe I was in AutoCAD, space planning away.

down2earth Interior Design - Vanlife AutoCAD Plan

Looking at this again, I am laughing that I still labeled it as “bedroom” even though it is literally just a bed. Once we planned out every inch of this van, it became apparent that vanlife wasn’t big enough. An interior designer can only get rid of so many fabric samples!

Too Weak

Once we ruled out the van, naturally our next step was a groovy RV. I fell in love with quite a few RVs on Facebook Marketplace. And to be honest, after all the research about plumbing and electrical work, I also liked that an RV would be more of a renovation than completely starting from scratch.

down2earth Interior Design - Vanlife - Two RVs

However, our renovation dreamin’ came to an end when I found an article comparing RVs and school buses. Turns out vintage RVs can be pretty unsafe since a lot of them are made out of fiberglass shells which do not hold up in accidents. The phrase “death mobile on wheels” was used and so we said goodbye to groovy RV.

Juuuust Right

One of the safest vehicles on the road is a school bus. Now, we are talking a shorter bus, not these 30′ or 40′ buses, because there is no way I would be able to drive something that long. One of the best things about skoolies is that once you take out the seats you are left with an empty shell and endless possibilities. Ok, maybe not endless, but there are a lot less cavities that we have to fill with insulation which is one of the most important first steps.

down2earth Interior Design - Vanlife - Van Interiors

School buses come in a variety of sizes, so it’s been a little more difficult to space plan. Things like wheel well locations and interior length can vary depending on the model and year that we end up purchasing, but we have made a basic layout that we can tweak once we find a bus.

down2earth Interior Design - Vanlife - AutoCAD Drawing

While the search for the bus continues, we’ve started thinking about some designs for the exterior and what materials we can use inside. One thing that is super important for our skoolie conversion is focusing on how we can create this tiny home in a sustainable way. We intend to be thoughtful about what new materials we need and when we do need to purchase new we want to make sure we are keeping sustainability in mind. We also plan on finding ways we can use/ repurpose existing products. Habitat ReStore is a great resource for building materials that are leftover from larger jobs, especially for smaller projects that don’t require a lot of material. We previously posted on the blog about ReStore.

down2earth Interior Design - Vanlife - School Bus Graphic

Although living in a converted school bus may not be your dream home, our process for the conversion is very similar to a lot of interior design projects… just on a tinier scale. So, keep an eye out for our next update! What feature would you love in a home on wheels? Comment below!

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