Whether you’re new to aesthetic van conversions or you’re a seasoned van life professional, we can all use a refresher of the essentials when it comes to building out a van. Sometimes, having a new perspective can give us the inspiration we need to renovate our van when it feels stuffy or like it’s not home sweet home anymore. If you live in your van full-time, giving your van a makeover can pull you out of a rut and make this life exciting again. If you’re considering living in your van, these basic tips will help you practically prepare for van life while also making your converted van a cozy, aesthetically pleasing space.
What Is Aesthetic Van Life?
People come to the “van life” movement for all sorts of reasons. As gnomadhome.com shares, “To some, #vanlife is just an escapist hashtag. To others, it represents freedom, travel, adventure, or minimalism. But to the people living it, van life is a movement, a way of life, a means of living more in harmony with ourselves, an act of resistance against the status quo.
At its most basic, van life is just that: living in a van. But to us, van life has little to do with the van itself. It doesn’t matter what kind of work you do, or where you spend most of your time. It doesn’t matter what specific kind of vehicle you drive, or how much you spent converting your van into a DIY camper. It doesn’t matter whether you travel all over or stay around one area, or whether you’re in your rig full-time, part-time, or just on weekends. Vanlife is about much more than this.”
While you may scroll through social media and envy folks who get to travel the country or the world in an aesthetic van, there’s a lot that goes into building a converted van that’s comfortable and suitable for living there full-time. There’s more to consider than what looks good or feels good on a decorative level. If you’re converting your van, you’ll need to learn essential home improvement skills and car repair skills.
Insulation Is Key
When you’re living out of your van, you’ll need to either research insulation yourself or hire insulation services to make your van conversions protected from the elements and extreme temperatures. In an aesthetic van, the practical side of converting your vehicle into a dwelling is just as important as making it pretty inside and out. When your van is comfortable in the summer and winter, it’ll make it easier to stick out the hard times. Since it’s a small space, it can be easier to insulate than a large house. Even so, without the right materials, it can be hard to keep your van cool in the summer and warm in the winter and fall. Before you start tackling the problem of insulation, you’ll need to know what insulation is.
As thevanconversion.com tells us, “Insulation is any material that is designed to prevent heat transfer – that is the movement of air from hot to cold. This could be to keep the inside of your van cosy in winter (keep the heat in), or to keep it cool in summer (keep the heat out!).” While you may think of specific materials when you think of insulation like fiberglass insulation in homes, there are plenty of different items that can be used as insulation. The best types of insulation for vans include certain types of window coverings, caulking, and even blankets made out of heavy-duty materials. Ultimately, as long as it safely seals up any cracks where heat and cool can escape, almost anything could be used as an insulation material. While insulating your van, you should consider fire safety and consult with a professional if you’re worried about the safety of the material.
Protect Your Privacy
Speaking of insulation, how you cover your windows can help or hurt the effectiveness of insulation efforts in your van. Some window covers like window blinds work best if you already have another form of insulation. If you look into a local window blinds company, you’ll find that they may offer sizes of blinds that are specially tailored to fit an aesthetic van conversion. If you want to help insulate your van even further, you can use your window coverings to increase the insulation. Some window covers like van curtains will have a better time keeping your desired temperature inside the van and the elements out. For other window covers, like blinds, you may find that it’s easier to camp stealthily in residential neighborhoods if you have those blinds drawn.
The main goal of window covers on your van, regardless of which type you choose, will be maintaining your privacy and safety. While you’re sleeping in your van, the last thing you’ll want is some weird stranger peeking into your van and violating your sense of comfort and privacy. What’s more, it can be easier for someone to scope out valuables in your van and make a plan to steal them if you step away from your van for a while when you have inadequate window coverings. Overall, window coverings are important for your safety and comfort. Since they contribute to insulation, they’re also helpful for the environment. The less you have to run your heater or AC system, the better it’ll be for the globe.
As a van life enthusiast, you’re probably aware of the growing trend of law enforcement and other authorities catching on to van lifers and sending them out of different areas. While this can be challenging to overcome and avoid, you’re less likely to get sent away by the police if you have decent curtains. The reason behind this is quite simple. If you have good curtains or blinds, you’ll be able to mask any light or other signs of occupying the vehicle when you’re parked somewhere. Although the police and others may still have an idea that you’re occupying your vehicle, you’ll be less of an obvious target if your van has decent window coverage.
Choose Professional Flooring Options
When you live in an aesthetic van, you should consider hiring a tiling service to make your floors beautiful and functional. While flooring might be the last thing on your mind as you convert your van, it’s still an important part of converting your van. Without proper flooring, your converted van may have structural issues that make it uncomfortable or unsafe to use as a primary dwelling. Additionally, inappropriate flooring materials can take away from the aesthetic value of your van conversion. If you have vinyl flooring or use other materials that are easy to clean, it’ll make your life on the road that much more pleasant.
If you must have carpeting, you should consider how the flooring impacts the comfort and maintenance of your van. Also, you may want to think about how your flooring will feel in all types of weather and seasons. A high-pile carpeting design can be cozy in the winter but in the summer it might feel stuffy and hold heat more than a vinyl or tile floor option. What’s more, it may be harder to keep clean if you’re traveling with your pet or cooking frequently. In a large house, a stain on the carpet or a disgusting smell may not bother you as much as it would in a cramped van space. Having floors that are easy to clean and maintain is essential for living in your converted van.
Deck Out a Kitchenette
Just because you have a small space in an aesthetic van doesn’t mean you can’t have the cute kitchenette of your dreams complete with a granite countertop. If you’re making your van, you’ll want to invest in building supplies that are safe to use in a kitchen. You’ll also want to make sure that any appliances you use or install don’t increase your risk of starting a fire in your van. Having an eat-in kitchen with all of the necessary kitchen accessories can make your van life feel less like a camping adventure and more like a typical home experience. When you’re building your kitchenette, you may also want to think about how you’ll design the storage space. With limited square footage, having countertops that detach or open to reveal an extra storage area can be a lifesaver.
Keep Your Cool
No matter how lovely your aesthetic van looks, you’ll want to hire AC services to keep it cool in the summer. Even if you live in the cutest van in the world, you won’t want to swelter and sweat your way through summer or hot weather. Before you hit the road, you should make sure that your AC unit is in working order. If you don’t have an AC, you may be able to install one or get a small portable unit that’s safe to use in the van. Depending on how your custom van dwelling is built, the AC unit in the car might not reach the back of your van where you live. If this is the case, contacting AC services to figure out how to make your van comfortable in the height of a heatwave will be your best bet.
Recover from Accidents
Since you’re living that van life, your home is at risk of accidents like any other car. If you do end up in an accident, contacting an auto repair service right away and addressing needs like a windshield replacement is important for keeping you housed and safe. If you don’t have other options for somewhere to live, your van is everything you have. That’s why having some savings to cover emergencies like accidents or breakdowns is a crucial part of maintaining safety and security in your van.
In the winter, you’ll want to have adequate heating to keep your van cozy. While your van’s original heating system may be enough, you can still benefit from having a professional give you a detailed review of your options for heating your van. Some heating units like space heaters may present a fire hazard, so you’ll want to do your research and consult with other van dwellers before you use a new heating method. As we mentioned earlier in the article, insulation can help you save money on heating and cooling. Like parkedinparadise.com points out, “Keep the cold out by adding van insulation. Insulation should be added to the walls, floor, ceiling, and windows of your van. The more insulation the better! Avoid opening doors and windows too frequently and seal up and drafty areas with caulk or heavy blankets.
If you do not have the money or means to do full insulation, a cost-effective and fast solution is to purchase insulation panels for the windows. These are typically made out of reflective foil that can be stuck to the glass.” There’s no shame in going cheap for heating in the winter, so do what you have to do to stay warm. Many van life enthusiasts decide to spend the winter months in warmer areas like the Southern US to decrease the need for toughing out subzero temperatures. In some cases, this is the safest and most ideal way to cope with the winter months. Since you’re living in a van, you can go wherever your wheels can take you. As a result, you can branch out and try living in new places like the South if you’ve spent more of your time up north.
In short, even if you don’t intend to build a van completely on your own, it helps to have an idea of these skills so you can fix your van in a pinch if you find yourself far from professionals who could help. Another option for making your van dream a reality is either purchasing a build from another van life enthusiast or hiring professionals to help make your goal happen. Of course, if you’re trying to hire contractors to work on your van, you should make sure they have experience and are fully comfortable with outfitting a van conversion. If they’re used to working on houses, they may not be able to help you with turning your van into a habitable space.