A home is the physical embodiment of the people who inhabit it. So how do we make sure that a van feels like a home?
When building your new van, at first it’s all about wanting to make sure that it is functional that the fridge fits, the electrical system is adequate, will we have a bathroom or not, ventilation, insulation and the list goes o. Some will want to know that there’s enough room to be able to work along the way or that there is room for the surfboard. You can have all the functionality right but if doesn’t feel like home it never will.
The first rule of interior decorating is to consider the purpose the space must serve.
Decorating a van is very different from decorating a house – although a house usually serves all of those purposes that our van will. In fact, as we know, a van must serve a diverse variety of functions in a very small space. Most people would look at our vans and say it is just one space, no real kitchen, dining or bedroom. But this is where they are mistaken. For us to be able to live in this small space areas need to be devised to enable us to live comfortably.
It is natural to want people to be impressed by our Van and to want our vans to be beautiful. But, it’s important to know that, first and foremost, we want to favour function over form. That means that first we think about the purpose of each space. Some spaces are multi-function, for example the slide out table will ultimately serve as a desk, extension of the kitchen as well as an entertainment area. This kind of thinking will lead us to a comfortable and usable van.
Keeping the area clean and tidy will go a long way to making your time on the road easier. Choose furnishings that are comfortable and attractive but above all hard wearing and easy to launder.
Sufficient seating is primary, of course as there are usually only two onboard this is not so difficult. However if travelling with little ones or your favourite furry friend, consider having adjustable / temporary seating. There should be seating that is comfortable for watching television or listening to music or reading for an extended amount of time.
A comfortable mattress, a good nights sleep is essential when you are on the move. Whether you sleep across or length ways in your Van ensure you have good ventilation and mossy nets, otherwise it won’t matter how comfy your bedding is.
Sure our kitchens can be explained as a couple of drawers a pullout stove and a wash basin. But, we must do our best to make our kitchens as functional as possible. Fortunately, home goods stores, including Kmart and IKEA two of my favourites, have lots of space-saving accessories for the kitchen.
Make sure the items that are used daily are easily accessible. Basic condiments, spices, napkins, plates, cups, and cutlery must be easy to find. You’d think that this would be obvious, but not everyone gets it. When you are short on space sometimes the fundamentals in design get lost.
Have dedicated area’s or dividers in drawers/ cupboards so you don’t have to pull everything out to get that one thing you always need. If you find you aren’t using an item ask why? Is it because it is hard to get or do you simply don’t need it. If it is the later donate it to the next charity shop you see. We have a saying each item should have double use. That’s why I get away with having crystal champagne flutes, they are awesome scone cutters.
I could go on and on about the function of every space within in the one tiny space, but now let’s skip right to the fun part…
To turn a van into a home mix in items with personal meaning among those that fulfill your dream of having a functional transportable home. This can be done tastefully, although your husbands full size signed football jersey may have to go in favour of a more refined look.
Wall art is one good way to personalise your Van. We may not have a lot of wall space, but carefully chosen pieces can add such warmth to your Van. Old pictures with sentimental value can be re-framed into a collage in a way that blends with your design. Vintage, antique or pop art can also be used tastefully. Often, it brings character to an otherwise bland space.
Items from childhood, such as a toy car or a jewelry box, might find a home in your small space. Think of displaying items that are reminiscent of a special occasion, vacation, or event these will make you feel at home.
For many people, shelves of books are what makes them feel at home. Bookshelves can be one of the most attractive design features in a home, but in reality they are impractical in a van. If books are your thing make sure you have a display area for a few. Sure you can’t have hundreds but a carefully chosen few that you swap at the next book exchange will give you the sense of being truly at home.
Some people have a connection to a culture or era – either their own or another. In recent years, Mid-Century Modern has been popular. We’ve all known people who were born and bred in Australia with Eastern European ancestors whose house looks like an Asian temple, replete with gongs and a statue of the Buddha. If you love these cultural influences use them in your Vans design, but make sure you stay with the design throughout. A small space can quickly become overwhelming with too many conflicting things going on.
Colour …. Oh I love colour and if I could I would use every colour of the rainbow. Colour has its place and we should embrace it, try colour as accents in areas that you can change. Keep walls and ceiling’s light to encourage a brighter atmosphere. Use your old Aunty’s 1970 crocheted throw rug as an occasional injection of colour. Use pop art on the walls to brighten your day but keep your furnishings somewhat neutral. Layer with textures and and pattern to increase the look of richness. Again inject the colour of your cultural love, red for Asia, blue and white for Greece as examples.
Finally making your Van a home, isn’t about removing something. Instead, it’s about adding something. Adding some decor that gives your home personality is essential. By adding accessories that bring colour, beauty, happiness, love and new life to your small space called home.
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If you are interested in the products we used on our build on our product page is a list. Many of these items we sourced secondhand, others we purchased from the manufacturer or retailer. We have found them online and listed them for you. Some of the links supplied we have an association with and we will receive a small commission if you purchase, but it is free to look and for you to do your research 😊 we can not promise all links to work as retailers may remove items, but we will do our best to update them 👍