Van Diaries 2 – The Bed

Today, we built the bed…

A bed is critical to any good camper van (Do I even really need to say that?). This was to be the center piece for determining our entire van layout.

Design thoughts and considerations:

We tried to consider everything; placing the bed across the back… along the side… or whether we should raise it up like a bunk bed. It took a lot of pre-planning to come up with how we thought the bed should function and what would be the most practical. We spent a lot of time scouring the internet for ideas…

Both of us knew we wanted something compact (cause well, it’s a pretty small van…), but also something comfortable; and we did not want to be falling off at night.

Also, having somewhere to sit and relax, away from the bucket seats up front,  would be great; so if it could double as a sofa and bed, that would be perfect! Sort of a futon style solution.

We started searching by looking at futons… hopeful to find something that could fit our van..

Unfortunately, not a lot of futons are “van sized”…

Eventually we stumbled upon a build with alternating slats, allowing two primary bed pieces to pull apart or be pushed together, giving us exactly what we wanted: a large bed that can easily be compacted to a smaller size usable as a sofa.


Scrunching our foreheads, we started coming up with the best spot to place this thing, and after some back and forth, we chose to build it along the side window, behind the driver seat.

Opening the side doors to an inviting sofa/bed, was something that appealed to us 🙂

Immediately, our imaginations filled with ideas of counter space, shelves, cabinets (more on this in future posts, of course)… one thing we did decide right away was to build a desk across from the base of the bed, near the wheel well.

Every good desk needs a chair, and without room for an actual chair, we wanted to take our bed/sofa one step further… bed/sofa/desk chair!

As a result, we decided to chop the pull-able portion of the bed into two segments. One (smaller) segment would be at the base of the bed, and would extend across the van’s width to reach the desk opposite. The other larger end would extent to complete the bed.This gave us the option to pull out the entire bed, or just the short segment for the future desk.

Step two? –  What was that measurement again?

The van we bought came with two tri-fold cushions. Fully extended, these bad boys were each about 30″ wide and 6-ft long. The length was perfect… but the width was a little too wide.

After laying them out in the van, they seemed to be huge and take up a lot of unnecessary space.
Both cushions together (30″ x 2) would give us 60″ (5-ft) of width… and fill the entire width of the van.

To get the right size, we both laid on the floor, tried to be somewhat generous with how much space we used, then ran the tape measure across ourselves; we settled on a width of 43″.

Changing the bed width meant we needed to resize the width of each pad from 30″ to 21.5″.
Time to crack out the sewing kit, some popcorn and a few good movies!

Step three: Yep, this is the step we’re on.
Lets build this thing!

Before any cutting, we plotted the design in Libre Draw and finalized all measurements. Afterwards, we began to cut.

To make sure everything looked in order, we started laying some of the cuts out.

We cut the remaining pieces and before continuing, applied a few coats of clear stain.

We laid all the slats across the frame, and began inserting screws.

The bed consists of mostly 3×1″ slats, (actual measurement 2.5×3/4″) with a 4″x 1″ slat on each end (we had to do some improvising to make everything fit the measurements we wanted).

Flipping the thing over, we added a bottom cover for the extension piece to slide across, leaving a 5/16 gap between the base and the moving parts. This ensured an easier time sliding the bed in and out.

We used a thin piece of HDBD-PNL board, which seems pretty flimsy and light, but holds up nicely for the bed.

Finally, the last step was to slap some legs onto to the base and hope that it holds up to our body weight!… okay, perhaps we weren’t that careless.

Attaching each leg, we ran a bot through the top of the bed and down into the top of the leg. We ran 4 legs in the front and 3 in the back; one less in the back, because the back corner landed just over the wheel well.

The leg height was chosen to give us just enough space to fit our luggage and clothing underneath.


Once done, we did a little sanding, added another coat of stain and called it good!

Total Time = 5 hours

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