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How to build a bed frame and cabinets in your camper van

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We explain what to consider when building your bed frame and cabinets in your camper van conversion.

After finishing our paneling it was time to tackle the bed frame and cabinets. We opted to make our bed frame really sturdy so build it by hand out of timber then CAD up the kitchen unit and cabinets and CNCed them out of 12mm birch plywood.

We started by totally emptying the van and used masking tape to mark on the floor where our bed, kitchen unit and cabinets would come out to so we could get a better feel for the measurements. This allowed us to make a few adjustments, particularly to the cabinets as we realized we didn’t need to make them as deep as first thought – we ended up with 450mm rather than the kitchen standard of 550mm.

We then measured, and re-measured everything to make sure our dimensions were exact then got onto the build.

Building your bed frame in your campervan

One of the main considerations was to have a full-size King bed which is over 6” so the bed frame needed to go length-ways.

And as we’ll be taking Kringla folding bikes with us, we could have a lower bed frame which means you have more living space above the bed and can take a thicker mattress for more comfort.

We modeled the basic bed frame in CAD then built it out of timber and used Ikea bed slats.

To see how we constructed it, see the Vanlifer illustration.

Building the kitchen unit and cabinets in the camper van conversion

The kitchen

We spent a lot of time working out the optimum height for the kitchen so it wasn’t too low but also made good use of our window. We strongly recommend taking the time to really think this through as this will be an important aspect of your campervan that will really irk you if you get it wrong.

We also knew we were using our Dometic Smev 9722 cook-top from Camper Interiors as they’re brilliantly compact and are designed for campers [HYPERLINK] and we wanted a decent workspace next to it, so again took all this into consideration when CADing it up. Again, these little details will make all the difference when you actually make your campervan your home.

After CNCing all the parts out of 12mm ply, we sanded, oiled with OSMO oil, sanded then oiled again. It was then relatively straightforward putting the parts together and because they were CADed and fit perfectly into the van. We could also design snug holders for our water tanks, wastewater tank and gas bottle.

Once the frame was build, we cut and routed down the laminated 25mm plywood worktop that Plykea generously gifted us. This ply is a great kitchenette option as it’s hardwearing and is just like a regular kitchen. We finished the edges with a 45 degree router bit and dropped the Camper Interior Dometic Smev cook-top in and secured it altogether.

The drawers

Once finished, we could fit the drawers. We opted to use push to open drawer runners so they stay shut on the road. They’re rated at 45kg and are an easy buy from Amazon.

For the under-bed drawers, we used 80kg rated ball bearing drawer runners, also from Amazon.

The cabinets

We followed a similar process for the overhead cabinets. Again, as we CAD and CNCed them, we were able to make sure they fit the curve of the van. And because we put the timber beam in behind the panels, we could secure the cabinets to them to make them extra sturdy.

Once this was all done, we could then fit the cabinet and drawer fronts to finish them.

Key considerations for building your bed frame and cabinets in your camper van

  • How tall are you and what’s comfortable to sleep in? If you’re shorter than 170cm, you might be able to get away with a width-ways bed, otherwise you might feel a little crammed which will impact your comfort and sleep.
  • Think about what’s comfortable for you prepare food – build this consideration into your kitchen unit.
  • What will you keep in your overhead cabinets? The deeper you make them, the more they’ll eat into your living space.
  • How will your mattress stay put? Building a lip into the front of the bed frame will save you headaches later.
  • How will your cabinets stay closed? Design your drawer runners into your frame.
  • Where will your water, waste and gas go?
  • What cook-top will you use?
  • Where will you charge your electronics? Where will your light switches go? We used the Vanlifer control panel as it combines it all into one unit.
  • Remember campervans can get damaged and worn so don’t epoxy everything together and build maintenance into your design.
  • Design in larger appliances. We have a Waeco compressor fridge so designed a box which doubled as a bench seat. CNCing the furniture meant we could also cut a vent for it and added the luxury of a wine bottle holder.

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