Campervan Lighting Ideas For Setting The Right Mood

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Create Space & Mood With Smart Campervan Lighting

When designing and building a campervan interior, campervan lighting design often gets neglected. Throughout our travels, we’ve see lots of campers with general lighting without specific purpose.

And in a small, singular space, such as in a van, it’s easy for general, unspecific lighting to make a campervan interior feel utilitarian, uninspiring, and boring.

But we think that by designing smart lighting solutions into your camper interior design layout, you can create beautiful, useful, and cozy nooks in your single, general campervan space. This article will discuss how you can accomplish just that.

Want to build a camper van? Check out our
DIY Camper Van Build Guide

Campervan Lighting Design - Read Lights In Bed
Lights For Reading At Night
Campervan Lighting Design - Ceiling Lights Over Living Room
Dining Room Lights When Eating

Why Lighting In A Campervan Is Crucial

“Wait, now I have to also think about campervan lighting?”

We think so!

Smart lighting choices and placement create a pleasant and comfortable atmosphere in your home. The effect that lighting has on interior design is so important that there are actually designers that specialize in ‘lighting science’.

Lighting is so ubiquitous and ordinary in our lives that we don’t really realize how lighting affects our day-to-day activities and mood. And in a small campervan interior space, the impact of good (or bad!) lighting is amplified.

Van Interior = No Physical Separation Of Rooms

Unless you’re driving around in a huge Class A motorhome or towing a sizable trailer, the interior of your campervan will likely be a single room that encompasses all your activities. These activities include:

  • Cooking
  • Eating
  • Sleeping
  • Reading
  • Socializing
  • Or simply just hanging out!

Everything is done in the same room! There are no interior walls to partition this space into a kitchen, a living/dining room, or a bedroom.

However, With Smart Campervan Lighting...

But purposefully placed lights can help create a visual partition of the space without the use of physical wall barriers that are more common in normal households.

Smart campervan lighting can also help quickly change the mood and atmosphere of a campervan’s interior from active, to calm and relaxing, to fun & social. Being able to manipulate different moods inside a small camper space is invaluable for long van life journeys.

If you’re interested to learn how, keep reading below!

What To Consider Regarding Campervan Lighting

In this post we will focus on three major ideas to think about when planning your campervan lighting scheme.

1. Lighting Layout Inside A Campervan

Van Build Guide - Kitchen
Stunning Camper Van Interior - Sliding Door

Earlier we talked about using lights to help partition a van’s single room into multiple, different-use spaces.

We used 12v Puck Lights, which we installed in our ceiling and upper cabinets, to help partition our campervan’s space and create different moods.

Specifically, we wanted achieve several objectives with our lights.

  1. Separate the front half (kitchen) from the back half (bedroom and living room) of the van
  2. Install “task lighting” that focused on certain areas for specific activities, for example when we cooked in our kitchen or worked in our ‘living room’.

Our first step was to create a digital sketch on our computer of our van’s ceiling. Below is a bottom-up view of our campervan where you can see the placement of our LED puck lights.

Campervan LIghting Design - Bottom Up View
Bottom up view of our campervan

In our sketch above you can see how we planned the placement of our 12 LED puck lights (black circles).

Zone 1: These 2 lights are used to illuminate the front half of the van. This is ‘general lighting’.

Zone 2: These 2 lights are installed under our kitchen upper cabinets and are used specifically when using our kitchen counter for cooking and/or cleaning. This is ‘task lighting’.

Zone 3: These 4 LED lights are used to illuminate the back half of our van. Used for eating, working, and socializing. This is also ‘general lighting’.

Zone 4: These 4 LED lights (2 on each side) are used for more focused activities, like working, reading, or when we simply want to change the mood of the van. These are ‘task lighting’.

Each zone of lights operate on different switches, so we can turn each group of lights on and off independently of the others.

This means, when we are eating in the back half of our van in our dining room, we can turn off the lights in the front half of the van to create a visual partition.

2. Adding Fun Accent Lights!

“Accent lighting” is used mainly to focus on a specific point of interest or to achieve a desired effect.

Just like when designing your campervan interior with accent items, adding an accent light (or two!) is a great way to adjust and enhance the mood of the space. 

In our case, we use two different light sources for our accent lights.

1. LED Reading Lights

Vanlife Gear Essentials - 12v Reading Lights
12V RV Boat LED Reading Lamp

We installed these small, 12v reading lights on both sides of our bed.

Ironically, we don’t use these lights when reading because we don’t think they’re bright enough. But we often use them for soft, indirect light by pointing the lights away and into the corners of our campervan.

We love using these ‘reading’ lights when watching movies on our laptops and just before we go to sleep to calm our mood.

2. String Fairy Lights

Fairy Lights
LED String Lights

We also carry a pack of LED string lights, which we often use when we want to create a more ‘chill & lounge’ atmosphere inside, or even outside,our van.

We love that we can instantly change the mood of our van interior simply by turning off all our ceiling puck lights and plugging in our string lights into a USB outlet. The atmosphere and feel of our interior space changes dramatically.

One very convenient aspect about these string lights is that they don’t require any prior wire installations when building your camper interior. Simply plug them into any existing USB outlet to light them up. When we want to use these fairy lights outside, we bring along our portable battery to provide these lights power.

3. Light Bulb Color Temperature

Just like in a house, the color temperature of the light bulbs has a major effect on the mood of a campervan’s interior. Here is a basic list of the main options of light bulb color temperature and their specific purposes.

Bright White

Blue-ish white tone color. Less cozy feeling and is used to keep your brain active and focused. Suitable for work spaces and schools.


Warm White

Yellow white that is suitable for kitchens or bathrooms that involve chores and activity. More appropriate for a home than in a professional setting.

Warm-White Kitchen

Soft White

Warm yellow tone. Suitable for bedroom or lounge that provides a cozy and relax feeling.

Soft-White Bedroom

In our cases, we chose warm white lights since most of our activities in our campervan are house chore and lounging instead of working. Warm white bulbs are too bright in the evenings when we’re in bed, so we installed our reading light ‘accent lights’ to provide that soft white light  just before we sleep.

Another way to provide that soft white light is to install dimmable lights so that you can adjust the intensity of the light throughout the day.

Read More: How To Create A Color Scheme For Your Van Interior

Final Thoughts : Choosing The Correct Campervan Lighting For Your Van Life

When choosing the best campervan lighting for your interior, it’s important to think about purpose, colors, and layout. 

It’s important to know your lifestyle. You can start studying your activities at home. What kind of lights do you have in your bed room or living room? Then you can start planning about what kind of activities would you do in your van? Where do you stand, sit, read, or work? Listing all these questions lead to the best campervan lighting fits your needs.

Learn More About Campervan Interior Design: Campervan Interior Design Guide

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