Design An Intentional Van Layout
If you’re reading this, chances are you don’t simply want to throw a futon in your van and call it a day. You want to design a camper van layout that’s functional, convenient, AND comfortable!
After all, your van will become your ‘home’.
It’s where you sleep, cook, socialize, & hang out. In fact, the majority of your day will be spent in and/or around your van.
That’s why we believe taking the time to plan your van’s floor plan in a strategic way is so important. The quality of your camper’s layout can really make or break your van life experience.
On this page, we discuss many of the points to think about when designing your own van conversion layout. We will also go over what we love and regret for our own van floor plan design.
Not what you need? Check out our complete “DIY Van Conversion Guide” for more content. (50+ detailed articles.)
Van Layout Inspiration Tips
Getting layout ideas from social media is a great first step to creating your own camper’s floor plan. From YouTube, to Pinterest, to blogs (like ours!), there are so many resources out there to help get you started.
The more van interiors you looks at, the better idea you’ll get for what you want in your own van.
1.1 - Online Blogs & YouTube
Below are several examples of stunning camper van interiors you can look at for layout inspiration.
As you watch all these different van interiors, make notes about what you like. Specifically, look for the following:
By the end of all your research, you should have a comfortable knowledge of what you want (& don’t want) and what you like (& dislike). Once you do, you’re ready to start Step 2!
1.2 - Love & Regret Posts
Haven’t selected your vehicle yet? Check out our “Choosing A Camper Van” page for more great content.
For many camper vans, the bed area consumes most of the interior space. And how you design your sleeping area often affects the rest of van’s layout design.
Though there are many ways to build a bed in a camper van, there are two large categories of van beds.
2.1 - Fixed Platform Bed
This type of bed is permanent; it cannot be changed or moved. Usually located in the back of the camper van.
2.2 - Convertible Bed / Dinette
As the name suggests, these beds can convert into a social/dining area during the day.
In fact, we are huge believers in the convertible bed & dinette option. This is especially true if you have a smaller camper van (i.e <20ft). Check out why we think convertible beds are the best for van life.
When designing your kitchen layout, here are some factors to consider.
3.1 - Kitchen Counter Height
When designing the kitchen counter, choose an appropriate height that matches your own height. You don’t want a counter that’s uncomfortable to cook on because it’s too short or tall.
To find an appropriate height, it can help to raise your arms at a 90-degree angle and measure the distance of your hands to the ground.
But if you’re traveling with a partner, you may have to compromise!
3.2 - Counter Top Space
How much counter top real estate do you want/need?
The larger the surface area, the more room there is for cooking and placing your every day things on.
And for us, maximizing counter top space was a priority. Combined, we have ~8ft of counter top length.
You can see how we designed our kitchen counters to maximize their space in our digital layout in part 9.
3.3 - Cook Top Options
Will you be using a built-in propane cook top, like this two-burner stove? If yes, you’ll need to factor the dimensions of the stove into your counter top.
Related read: Why an induction stove isn’t realistic for van life
3.4 - Sink Dimensions
If you will have a sink, you’ll need to factor in its dimensions (width, depth, AND height) into your kitchen counter build.
Top tip: Don’t get a small sink. Get a sink that has a comfortable volume to make dish cleaning easy and less of a hassle.
Warning, shameless plug. We love our camper van sink. Not only is it a good size for washing, but it also comes with a drying rack, cutting board, and a handy wire grid so that your dishes don’t sit in scummy water.
Related read: Why we love our camper van sink
There are 5 common ways to store your stuff in a camper van. We go over each option below.
4.1 - Under The Bed / Benches
For many, the area under the bed & benches provides the majority of a camper’s storage space. This is a great region for storing large/bulky items like:
Related read: How we built our convertible bed with storage.
4.2 - Overhead Cabinets
Building upper cabinets is also a great way to boost storage capacity. Just make sure that what you store in these cabinets are relatively lightweight. This is a great region for storing:
Related read: How to build overhead cabinets
4.3 - Kitchen Counter Cabinets
This is a great area for storing most of your kitchen utensils, cookware, and more. Specifically, this region is great for storing:
Related read: How to build kitchen cabinets
4.4 - Over Cab Storage
Don’t forget the area above the cab as a potential place to store your belongings. The stock van shelf isn’t very space efficient, but you can find tutorials online to teach you how to convert this area to a highly efficient storage space.
This is a great space for:
Youtube tutorial: How to build over cab storage
Toilets for camper vans come in all different shapes, sizes, and costs. We review several of the most common toilets being used in the camper van community today.
5.1 - Chemical Toilets
These stand alone chemical toilets can be easily removed, dumped, and cleaned. No plumbing necessary.
Liquid chemicals are put into the removable tank to reduce odors, and as a result, these “black water” tanks must be emptied in a certified dump station or toilet.
5.2 - Compost Toilets
Compost toilets separate the liquid from the solid waste. The solid waste is mixed in with organic fiber to create a compost, which can simply be bagged and thrown away when full.
People who have compost toilets love them and can DIY versions can be made. Professionally made compost toilets can run almost $1,000.
5.3 - Foldable Toilet with Bag
As simple as a toilet gets. This foldable toilet can fold out into a basic toilet and you can attach a plastic bag underneath to catch the waste. Space efficient and easy.
The best part is that this toilet folds down to the size of a briefcase when not used.
5.4 - Bottle & Trowel Combo
The most space efficient option. A wide-mouthed bottle (for #1) and a sturdy trowel (for #2) has served us well during our 3 years on the road.
We never once missed having a toilet and we think you won’t either.
Related Article: Why We Don’t Travel With A Toilet!
While having a shower system in a van isn’t required for most van lifers, many vans are outfitted with some sort of shower. Below are several common shower solutions.
6.1 - Indoor Shower Stall
Showering inside your vehicle is the ‘crème de la crème’ of van life shower options. For most, this involves installing an indoor shower stall.
If you choose this route, just be aware of the following considerations:
6.2 - Outdoor Shower
We prefer outdoor showers for their space efficiency. Outdoor showers come in several different types and capabilities. They include:
For more, check out our post on how to DIY an outdoor shower plumbing system.
Ceiling & Roof
When we think of a camper van layout, we usually just think of the vehicle’s floor plan. The layouts also include your ceiling space! Below, we take a look at several common items to consider for your van’s ceiling and roof.
7.1 - Ventilation Fan
Take it from us, a vent fan is a necessity! While most vans only put in one fan, some install two for additional air flow.
There are two common locations to install a fan:
7.2 - Interior Lights
Thinking strategically about the placement of your ceiling lights really helps to make your van feel like a real home.
We recommend getting these 12v LED puck lights. They’re energy efficient, easy to install, and provide warm-toned light.
In our picture here, we separated our lights into 5 groups:
For more, check out our camper van lighting guide.
7.3 - Solar Panel Placement
Will you install your panels lengthwise or horizontally? How many panels can you fit on your roof?
To answer these questions, you’ll need to know the dimensions of the panels you want and your roof’s dimensions.
We chose two 180-watt panels since, when installed lengthwise, they fit our Ford Transit roof with little wasted space.
For more on our ceiling, read how to install a beautiful cedar plank ceiling.
No matter your opinions on whether stealth camper vans are worth it, installing a window or two drastically improves air circulation, increases natural light, and raises internal livability.
Below are several issues to consider regarding windows and camper vans.
8.1 - Window Location
There are multiple places to install custom windows. This includes:
Considerations for window location can include where in the van your bed, kitchen, and work station will be located.
8.2 - Window Size
Once you’ve picked out your location, deciding on the size and dimensions of your windows is the next step.
Motion Windows has a great selection of OEM windows for campers that come in different shapes and sizes.
We purchased two small ‘half-sliders’ from Motion Windows and installed the windows in the rear half of our van.
Bulky & Special Items
Because interior space in a camper van is so limited, it’s important to make sure that your larger items are able to fit in their intended location.
These ‘bulky’ items can include:
So it’s helpful to know the dimensions of all your bulky items and to size your furniture appropriately to fit them.
It would be a massive mistake to finish your bed construction only to find out your water tanks don’t fit!
In part 8, below, we show you how you can incorporate your large/bulky items into your digital camper van layout.
Create A Digital Layout
We’ve seen several fancy camper van layout software pop up these past few years. But honestly, we don’t think you need them.
We have no 3D modeling experience and we did just fine.
All you need to draw your own digital van layout is:
- Any drawing software – This can be an ancient version of Adobe Illustrator or free software, like Microsoft Paint or Apple Pages.
- Precise LxWxD measurements of your camper van
Yes, you can create the same layout as the diagram above. With the right tools you, too, can create a correctly scaled and accurate van layout & floor plan design.
How did we do it? Read our camper van floor plan creator.
Our Layout: What We Love
In this section we share, after 2+ years living and traveling in our camper van, what we love about our van’s layout.
1. Having A Social Space
Our dedicated space for dining, hanging out, and socializing is perfect for us. Though it’s not often, we love hosting people over in our campervan for dinner and board games. Below we managed to fit a record SIX people around our dinner table.
2. Having Large Kitchen Counters
Before van life, we didn’t think we would be placing so many things on our counters. But now that we’ve been living in our van for some time, we’ve come to appreciate having an overabundance of counter space.
Learn More: Campervan Kitchen Essentials
3. No Bathroom Space = No Problems!
We thought briefly if we wanted to build a shower/toilet room in our van, but quickly decided against it because of the space it would require.
We’re so glad we didn’t design a dedicated bathroom space into our campervan’s floor plan. Being without a toilet isn’t as difficult as it might seem at first and we rarely find ourselves in a bad bathroom situation.
Learn More: Do You Need A Campervan Toilet? We Don’t!
Final Thoughts: It Pays Off To Plan Ahead!
We hope some of the ideas we discussed in this post help you on your van layout design journey. There’s so much to think about and plan for, but we thoroughly enjoyed this planning and designing process.
Take your time and write out the aspects of van life that are important for you. If you do your homework, we think you’ll come away with your very own amazing van layout and build!
Go Back: DIY Campervan Build Guide