Phase 7.2: Multifunctional Ottoman

We had always planned to have an Ottoman for use with the couch as well as the swivel seat.  After getting comfortable in the van during the build and testing it out we realized that building the ottoman was the missing piece.  We also needed the ottoman for laundry, coconut coir, and other random things.   

The ottoman was a quick and easy build, that was almost made with all scrap.  I measured the height of the couch and built a frame out using 1x1’s.  I used the beaded masonite that we used for the kitchen countertop siding.  The cushion was made from the remainder of the couch cushion.  The cactus fabric was sewed by Dani and was left over from the couch.  We put short office type carpet on the base so it could slide easier and not scratch the flooring.  We pin nailed all the siding to the frame and used caulking to clean up the edges, we could have used siding to clean it up but we were ok with the caulking.  

This was a very straight forward build and didn't take much time.  It is a mandatory piece for our van.  It is very multifunctional piece all in all it’s storage, laundry, an ottoman, a step for the bed, an extra seat, and the cushion doubles as a bed extension.  

Phase 6.1: Seating and Storage

With our past vans, we have learned that it’s basically mandatory to have a nice conformable are to sit down and relax.  We had a bed that folded into a couch in our Australian van, Damon.  We had comfortable  swivel back seats in our New Zealand rig, Cruz.  Now, in our largest rig, Kiki Fubu, we needed a legit couch for chillin. Some people can’t start their day without coffee well, Dani can’t start her day unless the bed is made. So having to “break down” or “set up” the bed isn’t seen as a chore to us. We would rather the living space to cook, edit, eat, or stretch, than have a stationary all the time bed.  

We knew going into the couch build that it was going to have some sort of underneath storage, house our battery bank and all our electrical components, as well as,  housing the inverter that sticks out with 110v outlets at the bottom of the couch.  As you saw in the beginning of the video, we had to move the solar controller and battery bank around quite a bit to accommodate the storage for them to get them out of sight, without taking up too much space, and keeping them readily accessible. 

One half the couch seat will open like a chest and have tons of storage.  The other half would have a removable top to easily access the batteries and add or fix anything we need no sweat.  The back of the couch will have a flip down storage on one side, and a door that swings open offering easy access to the electrical panel and solar controller.  Now, with it all planned out it was time to frame the couch out.  

We used 2x3’s to frame out the couch and anchored them all to the van with heavy duty L brackets. The couch frame is also anchored into the bedframe, as well as, the countertop. So it is tied in very nicely.  We used bed slats for the top and tried to add a pull out chaise lounge type effect, but still have yet to figure out how to make this work.  The idea was to combine the ottoman we will built, with the pull out chase lounge to have a small bed if we had a guest. This is still in BETA but will be figured out as we go.  

We had an old foam IKEA mattress that I used to use for ski bumming around Canada.  Dani cut it to size, sewed the fabric together, and added zippers to everything. So that way, we can remove it and wash it down the road.  She also sewed a few throw cushions to go with it.  Being from the desert, we chose a fitting cactus pattern for the couch and it looks amazing.    

Dani also was able to make a nice little wood mosaic with the scrap wood from the roof.  I’m really lucky to have such a crafty sidekick to make the van look amazing.  With the addition of the pull out table that comes out from the kitchen countertop (See Video), the couch is easily the most functional sitting arrangement we’ve ever had. Whether it be in a house or a van, it serves so many purposes. All those possible functions and purposes are what you need to consider for every single part of building your home on wheels. 

Phase 5.3: Bed and Bike Garage

Since we just recently upgraded our mountain bikes, we weren’t leaving them behind and we really didn’t want them to be outside of the van 24/7, susceptible to rain, theft, and more back up hazard than a van with no windows already is. So, we kind of build the van around the bikes being inside, but taking up as little room as possible. Our layout changed many times before we started building (It changed as we were building sometimes). 

We finally were able to start building, with excitement, when we finally tried the bikes going in sideways, where the fork is on the passenger side and the back tire is on the driver side. They fit and they took up so little space too, compared to putting them in length wise! We had to have an area to sit, work, edit, nap and eat. Those are some functional requirements we had for the non-garage area. The bike storage usually competed space-wise with the living/hangout area. 

But, with this new configuration that we figured out, with the bikes sideways, it allowed both to happen—bike storage and room for the seating area we needed. 

So, we got to working on the bike tray for the bikes. We wanted them to pull out for easy access and stow-away. We used some heavy duty 30” drawer slides that we found on Amazon.  We reused the grey rubber floor mat that came with the van in the garage. We cut it out, rolled it out, framed right over it. We started our framing for the garage area where the drawer would slide in and out and built around that. Once we got the frame for the drawer all laid out, we were able to mount the drawer sliders, on each side, to that newly installed frame and get a true measurement of how big the drawer needed to be.

Then, we started building the drawer. We framed it out from our measurements of the drawer frame. We used some thick ply OSB for the base of the bike tray. (We used OSB because we got at Lowe’s for 50% off. It had one crushed corner. 50% off meant it was $8 for a 4x8 board! So we found many ways to make it useful.) 

Once we had the drawer built and stained, we reused some more of that white waterproof textured fiberglass panelling (the previous owner used this instead of the stock cardboard paneling) as our base. That way we could have a little bit of a waterproof base in there for our bikes. We sealed it around the edges with some leak proof sealant my dad had in the garage. He uses it for quick pool piping patches.   

Once the bike tray was in and working, we needed to find a way to mount our bikes to the tray to make sure it would still function, as planned. We couldn’t move forward with the rest of the build, until we made sure it slid in and out smoothly with the bikes mounted. Once that happened, we could get the measurements of the bikes in the tray to know the height of the bedframe being build around it. 

The tray we built was a little short. The fork hung over the drawer bit so we built little platforms to mount our bike mounts on. 

We have one thru-axel bike fork and one regular.  For the thru-axel bike we ended up buying  this one. For the other bike, we got a 6” 5/8 carriage bolt, some eye hooks (2 different sizes), washers, lock washers handmade our own mount. Kevin called it the “bride of Frankenstein” (because we had made his Thru-Axel mount first, out of plumbing nipple and some other mounting pieces for pluming, and he thought that was Frankenstein-esque.) We ended up just buying the real deal for Kevins bike (even tho our worked fine we just thought it would eliminate the side to side swaying while driving—it doesn’t do any better).

Phase 3.3: Slider Door Shoe Storage

This was a shot in the dark. I had seen this mostly on aftermarket van conversion company builds. And I had seen a couple on some DIY builds around on the internet and I loved the idea of making that a muddy shoe storage area to utilize that space, especially because our Sink was going to be sitting over some of it anyway. But, I had found no how to’s, no Youtube videos anywhere! 

So, I hope this helps you out in brainstorming a way to make the Slider step your shoe storage!

First, my go to—stenciling the step out on cardboard. I used a stencil here because seeing it 3D always helps for me. I cut my stencil out on some left over plywood we used on The Attic.  I wanted the plywood to sit flush with the floor. That way we could lay our flooring over our addition and hopefully it would look build-in.

Luckily, at both ends of the step, where it comes to a corner, the corner piece sticks out a bit so it can act as a perfect support for the plywood. I didn’t want to make the step go all the way across towards the front cab because it becomes a huge step for anybody to clear. So, I left enough room to still have a comfortable step up area into the van. 

Once the top piece was cut out of stencil, I measured and cut out the bottom piece. It is slightly shorter because the contouring of the step. I measured the shoe box dividers that would also act as support. Then, cut those out. 

Now that I had my anchor and support point on that fortuitous lip on the corner, I had to figure out where and how I was going to give the storage top support for the rest of the box, but also keep the flooring flush with it. 

I used some 4-5” flat metal braces with 6 holes. These live in the Structural Hardware area of Lowe’s, where the joists are. I don’t know what they are called, but I had walked passed them many times in Lowe’s noting their existence and useful possibilities. Their time had come. 

I slid them in-between the subfloor so they would hang out enough to hold my shoe box top up, from underneath to sit flush with the floor and support weight if someone used it as a step up. It looked like it was going to work perfectly if I countersunk and used small nuts and bolts. So I pulled them out and placed them on top, marking the holes to pre-drill.  When the holes were pre-drilled into the sub-floor, I slid the braces underneath my pre-drilled holes and moved them around until they lined up. Then, I marked and pre-drilled them onto the box top. I installed just the top. It was pretty sturdy already!


Once the box top was floating in place, I placed the bottom piece down. Then, I slid my dividers in where they were going to go and I marked the holes for these corner braces on each side of the divider. 

Once I had all my holes marked, I removed the floating shelf so that I could drill the holes for the nuts to hold those corner braces up against the top and still sit down into the wood, again to sit flush with the flooring. Once I had the box top and dividers connected, I went back and pseudo-installed so it was floating again, without a base, but with dividers this time. I slid the bottom piece in place and marked where the dividers would land on the bottom piece. 

I had a piece of angle aluminum left over from The Attic Build lying around so I tried to see if that would work, instead of more corner braces. The upper corner braces were fine because you couldn’t see them, but I wanted it to look nice and finished inside on the places you could see. I liked the way that it looked and it was functional. So, I went to Lowe’s and grabbed another Aluminum angle. I also grabbed some Aluminum channel to fit over the divider fronts to finish it an make it look nice. I measured giving it enough space in the front to allow that new channel I picked up to fit on divider and not bump into the brace. The design is to brace them on each side with the angle aluminum. So I marked off where they would sit.  I pre-drilled holes in the aluminum angles being careful to keep them consistent so that a machine screw can slide thru one side, the wood divider and out the other side to be fastened with a nut on the other side. 

I took the whole thing off again. So that I could get the freshly cut aluminum angles in place to mark off a pre-drill on my dividers. I marked off the corner first. I made sure it was a right angle and actually put one machine screw and nut thru it just so to make sure to get the others lining up correctly. I marked off all their corresponding holes from their aluminum angles and took the screw and nut out. I installed the angles to the bottom, with out the top on. I used the same gauge plywood as a little spacer as I did this. 

Once the angles were all installed to the base, I was able to just slide the dividers into place and then secure them with machine screws and bolts. I slid the finished box into the braces in the van and secured it down with machine screws and bolts.

Probably no the best time to stain, but I really was making this box as a prototype while Kevin was out of town (that's also why there is a lack of building pictures, sorry), but it ended up working perfectly and taking forever so I didn’t want to make another one. So, I stained it a really dark color, while it was installed, to kinda blend with the dark step. It really muted that loud just-built plywood-look. 

I re-used some more of the rubber floor matting that came with the van to put on the bottom of the box to protect them and make it easy to clean. 

Then, I measured and cut the channeling and glued it on with Gorilla Glue (kinda of a messy cure… I would use something else. I just did it to avoid screwing into the aluminum finish).

Phase 3.1 : Sprinter Overcab Storage Addition - The Attic

We call this: The Attic

YouTube Inspiration:

We had narrowed down the overcab remodel to two ideas that we liked from our YouTube brainstorming adventure.

  • The first Youtube idea was simple, cheap and we could move on from this project and have extra storage. We almost went for it. It involved a wire shelf like this one cut to size, with L-Brackets secured where the stock coat hanger screws went, some L-brackets where the visor/“oh shit handle” bolt in, on both sides. The wire shelf is easily removable, secured to the L-brackets with velcro, but it didn’t maximize that space. It utilized it, but didn’t maximize it.

  • Then, Kevin showed me another video on the other end of the spectrum, work and design wise. It would really maximize that space above any idea I have thought of or seen on the interwebs. We knew that it was a serious remodel and if we didn’t maximize this space (in this way), now, early… this stupid last minute idea we just found would haunt us forever. So, we took on this three day project.

Here’s our version of the Attic re-model:

First, we taped a line across from the left side around to the right side, trying to stay as straight as possible above the visor upper storage (we liked that and wanted to keep it). When we were happy with that line, we sharpie’d a line on there. 

Then, we took off grey plastic sheathing that was holding the overhead piece up. First, you pull off the coat hangers to expose the screw underneath. Unscrew those. Then, unscrew the plastic visor piece and keep unscrewing till you get the whole piece off. Once you have that off, the over head piece should just lift out of place. Then, jigsaw that Sharpie line top off the cab. We also cut out a little box area, above the light, to utilize that dead space there, as well. The cabover wasn’t too difficult to get thru with the jigsaw. It was scary and a commitment once we sharpie’d it. 

Stencils for the paneling

We probably should have used our Reflextix as a stencil for this, but we #90 sprayed it to the Thinsulate and it wasn’t coming off. So, we got to making more stencils of the front area. I cut a paper grocery bag flat and pressed it up against the corner to crease the bag so we could get an idea of the corner cut for the stencil. We transferred that to cardboard and shoved that into place, cut out where it wasn’t lining up, trim here, trim there. Sometimes, we would tape little pieces to the stencil to replace or create weird curvatures and then transfer that to another piece of cardboard. 


Because we didn’t want to have a rivet look and had no idea where we were going to anchor in some screws, without taping into some metal and going thru to the outside—yikes. So, Kevin used a little skate ramp knowledge to the build. He suggested that we cut and experiment with the free plywood that we found in the scrap bin at Lowe's (Yes, this is a real thing! And it is awesome!) 

Our plan was to bend them to contour to the van. We puddled some water on the boards and spread it out over the area we were wanting to bend. Then, we straddled them across our work horses. We placed our AGM batteries and weights on the center to make them bow over night. We left them for about 30 hours. 

Stoked on the new curves, we chucked them in the van, even tho they weren’t cut to size. Just to make sure the curve fit the van. It was perfect so, we immediately threw our stencil on them and jigsaw’d it out. When we were checking the curve, we noticed there is place where you can wedge the plywood in between the frame above the windshield. It held the board in place almost without screws. So, we accounted for that when we marked our cut line. There were three panels we cut to fit. On the seams, we ran a rope molding. Once the panelling was finished, we started on the shelf.

Building the Shelf 

We got a 6’ x 3/4” Square Steel and cut it to fit and act as a the support for the shelf. We cut it to size with a hacksaw. Then, we banana peeled each side to create eight places to mount the steel on the frame. That was cut with a hacksaw as well. Not the cleanest, but it feels sturdy with 8 self tappers holding that guy in.

We made heaps of stencils to cut the plywood that would become the shelf above the cabin. Because it is such a weird space, where the front area, right above the windshield, of the shelf is bigger than the back area. So one piece of wood wouldn’t work. We watched the guy say it in the video and we tried it anyway. So we had to cut the shelf into two pieces so it would fit snuggly. 

To support the cut down the center of the shelf, we got a 3’x3/4” Flat Aluminum steel and bent it to be able to add support down the middle but also to cover up that seam in the plywood. 

We were going to cover the plywood in some of this like our Camparu (Subaru Build out) but, last minute, I thought I’d rather re-use some cool old rug or free fabric, if I could find something that fit. I used a blanket we keep in the car for picnics. And luckily our aluminum flat iron happened to line up with the grey line in the fabric. Yay! We screwed the plywood into the Aluminum and cut out some of the old rubber flooring to cover the plywood for shelf protection and easy cleaning.  

Next, we hung out in the plumbing area of Lowe’s for a good 45 minutes messing with all the fittings until we had some sort of railing made out of copper to finish the project off. 

If we had to do this project again, we totally would. It was struggle street for a bit. But, there is so much more room for hiking back packs, tents, whatever up there!