“What Do A Bed, Desk And Picture Frame Have In Common?”


Choice of a comfortable bed and a subtle integration of a workspace, are probably some of the most important features of this van conversion.

As the start of the van conversion comes closer, I have begun buying some materials, as you can read in Why I Order Chinese And Get It Delivered and started making some final design decisions. The first modifications of the van will entail the basics, such as electronics (usb, cameras & sensors), floor installation, ceiling & floor vents and cabin curtain. These are all relatively quick and easy to install and lay the foundation for the rest of the conversion.

Color and Design

formica -samplesToday I got into the details of the sleeping arrangements. After completing the ventilation, the floor and the privacy mods, the first real woodworking project, I wanted to initiate was the proposed Murphy bed, just as a way to optimize the building process.
I foresee a slow transformation of the van over probably a two year period, mainly due to the documenting I will do for the website. That doesn’t mean, that I won’t be able to use the van for its purpose. I will start making short day trips immediately and as the conversion progresses, expand into longer endeavors. In the beginning some overnight trips mostly within a 100-200 miles and slowly taking on longer travels.
I still have the porto-potti from my current van and the only real item needed for now is a bed to sleep in. A mattress would be sufficient, but why not take on the Murphy bed first? It will be located directly behind the driver and I can add on to that until the conversion is completed.

So this morning I dove into my treasure box, full of design ideas, because I have to start with a general vision for the design, colors and materials (see How I Design My RV Layout).

design-1The theme for this design is modern and bright; white will be the dominating color, as it is in many modern plans. Ideal to make a small space look like its much bigger, but I have to avoid its coldness and use contrasting colors to create a warm feeling.
I have always liked the red/white color combination, as shown in this image. But it is a bit dated and by checking the current fashion colors, I found the bright greens, blues and purples, that are popular today.
Being far from adventurous, this time is the moment to shine and a purple/white combination with some added dark-grays, would make it a challenging project.


designdesignColor intensity, application and diversity are all factors to think about, when developing a color scheme.
It’s easy to change a boring, cool and sterile room (left) into a vibrant and warm living space (right), simply by changing the amount, intensity and composition of the colors in your color scheme. Application of different materials, could further refine your design.

stoolWith mostly colored cabinet doors and predominantly white counters and walls, a brightly colored chair or stool may bind it all together. It’s probably not suitable for most of you, and I still might come to regret it.

designBack to the Murphy bed, a complete white finish is undesirable and the solution that I found, was a stripped pattern, in purple, like the image on the right. These are all general ideas, and in this case I would use wider white stripes and narrower purple stripes.

With my woodworking experience, I always tend to use natural hardwoods, enhanced with a variety of finishes. Cherry, walnut and mahogany are some of my favorites. In this project, however, I am choosing for a modern, easy to maintain material: Formica! Somewhat heavy, but sturdy and in glossy and flat finishes. Easy to work with and it comes in a variety of colors, including purple, white and dark-gray.

Integrated Desk

murpy bedIn a multi-purpose environment, a built-in desk makes the ultimate accessory, but looking at the options, there are alternatives. I am installing a twin-sized bed, but the van would also support the larger queen-size and you could replace the desk with a simple sofa (left).

foldup deskMy preference is the desk, which evolved from a simple fold-down desk into a full-featured desk, that could display a picture when folded or serve as a workspace during the day and as a dining table when needed.
Giving the picture frame a dark-gray color, would make it stand out from the white/purple background.

foldup desk


Build the perfect conversion

Creative ideas & new skills. Free Van Conversion guides, hands-on projects and videos, delivered straight to your inbox.


  1. I own a 350 high roof, extended length transit and I am inspired by your articles. I want to thank you for taking so much time to explain your ideas. I have had the same thoughts on space saving furniture and will probable go with a full size bed but can’t decide on a location. I look forward to your design on the murphy bed and it’s location. My Transit stays parked in the driveway most of the time also as I work on sound deadening the walls. I have no windows and have only done the two walls excluding the doors and have already used 10 rolls of a material I purchase from Lowes called peel and seal. I won’t be able to go further on this part until I have the solar panels on the roof, the peel and seal would be a hindrance until they are in position. I will go with flexible panels and raise them off the roof so as not to cause a heat issue in the direct sun. I have saved for this vehicle for years and want it all to happen right now but age has taught me to be patient. I will mount my fantastic fans next and work on the location for the floor vents. I will use the round home attic soffit vents, they are easy to install and are lightweight with screen already installed. Covering them in bad or cold weather will be easy and I can find many spaces for them.

    1. Thanks Jim, for the compliments and good luck with your conversion!

      I’d like to take the opportunity to express my thoughts about your remarks. First, while we have basically the same vans, the implementation will be quite different. Your high roof versus my medium roof, will allow for less restrictions on floor and ceiling materials (especially amounts of insulation) without limiting standing height. Even more important, it makes a ‘full-size’ bathroom feasible, while your extended length supplies the needed floorspace, that I’m lacking.

      “full size bed but can’t decide on a location.”
      I am currently working on the details of my Murphy bed as it will be one of the larger projects, that I will start soon. There are several reasons to place the bed immediately behind the drivers seat. Using it as a multi-use application (with the built-in desk), it has to remain in the living area of the van. Part of that same area is the (future swivel) passenger seat; which limits it to the front of the van. In addition, I always envisioned waking up at an idyllic campsite, with the sliding door open, enjoying a precious view from my bed. It may not be practical, yet I can still dream.

      “sound deadening the walls”
      Personally, I’m not really bothered much by the noise of the moving van and as such, probably will apply few specific noise reducing materials (except the wheel wells). This van is much more quiet than my previous Dodge B-250, the thermal insulation has also some noise insulating properties and only 5% of my time will be spent on driving.
      These products, like the one you’re using, only limit one type of sound transmission and, as far as I know, only need to be applied to about 25% of the surface.

      “flexible [solar] panels and raise them off the roof”
      You cited one of the more important issues with regard to those flexible solar panels: reduced performance caused by heat accumulation. I’m not an expert in solar technology, but I always try to find the relevance of such information. From what I have researched, we’re talking about approx. 10% performance reduction when these panels are directly attached to the roof.
      That is in itself fairly much and a good solution is required. One way is raising the panels off the roof of the van/RV allowing for air underneath to cool the panels. This however increases cost & weight and makes the van less aerodynamic. It’s perhaps simpler and cheaper to add one extra panel, either to the roof or as a ‘mobile’ panel that has the additional benefit of reaching more sun when parked in a shady campsite.

      “age has taught me to be patient”
      I always like to say, that it is about the journey, not the destination!

      “location for the floor vents”
      These floor vents is something I will have to address soon as well. I found an ideal access point immediately behind and under the A pillar at the drivers side. This requires access through the floor inside the sidewall but allows for a built-in vent at the front of the van and redirection of some air to the fridge, located at the left wheel well.
      If you have a roof vent at the front of the cargo area, you can use the ‘already built-in’ solution at the two rear pillars (at the rear doors). At these pillars and underneath the van, you can have access to fresh air by removing one of these plastic covers. The air can be guided to the interior through existing openings without much effort.

      Enjoy the work on your conversion and keep in touch!
      Van Williams

  2. I’m interested in how your Murphy bed comes out…I found a place in Hollywood north of Ft Lauderdale Florida that specializes in Murphy beds…you may know of them.

    I have seen a van build done with a somewhat of a Murphy bed where the bed is just a platform and is held in place with four straps going up to rings on the wall. Something like what a rock climber does when they camp a wall in a long multi-day climb. The advantage of that design is that no matter how unleveled the van is parked the straps can be adjusted to make the bed level. This guy was an expediter and need to have the cargo space and then sometimes put the bed above the cargo.
    Good luck and can’t wait to see more videos and pics…Cheers..TL

    1. Thanks for your interest!
      My choice of a Murphy bed is largely based on the space savings, that it offers. Though primarily used as a one-person RV, vans are inherently small and optimizing its use, is always at the forefront.
      Murphy beds come in all sizes and configurations as you can see on my Pinterest page. I choose my own design, so I could fully integrate it into the layout of the van. The type of bed, you choose, should fit your own lifestyle.
      I recently started work on the bed, but that starts with the window behind it. Today I’m working on the window frame and will follow up with the wall covering. Only then, I will turn to the bed itself.
      Stay in contact and let me know your thoughts on the project.

      Van Williams

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *