Recommendations for design

I am having trouble deciding what design to have inside my van. I have gone through in my head and some on paper designs but I am unsure.

My van is a 2003 Mercedes SWB. It has sliding doors on both right and left side so I don’t have a full wall. This is my main complication although I could blocks one door (which is not a problem). The main things are storage, somewhere to sit with a table and a kitchen area.

I would really appreciate any recommendations you have.


Greetings & Welcome!

What a cute van!

I would start by removing that bulkhead, and replacing the original bench seat with super comfortable swivel, reclining bucket seats. These can provide seating, and with a table, it’s also a dining/work area. If it has the rubber floor mats, scrap those and convert it to carpet with appropriate padding, so it’s not trapping moisture underneath causing your floors to rot out.

Next I would add rain guards to your front windows and create your ventilation system. You DO NOT want roof vents, or to put holes in your roof for any reason. I would build a mailbox ventilator that attaches to the inside of a cracked passenger window, and blows air backwards into the cabin, then exits out a cracked drivers side window. (I can provide directions for these if needed.)

Yoga/puzzle type rubber mats glued to the wall side of the interior paneling/ceiling you’ll be installing, preserving the air space & air flow to the outside skin to prevent moisture build up. Thick felt type carpet mat, and carpeting for the floor and wheel wells. (This wicks the moisture away from the metal floor and to the interior where it can be evaporated out.) Add a washable throw rug on top.

For the cabin, the VW Vanagon Westy designs are hard to beat. Just add your toilet/shower, house battery with an isolator, heating & cooling, and you’re ready for just about anything. Put sliding doors on all your cabinets, rather than swinging doors, so they don’t require interior space to open them, and they’ll stay closed while traveling without the need of extra catches.

I wouldn’t build my stove or sinks in, just a bare counter top, that you can sit a camp stove on, or dishpans for sinks. The advantage is that both can be used outdoors as well without duplication. I just use trigger spray bottles for water for my dish pan sinks. Very handy. I intentionally don’t have any plumbing that can freeze.

The smaller the space, the harder it is to have a full featured camper, but it can be done.


"Those who believe money can't buy hapiness, don't have either." ~ An Anonymous Vandweller


Don’t decide.
Go on a few trips with a very simple setup or no setup at all. Throw a couple bins in the back, or build a few simple plywood boxes and go see how you live and what you want out of the van.

Each trip you’ll learn something more and the layout/design will begin to form around you and your habits.
If you need a bit more structure… go rent/borrow a built out campervan and see what you like/don’t like about the setup.

It always amazes me that people feel like they have to design and build their perfect van even though they’ve never spent a single night in one… You can certainly take a shot in the dark and build before moving in… just expect to remodel within a year as you learn what you like. :wink:

I did the same… built our first van based upon drawings of what I thought would be perfect and modeled off of the old/classic VW Westy. “Cant beat old german engineers” I thought.

No sooner did I get the van 90% complete we spent a single weekend in it and I ripped the whole thing out and started over because we had no storage whatsoever. From that point on we would move in and start using the van long before we had a final design to start working on (and Im SO glad we did)!


Yes yes yes!! @Archie I totally agree with @theDangerz – do some test runs and feel it out. Cut up cardboard to the dimensions of the “must-have” items and move them around in the space to get a feel for it. You will very likely want to change your layout at least once after finishing the van so try to get as much information about your wants/needs up front before making any permanent decisions. Pinterest is a great way to visually gather images you like. Happy vanning and congrats-- she’s super cute!

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What she ^^^ said. She knows things!! :smirk:

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Thank you, this is a lot of help!! I am going to try to get a basic van build done by mid march so I can try it out for a long weekend/ week. And after if I need to change things I have a little time.