I have a seriously tight budget for doing any kind of build-in for Studley Van, and that requires getting very ingenious. The good thing about reusing old wood, and going to thrift stores for stuff, is that I’m helping the environment by recycling in the best possible way; by reusing and repurposing things…however, making a bed from old, warped, splintered, cracked and weathered wood, is quite challenging. Nothing is plum, or true, and it requires a lot of fiddling, shinning, scraping, sanding and more. Additionally, all this work was done on a friends deck, in the blazing sun and rain, with tools that are not exactly ideal, and a work bench that is just as old and crooked as the wood we were making the bed with.
Below is the ‘workshop’…As you can see, it’s less than ideal conditions for building, but where there is a will, there is a way, and my friend certainly has those qualities. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make this myself, not because I’m not capable (I used to have my own woodshop and love doing wood working), but because my injuries now prevent me from doing this kind of stuff, so I’m truly lucky and grateful to have a friend who offered to help me with this project.
Anyhow, the plan was to make something very simple; just a basic bed with room to slide things under it for storage. It was supposed to be a temporary way for me to make use of the space until I decided what kind of build in I wanted to do at some point in the future.
The big board is the one I took out of Mitzi, and it still has the duct tape on it that I’d put around the edges to avoid getting splinters (yes, a quick fix. I LoVe duct tape). Two legs were built from scrap wood, with room at one end for me to put tools under, and access them from the rear if I wanted to. However, as often happens in these projects, things got complicated. The idea came up that it might be nice to have a side on the end which would look nicer, and what if the bed could expand to give me more room to sleep? Then my friend thought it would be nice if I could lock it somehow as a little extra precaution, which required having a front on it, oh and a back for stability and so I could screw it down. Well, the ideas kept coming up, and being added on, and over time my simple bed became quite a complex system, and not only that, it became quite attractive.
Above is the scrap pile, where most of the wood to make the bed was gathered from. Below is the bed in it’s mid-stage, along with some foam I found at the thrift store. You can see my food box from Mitzi on the far right.
At the thrift store I found two foam pieces ($4.00 each), that were in great shape. I cut the foam to size while I was cat-sitting at a friends house, and used the fabric from the covers I’d used in Mitzi to create a base cover for the foam.
I also found two curtain panels ($2.00 each) which I made into slip covers, and some light-weight sheets at the thrift store by Columbia ($4.00 for the set), which I used to make curtains for the windows, and a separation curtain between the front and the back. I like the fabric because it is thin enough to offer privacy, and yet doesn’t turn the inside totally dark, and allows me to use shock cord for hanging it instead of bungees. (Shock cord for all windows cost around $3.80) ~ (Images are below).
I also found a small set of drawers at the thrift store for $4.00, and my friend decided to trim it out with old wood, to match the bed. I looked at all my options for staining or protecting the wood, but I’m very sensitive to toxic chemicals and didn’t want them in my van, so I ended up treating the wood with coconut oil. I’m very please with the result. It brought out the grain beautifully, and I can always add more in the future while it’s in the van. Heck, I could eat off it just seconds after applying it. This particular coconut oil doesn’t smell like coconut, so I don’t have to worry about bears trying to break in…LOL…at least not for this reason.
Above is the rear end of the bed, by the back doors. It has a door that slides into place to lock the tools in, it also looks nice if the doors are open.
After making the slip covers, I had some fabric left over and decided to make an additional slip cover for my collapsible camp chair. This makes a nice back rest for the rear end of my bed and stops my cushions from falling out when the rear window is up, and because it matches the bed covers it appears to be part of the bed. After living in the back of an SUV for 10-years, I’m really having fun doing a bit of decorating, its been a long time since I’ve had anything ‘pretty.’ It’s also fun doing this with recycled materials…there are unbelievable deals in thrift stores. One just has to be imaginative and very patient.
For $1.00 I found another piece of fabric I liked, and decided to make a hanging ‘thingy, wotsit’ to put things in over the bed that I used a lot.
sort of a hanging bedside table. It didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted, and I’ll probably try fixing it some time if I get chance. The fabric I used for the pockets is from a cushion that the thrift store was throwing away. I also found a couple of rugs that were padded, and offer protection for my knees. ($2.00 each). They needed some serious scrubbing, but came out looking really nice.
And so that leads us to the end results:
The panel on the side of the bed lifts up and out, so I can access the storage. The top also lifts up like a lid and props up, so I can access my crates that way too.
The top also slides out to expand the bed, and the front panel then lies down flat on the back side of the bed, to create an extension on the base. The two accent bars on the front panel actually lock the bed in place along with a couple of pins. The foam pieces lay down flat to create a spacious bed. I have a leg that goes under the extended bed to offer support, and also the crates that are under the bed can slide out to offer even more support. With these out, two people can sit on there quite safely without the top tipping or giving.
Above is the first set of drawers I’ve had in about 11-years. I can actually access things without having to lift up a box, and dig in, and set aside, and rummage and root….what a WONDERFUL invention…and there is a little lip around the top, so I can set the basket up there. On most road trips it won’t slide off. If I go on rough roads I’ll just set it on the floor, or create a tie down system. Of course, this may all change in the future, I still have a lot to do.
So I have a bunch of cushions that I also bought at the thrift store for a $1.00 or so each. I made sure I got the kind with zippers, and I left the innards for the thrift store to re-sell. This way I can use the cushion covers as stuff sacks. It’s a great way of making use of otherwise wasted space. Two of them hold my sleeping bags, and another holds all my down clothing. A couple are actually my pillows.
This is what it looks like with the curtains drawn, and the bed folded out.
I actually spent money on the fairy lights, which are solar. ($10.99). I saw them in someone’s van once, and it made the place seem so cozy, warm, and inviting, It really changes the whole atmosphere of the van at night, and is a very comfortable light to watch movies by, or just potter around. A purchase well worth the cost, because it makes my van feel more like a home. These lights, and the wood for the front panel on the bed ($8.00) are the only two items I purchased new…even the screws are old or re-used ones.
So that’s it for now. I have a long way to go with things. I still need a place to cook, and I’d like to have a tiny sink one day, but I’m going to continue in the same manner I did in Mitzi for now. I managed just fine with The Badwater Basin as a toilet for 10+ years, and I managed without a sink, or even a good place to cook or special stove to cook with (I used my backpacking canister stove indoors, with a window cracked). I am considering buying a Little Buddy Heater, because temps are dropping below freezing at night here in Colorado now, and I have to be here for a few more weeks yet (I have to get some Epidural shots in my spine), and I’m not a lover of the cold any more. I suppose it will be an investment I’ll appreciate time and time again. Another item I’m considering is the Roadpro 12V Portable Stove…but I’m probably getting carried away now…after all, I’ve managed for 11-years without a stove, surely I can continue for a few years longer…
So that’s it for now…I’m probably going to return to writing about my travels this past winter in Mitzi. Most of those miles were to get away from the cold (-12F is too cold and –30F almost killed me, so my doctor suggested I go south last winter), but also to look for a new place to call home, because it’s time for me to move away from Colorado completely and find a new home-base.
Thanks again to all of you who helped me to keep my Studley Van…I hope you’ll keep following me, and please say “Hi” should we meet on the road.
And most of all… remember to savor the journey and always seek new horizons…
Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature