Last week’s blog looked at Woodrow’s journey of transformation… so far. For those of you who haven’t met him yet, Woodrow is the Winnebago Travato we acquired in the end of June 2018. Ever since then my husband Lee and I have been exploring van life. In our last blog, we showed you some of the upgrades we’ve made including solar panels, a bedroom makeover, and ways to increase storage. After all, power and storage seem to be the two of the biggest needs in the van.
The Kitchen Reno
This week we are going to show what we did in the kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen reno came in a two parts. The first was practical, increasing storage and functionality. The second was a dream come true! We turned our wardrobe closet into a much needed pantry. We went with full extension drawer slides including the soft close function. This keeps them in place while driving, and feels really fancy every time we close the drawers.
We haven’t had a microwave in our home for years so it made sense to remove the one that came in the van. (If anyone needs one we still haven’t gotten rid of it. It’s on the list of things to do when we are back in Canada). This area tuned into a little kitchen cubby. We decided to go with a toaster oven instead and see how that would meet our needs. After all, we would cook a lot in an oven at home so we got a sweet little mini convection oven.
I didn’t like the unfinished look of having no door, and the problem with installing one was lack of room. Our creative solution was to build a removable cover. We found a magnetic board at a home store that had burlap covering its metal plate. I think it even said “Love begins at home”, which would have been great except for the fact the lettering would’ve been sideways, super classy! We tore the whole thing apart, sanded the metal to make it a little more rustic and attached some magnetic latches to the back. Magnets have become our superstar’s in the van. We use them all over; maybe that is for another post.
Well the board sure didn’t stay empty for long! All sorts of fun souvenirs from along our journey have begun to accumulate.
The Bath Reno
On to the bathroom. The biggest changes here were all based on storage. Our older model (we have the first edition) of Travato came with a small soap and shampoo dispenser on the wall and that was it. We found a shower caddy to replace a small skinny mirror above the sink. This stores our most often used bathroom supplies. We found one that happened to be just the right size to use the existing holes and mounts from the mirror. Hardest part of this project was removing the glue that held the mirror on. They really didn’t want that guy to fall off!
We replaced the soap dispenser with a medicine cabinet and it didn’t take long to figure out we would need some modifications to keep the door from flying open and everything falling out. A little bit of bungee cord on the inside and outside did the trick. We added a towel rack with hooks and a clothesline to complete the bathroom reno.
Spice Racks and Subway Tile
I love subway tile and have always wanted it in my kitchen. This dream easily came true with a couple of packs of peel and stick subway tile. It is light weight, washable and was super easy to install.
The show stopper in the kitchen has become our spice rack. This is the ultimate combination of beauty and function colliding. These small jars hold all the fun spices I love to cook with. With magnetic lids holding them to the stainless steal board they really do look like an art piece. It was an investment for sure, and I was impressed with the quality, all the spice labels, and the amount of care that went into the packing.
As mentioned we had a two phase plan to upgrade the kitchen, everything above was in phase one. And I expected phase two to happen sometime in the very distant future. Thanks to the generosity of my in-laws we received my dream kitchen as a Christmas present. For a the weekend warrior using this kind of van I believe the sink, stove, and countertop are adequate. This being our full time home, I was hoping for something a little more functional and of course beautiful.
A New Countertop
We wanted to replace the propane with a portable single burner induction stove. With the solar upgrade we have plenty of power to run the burner, it decreases our use of propane, cooks faster, and the induction doesn’t heat up anything other than the pan. Having open flames in our van seems a wee bit hazardous, at least for me. If there is a way to light something on fire I am pretty sure I will find it. This coming from the girl who once managed to kick over the only real candle (amongst a dozen or more fake ones) a room as I taught a yoga class. Yup, hot wax yoga anyone? It was a mess as you can imagine.
As for the sink my biggest issues were the small size of the sink and the fact that the facet was over to the far left of the sink, unable to turn making it had to rise things in the sink. And as for the counter top, it was simply a lack of space to prepare things. It was great the glass folded down but there was no real flat spot on the countertop to chop or prepare things.
And so began the gutting of the kitchen; most everything was torn out. We were able to finally insulate the entire wall behind the cupboards as they were always cold when the outside temps dropped. We prefer to keep our home warm and cozy.
And this is where things get a little extravagant, the first fitting of the countertop. We ended up with a beautiful Japanese Corian® countertop with seamless sink. Now I will tell you this is not practical at all when it comes to weight, and perhaps if I did it again in the future I may seriously think about getting a lighter weight stainless sink, this 8″ deep sink is gorgeous and a thousand times better to wash dishes in.
We had to play the waiting game when we realized we didn’t have enough of the peel and stick tile to finish the job. I was super excited when the delivery truck pulled up, I met him in the driveway. The unfortunate thing is when you order these particular tiles in more than one batch they may not be exactly the same. The grout lines were different colours of grey, so this meant pulling things off and reconfiguring. It did work out in the end, it wouldn’t be a true renovation if there were not problems to solve would it?
We continued the peel and stick wallpaper from the bedroom onto the end wall in the kitchen. This is one of my favourite style items, two little succulent planters in the van, also a challenge to see if we can keep them alive. I loved having plants in our home so hopefully we can make this work.
Another small but very handy upgrade was installing a light in our kitchen cabinet above the sink. The way the lights are set up in the van, you couldn’t see anything in this cabinet when it is dark. Lee wired it into the kitchen light switch and it is a motion light, so with a wave of the hand you have light!
The new induction burner lives in a cubby where the stove use to be, ready to be pulled out to make morning coffee and tea. I did have several pieces of Le Creuset in my former kitchen, and was happy to sell the set to my landlord knowing she would love them, but this little kettle stayed with us and made its way into the van.
The before and after of our sink, I think we have more than doubled our sick capacity. The knife rack was a favourite item from our previous house and I was happy to be able to work it into the van. So far nothing has fallen off its magnetic strip.
This countertop extension has been a game changer! Installing the extra 16″ of foldable space seems like luxury to what we had before. We are super thankful for the amazing service and the beautiful countertop Greg Glidewell from Gulf States Marble built us. This material was left over from a former project he did and I love how it looks in the van! Serious upgrade!
Wrapping up let’s get a look at the before and after of our Christmas Kitchen Reno. That’s catchy, someone should call HGTV.
Our Happy Home
When I initially considered writing this series, I questioned whether or not to write about our van. While a story of transformation indeed, it’s not uber spiritual, nor does it pertain to deep philosophical musings. Thankfully, in the end I decided to write about it because it was fun. I also believe that God enjoys transformation on so many levels, not just those deep religious ones.
Every time I get into our van my heart is happy. I don’t take this van for grated and neither do I take the journey and upgrades for granted. They are a gift, a blessing, a source of joy and fun. I loved all the mods Lee and I got to work on together and look forward to many more. Yes, we have a lengthy list still believe it or not.
What are some transformations in your own life that have brought you joy? Was it home renovation? Was it a new outfit? I’d love to hear your story, so let me know in the comments below.
3 Replies to “Van Life Transformation – Part II”
It took 20 years but I transformed a plain backyard with grass and one little tree into a beautiful oasis. The “little” tree grew i to a huge walnut tree that supplies us, the neighbours and the crows with thousands of walnuts each year. There is a pond and stream now and a vegetable garden full of produce.. Sooo glad God made the color green in all its shades!!
That sounds like a stunning place to be! I love how you have turned it into a place of great fruitfulness!
A beautiful transformation indeed. An inspiration to others as we plan our future Vanlife.