It was back in June 2018 when we traded our 690 square foot basement suite for a Winnebago Travato. We still have a bedroom, bathroom, dining room and kitchen; they just take up less than 100 square feet and are completely mobile. Like many people moving into a new home we decided to renovate. Making things functional and beautiful, one of my favourite combinations. Isn’t it so exciting to make a new space your own? To put your own personal style into things.
Our van is named Woodrow and looking back we have actually made lots of changes to this little guy. Who doesn’t love a good transformation story? So let’s take a journey through our #vanlife transformation… so far!
Our First Mod
The very first mod(ification) we made was cutting off the top of the fridge door. I know it sounds strange, but you couldn’t adjust the fridge temp or turn on the propane option (which usually takes a minute or more to do) without opening the fridge door. This was all about function and saving power, and conserving power is one of our highest priorities. Long gone are those days of standing around with the fridge door open, trying to decide what to eat!
More power is exactly what lead us to one of our biggest upgrades. We (let’s be honest it was all Lee) installed three solar panels on the roof, an inverter and two lithium batteries. Let me get him to tell you about it…
More Battery Power
When we bought our van if you wanted to use anything that needed to be plugged in, e.g. computer, phone charger, hand blender, air fryer, etc., either the van itself needed to be plugged into a power source or we needed to run its generator. That wasn’t going to cut it beings Amy and I planned on adventuring into places that didn’t have power or didn’t allow you to run a noisy generator. So we installed a solar system.
After fabricating a custom roof rack, I installed three solar panels (540 watts total) which charge two lithium batteries, the equivalent of four golf cart batteries. All that combined with a 3,000 watt power inverter and we have plenty enough power to run all our gadgets without the need to plug in or run the generator. We spent several days in North Cascades National Park, Washington, in the rain, i.e. no solar charging, using only our battery power.
We’ve only had to use the generator a few times after we’d forgotten to turn our fridge off of battery power and onto propane mode, a costly battery draining mistake. Other than that our solar is one of the most appreciated additions we’ve made.
Our First Design Element
The curtain project was one of my favourites for several reasons. One, my mom and I did this sewing project together; I love a good project with my mom! Two, this beautiful damask fabric was given to me as a gift to put in my home, unfortunately that home and dream didn’t come to pass. I kept the fabric in storage for years, not knowing if I would ever use it. Little did I know there was a beautiful story of restoration, and now everyday in the van these curtains (in the words of Marie Kondo) spark joy! Three, I like it really dark when sleeping and with blackout fabric sewn to the back, these babies blocks out all the light.
Next, they are super functional. Pulled straight across, they keep prying eyes from seeing what’s in the rest of the van when we are parked. All they see are the two drivers seats. As an added bonus when driving we only need to heat or cool the front cab, otherwise the dash vents are trying to heat/cool the entire van. Not the most efficient method.
When we put the curtain into full coverage mode it still is excellent at creating privacy as well as becoming a cozy cubby that reminds me of being a kid in a homemade fort! This is much more stylish of course. Which leads to the last reason I love these…
They are the first fun design element we added to the van. I have to give a huge shout out to the Travato Facebook group we are a part of and the Fit RV, who gave step by step instructions on how to build out these curtains.
Removing the Decals
Here is the next transformation. Below are two pictures, the first before and the second after. Can you see the difference? Besides the uhaul trailer of course.
I am pretty sure someone spent a good deal of time and effort putting the decals on this Travato at the Winnebago Factory. And I will tell you I spent a good deal of time and energy taking them off. It was a several day project, nothing glamorous about it; just a scraper, lots of paper towels, and a bottle of Goo Gone. It was a nasty job, but I do love the results. I think he looks happier now!
Every Square Inch Matters
It really goes without saying that renovating a house and a van are different. To start off with, size matters and every square inch counts! We are constantly trying to figure out how to maximize our small space. Increased storage becomes a huge priority. If we can do it with less, we will! This back wall mod was all about getting more storage space.
Before we cut a massive hole in the back wall of our van, it was a semi-useless flat panel of wood. After building a custom shelf unit we now have a place to store a bunch of the dirty and less glamorous stuff like power cords, water hoses, and rv chemicals.
The bedroom started with way too much brown, which led to another one of my favourite makeovers. I love this wood grain sticky wall paper. It was pretty easy in install (with two people) and has completely brightened up our bedroom. It has become my happy place to and enjoy my morning tea time.
All the hooks from ikea are a huge added bonus as far as storage goes. Lots of room for hanging, including our laundry bag on the end.
And since we are talking clothes, here’s a look at our closet storage. We learned pretty quickly that we would need to do something so our clothes would stay organized in the cupboards and not fall out everytime we opened the door. We found these storage bags by Ebags which work perfect. And if you’re wondering if that’s really all my clothes… well, we are going to talk a little bit more about that in an upcoming blog!
This post grew so long that we made it a two part series, saving the best for last, the kitchen renovation! I was surprised with an amazing gift this Christmas, a new countertop and sink and it is stunning.
Keep reading the rest of the story here, in part two of our van life transformation.