When planning a campervan self-build, every opportunity is open.  Open space with Murphy bed and mobile yoga studio? Space for a family of 6? USB points for all your gadgets with storage for sports gear?  

A conceptual plan is essentially a guide for the entire process, the first step in differentiating a dreamer from a builder.  Read on for 3 states to create one for yourself.

Self build campervan conceptual plan development van conversion

My conceptual plan – used through the entire build

First stage: Design Inspiration

A little obsession is a good thing when starting a big undertaking.   I suspect, dear Vansformation warrior, you may have already been deep into the socials, forums and other online locales feeding the campervan dream.  Do it!  Just perhaps stay aware of the distant looks and polite smiles of your family and friends which indicate silent cries of boredom. ‘How’s the van coming on?’ really means ‘What can you tell me about it in under a minute?’

Pinterest, essentially a free online noticeboard, is a super power at this stage.  An easy web browser plug in makes it easy to post photos from almost any website.  I used it to collect layout ideas from other vans, tiny house storage inspiration, colour schemes and any particularly unusual hardware I’d want to access later.

It was also helpful to go to a Motorhome/Caravan show at this point to get a sense of how different layouts felt.  There is no better way to know how you will react to them in 3 dimensions.  For example, a show taught me that I much preferred shallow overhead locker set-ups for their sense of cabin spaciousness over deeper ones with more storage.  Be aware that the pre-made types may have so much bling that you will have to hunt a little to see how things are put together.

Second stage: Make 3 Lists

Filled with some inspiration and ideas, the next step is to think about all the things you’d like to have in a campervan.   As undefined as a ‘Hippy vibe’ or as specific as ‘a holder for one large wine glass’, this is your opportunity to pour through your inspiration and interpret what you really want and need.

1. Must-have: essential features to have in the final campervan
2. Want to have: if finances, space, other practicalities allow but not really critical
3. Fringe level: Cool luxuries not likely to be practical right now, but you would put them in if you have time/money/space/skills to do so.

Third Stage: Design objectives

This is the stage to reflect on what you’ve written and discipline yourself to no more than 3 objectives for the entire project.   It may not seem necessary, but building  a campervan is a series of compromises and creative work-arounds. These objectives become a compass to guide action later when competing choices arise.  

The 3 objectives for the Martha Van build were:

  1. Feeling of spaciousness, despite being only a mid-wheelbase sized van
  2. Very good kitchen facilities – I like my food!
  3. Woodburner, installed to a safe standard

For example, it would have been less hassle when camping to have a fixed bed. But, in order to achieve all my objectives the campervan needed a fold-away design.  Now I actually don’t mind folding the bed at all.  I have even come to enjoy the morning and evening rituals of setting it up in part because of the appreciation of the fact there will be plenty of space to cook up a big brekkie because of the bed design.

This is now the ideal time to sketch the first rough ‘bird’s eye view’ layouts, considering how to  incorporate all most important elements.  And with that, the conceptual plan is done! 

In the next post we will look at progressing from a conceptual plan to the concrete ones for actually building the campervan itself.

What are your must haves? Hit us up in the comments below and thanks so much for stopping by.  Best of luck with your vansformation!

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Feta from Vansformation

Chief Rabble Rouser at Vansformation