Van Life Design: How to Turn Your Van Into a Home

Living in a van is an affordable and innovative solution for many. Whether you want to drive along the coast, visit national parks, or explore different towns, chances are you can when you live in a van.

A modern European van conversion camping overlooking blue sea
Van life design tips | Photo by oksana.perkins / Shutterstock

Everywhere you look, it seems more and more people are jumping on the van life trend. Living in a small home on wheels is becoming more popular as many people choose a nomadic lifestyle as it offers freedom to travel without being tied to a mortgage that comes with a traditional house.

Living in a van is an affordable and innovative solution for many. Whether you want to drive along the coast, visit national parks, or explore different towns, chances are you can when you live in a van. In this post, we show you how easy it is to design your own van and turn it into a cozy home on wheels.

Living in a van - what to consider first

To convert your van into a living space, you need to clarify your goals and decide on what purpose you want your van to have. If you plan on traveling in your van all year round, you must consider the weather and how different temperatures will affect your living situation.

How many people will be living in your van? Are you looking mainly for a place to sleep, or are you also hoping to cook, work and relax in your van? Will you have a toilet, shower and/or a sink, and how will you hook them up? Consider how much water storage and space for your belongings you’ll need.

Once you have a good idea of your needs, you can start thinking about how to design your van. You can use van design software like Planner 5D to create a floor plan and figure out how to best use the space in your van. Here is how.

How to design your van with Planner 5D

Designing a van is like designing your home. Planner 5D makes the process easy and fun. Our van design software allows you to create detailed 2D and 3D floor plans for your van. You can use it to experiment with different van layouts and see how different furniture and fixtures will look inside.

Whether you're just starting with van life or you've been living in your van for years, Planner 5D can help you create the perfect space for your needs. Watch our video on the step-by-step process of how to convert your van into a comfortable living space and live your best #vanlife.

Check out our van conversion project on Planner 5D for more inspiration.

Best vans to live in

The concept of #vanlife is to travel with freedom and simplicity, which makes this trend so popular. Vans are significantly smaller than campers and RVs and are considerably easier to get around. They are also easier to drive and don't require a special driver's license.

Classic VW van living | Photo by Andrew Balcombe / Shutterstock

When selecting a van to live in, there are several popular options. One of the most popular and iconic vans to live in is the Volkswagen Westfalia Vanagon. These vans are the original vanlifer van; however, they can be expensive and hard to come by. Some are even so rare they are considered collector's items.

If you can't get your hands on one of these, don't worry. There are many vans out there that you can convert into a mobile home. These include the popular Mercedes Sprinter, Dodge Promaster, Chevy Express, Ram Promaster and Ford Transit.

Mercedes Sprinter | Photo by Gabriel.F / Shutterstock

Of course, ultimately, the best van for van life is the one that best suits your specific needs and preferences. Your budget will also dictate how much you can spend outfitting your van and its maintenance. Since you're going to be on the road most of the time, you want a van that's in good condition and won't break down in a remote area. Don't be afraid to look for used vans or already converted ones that you can hop in and start exploring.

Van life design tips

Living in a van doesn't mean you have to be cramped and uncomfortable. Like tiny homes, you can create a stylish and functional space with a little work and creativity. Here are some van life design ideas to maximize your living space:

  • Focus only on necessities. Living in a small space like a van means you can't bring all your possessions. Get rid of everything you don't need and only focus on the necessities.
  • Get creative with your storage solutions. Look for unique ways to store things, like installing drawers under the bed or cupboards under furniture. Not only does it keep things organized, but it also helps you stay tidy and make the most of your limited space.
  • Consider multipurpose furniture that you can move, fold and reconfigure. You can include items like foldable chairs and roll-out tables that can be tucked away or transformed into something else. This will help you save on space and eliminate bulky, unnecessary items.
  • Use light colors to make your space feel brighter and create the illusion of space. Think light, natural fabrics and materials that are welcoming and relaxing.
  • Opt for custom-made solutions that are tailored to your specific vehicle. To save on cost, try doing the work yourself or ask a friend or relative with the skills to help you.

Van life design ideas

While it's easy to get carried away with ideas, make sure your van is designed with practicality and function. You'll spend a lot of time in your van, so you want it to be comfortable and relaxing. What might work for someone else might not work for you, so make sure you focus on your needs first.

One popular van life design idea is to create a cozy nook for sleeping. You can do this by installing a bed or a bed platform and some curtains or privacy screens. Beds that retract to the ceiling or transform into tables or seating areas can help you maximize available space.

You might also want to add some shelving or storage units to keep clothes and other items neatly organized. Create storage shelves under the bed or add a hanging basket and nets to keep things out of the way.

Another van life design idea is to create a cozy lounge area with comfortable seating, pillows and a small table. You might also want to install a television or music system to help pass the time when you're not on the road. Convert your van seat into a swivel chair and use it as additional seething when you're not on the road.

Add more light to your van by turning the roof into a skylight. It's a great way to add more natural light or watch the starry skies while you're in bed. Alternately you might want to add small port holes to your van's sides to add more brightness inside.

Consider adding solar panels to your roof for that off-grid living moments. They are a practical way to power and charge your gadgets, cook and heat water, so you're not dependent on finding a power source while on the road.

Double your living space by building a roof deck on your van. Attach a small ladder to the side of the van and mount a flat decking onto your van like you would a roof rack. Enjoy the extra space!


There are many great van life design ideas out there. Whatever design ideas you choose, make sure they reflect your style and make your van feel like home.

Planner 5d van life design software makes it easy to design your van

Still not sure where to start? Design your dream van with Planner 5D, the easy van life design app to help you live your best #vanlife.

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