feet resting on van bed

One of our goals for the van was to have a near-full-size bed. There are some really cool designs for slide-out beds that are common for small vans like ours, but we didn’t want to deal with constantly having to make and stow the bed. Also, having swivel seats opened up the interior space so much, that we felt we would be fine with the bed taking up most of the interior space.

Once we decided on the layout and developed a design for the bed, it didn’t change too much as we built it – a true rarity in our collection of ever evolving designs.

Bed Dimensions

The first step was to come up with a basic design and dimensions for the bed. That was very challenging initially, since the dimensions of the bed depended on so many other things. The horror of the interdependencies! Before figuring out the dimensions of the bed frame, we had to finalize the location of the heater, the size of our water tank and propane tank, and making sure we could find a kitchen sink that was narrow enough to avoid having to compromise on the width of the bed.

We also wanted to maximize the storage underneath the bed, while ensuring that we have enough head room so that we don’t have to crouch while sitting on the bed. For this, we had to take into account the thickness of the insulation and ceiling panels, as well as the amount the mattress would deform under our weight.

rear pull out drawers underneath bed

Bed Construction

The bed frame is built with pine 2x3s, and a set of bed slats we found at a thrift store. Never underestimate the potential of a thrift store. Yeah, there’s a lot of junk. But dig a bit, and you’ll often find just what you need (or what you never knew you needed).

We cut the 2x3s using a miter saw, and joined them together using a combination of long screws, wood glue, and corner braces. As you can see in the photo, we created three separate base frames, joined together by a few 1x2s at the bottom, and the slats at the top. We built this entire frame inside our living room, carried it out to the van, and just screwed the three base frames to the floor using long screws.

van bed framework

We had a spare Ikea memory foam mattress that we repurposed for the van. Using a pair of regular scissors, we trimmed a few inches off the length and width, making it just a little smaller than a full size bed. A little cozy for two, good thing we’re snugglers.

violet about to cut mattress with scissors