The Ultimate Guide to DIY Campervan Layout Design

Discover how to design your DIY campervan layout; discover creative ideas and get inspired on how to design your perfect campervan layout for your vanlife journey.
The Ultimate Guide to DIY Campervan Layout Design

To design your DIY campervan layout, ask yourself:


  • What are your priorities?
  • How much storage space do you need?
  • Where should the bed go?
  • What appliances do I need?
  • Where do I even start?!

    One size does not fit all when it comes to vanlife. Campervan Layouts come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no single perfect van build. For an in-depth workshop on how to plan your campervan layout, join our free workshop here.

    Planning Your DIY Campervan Layout

    In this blog, we are going to go over:

    • How to figure out your priorities in your build
    • Most common pitfalls for campervan layout design
    • FREE layout templates to help you get started
    • The Importance of 3D Design
    • Seeing finished designs for inspiration
    • Honest advice from us about our own multiple van conversions, what worked, and most importantly, what didn’t
    • The best exercise for deciding what MUST be in your campervan design

    So, here are 10 things to help you narrow down your options to focus your efforts on designing the perfect home on wheels for you.

    Campervan Size: What is the best van for a camper conversion?

    1. What is your base vehicle?

    Your base vehicle determines everything when it comes to your van conversion and your layout. Designing a layout in a micro camper is very different from a large van or even a school bus.

    We have done blogs comparing the best micro vans, the best cargo-sized vans, and the best high-top vans for van conversions, so check those out if you are still deciding what vehicle you want.

    Deciding on your base vehicle is the first key step you must lock down to start designing truly.

    Imagine drawing a picture without knowing the shape or size of your canvas. You have no frame of reference!

    To help you decide on what vehicle is best for your needs, think about:

    • How much space do I need?
    • How many people will I be travelling in the van with?
    • Do I need storage for bikes/surfboards/hiking gear?
    • Will I need lots of cupboard space for long trips?

    Answering questions like these will help you pick whether you’re after a small little camper for weekend journeys or a larger campervan for long trips, or even full-time vanlife.

    When you lock down the vehicle you want and have done all the proper checks before buying a used van to make sure that this is the van you truly want, then you can get the designing caps on.

    Personal Opinion: We went to see a lot of empty vans before picking up our base vehicle – a LWB VW Crafter. Test driving vehicles can also help, as it not only depends on what the space at the back feels like but also how the vehicle is like to drive around.

    We’ve done a FREE video series on How to Buy a Used Van to help you in this department.

    Freedom Strider - youtube channel - van conversion and vanlife content - create a life of freedom and adventure

    2. People: How many people (or pets) will travel in this campervan?

    If you need a family campervan, then you need seats for all the people. Most vans come with 2 seats, 3 if you’re lucky. If you need more than this, then a rear seatbelted seat will NEED to be present somewhere in your design.

    You can get seats that fold away, rotate, and even turn into a sofa, but they have to have seatbelts, and they do take up space.

    Travelling with pets is also worth a special mention, especially large dogs, since they will need space to move around and sleep, so something to consider if you’re wanting your furry companions to travel with you.

    Personal Opinion: Our van came with 3 seats, with for us two and our two cats, is enough space. We can even take a friend, so the 3rd seat has been helpful. In our next van, however, we’d like at least four seats.

    high roof open plan van conversion - Freedom Strider

    3. Bed: How big should your campervan bed be, and which style?

    Most campervan conversions house 1-2 people, so a double bed is usually the requirement for most campervans.

    If you are travelling with kids, or plan to have guests over frequently, then this means you would need to think about a spare bed. This could be a bunk bed, a couch pull-out, or a roll-on-the-floor mattress.

    With the bed fiasco in mind, you then need to decide on which style of bed design you like the most. There are a few main options out there, including:

    Each is different, but the bed is often the thing that takes up the most space in a campervan layout, so you need to decide which one you’re going for, as this alters your layout far more than anything else.

    Personal Opinion: We chose a floor bed since it freed up lots of floor space for other things in our design and kept the van layout open.

    campervan electric oven - van conversion kitchen

    4. Kitchen: Do you plan to cook a lot inside?

    We’ve designed and lived in campervans which had a single gas burner hob in our 7-seat car in New Zealand, all the way up to now, where we have a giant electrical system, an electric oven, toaster, induction cooktops, gas-powered BBQ, full sink with hot water and more.

    The right answer is down to you. If you aren’t going to cook a lot in this campervan, either because it’s for short trips in the summer where you’ll mostly eat out or have simple non-cooking meals, then you won’t need a big kitchen, so you can use the space for something else.

    If you enjoy cooking and want a fully equipped kitchen and sink system, consider this in your design.

    The reason we say cooking inside is that you can have quite an elaborate cooking setup which can be stored away in storage units, like outside BBQ’s gas hobs, foldable tables etc… These don’t take up as much space inside, unlike a fixed kitchen unit.

    Travelling in the summer, when the weather is good, cooking outside might be an easy option, so a large indoor kitchen may not be needed.

    If you plan to travel all year round, the rainy, windy days might have you cooking inside more during the winter months.

    Personal opinion: For our current home on wheels, we knew we wanted a large kitchen as we enjoy cooking and live full-time in our campervan, so we included a decent kitchen with plenty of storage for food, cutlery and cooking equipment.

    high roof open plan van conversion - Freedom Strider

    5. Storage: What do you plan to travel with?

    Surfboards, mountain bikes, hiking gear, picnic baskets, a motorbike?

    If you know you want to bring big, bulky items with you in your campervan, your campervan layout needs to accommodate for them.

    Where will they live?

    Usually, the rear garage is the place to stuff everything in, but you must make sure your design is big enough to fit things that can’t easily be stuffed in, like meter-long surfboards and inflexible mountain bikes.

    Roof-mounted storage is another great option for storing large things if you design something waterproof.

    Personal Opinion: We travel light. We have no bikes or big items, so our garage space only needed to be small, allowing floor space for other things. Not having a large garage, we knew, would also help us not carry around unnecessary things… though we would like a smidge more in our next build.

    campervan shower - diy van conversion shower

    6. Shower & Toilet: Is a bathroom needed in your campervan layout?

    Do you need a shower and toilet in your campervan?

    Shower: No.

    Toilet: Yes.

    Whilst it is possible to go without both, as we did in New Zealand in our car camper, not having a toilet close to hand does weird things to your bladder and bowels.

    You must consider where you will relieve yourself in the middle of the night or early in the morning before public toilets open. If you always stay at campsites, then you’re okay. But if you wild camp or stealth park in cities, it’s not so easy.

    As for showers, it’s certainly nice to have a fully functioning shower in your campervan, with hot water to boot. For full disclosure, about 70% of the time, there is a handy outdoor/public shower or family/friends nearby that can help you out. Not to mention campsites and gym memberships all usually have warm showers.

    An off-grid in-built shower is necessary to go off-grid into the wild, especially in winter.

    A toilet is rather easy to fit into a layout design, as it can tuck away under a bench. A shower, especially a full shower cubicle, does take a lot of volume in your campervan, so consider carefully if the tradeoff is worth it.

    Personal Opinion: For our current campervan, we have a self-built composting toilet and a completely waterproof shower cubicle with on-demand hot water. This is perfect for our usage. the shower isn’t as practical to use as we would like as you move out the toilet and anything on the floor to use it, but it has still proven lovely to have when needed.

    high roof open plan van conversion - Freedom Strider

    7. Office: Do you plan to work in your van?

    Many people choose their bed as their priority feature, which makes sense as you want a good night’s sleep.

    If the primary thing that you do inside your campervan is holidays and leisure, then the chances are you’ll spend quite a lot of time outside your campervan. Most likely on camping chairs and the like.

    Plus, if you’re on holiday, who needs an office?

    For full-time vanlifers, the story is slightly different. Our campervans are our homes in every way that a fixed house is.

    That includes needing a space to work that isn’t your bed (preferably).

    If a dedicated workspace will help your work/life balance, then there are some great layout ideas to choose from.

    Personal Opinion: For us, we wanted two separate working spaces at opposite ends of the van so both of us could work independently from one another in our own spaces. Since our layout design is very open, fold-down desks proved to be our best friend.

    campervan with sofa and a hanging chair

    8. Sofa: Where do you want to relax in your campervan?

    Depending on the size of your campervan, you might have to choose between having a fixed bed or having a sofa bed. If you’re designing within a medium wheelbase or smaller, you will likely have to pick between the two.

    Again, if you are going for mainly leisure, where you will be spending a fair amount of time on outdoor activities, a lack of a couch may not bother you as long as you make the bed a cosy place to decompress.

    A fixed bed and a sofa in a van, even a large one, will significantly limit the floor space. So we would personally avoid it ourselves, as we do appreciate openness, even in our tiny home.

    Personal Opinion: Since we don’t have a fixed bed in our campervan, building a permanent sofa was needed for us. This sofa also serves as a pull-out guest bed.

    campervan plumbing - van conversion plumbing

    9. Utilities: Campervan Electrics, Plumbing and Heating

    The campervan utilities are very often overlooked, especially by novices.

    Electrics, plumbing and heating systems all have wires and pipes that need to crisscross all over the place and require a sizeable volume of storage space specifically allocated to it.

    How much space is required, again, depends on how big your campervan is, how sophisticated your system is, and what you’re willing to build/pay to outsource.

    To save space inside, some things can be mounted externally, like heaters and water tanks, if protected well from the cold and road damage.

    You can have a very basic and budget version of these systems, or you can go full luxury automated house systems, miniaturized.

    We have put together an in-depth 5-hour DIY Van Conversion BootCamp that will demystify how to start your van build.

    Available workshops:

    1. Planning Your DIY Campervan Layout
    2. Understanding 12V Campervan Electrics
    3. Understanding Campervan Plumbing
    4. Understanding Campervan Heating Options
    5. Van Conversion Mistakes and Best Practices

    Personal Opinion: We knew we wanted our water tank inside to stop it from freezing in the winter, and we knew our electrical system would be quite extensive, so left a lot of space (half the couch storage) just for this. Another quarter of the couch was storage for the heating, which meant our entire couch was a utility cupboard.

    high top van conversion campervan

    10. See completed campervans for inspiration

    With the big furniture pieces out of the way and some basic understanding of what things you like and need to design around, now it is time to find inspiration!

    Watch hundreds, if not thousands of van tour videos on Youtube.

    Search “van conversion”, “van build”, and “campervan layout” on Instagram.

    Google specifics like “Murphy bed campervan” and “campervan shower ideas”

    Save ALL these ideas on mood boards like Miro or onto a cloud drive for reference later.

    Get as much inspiration from other people as possible.

    There are millions of campervans out there with layouts that already exist. You may not have to design very hard if you spot something that works for you.

    Picking and choosing pieces that work from multiple layouts, and adding them to yours, can help you get closer to designing your full campervan layout.

    planning your van conversion layout

    HOW?! How do I start designing?

    This all might seem overwhelming.

    You’re right; it can be.

    So many ideas floating around in your head, and now somehow you have to fit everything inside a tin box on wheels.

    The best way to start designing is with a list.

    We have devised a simple way of figuring out how to prioritise what should go into your campervan.

    The Needs, Wants and Dream list.

    To get access to this exercise, join our free workshop on how to plan your campervan layout.


    Special Mention: The ‘Definitely Nots’

    It’s also important to know what you don’t want in your campervan layout. From seeing other vans and researching, you probably will have come across many videos and layouts you don’t like for one reason or another. Maybe the floor space is far too small. Maybe the bed is in a really bad position for you. Perhaps the kitchen is too big or too small, or the shower room is overly big.

    Whatever the reason, note these down as well. Knowing what you don’t like is equally as important as what you do like.

    Planning Your DIY Campervan Layout

    Designing your dream van conversion layout on paper

    With everything under your belt above, knowing which elements you want in your campervan layout, seeing hundreds of van tours and handpicking your favourite ideas and designs from other people, and having your wants, needs and dream list written, it is now time to start sketching!

    We have got some FREE van templates to help you start with sketching, which are to-scale so you can truly get the right feel for the space and know how big things actually will be. You can often find measurements online for regular appliances or sizes of furniture, so you can sketch these on and play around with the space.

    Try things that might not work; remember, you can use the van’s height for storage units up above, and think of things that can pull out or fold away to save space when they aren’t in use.

    It can be hard not knowing the size of the van you’re working with, especially if you haven’t yet bought it. If this is the case, as was for us, then we’ve measured and developed a library of van floor plans which you can pick up for your van make and model, to get you fully immersed into the van design process.


    Is there more to designing a campervan layout?

    This blog has only scratched the surface regarding campervan layout design.

    It’s impossible to fit everything into one concise-ish blog post, but we hope this gives you a lot of things to think about and some useful tools to help you design your campervan layout.

    And if you’re looking for more, as I’m sure some of you are, we have put together a more comprehensive video series on designing your campervan layout.

    A final word to note. You never have a ‘finished’ layout plan. You always constantly improve your design, even when building the van and, frankly, even once it is complete. We know from experience…

    Don’t get bogged down in needing to finalise every single piece of furniture before beginning your van conversion. As long as you have a good solid idea of what you’re wanting to build and have figured out the majority of larger obstacles, then winging it is sometimes enjoyable 🙂

    Planning Your DIY Campervan Layout


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