Building a custom van for full-time living is not an easy task. You may spend a considerable amount of time designing its layout as there could be many requirements to stuff in this compact space. The bed design is critical since the entire van layout may depend on the bed type you pick.
These are some popular bed types currently used in modern custom van builds.
- Fixed bed / Permanent elevated platform bed
- Convertible bed
- Pull-out bed / Drop-down table / Table bed
- Bed lift
- Murphy bed
- Bunk bed
- Couch slide-out bed
- Joint twin bench
- Flip-out bench
- Sliding bed
- Electric bed lift / Linear Actuator
- Removable bed
- Bed lift
I will go through a few bed designs and explain the pros and cons.
Consider some of the below requirements before picking the bed design.
- Whether you make the bed entirely every night?
- Whether you need a larger garage space?
- Whether do you need a hallway up to the back door that uses the entire length of the van?
- Whether do you want more space to socialize?
- Whether do you want more counter space?
Let’s see the options.
This bed design is the most popular. There are a couple of reasons to go ahead with this design.
- You don’t need to make the bed every day.
- To use as an additional seating area for social gatherings.
- Under-bed storage area.
- To have a nice view from the bed through the back doors.
- Cost-effective build
- This bed can build with a minimum budget due to its simple design. Building material can vary from simple wooden poles/plywood or IKEA bed base to aluminum extrusion or bed support beams.
Permanent platform bed with flares
Bed installs as a permanent structure. Under storage can be utilized as a garage space or store water and electricals.
Be causes about the overhead space when you design the garage space underneath the bed. Make sure to have a minimum of 6 inch overhead space when you sit on the bed for comfortable living.
Build with woods
This wooden option is the cheapest and quickly built with minimum tools and expertise. A bed frame without a mattress can easily make under $100. Make sure to add vertical support beams under the bed for a sturdy build.
IKEA Slatted Bed Bases with steel support beams
This setup is one of the quickest and comparably cheapest methods to build a permanent platform bed. This bed type is a solid build that can complete for under $200. You just need a few support beams and mounting plates to construct the structure.
Premade platform bed.
Premade kits are the most costly but hassle-free option. Most kits contain three panels that need to attach to the provided railing. The frame prices range from $2,200 – $3,800.
A queen or full-size mattress can not install widthwise in the Mercedes sprinter. A considerable amount of space will lose if the bed install in lengthwise. A few extra inches can gain by adding fiberglass panels called flares to both sides of the van. A queen or full-size mattress can install widthwise with the help of flares. Flares prices start from $1,800 onwards.
Liftable with linear actuators or gas struts
Sometimes permanent fixed storage might not work due to dynamic travel requirements. Adding a lifting capability using linear actuators or gas struts solves this issue. The bed can lift during travel to accommodate a large cargo, and the height adjusts to a comfortable position when it needs to use.
This type of bed setup will need four linear actuators to work. These four linear actuators work independently, so they may need to reset the bed height from time to time.
Van dwellers select murphy beds due to these factors.
- Don’t want to make the bed every day
- Extra counter space
- Want the entire van length-wide as a hallway
- Some may don’t want to use a couch cushion as a mattress and look better option for sleeping.
- Want a larger seating area that can accommodate 4-5 people.
Murphy beds are famous for their space-saving characteristics. A Murphy bed frame can build using a wall mounting spring mechanism DIY kit for under $200. A campervan with a Murphy bed setup gives a more roomy feeling because it allows using the entire van length as a hallway. It can help provide a clutter-free, clean, modern look to the van.
Bunk beds are beneficial if families are traveling with kids. It provides a separate sleeping place for everyone as well as privacy.
Two or three beds can stack each other and reinforce sidewalls with thick wooden boards to give a sturdy structure. This bed will provide a more permanent layout for everyday use and provide privacy to residents.
Hanging beds is another option that can remove when it is not needed.
A van like Mercedes 170 Ext gives an extra 5 feet over 144WB, which provides more room to design a better solution that facilitates more people.
Drop-down table/dinette bed
A drop-down table bed type setup gives the maximum usability of the limited space in the van. Typically this option provides the ability to use a larger table as well. This kind of setup easily accommodates a seating area for 5 – 6 people. Use either a height-adjustable table pedestal or a detachable height-adjustable aluminum table leg for quicker assembly.
Small storage or garage space can accommodate it by raising the entire setup by a few inches.
The mattress needs to be cut down into 4-5 small pieces to cater to both seating and bed needs. Sometimes the gap between the cushions can be uncomfortable during bed mode. Adding a Shiki futon on top of the mattress can improve comfortability.
Couch/ Pull-out bed
The Couch/pull-out bed is a dual-purpose solution that provides both bed and seating. Double the seating space into a bed by using sliding slats. Or, extend the backrest area further by combining it with a heavy-duty slider. Or come up with a unique design.
The bed will hold near to the ceiling using four gas struts. Pull down when it needs, and it will rest in a secure holding once it gets down. You don’t need to worry about making the bed every day. Use it during the night and hide it close to the ceiling when it’s no use.
Electric lift bed setup
Electric lift bed is one of the expensive but super convenient setups that a campervan can ever have. There is no manual work involved with moving the bed. The bed platform can lift or lower to your desired height with just a flip of a switch.
Underneath the bed can use as a garage or a seating area. There is no bed assembly or disassemble every day since this lift raises or brings down as it is.
There are four tracks needed to install four corners to guide the lift. Also, this will make sure to properly lift the bed on all sides in a synchronized manner.
The entire lift setup can add extra weight to the overall van build compared to the other bed design. Another issue is the headspace. You might not be able to stand if you select a thick mattress. The mattress and frame use some space, so you need to consider that as well.
A similar setup is achievable using a ceiling lift if budget is a concern. It may not be as elegant as the premade electric lift, but it will serve the purpose.