After spending a lot of time in their much-loved converted Post Office van, campervan and tiny house enthusiast Jack Richens from Oxford, England, and his girlfriend Lucy Hedges had their sights set on converting a larger van that would provide more comfort. They settled on a second-hand 2012 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and after 600 hours of work had created a stunning motorhome.
driven a few different vans we wanted something that was going to be
big enough to accommodate a family, but with enough grunt and
reliability to make the investment in the workload worthwhile,"
Jack Richens tells New Atlas. "Both of us agreed on the Sprinter
and then we argued about the color for ages."
The couple adopted boat building techniques to create the van's unique 14-sq m (151-sq ft) interior, which includes two sleeping quarters that can accommodate a family of four; a kitchen complete with a two-gas-burner stove top, Belfast sink and hidden fridge; rotating captain seats that swivel 180 degrees to become part of the four-person dining area; and lots of hidden storage space and user-friendly features.
"Inside the van you'll find two delinquent infants who adore going on camping adventures and couple of very lucky parents," says Richens. "The main feature of the van is freedom to go where you want, whenever you want and live in luxury."
The couple says a family of four can happily spend an entire week staying in the van when the weather isn't so great outside and still have a good time. However, the van isn't equipped with a toilet or shower, so it would need to be parked close to such amenities. Converting the van themselves allowed the couple to add plenty of custom touches.
"It's bigger than some flats I've seen in London," says Richens. "I can stand up with plenty of head room to spare, which makes wrestling into a wet-suit a breeze ... Lucy struck upon the idea of the stacked bunks and things really just escalated from there. Various elements of the layout are borrowed from inland watercraft design, which worked really well."
In addition to 5-, 12- and 240-V electrics, there are removable passenger seats, storage space for surfboards, a large collection of buckets and spades, giant-bubble making equipment, skateboards, a decent pair of binoculars and even a catapult, believe it or not.
"We like to set up targets in the woods or on the beaches and and shoot stuff with [the catapult]," adds Richens. "It Passes the time. Catapults have got me into all sorts of trouble before, I wouldn't want my daughters to miss out on that."
The process of converting the motorhome saw the pair overcome several difficulties, which included finding ways to make the interior space functional; working productively together in such a tight space; and making sure each bespoke element was precisely designed, measured and cut correctly.
"The whole conversion was one massive difficulty after another," says Richens. "[It] involved a great deal of experimentation, head scratching and swearing. We also argued a lot about the best way to solve the various problems we encountered. Getting a few millimeters out in one part of the build really does make the difference between success and failure later down the line. We had to unpick a lot of work, wasting days, weeks even, to get things corrected. Undoing weeks of work is very disheartening, but we know where those gotchas are now. They are lessons worth learning the hard way."
The whole conversion took the couple approximately 600 hours to complete, setting them back close to £18,000 (US$23,200). While the endeavor wasn't exactly cheap, according to couple it was worth every penny. Since being completed, the van has been all over the UK to countless festivals, surf trips, parties, weddings, mountains, forests and sandy beaches.
"It also gets used to move bags of cement and sheets of plywood around. It is a van after all," jokes Richens.
Jack and Lucy are currently working on a similar van conversion with a few tweaks and alterations to their previous design. Having learnt a lot from this project, the two are applying lessons learnt to improve on their conversion skills and ideas.
"There are loads of great ideas on the drawing board too, [including] a five-berth design, another with a shower room, and quite a few other exciting plans we're keeping under wraps," says Richens. "Small spaces offer enormous potential. They present a lot of problems and there is a lot of fun to be had trying to solve them effectively. There is a lot of fun to be had."