Van Build Layout: Why I chose a Convertible Bed vs a Fixed Platform for Van Life.

Speaking from personal experience, if you’ve been considering van life, you’re probably already dreaming about the layout you want. You’ve probably been scrolling through instagram, picturing yourself drinking your cup of coffee in bed with an epic view of towering mountains like the van-lifer you’ve seen on your feed.  By now, you’re probably wondering if you should have a Fixed Platform Bed or a Convertible Bed.

Layout is everything when it comes to your home on wheels and should be highly considered before you even start your build. If you don’t have a layout that works for you and your needs, you’ll probably burn out fast because you’ll literally be working against yourself every single day. 

When my boyfriend and I lived in a 1984 Chevy G20 that we lovingly named Rosa, my MAIN priority for our build was to have a fixed platform bed. One of my main joys in life is making a bed (I’m a virgo, okay) and it was part of my morning routine that I helped me start my morning off on the right foot. 

Plus having a space dedicated just for sleeping was absolutely something I wanted because it would make me feel more at *home* even if my home was constantly moving.

So, you’re probably thinking:

Why did I decide on a convertible bed for my new build?

Well to be honest, why I chose this layout at first isn’t why I love it now. Here’s why:

When my boyfriend and I were living in Rosa, I was working about 20 hours a week, mostly just through the weekends. When we did work, we would often go find a coffee shop in town, get our work done, and then scoot back out of town and go straight back to the wilderness for the next four wonderful days off in a row.

My life and world around me isn’t like that anymore (at least not in 2020). Living through a global pandemic makes working at coffee shops can be pretty difficult. Not only are most indoor seating establishments not open, you can show up to a coffee shop that doesn’t have any plugs on their patio for charging your computer or a patio at all. Plus, with limited seating, that patio may be full.

Convertible style bed for van with cushions and throw pillows.
Convertible style bed @wildandhere

On top of that, the amount that I work have has changed. I work about 40 hours or more a week, so being able to have a constant place that I can sit and get work done when I need to is absolutely necessary. I built my van during the pandemic so this was definitely a consideration of mine.

Okay okay, but what if I don’t work 40 hours a week and just want to know if I would like having a convertible bed?

So why I built my space the way that I did at first, is not why I absolutely love it now. I honestly would probably not go back to a fixed bed in a van at this point.

Having a convertible bed allows me to use every inch of space that I have in this van. There is no area wasted. I’m able to have a bed, a lounge, and an office all in one single area of my van.

 Now, I have one of the shortest vans you can buy, so if you have a longer van, you can typically have a fixed platform bed AND a lounge area, but with my situation — I needed to have a large table to do art plus I love inviting people over for dinner. With my set up now, I can sit 5 people comfortably at my table in such a small space.

Slide over to transition from an office to a bedroom!

But what about that morning routine I loved about making the bed every morning? 

I didn’t think this would be as big of a deal as it has become, but waking up and converting my bed into a lounge area or office allows my mind to switch gears and get ready for the day. Being an organized person, this really helps me feel ready to get work done! It’s a whole mindset shift. 

On days that I’m feeling lazy or need to rest and relax, I leave my bed in bed mode and it helps me feel like I don’t need to get a million thing done because I’m dedicating some time to take it slow when I feel that is a need.

One thing to remember: You don’t HAVE to convert it every day if you want to have it in bed mode most days. 

That was a huge thing for me too when I was trying to decide what I would like. I kept asking myself “is it going to be a total pain to have to transition my bed every day?” But, who says you have to! If you think you’ll use your table once or twice a week and leave it in bed mode the rest of the week, that’s an option. 

Dog laying on camper van bed with coffee and flowers.
@wildandhere

Okay so how do I know what option is best for me?

One thing to note if you don’t have a fixed platform bed, you lose A LOT of storage space. Most of the time, if you have a fixed platform bed, you can build it high enough to give yourself a “garage.” That is where you can store your bikes, inflatable kayaks, climbing gear, winter clothes, you name it. If you have a space like mine, you basically forfeit all of that. Now, because I’ve traveled in a van before that had that garage space, I can tell you that I almost NEVER got into it and it became a disorganized mess. We got that kayak out maybe twice the whole summer. It would have been easier just to rent one to be honest than to haul it around.

You have to ask yourself what layout will best layout for you and your adventure needs. If you have large adventure items like bikes, inflatable kayaks, or lots of climbing gear, you’ll probably not want to forfeit that garage space.

My priorities for storage were to have a safe, dry place for my art supplies, a place I could easily hide but access my shoes (we added storage into the floor under my table) and storage for kitchen supplies because I love cooking (which also meant needed a pantry). Given that, all of my priority storage items were small so I was able to forfeit the garage and add additional cabinets over the bed/lounge area instead of a large garage.

Whatever layout you decide, make it work for you and how you live, not the other way around. 

Was this post helpful for you? Let me know in the comments section then head over to Instagram and send me a dm letting me know!

Xoxo, 

Chandra

7 thoughts on “Van Build Layout: Why I chose a Convertible Bed vs a Fixed Platform for Van Life.

  1. I’m loving your blog posts! I’m almost done converting my own van with a very similar layout to yours. We were sooo close to choosing the “fixed bed” style just because so many experienced van lifers swore by it, but ultimately decided to go with what best suits our needs and I’m so glad we did! Way to rep the convertible bed! 🙌🏼

      1. Yes, put it here also. I love that you said, if you don’t want to make your bed then don’t. 🙂 We are planning our van and we don’t need all the garage space so we are going to do a convertible bed. My husband, who is also a Virgo, says it looks more open and spacious when there is not a platform bed. However, I totally get why people do them. Especially if you have bikes, snowboards and other large gear.

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