Van build: The rustic conversion of our VW T5 Transporter

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

I’ve been desperate to show you the finished results of our van build project – the rustic/modern country remodel of our trusty VW T5 Transporter, Algie. After working like crazy to get it all ready, we had our first proper test run in the van down in Dorset over the half term, and it was a roaring success.

It’s hard to believe that Algie was just a builder’s van when we bought him just over a year ago. Now the van can sleep all five of us, with the kids in the pop-top, us on the rock n roll bed in the back, and the dog on the passenger seats in the cab.

Our big focus has been getting the electrics, plumbing and kitchen finished, and we’re pretty much there. The kitchen has a working gas hob (located under a section of worktop that lifts off when we want to cook), a sink (still needs sealing) and drawers, and baskets for storage (as well as a shelf for jars of pasta etc at the end of the bench seat).

Our vision for the interior was to create something that didn’t feel like your standard caravan or camper van. We wanted to fit out the van in a style that’s more us – so we channeled a rustic modern vibe with quirky vintage details.

Of course it had to be super-practical, too. I’ve been endlessly obsessing over clever storage ideas for small spaces, so that we can make the interior of the van work as hard as possible. Now the main elements of the build are done, there are definitely more hacks and storage tricks that we’ll be adding to the van over the next couple of months.

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

The lid of the bench seat lifts up to access a chest fridge, powered by the leisure battery. There is also some space either side for extra storage. We plan a very narrow ledge to the front of the bench for storing guide books and maps.

I need to tidy up the cushion on the top – it’s just a piece of foam inside a linen pillow case, but I intend to sew it up so it’s a better fit! I made the curtains from a linen sheet, and they’re lined with blackout fabric. We loved the idea of cedar panelling for the walls – it adds warmth and interest and also smells fantastic. Just out of shot to the right is our clothes storage unit (still a work in progress).

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

I annoyed Ben by presenting him with this hanging planter while he was mid-build! Not sure adding a hook for me was top of his list of priorities at that moment, but I was insistent! There’s a shelf under this section of worktop where we store jars of pasta and rice etc.

For now, we’ve painted the splash back with blackboard paint, and we’ll slowly add notes and little doodles to it with chalk and a white marker. That little line drawing of a fire is our campfire tally (no longer at zero!).

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

I followed Katy’s tutorial to make these leather drawer pulls. I used a leather strap from an old basket, and I’m so pleased with how they’ve turned out. The drawers were a little tough to pull out at first, but Ben’s adjusted them now and they run really smoothly.

The top drawer holds our cutlery and ‘useful’ bits and bobs. The bottom drawer is used for utensils and our enamel plates, bowls and mugs.

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

I still love the floor design (vinyl from Atrafloor), but it gets really dirty and is hard to clean unless you take a scrubbing brush to it. I’ve added a doormat from Ikea to protect it, and I’m fastidious about sweeping it out and wiping it down regularly.

One of the baskets at the bottom of the kitchen cupboards is used to store saucepans etc, and the other is our pantry.

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

We picked up the worktop at a local reclamation yard – it’s an old iroko school lab bench from Eton College. I love its sense of history, especially where students have bleached little faces onto the surface. The little sink is an old jelly mould which Ben has added a waste pipe to. Eventually we will also have a tap, but we’re still on the search for the perfect one.

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

That simple tap there is super useful. It’s hooked up to a pump so we can get water at any time – great for the kids , who can keep helping themselves to a drink.

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

Rustic T5 campervan conversion | Growing Spaces

It was the pup’s first camping trip, and she settled into the rhythm of it pretty well (after plenty of initial total craziness when we thought bringing her along was possibly our worst decision ever!).

We also expect to keep tinkering with the design – I’m sure we’re discover things that we want to tweak. This layout suits us for now, but we’re more than happy to change things up again. Now the main part of the build is done, there’s still plenty more we want to do to finish it off – I’ve got a loads of little finishing details to add, and we need to finish building the clothes storage, and storage for the back of the van.

The thing we love most about having the van is that we can leave everything packed up in there so that we’re ready to go off on an adventure without too much prep or stress.

I’m really aware that I haven’t covered everything here, so I intend to do a follow-up post going into more techy detail. In the meantime if you have any specific questions please either comment here or drop me an email and I’ll do my best to help.

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