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When John and I decided to sell our house and move into a van to travel the country, one of my biggest fears was that we would start to miss having a place to call our home. I think I’ve always been a bit of a minimalist when it comes to decorating but we both love art and would collect a few meaningful keepsakes from our travels to add to our house to make it feel like us. This was going to be hard to do in the van since we were downsizing from approximately 1600 sf to 60 sf. So, I’ve put together a few of my favorite van life decorating tips and hope you find at least some of them helpful.
Our van is very small. We have a converted Ford Econoline e350. It doesn’t have a toilet or running water. When we decided we were going to do this “vanlife” thing and started looking for vehicles, John and I both knew the most important thing to us was spending most of our time outside of the van. We wanted to spend our time exploring nature or the new city we were visiting. We also decided, for our sanity’s sake, to buy a van that was already built out since neither of us are very handy. That’s not to say we wouldn’t have jumped all over a fancy high top Sprinter van or the like if we found one within our budget, but we didn’t.
Van Life Decorating Tips
The key, when decorating any space, is to add pieces that are meaningful and functional. When you live in a van, these are usually relatively small as well. The pieces you choose to add to your space should express who you are, and make you smile when you see them (much like decorating a full sized house).
Because our van is tiny, every piece we bring in is intentional and serves a purpose (or multiple purposes). When I shop, I’m no longer tempted to buy all the things. If it’s not something that I absolutely love, along with being something we need, it’s easy for me to say no, because we literally don’t have the space. This has been life changing, and I hope it continues even when we end up with a house again some day. My number one van life decorating tip is to be intentional in all of your purchases. Really take time to think about what you need, if you love it, and where you want to put it.
Even though our van is only around 60 square feet, I think of it as three separate areas: bedroom, living room, and kitchen. This makes our van seem huge, but you should know, all of these spaces overlap…a lot!
One thing we both knew we wanted in a van was a full time bed. We liked the idea of having a sitting area with a table, but the thought of converting it back and forth every day and night was something we knew we wouldn’t be very good at. Having just the bed though, really forces us to at least make it each day. Let me correct myself, it forces ME to make it everyday. John still doesn’t care about whether or not the bed is made, but I would lose my mind with how messy our van would look if the bed wasn’t made. Anyway, having a full time bed allows me to decorate it with a fun comforter and pillows to add a little of our style.
We also love our Rumpl blanket. It adds a pop of color and we use it all the time to cover up with outside if it’s chilly or as a picnic blanket.
Pro-tip: if you get a two sided, or reversible duvet cover or comforter you can turn it over to add a fresh new look whenever you want! A few I love are this Vaulia Microfiber Geometric duvet, this fun FenDie Colorful Arrow duvet, or the Uozzi Blue Gray Triangles and Stripes duvet that we have in our van.
We found a great sign while visiting Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco that we attached to our closet door. You can read about our trip to the Silos here. We also found some Tibetan prayer flags at a shop in New Mexico that fit perfectly along our storage rail to add a little more of our personality and some pops of color.
Our van also came with overhead LED lights as well as dimmable rope LED lights mounted to the underside of the storage rails on both sides of the van. I decided to add some LED indoor/outdoor globe string lights to the back door to make it more cozy in the evenings without having to have the super bright overhead lights on. We also picked up a second strand of lights that we can hang from our side door or awning in the evenings for a softer feel without attracting a ton of bugs.
Speaking of bugs, I can’t forget to mention the cute citronella candle we found. I couldn’t find our exact candle on the web but I love this cute mason jar one! Candles always warm up a space and this one is extra functional. It is also small enough to fit in our overhead rail storage when we are traveling so it doesn’t slide off of the countertop and break.
In the kitchen area, we added this Home Intuition 3-Tier Fruit Basket, which is till one of my favorite pieces. I’ve seen a lot of other van lifers out there with the under cabinet fruit/veggie hammock, but I really liked the look of this basket and having three separate compartments lets us store more than just fruits and veggies in there. We have it secured on the top and through the bottom so it doesn’t fly around when we drive.
Another fun and easy way to add some spunk or style is with a fun hand towel or two. Our Engel fridge has a handle that works perfectly as a towel holder! We also added a few command hooks to the walls that also make for good towel holders (even though we use most of ours to hold John’s hats).
One of John’s favorite decorating tips is adding a sticker to the fridge for each new place we visit. So soon our refrigerator will be wallpapered with memories of our travels.
Home Sweet Home
Now when we go inside Junior it doesn’t just feel like a van, it also feels like home. I will continue to keep my eyes out for fun little touches I can add to Junior without cluttering him up too much. And, so far so good, neither of us have gotten too homesick yet!
What are some fun touches you’ve added to your van or RV to make it feel more like home? Let us know if you have any more ideas for us!
Interested in van life? Here are a few more articles you may find helpful.