Our boogie van only came with one of the two original rear captains chairs. Shortly after purchase we removed the one, which was behind the driver’s seat, and put it in storage. We really enjoyed the space the boogie van offered us without anything between the rear bench/bed and the two front seats. It took all our kit and food and still left us room to change clothes and put on shoes. Despite that it didn’t take long for us to wonder how we could expand our amenities and make better use of the space our unit had.
After analyzing how much space we thought we could permanently fill in contrast to how much kit we normally take with us, and after giving some thought to how we might utilize that space with the most important amenities we wanted to add, we drew up some plans to organize those features. The main items that seemed most valuable were power, water and a refrigerator. The space to be utilized was that from behind the driver’s seat back to the rear seat and up to the roof. Theoretically we had a space of 50″ from floor to ceiling, 50″ between front and back seats, and 24″ out from the wall which was the width of the driver’s seat. What to do with 50x50x24?
The guiding principles of the build were light weight, sturdiness, separation of the water and power elements, and the ability to use the Coleman stove inside if all other options fail. If possible I wanted to be able to shelve at least some of the under-seat storage boxes we were using which fit neatly under the front of the back seat and were 11″ tall, 15″ wide and 18″ deep.
I broke up the water, power and refrigeration into roughly 16″ increments which would potentially permit box storage in any of the 3 quadrants. The refrigerator element was slightly larger to accommodate the size of unit we planned to buy and so was nearer 18″. Below is one of my preliminary sketches. On the left you look backwards from the front and driver’s seat, the larger drawing in the middle looks into the boogie van from the open side doors.
As the kitchen project immediately followed the solar panel installation the final placement of quadrants was dictated by where the power cables entered the van body from the roof. From straight measurements it seemed we had a large space to work with, but the curve of the van body and the window dressings were to make more of a difference than realized, and this changed the plan mid-build as I am not a sufficiently good carpenter to cut the contoured corners that were needed to conform to the van body, nor did I want to remove the window dressings that came with the van – they keep the unit a nice shade of dark while we sleep.
Not knowing exactly how the kitchen was going to be constructed, a trip to the hardware store was essential. Particle board was not going to be utilized, so the question really was 3/4 or 1/2 inch plywood? Comparisons of weight, space and cost allowed 1/2″ to prevail; there was also no reason to believe we needed the strength advantages of 3/4 inch plywood anywhere. Connecting these together also required some thought. We considered using 2″x2″ wood pieces to screw the plywood into, but were having trouble finding straight pieces. In the end, L-brackets were used to join the plywood.
The battery box was the first item built in given its location was largely dictated by the solar installation. The size of the power elements we had purchased, combined with the space needed to create an accessible wiring panel, meant we needed to increase the size of the battery box beyond initial planning. Options of putting the inverter on the other side of the van from the batteries were explored, but the installations instructions for the inverter demanded a shorter cable run. In the end the battery box was as tall as the driver’s seat and it was all we could safely fit in this quadrant.
Below is the battery box after initial installation, I will detail the wiring plan in another post. You can see the other intended quadrants to the left of the battery box, this is as far as assembly progressed for a time.
When the decision was made to purchase a refrigerator the remaining two quadrants went into production. Creating the rough-in for the fridge was completed with the bottom portion of an old Ikea shelf support I had, otherwise I would have been looking for 2×2’s again. The counter top was set at a height of 28″ to allow for refrigerator clearance and to keep maximum distance from the Coleman stove to the roof.
We had found a small RV sink at a local hardware recycler which was perfect for the remaining space. The sink was installed at an angle to keep the total size of the counter top as small as possible, while knowing we needed to exit the sleeping area around it. It also allowed for easier installation of the manual water pump and the under-sink soap dispenser we had from an previous home update project. Stain and clear coat followed the final hole cuts.
When the refrigerator was installed there was still a 4″ gap between it and the counter, so we sourced a bin as a drawer from the Ikea children’s furniture section for extra storage. A channel to hold the drawer was made out of aluminum angle pieces. A word of advice, to avoid small spaces and short screwdrivers install the drawer before the fridge. The space around the drawer allows the fridge to vent.
The edges were finished with a 1/2″ plastic molding from the hardware store. Below are a couple of different looks at the finished kitchen project. We did add a bin on the counter to increase our storage again which we take off if we need to use the Coleman.
Here is a look at our under-seat storage bins. We have two plastic bins and a small floppy cooler as the third.
Keywords: kitchen, storage, power, electricity, refrigeration, boogie van mods.