How We Designed Our Van Build, Part II – The Kitchen and Upper Cabinets

In my previous blog post regarding how we designed our van, I wrote largely about what I believe to be the core of any van build – the bed. As many of you now know, the cabin of our Nissan NV2500 is only roughly 9′ deep, and our bed takes up just under half of that space. We decided to go with built-in seating that doubles as storage (as opposed to seating that can break down and be stored), so our question was, “How can we maximize the versatility of this remaining space which at best is only 5′ by 5′?”

The Kitchenette

For us, it was an obvious move to also build in a kitchen counter as a non-removable structure (which, if you haven’t noticed, has been our trend!). The final design for our kitchen counter includes a large set of double cabinet doors that open up to fresh and grey water tanks as well as our sink’s foot pump, and the plumbing area is flanked on the right by four small drawers.

The top “drawer” is actually a slide-out cutting board, which at first we found fun and convenient, but ultimately we found that throwing a normal cutting board on the counter or table gave us much more arm space. The sliding cutting board makes for a decent counter extension, but it likely would have served us more as an additional drawer.

The drawers themselves are about 8″ by 15″ so they are fairly narrow, but we made them just over 5″ deep and have been able to fit virtually all of our plates, utensils, and other kitchen items in the three drawers with no issues. In the plumbing area, our water jugs and tubing take up most of the space, but we still have room for cleaning supplies on the floor of the cabinet area.

In a guide I’ll write in the near future, I’ll explain how I made our sink out of a $4 aluminum salad bowl and a basic drain assembly from Home Depot. This was a great way to save money as well as conserve space on our relatively shallow countertop (plus, our TikTok video of it went stupid viral). Another way we saved space was by deciding not to mount a stove onto the counter itself. Instead, we have both a Coleman two-burner propane stove and a small Coleman backpacking stove at our disposal, either of which easily fit onto the counter itself for cooking. This way, we still have plenty of counter space ready to go when we prep food that doesn’t require heating!

The Upper Cabinets

This one was also a no-brainer for us. Because we firmly believe storage is king, we couldn’t let nine feet of straight, bare wall go untouched. The construction was simple (and will be detailed further outside of these design posts): I nabbed a 10″ by 8′ plank, mounted it on the wall, and partitioned it into four sections. I highly recommend using wall space like this to your benefit, particularly if your van as such a high top like ours does. This line of cabinets hangs above our kitchen counter and the foot of our bed, so my head wasn’t going to be up there anyway!

So, did I miss anything? Don’t stop yourself from reaching out if you have specific questions about why we made any of our design choices, and soon, I’ll get into the how.


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