DIY VanLife: GMC Savana Camperization – cupboards, counter, shelves

We’ve done some more building – and are happy to report that this part of the process was fun and relatively simple! We decided to build some indoor living storage space where we can keep food and supplies, as well as a shelf for some odds and ends.

#1. The Cupboards

We bought a 20L water jug and sized out the depth and height of our counter based on its dimensions. We wanted the water jug on a shelf high enough to fit above a wash basin underneath and easily fill a full sized Nalgene water bottle. We also wanted a cupboard on either side of the water jug. So here’s the initial template – 48 inch walls, a counter top that is 16.5 inches deep and 42 inches long, and cupboard height of 21 inches. The walls, shelves, and counter were made with leftover sheets of 1/2″ and 5/8″ plywood.

We covered our counter with more blue arborite counter top, and used a router to get clean cuts around the edges.

We also routed out grooves of 1/8″ depth in the walls to inset our shelves and counter top more securely. We had to build all the puzzle pieces before we could assemble the whole unit.

Once in place, we had shelves of varying heights in each cupboard, and our home for the water!

As we will be living in a moving vehicle and driving our home around with us, we wanted to make as many “fences” as possible to keep things contained. We built a small fenced-in area at the rear on the counter top itself, and made smaller fences to screw onto the front of each shelf.

We also added that sticky no-slip stuff to our shelves to prevent (or reduce) the chance of things rolling around. Finally, we secured the whole structure to the wall. We didn’t have much to play with, but we did manage to screw it into the side of the bed and used corner brackets to connect to the wooden studs we put in during the insulation phase. Pretty tight squeeze to get into these cupboards!

Finally, we built ourselves some cupboard doors. This was super fun – We cut 1/8″ plywood to be inset into 0.75×1.75″ cedar edges, and then glued and brad-nailed them together Pretty doors!

We went shopping for a new tool – a forstner bit – to drill holes to inset our full overlay hinges in the cupboard doors. It was pretty finicky getting the hinges aligned properly, but in the end I guess we got close enough – they work great! We painted one of the doors with chalkboard paint which we will be sure to fill with secret messages. 

#2. The Shelf

We decided to put our extra storage shelf at the foot of the bed. We had some difficulties trying to figure out how we would adhere it because the studs were limited in this area. We ended up deciding to make the shelf the full length of the bed so we could screw it into the metal with corner brackets at either end. One stud in the middle of the shelf provided some extra support, as did another divider with some support near the ceiling. We didn’t want to put a door on this shelf, so we added a 4″ fence to keep things from going flying.

The next mission = wiring the solar panel and all of our gadgets! Then we’ll be on our way.

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