How do I fit it all in? As you look at the space of your campervan, you may wonder how you’re going to organize all your necessities into this tiny area. Sure, you’ve sorted and given away a large portion of your worldly possessions, but some things can’t be parted with.
If you’re planning to live out of your van, you’re probably looking at kitchen designs. Maximizing space is critical when you’re drawing out the plans. Kitchens are such a challenge when it comes to tiny house living. The kitchen gear is bulky, and you want space to be able to prepare meals comfortably. But you don’t have much area to work within the narrow confines of a campervan.
Luckily there are ways to maximize the space in your vehicle, so you can have it all: an organized kitchen in a small area with every necessity. Here are some of our favourite ways of fitting it all into to our tiny home on wheels. Some are design ideas. Others are organizational tools that just make sense.
1. Choose drawers over cupboards
Before you even build your van, we recommend thinking of what layout will give you the most kitchen space. We recommend installing plenty of drawers instead of cupboards when you’re designing. Drawers are much easier to use and organize since you can see everything. They are generally a better use of space since nothing gets lost at the back of the cupboard. If you use drawer organizers (see tip down below), you’ll keep your drawers super organized too.
2. Drawer dividers
Drawer dividers keep everything neat and organized. They also keep drawer items from mixing and mingling while you drive. There are several varieties to choose from. Some are custom-made others come in set sizes. We like the ones that are adjustable to your drawer size.
3. Make things secure
No matter what organization strategy you have, you need to plan for kitchen items to move when you’re driving. To avoid breaking anything, invest in plate holders, drawer liners, and plate protectors to keep your fragile items secure while in transit. Alternatively, you can invest in kitchenware that is not breakable, like collapsible mugs (see the last tips on the list).
4. Wall space
Make use of all the space you have. Vertical space is prime real estate in your van. Hang containers above the counter, hang knives on a magnetic board on the wall, buy small shelves for organization, place cookbooks up and out of the way. Use your wall space as efficiently as possible is the key to maximizing your van storage.
5. Bekvam shelves
Speaking of wall space, we love these Ikea shelves here that look similar to the photos above. The shelves are small and don’t jet out too much, meaning you can place them on the walls of your van without worrying about hitting your head against them or taking up too much room. You can easily use the Ikea shelves as inspiration if you want to build or thrift your own.
Shelves are a lot cheaper than installing cupboards. If you buy containers that fit on the shelf, you can place your dry goods on display like spices or coffee. You can also use them as a make-shift liquor cabinet for your favourite bottles of hard alcohol. Or you can put cute potted plants on the shelf, clearing up space on the floor and counter for other necessities. Whatever you choose to do with your shelves, they can be fit virtually anywhere in your van and give you more space to stash things!
6. Cover the sink
When you’re not using the sink, have a cover for it. You can use this area as a cutting board or a food prep area. You can also store things inside the sink that need a secure location for when you’re driving. The people above have a sink cover that is slightly elevated but feel free to build one that is the same level as the counter space. When you’re not using it to cover the sink, use the moveable piece of the counter as a small bed or lap table for working or eating.
7. Extendable kitchen
Living out of a van means you don’t have much space to work with. Extend your kitchen area with counter space and storage that pulls outside. Not only will this get you out of your van, but you’ll also have tons of extra kitchen space that there simply isn’t room for inside. How big of a unit you build depends on your needs and where you put it. Above, you see that these vanlifers have even put a sink on their extendable kitchen counter.
Down below, you’ll see others have a stove in the back on their extension. Your possibilities are endless.
Bonus: having a stove outside means you don’t need to worry about ventilation inside the van if you’re using propane stoves.
8. Extendable counter space
Make those drawers come out to give you extra counter space when prepping for meals indoors. A smaller, indoor version of the extendable kitchen concept takes pull-out cutting boards, seen in some house kitchens, to the next level. We like that it takes less storage room than the extendable kitchen and is easy to clean and get out of the way when you’re done.
9. Dining table that doubles as a workspace
A small table unit in your van can make meals homier. It can be multi-purpose, too: turning into a workspace, a lounge and living room area, and extra counter space for cooking when you’re not eating. As you can see in the examples above, it does not have to be big, but just a small one will go a long way to adding comfort to your van experience.
If you don’t have space for a table in your van, a fold-up table is an excellent compromise. Flip it down when you’re eating and working and stash it away when you need more space.
11.Put food in containers
Putting food in stackable glass containers or a good size for fitting into the nooks and crannies of your van is a great way to maximize space. You’ll have a longer shelf life of your dry goods and, if you buy in bulk, less packaging waste. Glass containers are also attractive and convenient on display on shelves. Or you can place them in drawers for an organized look that’s easy to sort through. If you label the glass containers, you’ll be able to find your food items even faster.
12.Make use of awkward spaces
Use all the space you have! Hang things up in areas that fit. You’ll see above that these vanlifers store their cooking oils in the hollow space of the door.
There are plenty of areas that can be used to put a cupboard, drawer, or shelf. You’ll likely find some extra space somewhere for a small narrow cabinet – it could be only a few centimetres wide – where you can put thin items like cookie sheets, cutting boards, or spice racks. We love how this family made a narrow pantry in a skinny space they had leftover.
13.Store food in unused space
There is a lot of unused space in your van if you look for it. Under the front seats, compartments behind the sun visors, behind the seats in the pockets are just a few of the areas that already exist in your van that you can use to stash non-perishable food and other items that you need to put somewhere. The couple above used a 10-centimetre space they had leftover for a narrow compartment for pantry items and another compartment for electronics.
This couple has a great set-up behind the front seats to fit some of their morning items like tea, coffee, and a mug. We also love how the paper towel is out of the way but readily accessible.
14.Hang things up
A favourite option for many a tiny home liver, hanging up pots from the ceiling clears up counter space and makes them easily accessible when you need them. You can also hang kitchen utensils to keep counter space clear. Our favourite, though, is hanging up fancy glassware like wine glasses. It also can keep the items secure when you’re driving.
We love how these vanlifers have hung up their wine glasses, kitchen utensils and plant in the small kitchen space they have.
15.Over-door storage hanger
If you have cabinets in your van, over the door hangers are an excellent way to maximize space. You can place light items like baking sheets and cutting boards. Over-door hangers are also available for garbage. Once again, your goal is to keep stuff off the floor and counter to maximize your living area.
16. Use nested cooking gear
Cookware can take up a lot of space. Pots and pans and lids – even just a couple of each –can quickly delve into disarray, eating up all of your kitchen storage space. That’s why we like stackable kitchenware. These pots and pans fit perfectly together to take up minimal cupboard space. If you don’t want to buy new cookware, check out the picture in tip #3, you can create a cupboard custom-sized to the pots and pans you already have.
Like we mentioned above, it’s worth looking into kitchen gear that doesn’t take up much space. These collapsible strainers aren’t going to use up precious room. They can fit into an over-door hanger or even a shelf if need be, keeping drawer and cupboard space free for other items that need it. If you want to go even lighter, look into collapsible mugs. Collapsible kitchenware is not only useful for their space-saving capabilities but also because they don’t break so you don’t need to worry as much about keeping them secure while driving.