A Guide to Custom Campervan Layout Design

diy van conversions

Tips, tricks, ideas and resources for how to design the perfect custom campervan layout

Selecting a new or used campervan with the right layout that works for your lifestyle should be one of the first things you think about when purchasing an RV or conversion van for travel.

For those of us who live for our next motorhome trip, creating your own personalized layout may be worth considering.

Campervan layout design considerations

What are the most important aspects of being comfortable in your campervan or motorhome?

If you already own a motorhome and curious redesigning it to better suit your needs, then you may have to work a bit around the pre-existing design.

But if you’re thinking about purchasing a van or camper and then transforming it, think about the following considerations:

  • What types of activities do you plan on doing with your van? For example, if you plan on using your van for surf trips, you might want room for a shower to get all that sand off at the end of the day. If you plan to take the family on road trips, then comfortable sleeping space is important.
  • Do you plan to live in your vehicle full-time (aka “boondocking”)?
  • How many people will you be traveling with?
  • Will pets be joining you?
  • Are you planning on working inside your van? If so, you many want to consider a comfortable sitting area or office table.
  • How much headroom do you require? This is important. If you plan to place your bed across the van but are over 6-feet tall, you might run into some challenges.
  • How much storage space will you require?
  • Do you plan on cooking a lot in your motorhome? If so, you will likely want to enhance your kitchen area.
  • What are your lighting preferences? Natural light and windows can create a bright and open feeling. However, depending on the van you purchase you may need to install your own.

Pro tip: Search the web for ideas and inspiration. We suggest going on Pinterest and searching for motorhome and vanlife inspo. Instagram is another good source of inspiration. Start by following these 10 #vanlife influencers.

Resources for designing your camper van

If the thought of designing your own motorhome or campervan layout sounds daunting, we totally get it!

Fortunately, the internet is full of websites, blogs and forums that can help you visualize your perfect design.

Check out this list of resources to get started (and inspired):

Don’t forget to think about the big ticket items like solar panels, shower, toilet, insulation and electrical.

Depending on how comfortable you are with DIY, you may want to consider getting some assistance with some of the major technical pieces. Even if you’re taking your vehicle to an electrician or contractor, it’s important to be aware of the basics of installing major appliance type items.

Solar panels

Installing solar panels can be a great way to generate electricity for your home on the road. There are several components to consider when thinking about installing solar panels, including:

  • The panel/s
  • Wiring/fuses
  • Batteries
  • Battery-monitors
  • Charge controller
  • Inverter
  • Battery isolator

Here are a few resources for top solar panel brands and tips for installation:

Shower installation

If you already own or are thinking about purchasing a class B motorhome, you won’t have to worry about installing your own shower. Most class B’s and larger vans come standard with them.

However, if you’re transforming your conversion van into more of a motorhome style layout, then review some of the following tips and considerations for installing a shower:

  • You will likely have to give up a good deal of space to install your shower. If you’re unwilling to sacrifice precious interior space, consider other options like showering at rest stops or travel centers.
  • Using an inexpensive propane tank and a shower curtain for an outdoor shower could be a space-saving solution.
  • Battery powered showers are also an inexpensive solution.

And here are some resources related to shower idea that you might enjoy:

Toilet installation

Again, most motorhomes have a toilet already installed. But if you’re thinking about purchasing a vehicle for travel and would like to customize your floor plan to include a toilet, be prepared for some work!

Toilet installation can be tricky business. Please consult an expert if you have any anxiety around installing your own van toilet.

In the meantime, check out these resources:

Insulation and electrical

Creating a campervan that’s comfortable for you and your family is a top priority. If you’re purchasing or own a motorhome, you don’t need to worry so much about insulation and electrical as it will already be installed. But if you’re embarking on hauling out a conversion van and adding insulation, do your research.

Again, we suggest that if you’re at all hesitant about the insulation or electrical process, consult experts.

Utilize the following resources for adding insulation to your van:

In regards to electrical, here are a couple resources for creating the perfect lighting system for your custom layout:

Weight distribution

Unfortunately, not all van layouts coincide with physics. Proper distribution of the interior weight of your motorhome or van will keep you and your passengers safe, and prevent you from breaking down.

When selecting materials for furniture such as your bed, table and appliances, take into consideration that lighter may be better — not only for safety but also for economy. Consider that the heavier the interior features of your motorhome are, the less gas efficient your travel van will be.

Sketch your campervan layout

It doesn’t take an architect to put pen to paper and create a rough image of what you envision for your van layout.

We suggest taking several pieces of graph paper and marking off the areas where fixed objects are (toilet, shower, kitchen) and playing around with different configurations/layouts. When drawing your layout, try to draw to scale (1 inch = 1 foot).

Pro tip: Consider using a free program called SketchUp, an online 3D computer program. It takes a little bit of effort to get used to the program, but is incredibly helpful in the long run as it helps you to visualize your van’s layout with perspective.

Check out the following SketchUp tutorials if you’re interested in using this tool:


Above all, be creative and have fun!

Van life is about the experience. Whatever choices you make in regards to your layout should reflect your needs and desired experience.

Searching for your next motorhome or conversion van?

For over 30 years, Classic Vans has been servicing the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. Contact us or continue browsing our site to find the travel vehicle of your dreams.

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