A 60-Square-Foot Off-Grid Van Home Features Hand-Painted Tiles and a Hand-Carved Table

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Name: Katie Diederichs and my husband, Ben
Location: USA! (We travel around in our camper van, so the location changes, but we are based in Bend, Oregon)
Type of home: Camper van
Size: 60 square feet
Years lived in: 2 months, own

Tell us a little (or a lot) about your home and the people who live there: My husband Ben and I are full-time travel bloggers, and we can’t think of a more perfect home than one that has wheels and can come with us on adventures. Our newly built van, which we named “Pearl,” is our second camper van build, and likely won’t be our last! We built our very first camper van in 2017 on a TINY budget. We had a dream of traveling around the West Coast of the USA, but after working at a ski resort for a winter season, we were broke. With a little creativity and a grand total $3,000, we bought a van and converted it into a tiny home on wheels.

We sold the van after that summer, but vowed to build another as soon as we had the chance. Fast forward to early 2020, and we finally got started on our second conversion. This time, we had a much larger budget to play around with and some experience to help us decide what features were necessary and important to us. Ironically, we started this build right before the Coronavirus pandemic began and we had no clue just how perfect the timing would be. Not only was it an incredible quarantine project, but it has been an amazing way to travel responsibly during this time. We have a composting toilet, solar panels, a kitchen, an outdoor shower, and a bed, all of which allow us to avoid restaurants, hotels, and public bathrooms.

Shortly after getting married in 2013, my husband and I quit our jobs and have been living and traveling around the world ever since. We relocated back to the U.S. in late 2019, and our camper van build has been able to satisfy our perpetually “itchy feet” by allowing us to have the best of both worlds: a home that is our own plus a nomadic lifestyle packed full of adventure. Our tiny home reflects our adventurous lifestyle. With solar panels and a composting toilet, it is practical for all sorts of off-grid adventures and is in line with our passion for lessening our impact on the earth. Additionally, the hand-painted tiles and hand-carved table showcase our creativity and our love of the outdoors.

Describe your home’s style in 5 words or less: Cozy Artsy Eclectic Nomadic Adventurous

What is your favorite room and why? Being that it really is only one 60-square-foot “room,” it’s hard to pick! That said, I love how our kitchen came together. I hand painted the tiles for our backsplash (using a stencil!) and carved two mountain ranges that are special to us onto our table. I also made my own leather drawer pulls, which was a really inexpensive project and really gives the house a nice look. I like how these artsy projects bring a little bit of our personality into the van and have really made it ours. We’ve only ever rented houses, so it felt really good being able to create something that felt like us, rather than someone else’s space. Also, we have a little slide out “porch” that we can sit on or use as a table. This is such a fun feature to have, especially when we come across beautiful views.

What’s the last thing you bought (or found!) for your home? The last thing we put in our home was a DIY air plant holder and it was super easy to make! I used a piece of wood I found on a hike and attached two air plants to it using wire I had laying around. We then attached it to the wall of our van using a hose clamp. Voila! Beautiful and inexpensive way to bring a little greenery into our home!

Any advice for creating a home you love? One piece of advice I’d have for anyone living in a small space is NOT to fill it all the way up. It can be tempting to use every square inch, but it will soon feel cluttered. Leave some room for growth and just empty spaces to make the space feel bigger and less cramped.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.