Projects & Improvements

This Couple Decked Out a Camper Van with IKEA for Under $1,000

updated Dec 12, 2019
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The prospect of upgrading an ordinary van into a dreamy home on wheels has influenced tons of people to trade in their traditional digs to pursue the Insta-worthy #vanlife. If you’ve ever looked into the cost of van conversions, it quickly becomes apparent that they’re not always the most economical projects. Here to prove that there is certainly a way to build out a van on a super tight budget are Grace Aquino and her husband Marlon, a couple whose DIY van conversion cost $1,000.

Armed with determination, a creative vision and Marlon’s experience with assembling IKEA cabinets, the couple decided to bypass a pricey professional job and tackle the van buildout on their own. Refusing to be deterred by their lack of prior building knowledge, Grace and Marlon worked together to produce a versatile camper, a 2017 Ram ProMaster 1500 Cargo Van affectionately named Flippie.

“To our surprise, the cheapest quote we were given was $15,000 for a very basic build without a platform for our bed. So our only practical choice was to do it ourselves. While doing our research, we were overwhelmed at the amount of work it takes to convert a van. We didn’t have the tools, the space and the skillset needed. My husband had really only built Ikea furniture in the past, so we thought why not visit Ikea to get some inspiration? Once we found a few things that we knew would work for our van, we decided to fully commit to building just with Ikea,” Grace explained to Lonely Planet

With the exception of the flooring, power station, insulation and ottoman, all of Flippie’s furnishings came from IKEA. The couple based this decision on this store’s return policy, its reasonable prices, showroom inspiration and the fact that they could replace any items that broke. They also went with lightweight furniture made of plastic of metal to reduce the chances of pieces being damaged while moving.  After spending (and surviving!) a winter in the van prior to the conversion project, Grace and Marlon decided to insulate the van’s walls with Styrofoam. Inside, there are 60 square feet of interior space plus a side window that isn’t standard for ProMasters. The van has a low ceiling but it leaves enough space for both occupants to stand comfortably. 

For more information on Flippie, Grace, and Marlon’s #vanlife adventures, check out Grace’s blog The Sweet Savory Life