Let’s face it, while articles and images all about van life can indeed inspire wanderlust and supercharge your imagination for a life of ultimate freedom, more often than not the self builds and stunning high-spec conversions are simply too expensive for many people. But one creative couple has proven that a smaller budget really can go a long way, after converting a 2017 Ram Promaster Cargo Van into a cosy home-on-wheels for just $1000.

Grace lying on the bed inside her van in the daytime
Grace and her husband Marlon spent $1000 in Ikea to transform their van into a mobile home © The Sweet Savory Life

Grace Aquino, her husband Marlon and their dog Cash moved in full-time to their 60 sq ft van back in April, after having spent months planning and doing the conversion. Called Flippie, their van began as an empty shell, and as they began to envision how they would transform it, they spoke to many different contractors and companies about pricing. 

“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 told Lonely Planet. In the end, everything in the van was purchased at the store, except for the floor, insulation, ottoman and power station.

Flippie Van Storage_1.jpg
The interior storage © The Sweet Savory Life

A few essential details were put in place to assure the van would be comfortable. The couple insulated the walls with Styrofoam before hanging Ikea pegboards over it to serve as a wall with storage options. Next, the kitchen, desk and cabinets were mounted. They made use of Ikea’s return policy, since some items bought didn’t work or fit. “We must've visited over 10 times figuring out which items were best to use. Most of the furniture in the van is made of light materials like metals and plastic. We generally stayed away from their heavy wood items knowing the amount of vibration the furniture is subject to on the road. Also, we didn't want to add too much weight.” The couple said the reactions to the build have been very positive, with people being shocked at how cheap the conversion was and asking them to create a YouTube tutorial.

Inside the van
The couple chose light furniture pieces in Ikea for the build © The Sweet Savory Life

They are currently based in San Francisco, and take to the roads every few days to have a new adventure. Grace runs her baking, lifestyle and travel blog, “The Sweet Savory Life” from the van. Not having an oven in the van has meant that she has had to get creative with no-bake dessert recipes instead.

Flippie the van ikea build.jpg
Flippie the van is now their home on wheels © The Sweet Savory Life

More information on Grace, Marlon and Flippie is available at The Sweet Savory Life.

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