Our Sprinter Van Interior finishing touches
The final pieces of the puzzle: it took a lot of blood sweat and tears to get to this point, but the final touches are where we really got to add a lot of character and 'tie the room together,' so to speak. We stayed with our theme of simple, cozy and efficient, with a taste of rustic for our trim pieces, custom carabiner coat racks, and kitchen rails.
DISCLAIMER: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Note: this post is about our first Sprinter Van, which we bought in May 2016, converted, lived/traveled in, and sold May 2018. If you are looking for info about our second Sprinter/current project, please check the dates of the post and make sure you're reading posts from 2018/2019. Cheers!
There are a million and one different ways to cover your walls in a van, but we knew from before we even made the upgrade to a Sprinter that we wanted map wallpaper. When we were brainstorming ideas for our future van, we were living in a studio apartment in New Zealand that was totally covered in topo maps from around NZ. The house was also built almost entirely from reclaimed materials. Obviously that experience heavily influenced our design choices as we started this journey! Thanks for the inspiration Lucy :)
Obviously this is something to consider way before you get to the 'finishing touches' phase in the van, as we installed the wallpaper even before the cabinets went in.
We were lucky enough to have help in the process of figuring out how best to get the maps on our walls. We were originally planning on installing paper maps onto the plywood like traditional wallpaper (however you do that!?), but we started talking to our friend Destin who owns a printing shop in Jackson, WY. He suggested using a satin material with an adhesive backing that he can print on with his large (48" wide) printers. We settled on topo maps from Montana and Wyoming (some of our favorite mountain ranges on earth), got some help from our friend Pascal stitching them together and matching up lines in Photoshop, and had them printed a few days later. The ceiling is in 3 sections, and each wall is a single piece. The material is still going strong after 2 years, with basically no signs of wear. This is one of the first things most people notice when they look into our van, and we still lay in bed and discover new places daily.
Barnwood Trim + Ikea Kitchen Rails
Once we had the major components of our van build figured out, we cleaned up the edges with wooden trim. When we got our barnwood floor from a local woodworker in Idaho, we walked through the reclaimed lumber yard and picked out a few long, skinny boards with some character. The pieces we chose were from an old fence somewhere in Idaho. We sanded and oiled the wood to match the rest of the barnwood interior. We wanted to frame around the opening for the rear doors and put a long continuous piece where the wall meets the ceiling on the passenger side above the bed. This took a good bit of scribing and grinding the back of the pieces down to match the curvature of the van. How long has it been since we reminded you that there are no straight lines in a Sprinter van?
In the forward kitchen area of the van we had a few places to clean up as well. Both the area above the counter top, just above the driver side window (below the overhead cabinets) and where the roof panel meets the van wall above the sliding door were bare metal and needed a trim piece as well. We wanted these to be as functional as possible and had the idea of adding kitchen rails there for hanging towels, clothes, etc. Becca found a sweet system from Ikea that had good looking rails and baskets, hooks, caddies and other accessories designed to work with them. In order to have a sturdy piece to mount the rails to, we used the scraps that were left over from our barnwood flooring. The 'fence' trim pieces were not as solid, so we were happy to have good scraps that were the right size from the floor. We use these kitchen rails daily, both to hang the Ikea accessories from, but also with clothespins for wash cloths, drying laundry, hanging wet dog towels, etc. They are incredibly useful for multipurpose use of space.
One of the trickiest places on the interior of the van to clean up visually is the weird rounded corners above the headliner. We left the factory headliner piece above the cab when we gutted the interior, but had just had some old grey T-shirts rolled up and stuffed in there since we insulated, and couldn't really be bothered to come up with another solution for about a year and a half. We had seen people deal with this odd space in a variety of ways, including scribing a stiff piece of cardboard into the correct shape and wrapping it in burlap (a la Roaming Robos). This seemed to work well for others, but we couldn't get it to work for us. In the end, we used some upholstery foam we had left over from another project and cut it into approximately the right shape and covered it with cotton fabric (we happened to have some old t-shirts lying around that were the right shade of grey). It fills the space well (and holds itself in place) and was way easier than some of the ideas we had brainstormed to make something (incredibly complicated and time consuming) out of scrap wood.
Carabiner Coat Racks
We knew we wanted a place to store our ridiculous collection of jackets, hoodies, and hats on the rear door, but wanted a good system to keep them in place while driving, opening and closing doors, etc. Becca had seen a video using old carabiners to make custom coat racks. Our buddy Dave provided again and donated some questionable biners from his climbing stash to the cause. She used one of the skinnier scrap pieces of barnwood to mount the carabiners to. She cut a channel with a chop saw for each carabiner, drilled holes on either side top and bottom, and attached them with baling wire secured in the back. We pulled the upper panels from the doors and used them for a template to cut new panels out of the barnwood flooring scraps. Then we just glued and screwed the trim piece to the wooden panel and installed it on the rear doors with self tapping sheet metal screws. Ours turned out a little different than the video tutorial, the main difference being that we left the gates of the carabiners mobile so the jackets stay put with lots of movement. This is one of our favorite personal touches on the van, and one we get compliments on all the time. We love our custom coat racks!
We sealed all of the wood trim the same way as the rest of the wood in the van: Half & Half from Real Milk Paint, which is half pure tung oil and half citrus solvent. It is easy to work with, all natural, and really brings out the grain and natural beauty of the wood.
We had Reflectix window shades in our last van and loved them. They keep it cool inside when it's hot out and help insulate when its cold outside. It's pretty easy to cut the silver 'bubble wrap' with scissors so getting them the right size doesn't take long--you can use pieces of cardboard or butcher paper to make a template. We wanted to avoid the spaceship look from the inside, though, so we wrapped each piece in fabric to make them more visually appealing and cozy on the inside. We found some patterned organic cotton at the fabric store and Becca's mom Dayle used a sewing machine to wrap the interior side of the Reflectix. We then used some ribbon to sew small tabs with pockets for magnets to make it so we could pop them in and out of the windows easily. We started with magnets from the fabric store, but realized pretty quickly we needed something stronger--the cheap ones don't have much sticking power. Rare earth magnets seem to work best. We found some about the size of quarters that seem to be the perfect strength to hold up the 'curtains'. We also use these magnets on the van's exposed metal walls around the door to hold up mosquito nets, clothes for drying, etc.
If you found this blog post helpful, please feel free to visit our Thank You page to leave us a note or send us a Paypal contribution that will allow us to continue producing useful content. You can also use the affiliate links throughout our posts to help us earn commissions on your purchases. You pay the same price, we earn a small fee. Thanks for helping us help you!
Barnwood trim pieces + Barnwood scraps from flooring
Steel multipurpose wire
Real Milk Paint Half & Half Tung Oil wood finish
Old T-shirts :)
Organic Cotton Fabric
Wide Grey Ribbon