the bed

We knew we didn’t have a lot of room in the van, so we decided to make a fold out bed that would double up as a couch during the day. We talked about the size and decided we wanted something about 180cm long and 110cm wide.

At first we thought to put the bed in lengthways but after talking it through we decided that it would be more space efficient to secure it in from side to side, with the back of the couch right up against the partition. The van is 170cm wide but we decided we were happy with this length as it would be less intrusive to the living area.

We designed it with a hinged lid, so we could use the space underneath for easily accessible storage, which we divided into three areas; the battery and control board consume one, and the other two are storage.

We built the bed outside of the van and then attached it to the metal frame on one side and through the chassis on the other side, so it was nicely secured in place.

We started with the initial frame (which makes up the couch and storage part) and then from there we added the slats. The slats on the couch side do not move, they are just able to lift up, and the slats on the other half can slide out, attached to a common support, so they don’t move around, by cross pieces at each end. We then hinged it at the rear and made sure that when the slats are pushed in, everything acts as one so it can lift up with no dramas.

This next bit took us a while to get right. When we first attached the sliding slats, we couldn’t then slide them out. This puzzled us a bit as we had left a decent gap between the moving and non-moving slats. 

We then came to think it was the guides that we had put in at each end of the stationary slats, as these were purposefully put in tight to try and keep everything straight. So out came the guides so we could thin them down a touch – but to no avail. The slats still didn’t want to slide out.

After a while, we realized the problem lay with the sliding slats’ rear support, which was being trapped between the bed’s frame and the stationary slats. This meant we had to remove all the sliding slats from this support and sand it down – a fair bit too – so it could fit in the gap as it was slid into the couch position.

Once this was taken care of, it worked.


We then built a front for it, which can easily be detached and supports the bed when pulled out. On both sides of this front we made little doors, so we can even more easily get to the two spaces when it is in the couch position and the middle one we have a hole so we can access the inverters’ socket.

And the final stage was to figure something out for a mattress. We knew of a local business that makes custom sized foam mattress’ so we got them to make us one, in two parts, so it can fold up to form the base and back of the couch during the day.

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