The Pixie Van Part I
Updated: Jun 4, 2020
Our home base, on the road.
When I was about four my mother took me to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, and while walking around the magical fest, a young woman dressed as a green & orange fairy came up to me, bent down, and gave me a small 'enchanted' green glass stone. I was hooked.
So when I told my stepdad I was going to be living in a van, and he started calling it 'the damn pixie van' as a jest-- I loved it. I mean, who doesn't want to live in a pixie van? (Also affectionately referred to as "Old Yeller", which only slightly sounds like the word 'yellow'.)
I moved in to James' 2018 Ford Transit in November of 2019, after he had had it for about a year. At that point he had already installed all the electrical including the fans in the ceiling, inverter, & solar panels, insulated, installed the flooring, interior wood siding & ceiling, built the bed frame, and put up the large brown cabinet. Since then, we have built a bench storage seat, kitchen counter with sink and cabinets, and a headliner shelf.
I'd wanted to live in a van for about three years, and had been seriously looking in to it for about a year when I met James. Someone I trust, who makes me feel safe, and special, and cherished asked me to dive in to my art, challenge myself in ways I'd only dreamed about, and experience culture and travel like I never had before. With my job at the greenhouse coming to a close for winter, it was an opportunity I just couldn't pass up.
So here it is! A quick walk through and look around, just to get your bearings. Keeping in mind, as with any space, it is a work in progress! I'll go into more & answer all your questions in The Pixie Van Part II next week. Enjoy!
Welcome to our home! Take off your shoes, and stay a while.
Living in the van full-time, we spend a lot of time driving--- who knew? This is the cabin's setup!
I use a vintage pillow case to solve the leather seats vs. shorts conundrum.
The dark blue gray ceiling is actually the underside of the headliner shelf &the van's newest upgrade.
James had these gray blackout curtains in the van when I moved in but they dragged on the floor, so I re-hemmed them to the right height. They were also hung up with a string until we installed the shelf. After one more session with the sewing needle, they fit perfectly.
Typically, if we aren't driving around that moment, I'll scoot the passenger's seat forward. It adds a few inches of room & allows for the curtain to lie more smoothly.
I crocheted a bag to keep our (reef safe) sunscreens and (Deet free) bugspray handy, while not taking up cabinet space.
Also handy & hidden under my scarf from Thailand- winter hat & gloves, and an umbrella.
You can sneak a peek here at some of the insulating James did when he installed the floors. He was careful to insulate as much as he could, as the sun beating down on any vehicle gets hot-- imagine living there! This way the temperature is better regulated.
The headliner shelf stores picnic blankets & tapestries, some snacks & art supplies, and of course, a few catch frisbees.
Privacy is PARAMOUNT since every time we go anywhere, we live there! Even with the wrap on the van, it's fairly 'incognito' as it fits in a normal parking space and it isn't obvious that there are people in there. Blocking the glow of the indoor lights from the cab is another way to keep us from drawing attention.
We are currently brainstorming ideas on how to finish some cosmetic pieces, for example, to the right of the headliner shelf. Not that we don't love seeing wool insulation, unfinished metal, and an airbag, it just isn't as much of a priority as that sink was.
Just a few weeks after I moved in, James had built this beautiful & useful bench seat and counter.
There's a sink operated by foot pump (uses no electricity) with an intake and gray water tank on the right, and on the left is a cabinet with 2 wire drawers and one large storage space underneath- serving as most of our kitchen.
The dark brown cabinet mounted on the wall/ceiling serves as our pantry, and the rest of it is filled with our clothes and toiletries. What clothes we don't have overhead are stored in the bench seat.
I put up the tile, and James & I picked out the paint color together (it's also the same color we painted the headliner shelf).
I just ordered magnets (120 of them, if you need any for your own projects) to put the rest of the spice containers up on the metal board, too, in an attempt to save more cabinet space.
Coffee cups are handy as a necessity, & the silverware mounted on the wall keeps it out of the cabinet & easier to access.
We went with a butcher block counter top since we liked the look of the conditioned wood, & it would serve as an extra cutting board.
Even though the seat is a tad too small for two, it contributes quite a bit in making the space feel more like an entire home.
The fridge is a Wynter brand and runs off the same solar power as the LED strip lights, 2 fans, and anything else we need to charge. It also runs the hot water kettle, and toaster oven in the kitchen (stowed behind the fridge by the board games).
Next week's Pixie Van Intro Part II will have an accompanying post full of links to some of the equipment James used for the conversion- you can check out what the setup looks like exactly, as well as get a rough idea for your own conversion adventure!
These fruit bags I made are almost always full of bananas, avocados, apples, ginger, garlic, lemons, limes, or even the occasional pineapple or two! Since we mostly eat fresh food, this keeps the counter clear of produce while protecting it from getting badly bruised as we travel around.
The bunny skull on the left hook is one I found on a hike in Arkansas with our friends Luke, Angi, and Nate.
I'm still convincing James it needs to be in the van.
Comfortable, calming, & cozy. The bed is a Queen size, and oriented in the van the long way since James is about 6'3". I've noticed most vans seem to have the bed oriented the other direction (which would work for me, I fit) but when it's your home & you're making it yourself- why not make it fit you?
Next to the door is our coat rack- which we use to hold my small hiking backpack (thank you, ALDI), our 2 recycled material microfiber towels, bag of shower stuffs, knitted bag my grandmother made me (thanks, Gigi!) full of charger cords, and James' sun hat.
Honestly, it's entirely too easy to overload this area with this and that, so we try to keep it as light as we can.
One of my favorite things about living is getting up to make breakfast.
This is my view every morning.
Cabinets mounted on the side containing clothes keeps one wall completely free- meaning the bed can turn into our version of a couch (or art studio) at any time.
James made the bed height this way to maintain a large amount of storage underneath, while still allowing someone of his height to sit up straight.
Here's a more realistic photo of our living space, featuring our trash bin & a milk crate storage seat I made from some scrap plywood.
As you probably know, I've got a thousand crafts & art projects going at a time. Fitting all that into a van has definitely been a challenge! Turning the crate into a move-able seat with added art storage not only completes the 'living room', but gives me a spot to stash a few books and some thread.
In the back, starting on the right side, we've got our backup water reservoir, yoga mats, large hiking backpacks, and James' disc golf bag, and our small folding table. On the left is another crate storage seat (with more books & art supplies!), storage tub with winter jackets etc. and a few discs!
Thanks for reading! Next week I'll answer the rest of your questions & post the info about equipment used etc. in The Pixie Van Part II! After that, I figure I should be able to post van life stories, recipes, and shenanigans all while you knowing exactly what I'm yammering about!
The face you make after running errands, tidying the van, photographing it, and sorting through ALL your art supplies on a rather sticky and sweaty day. (And finish your first ever blog post about van life!)