Budget Breakdown: A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Turns Into a Chic Tiny Home For $27K

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By Marissa Hermanson
Jack Richens, the expert van renovator behind This Moving House, pulls out all the stops for this incredible conversion.

"Short of pouring foundations, converting a van is a lot like building an entire house," says Jack Richens, the custom van renovator behind This Moving House in Oxford, United Kingdom.

Richens recently transformed a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van with a 177-inch wheelbase into a chic, 91-square-foot mobile home with a kitchenette, cozy sleeping berth, lots of nooks and crannies for storage, and additional heating and insulation so that the van can weather winter in the mountains during ski season.

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Budget Breakdown: A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Turns Into a Chic Tiny Home For $27K - Photo 1 of 9 -
Richens transformed an empty delivery van into a cozy, 91-square-foot mobile hideaway.

Richens transformed an empty delivery van into a cozy, 91-square-foot mobile hideaway.

The four-month-long renovation of the empty delivery van was designed as an alternative to the Volkswagen T5 camper van, and included bodywork, wiring, plumbing and a pretty new interior that cost $27,064.

"Having spent several years living in vans, I’ve got a bit of experience converting vehicles, but this was the first time that anything to this standard had been attempted," Richens says of the job. "Finishing it to that level of geekery was new territory."

White and light wood cabinetry, along with a cheery blue tile backsplash, give the kitchenette a bright and airy feel.

White and light wood cabinetry, along with a cheery blue tile backsplash, give the kitchenette a bright and airy feel.

For functionality, the interior takes cues from mobile vehicles like canal boats, train cabins, yachts, and even airplanes. "There are so many tried and tested methods of utilizing small spaces that open up lots of possibilities to camper vans," he says.

"The details in some of the woodwork is getting into the realms of cabinet-making which, in retrospect, might have been taking things a bit far, but it was well worth the effort," he says. 

"The details in some of the woodwork is getting into the realms of cabinet-making which, in retrospect, might have been taking things a bit far, but it was well worth the effort," he says. 

While Richens has experience renovating vans, he still experienced some challenges along the way. "Building anything dead square inside a van is really hard. Nothing is ever straight, nothing is ever upright, and nothing is ever parallel, so getting things like big drawers to run true and doors to hang square is a real challenge," he says. "As frustrating as it is, you just have to take time to get things sweet at every step, which is easier said than done."

"The details, such as the fine joinery and fancy bits, took a while longer to get right," says Richens, who custom-built every detail down to the silverware boxes. "The custom cutlery tray inserts were made to measure to fit the drawers. It was a bit of a flight of fancy, but once you're down the rabbit hole, you may as well keep going."

"The details, such as the fine joinery and fancy bits, took a while longer to get right," says Richens, who custom-built every detail down to the silverware boxes. "The custom cutlery tray inserts were made to measure to fit the drawers. It was a bit of a flight of fancy, but once you're down the rabbit hole, you may as well keep going."

Richens invested money in certain high-end items, like the stove and timber. "The stove top is five times more expensive than it could be, but works and looks 10 times better," he says.  

Richens invested money in certain high-end items, like the stove and timber. "The stove top is five times more expensive than it could be, but works and looks 10 times better," he says.  

To maximize storage in the van, heavy-duty drawers were installed under the bed. And he also was able to make use of inaccessible spaces around the wheel arches by creating storage.

Storage for bulky ski equipment and clothing was built under the main bed.

Storage for bulky ski equipment and clothing was built under the main bed.

"We kept the storage as close to floor level or hidden away to give the impression of light and open space throughout the living areas, and it really works," he says. "There’s loads of storage and the place doesn’t feel cramped at all." 

"The pull-out drawer at the rear is a very large and sturdy storage space that can actually support my weight (although a bit scary) and was intended to be just stowage space really," he says. "Once it was installed and we pulled it out, we discovered it was a great height for sitting at. And then the idea of a rather elaborate outdoor kitchen came up."

"The pull-out drawer at the rear is a very large and sturdy storage space that can actually support my weight (although a bit scary) and was intended to be just stowage space really," he says. "Once it was installed and we pulled it out, we discovered it was a great height for sitting at. And then the idea of a rather elaborate outdoor kitchen came up."

Budget Breakdown: A Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Turns Into a Chic Tiny Home For $27K - Photo 9 of 9 -