Jam's Advantures - Downsizing Pt.II / by Jamie Warne

I can't believe it has almost been a month since my last blog post which showed how I would approach downsizing. Truth be told, I've actually been continuing to work on and refine the idea ever since.

As part of my desire to self-teach myself stuff, I decided to teach myself the basics of Sketchup. I had tried it quite a few years ago (when it was still free), but never got the hang of it for some reason. Perhaps I had used Blender for too long!

As it turns out, now that I've come back to it, it seems to be a lot easier to use. It actually reminds me of Solidworks more than anything else, with its precise measurements and intuitive system.  There are also thousands upon thousands of Workshop components which you are free to use in your own project. But despite all this, for some reason it's been a very slow process - even slower than with Blender. I don't know that I can put that all down to it being new to me either...

The one big problem I have with it (in my scenario) is that renders are not something that can be easily done. What's even more disappointing is that the Indigo renderer (used in both Blender and Sketchup) is actually paid software now - to the tune of £300! It used to be free, so god knows how that happened. And of course, being such expensive software, they have watermarked any render that comes out of it in the 30 day trial version...

TL,DR: There will be no smart renders, but there will still be plenty of screenshots to get the design across.

So, what's changed since last time?

Not a great deal, to be honest! But there have been a few important changes;

  1. The bathroom has had one wall curved to create a better walkway space towards the cab
  2. The desk has had it's diagonal corner lopped off (and actually, the whole desk has been redesigned thinking about it!)
  3. Even more storage space!
  4. The storage space under the bed has been adjusted to make room for specific items (including a fridge, and water tank)

So let's get on with the tour! As always, you can click on an image to enlarge it!

The Outside

As you can probably tell, my current idea is to use a LWB (long wheelbase) medium-roof Transit minivan, rather than the standard panel van. Means I don't have to get specialist windows put in because they are already there!

Other improvements include a little bit of signwriting - it took me quite a while to work out what I wanted, but the end result, I feel, looks great.

The Wetroom

Here you can see the lovely curved wall to full effect! I've also gone with a revised layout which includes a curved sink and custom separate vanity unit, rather than everything being square and boring! What do you think of those nice blue mosaic tiles? Other noticeable changes include an inset covered toilet roll dispenser, and plenty of light from frosted windows!

Added Storage

Unlike normal, I actually ended up being able to have more space for storage than originally planned, which, in a space this small, is quite remarkable! Turns out I had an extra 26cm or so of length that I did not realise first time around. So I've put this to good use by having plenty of storage for clothes and awkward items such as camera tripods right next to the cab (which now has a sliding door, by the way!). I also realised I had room for a fairly large cupboard with which I could hide the electrical set up (deep cycle batteries, inverter etc) as well as other awkward-to-store items such as duvets and blankets.

Another great use of the space here is that the end wall of the electrical cupboard folds down and can be used as a kitchen counter - complete with small bowl! The reason for the bowl is to cover up the hole made by the clock - When the van is in transit, the bowl is removed and the flap lifts up - the hole left by the removed bowl is slightly bigger than the clock on the wall! I have to say, I was pretty excited about this idea - small minds, simple pleasures!

The Bed + Storage

The drawers under the bed have been reconfigured to include (left-to-right, top-to-bottom);

  1. Cutlery tray > Tea towels > Misc bulk (dry food?)
  2. Small plates and bowls, cups > Big plates > Water tank
  3. Pots and pans > water tank
  4. Induction hob/cooker > Mini-fridge (45L I believe)

When the bed is stowed away, any excess mattress/duvet simply drops behind between the unit and the wall.

The Desk

As mentioned, the desk has been redesigned somewhat. This took FOREVER to work out. I spent days (maybe even a week!) on Sketchup experimenting, but I like what I've come up with and it suits my needs really well - much more so than any previous desk designs have done. So I'm glad that I put in the effort now, rather than regretting it down the line. Here are the specifics:

  1. The desk is made up of 4 sections (I'm debating whether to enable it to be disassembled or not though)
  2. The left and right section are exactly the same. (With the exception that the left hand end comprises a standalone set of 3 drawers that slot in between the legs.) Both ends have an integral drawer that uses the whole depth of the desk. The legs are Z shapes, as per previous incarnations.
  3. The front section is where the MIDI keyboard will sit. The change here is that it is not on it's own pull out base. Instead, the cover lifts off, rotates through 90 degrees, and drops to the rear. I.e. the front panel becomes the top panel. This leaves just enough room for a mouse and computer keyboard even when the MIDI keyboard is in use - and what's more, there is no room space lost when the MIDI keyboard is uncovered!
  4. The rear section is where the clever storage comes in... let me explain below (or you can just look at the screenshots instead!) Note: The two end sections are not shown below.

There are 4 main compartments, each with their own lid with a hole for opening (and to allow cables through whilst the lid is down). You may also note the circular hole on the left end. This was originally going to be a cable run (for the monitors). But you'll see why that will probably be relegated to cup holder in a bit*

Going from left to right; the first compartment has storage for my drawing tablet and any other thin devices. A tray for stationery can then sit above (but below the lid) on it's own ledge. This simply lifts out to access the stuff below it.

The second compartment at the moment is shown with a roll of A4 paper. I'm not sure if this will be the final purpose - I may just use it to store something else if the paper is not needed.

The third compartment has three slots in it. The rear two are for bits of A4 paper (or documents), and the front larger slot is for A3 paper - if inspiration strikes, it's just a quick reach to pull out a bit of paper and get drawing!

The final compartment is a miscellaneous storage section. Maybe magazines, books, or perhaps more electrical devices and cables. It also includes 2 pen holders that slot in, just as the stationery tray does in the first section. Again, these are removable if needed.

A final note on my design for this desk is the integrated cable run underneath the desk. Now I don't know about you, but I am ALWAYS battling with tangled cables - and what's worse is if you yank a cord out with your feet!

* The monitors will now both be mounted on a sliding track that runs underneath the overhead lockers. This means I can move the monitors to wherever I choose, or fold them out the way completely to one side if I'd rather work on my laptop and look at the view!  Hence, the cable run hole on the left side of the desk would probably not be very useful without longer cables.


Well, I think that's everything. There are still more details to work out (specifically the solar panel/electric set-up, and the water/plumbing set-up). But the majority of the van design work has been completed to a standard I am happy with now.

If you have any comments or questions, pop them in the comments!

Note: Many of the items seen in the above screenshots were not made by me, but were taken from the Sketchup Warehouse to save time. Most of the props are not mine, nor are the chair, duvet, solar panels, or van. My main focus was on the bits that needed to be custom-made such as all the cabinetry, the storage, the MIDI keyboard, the dual monitor set up, the sink, and the desk etc.

TL,DR: I did the cabinetry, desk, and storage. Most of the props, the van and the solar panels were taken from the Sketchup Component Warehouse.