New Table and Storage Solution

The new glass table with baskets for storage under the rear twin bed

I had planned to build a drop leaf table for the Casita.  But the more I thought of a large expanse of solid wood tabletop and how cramped it would make the area look, I decided against wood.

Then, in searching online for small tables, I found a couple of glass topped ones that I liked.  Best of all,  I loved the idea of how open they would make the space look.

Here the table is slid to the side so we can easily walk past it.

But after pricing them, I wasn’t sure it was such a great idea.  So I headed to the thrift store on a hunting expedition.  I looked in every nook, but didn’t find anything that I liked.  But just as I was leaving, I saw a cute little plant stand and thought I might be able to modify it to make it work.

So I took it home, took it apart and cleaned it.  I gave the metal a couple of coats of spray paint to freshen it up, and discarded the 12″ wood top.

Here the tabletop is placed out of the way on top of a cushion, giving us even more space.

We had thrown out some old wicker furniture a couple of years ago, but I held on to the glass table tops, thinking I might could use them for something else some day.  I’m so glad I did.  The small, oval tabletop is a perfect fit in the Casita!  Best of all, it’s solid as a rock.

I love the small footprint of the table.  When we are not using it, I can slide it to the side to give us walking room.  Or I can completely remove the top and lay it on one of the dinette cushions, giving us even more space to access the storage baskets.  In transit, the glass top will travel on the bed, wedged in with pillows.  And the table base will be wedged between the wall carpet and the mattress to keep it from sliding around.

My beautiful storage baskets!

The wood color of the table base doesn’t match anything else, but I really like it, so I am leaving it as it.

I feel that we have succeeded in making our little 17′ trailer into a camper with the convenience and amenities of a much larger RV.

I also replaced the plastic drawers under the rear bed with pretty baskets.  That was a project!  Those of you who have suffered through descriptions of earlier projects know what’s coming, right?  😀

I found the baskets at Hobby Lobby.  The bases were the perfect size to fit the underbed cubby hole.  However, they had rounded “treasure chest” tops, so they needed some modification to work.

First I used my Dremel to cut through the fat globs of solder that secured the hinges, chain and latch to the basket frame.  After I figured out where not to stand to keep hot metal sparks from flying up my sleeve, the job wasn’t bad.  Just tedious.

Next I ground down all the sharp solder edges until they were smooth and rounded.  Then I rubbed black paint on them to tone down the shiny silver of the solder and to cover the small gouges I put in the surrounding metal so it wouldn’t rust.

Then it was time to make the muslin lining.  EXCEPT there are dozens of very tiny, very sharp little wires protruding into the basket…. and they poked right through the muslin.

So I am going to have to build 1/4″ plywood liners for the baskets.

But that’s a project for another day!

Homeless Women and Camper Vans

Touches of home in a van.

When my brother-in-law’s job moved him to Texas, my sister Gail became interested in getting an RV, primarily to use to visit family back home.  She didn’t like the idea of having to stay in dirty motel rooms, possibly being exposed to bedbugs and foot fungi and who-knows-what-else that might encountered in a bedroom and bathroom used by the public.

Also, they would be traveling when Mike was on vacation, so she knew they would be putting in long hours at the wheel.  And since they would be on a strict travel budget, they didn’t want to have to pay high campground fees just to park overnight.  And they didn’t want to have to eat all their meals on the road — another expensive proposition.  And finally, when they got to family’s homes, they didn’t want to have to move in on them, disrupting their household and sleeping arrangements.

So looking for an affordable RV became their priority.  They considered a travel trailer (as used ones can be bought cheaply), but then they would have to buy a pickup truck, and they didn’t need a truck for anything except towing.  It made more sense to buy an inexpensive used cargo van and convert it to their needs.

Exterior of their van

While Gail was researching ways to convert a cargo van to a camper van, she was stunned to discover that there are countless women all over the country who, through loss of their jobs or relationship breakups, were now homeless.  With no place to live, many of them were fixing up old vans to live in.

She found many websites showing how to cheaply convert a van into a mini home on wheels.  But most of them were depressingly ugly, consisting of bed frames made of 2 x 4 lumber with a mattress, and plastic drawers for storage.  So not only were these women homeless, there was no beauty — nothing girly — left in their lives.

Even worse, many of the vans had no toilet or shower facilities, making the women completely dependent on public facilities.

Attractive and supremely functional

She determined to convert her van into a pretty little space with all the comforts, like shower, toilet and kitchen.  And then she would share what she learned with anyone who was interested — whether they are building their first camper or just downsizing from a larger RV.  And maybe her ideas could be an inspiration to a homeless person somewhere, to help add a little beauty or functionality to their van.

To that end, I am working on building a page on this blog that will be permanently linked at the top, to serve as Gail’s guidelines for anyone who is interested in building an attractive, liveable, small RV in a cargo van.  I’m hoping to have the article finished in a day or two.

[On edit – the article From Cargo to Camper Van has now been published.]

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