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Boulder, CO

A guide to the wilderness of the West.

A Kitchen in a Van


A Kitchen in a Van

Derek Bartz

Installing an IKEA Kitchen in a Van

A kitchen in a van.  I like to cook, and I was determined to have a full kitchen in the van.  Everything revolved around it really; the kitchen was first and everything else was an after thought.  Having a functioning kitchen will keep us from eating out so much while allowing us to be more flexible with our diet.  I want the ability to make fresh coffee in the morning and bake a batch of enchiladas for dinner.  To do so I needed the following:

  • A stovetop
  • An oven
  • A sink/running water
  • A fridge
  • Cabinets
  • Countertop space
  • Exhaust fan
  • Trash bin

Lots of little projects there to complete!

Where Will It All Go?

I set aside a huge portion of the van where I intended to put the kitchen.  It runs along the passenger side wall of the van from the sliding door to nearly the back door.  Without any cabinets in the van it was hard to envision how much space I had to work with.  I also had to keep in mind that the couch/bed would be going directly across from the kitchen.  

Rough sketch

Initial design.  Surprising how close it turned out to this. 

IKEA Kitchen

I got this idea a while back, use all IKEA stuff to furnish the van; I started with the kitchen.  Here is why I went with IKEA cabinets for the kitchen:

  • Easy planning.  IKEA provides an online kitchen planner that enables you to piece your kitchen together.  It actually works and is really helpful in the planning stages.
  • Easy assembly. Assuming you can follow directions.
  • Easy Installation.  The cabinets can be mounted on a rail system.  Paired with adjustable legs this makes leveling and installing less frustrating.  It also secures everything nicely to the wall.
  • No cuts required. Well almost; some cutting/scribbing was still required.  Making boxes for cabinets is time consuming and difficult if you don't have the necessary tools.  This is WAY less work than building cabinets from scratch.
  • Relatively cheap.  For the end result you achieve, IKEA is a bargain.  
  • Finish.  The finish achieved by using pre-made cabinets is much more professional looking than anything I could have done myself.

IKEA has a fairly new line of kitchen products, SEKTION.  The SEKTION line has a huge selection of base cabinets that you mix and match to fill the space you are working with. Possibilities are endless with options for the cabinet color, cabinet width, height & depth, door fronts, handles, countertops,  doors vs. drawers, shelves, internal storage, wall cabinets, and lighting.  The design is simple yet keeps with the modern theme I am going for with the van. 

 Just like this... :)

Just like this... :)

Constructing IKEA cabinets, far easier than building your own; although frustrating it it's own way.

A look at the rail system IKEA uses.  I extended this past the door to help secure the end cabinets.  Worked out nicely.  

The first two boxes on the rail.  They can easily be removed at this point, although I did end up making blocks to screw into and secure them to the floor.

Drawers to maximize space and avoid the inevitable black hole that would exist in the back of every standard cabinet.

I boxed out the wheel well and had to cut down a couple of the boxes in order to fit the cabinets.

Measure twice!  Can't return that.

Fits, hurray!

I mounted a cabinet above the sink for additional storage.

I imagine a bunch of cereal boxes will go up here, always need that on hand.


After a bit of research, I quickly found out there were few options for stove tops and ovens.  Initially I had not even considered an oven, thinking it took up too much space.  THEN, Hayden Kennedy knocked on my van door one night in the parking lot of the local climbing gym and ended up giving me a tour of his rig.  He had an oven and said, "It was the best decision I ever made...I mean fresh cookies?!".  Michele and I were instantly sold.  So, it was between the Ramblewood 2 Burner Stove Top, the Atwood Range, or the Suburban Range.  I found the a stainless steel 22" version of Suburban Range on ebay for cheap and went with it.  

IKEA stuff is not intended to be used with RV appliances, so I had to get creative with a couple cabinets.

Here I just used a shelf to get the stovetop up to the right height

I  cut a drawer front to size in order to install a drawer under the much storage!


This is a big one.  The last fridge I had was loud, small, and inefficient.  I found the fridge I wanted from Traipsing About.  They spoke highly of the Isotherm Inox 130.  It is fairly large, 4.6 cu ft, has a small freezer compartment that actually works, and is made for marine applications so can handle most any environment.  

The fridge goes right above the wheel well.  This was a convenient spot to help raise the fridge and avoid having to bend down to get to the bottom of the fridge.

Venting for the fridge.  To help the fridge run more efficiently (and last longe), it is important to let cool air in from the bottom and let hot air escape from the top.  

We love the fridge.


Sticking with the theme, I went with an IKEA sink.  This is a standard size sink with a drying pan attached; not one of those bar bowls you see in tiny homes or other camper vans.  Yea it takes up quite a bit of counter space, but being able to throw some dishes in the sink without getting to them instantly will be nice.  Also, IKEA has a cutting board fit to size that nestles right into the sink.  

The counter tops are butcher block solid oak, also from IKEA.  They are affordable yet look sharp.  At this point in the build I was working on the van most nights after work, and another good friend of mine who happens to be a carpenter helped ensure the counter tops were cut to size and installed correctly.  

Cutting the counter tops to size.

Love the sink too!

A full kitchen.  In a van.


Yes, tile!  A back splash of subway tile to be more specific.  I found these at Floor & Tile for really cheap.  This was my first time installing tile, and there was a bit of a learning curve, thankfully I had some help.  To cut the glass, I used a cheap-o manual glass cutter to score and break the tiles.  This worked for everything but the two corner pieces, which I ended up having cut on a wet saw; although this did chip at the back of the tile.  Mastic dries fast!  I did this one a hot, sunny day and had a bit of trouble going quick enough.  I also forgot to buy a finishing metal finish edge for the door way, and had Michele run to the store quick to pick some up. The job was a little stressful but turned out great.   

Maybe a little too much mastic applied too soon here.

The spacers are pain, they constantly want to fall out.

After the grout, I went with the slate color.   Tile in a van, who does that!