Pros and Cons of Fixed vs. Convertible Bed
There are two thoroughly divided camps in van life: fixed bed vs. convertible bed. There are plenty of pros and cons to both. For a fixed bed, your bed is always made and you can jump right into it. A fixed bed also offers tons of storage below, you can build a pretty epic garage underneath! When your bed is fixed, however, it takes up the footprint of your living space. A convertible bed maximizes the amount of living space you have during the day. Convertible beds also make your space feel more open. The downsides to a convertible bed are less storage space and you have to make your bed every day and night. As owners of a low roof van, we wanted our van to feel as spacious as possible. For our van build, the convertible bed was a no brainer.
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Our Convertible Bed System
We wanted a simple system that could be made by one person since we would be making our bed every morning and night. We also wanted a clean and elegant look which meant we didn’t want legs on the sliding section. Our bed slides on two separate sets of slats that lock into a French cleat on the opposite side of the van.
By having the bed slide on two separate sets of slats, one person is able to easily make the bed without the slats binding. By utilizing the French cleat, we eliminated the need for legs and created a super stable platform. We are able to slide each slat out, then flip down the back of the couch to convert it into bed mode. We have a fitted sheet that we stretch over the bed. The entire process takes only a minute or two. The whole bed is on a piano hinge which allows us to lift up the slats and access storage below. We house our battery system, tools, and any seasonal clothes/blankets under the bed.
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What the Heck is a French Cleat?
Many people when they see our bed say they would be terrified that the bed would slip off the ledge. Once you understand how a French Cleat works, you’ll know why we have had countless restful nights without a fear of falling to the floor. The French Cleat is a popular method woodworkers use to hang heavy cabinetry on walls. It is a proven design that can be trusted.
On the cabinetry side of our van, there is a strip of wood that has a 45 degree angle on the top of it. The face of the sliding slats have a matching 45 degree angle on the bottom that “locks” into the cabinetry side. The diagram below illustrates this concept. When you pull the slats to match the cabinetry side, there is no way for the bed to slip off when it is properly engaged. In fact, the more weight that is on the bed, the more engaged the French Cleat becomes. We feel this was an elegant solution to eliminate the need for legs.
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We made our mattress from 3 inch high density foam and 2 inch memory foam. This combination is great because it doesn’t make the bed too soft. We looked into 5 inch memory foam mattresses however we read horror stories of removing the mattress cover and having fiberglass shards go everywhere. Many mattress covers have fiberglass as a flame retardant , these are not meant to be removed. We needed a mattress that we could cut into sections and having fiberglass shards everywhere was not an option. Our solution was high density foam with a 2 inch memory foam topper that did not have a cover. We sewed mattress covers out of synthetic linen that are removable and washable.
After living in the van for a while, we are still very pleased with our convertible bed. Making the bed every morning and night really is not that big of a task. When the bed is in couch mode, we are able to pull out our table to use as a dining table or desk. We enjoy having two modes of the van to delineate our day. When we put the bed in couch mode and the coffee is flowing, that signifies the start of our day. When we convert things to bed mode, that means it’s time to kick back, relax, and get some rest. Are you a fixed bed or convertible bed fan? Let us know in the comments below. If you want to know more about our van build, check out this post. Be sure to subscribe so you never miss a post!
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