Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Kitchen Sink, Stove, and Refrigerator in a Van

Building a kitchen in a van means making trade-offs. Do you really need hot water, or can you just boil some when you need it? Does the faucet need to have an electric pump, or can it just be done by foot?

Our answer to both of these questions was “no.” Instead, we focused on the following priorities:

  • Lots of counter space and storage
  • 14gallons+ of water, so we could go 1-2 weeks off-grid
  • A sink faucet that can double as a showerhead
  • Preserve the open layout, so we could walk from front to back

Designing the Kitchen

I built the entire kitchen around the dimensions of these 7-gallon water tanks. One is placed near the back of the van, with the foot/hand-pump hose leading to the faucet, and the other near the front with the included spigot for filling water bottles.

What makes this setup unique is that the faucet (really just a 1/4″ copper pipe on the end of the hose) can double as a shower. It attached to the back wall with fishing magnets, and can be easily detached when the back doors are open. This hose is also long enough that the foot pump becomes a hand pump, so we can stand outside and rinse off.

Countertops and Sink

Above is a 15″x15″ marine sink. This was by far the most expensive part, and in retrospect we probably could have built something equally good for much cheaper. Regardless, the small size was just right for the back of the van.

We also added a steel backsplash (painted copper, like most of the rest of this wood cabin steampunk van). More magnets, including those we’ve collected from parks, keep everything in place.

The countertop next to the sink runs all along the side of the van and folds up so that we can access the storage area beneath. It is also treated with stain and butcher-block finish, so it works as a cutting board and general food preparation area.

The hooks and velcro inside provide even more places to attach and store things. The magnets keep it all closed (or open).

Related: Building a Wood Cabin Steampunk Van

When I bought my van, I had almost no experience in carpentry, construction, or electrical engineering. Yet I was determined to build it all myself. Two years later, here are the plans for my cozy steampunk wood cabin van.

Refrigerator

Across from the sink, above the house battery, is the stovetop and refrigerator. We used a Dometic Dual-Zone 12v Refrigerator, which is one of the least power consuming devices on the market. We’ve generally seen it use between 400-700 Wh per day (depending on the ambient temperature). The “dual zone” bit means that it has both a freezer and a refrigerator.

van dometic refrigerator in kitchen
A Dometic Dual-Zone 12v Refrigerator

Stovetop

I wanted to avoid using gas, or any kind of open flame in the van. Call it paranoia, but it didn’t seem like a good idea in a “wood cabin” style van. This is one of the many reasons we built such an advanced off-grid electrical system.

van refrigerator and induction stovetop in kitchen
In front of the refrigerator I built a fold-down table for the induction stovetop.

We landed on this 1800 W portable induction stovetop. In practice, it can boil a pot of water in under 3 minutes, which uses about 90 Wh. To make coffee in the morning, we might end up using 200 Wh total. Frying up some eggs or pancakes can be done with a lower power setting, but it takes longer — potentially up to 500 Wh.

van kitchen cabinets
When closed, the refrigerator and stovetop disappear into the cabinets.

About the author

(zane) / Technically Wizardry

I've been a game designer, startup founder, and @Airbnb for 6+ years. This blog documents my hobbies of building a vanlife van, "magic" home automation, and interesting software to control it all.

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