With the subfloor and basic insulation done, it’s time to take a breather and do some more planning. For a while I was wondering how I was going to cover up the lengthwise ceiling ribs. Build boxes around them out of plywood? Curve tongue and groove planks around them? I was looking at a lot of van buildout blogs to get ideas on how to deal with these struts. One day I stumbled on one where the couple was wondering the same thing for their van, and their solution seemed the best: Do nothing! Don’t cover them at all, let them hang out. I’m living in a van after all, I don’t need to hide that fact. Also, they’re super useful for putting bungee cords up or hanging things off of. Though if I was going to leave them exposed, I wanted to paint them a nice color. And I wanted to coordinate that with the stain I was going to use for the walls and ceiling. All of this meant stepping back to figure out a color palette.
I tried out a couple different options on a scrap board. First I stained each side with a different stain color and different number of stain applications. I also tried different polyurethane finishes. I then chose some colors and paired these with the stain to make sure everything was going to go together well.
I took my color inspiration from this string of paper stars I’ve had for a while. I always liked the colors on it, rich and warm. I chose a dark purple/brown stain for my walls and a lighter golden color for the ceiling. The rear doors of the van I decided on a dark forest green, and the side doors, a full bodied blue. My bed spread is an eggplant purple, and I think I might ultimately add various grey toned fabrics to the ceiling over the bed. We’ll see… Once the painting was done, I put the wall stain colors up against it and I think I made the right decision as far as stain colors go. I’ll ultimately use three coats of stain and a final coat of semi gloss poly on top.
Ace and I painted the doors and lengthwise ribs over the course of two days. I used Latex Behr paint from Home Depot. The blue paint was really stubborn and took three coats. I had to go back and get a second quart of paint to finish it off. The green paint took two coats and about 3/4 of a quart. I chose a satin finish, though in hindsight I wish I had got a semi gloss or a gloss.
While at Home Depot, Ace found a can of Glow in the Dark spray paint and couldn’t help themselves. We HAD to find a place in the van to make glow. The side step up seemed like a great place for it since it will be useful and also tucked away so I don’t have too much glow if I didn’t want it. They put a couple stripes of glow paint and then finished it off with a rug on the bottom so I have grip and a place to wipe off shoes.
Cost: Test size stains and poly ($6×3), paint and stain brushes ($1×10), 3 quarts paint ($13×3), glow in the dark spray paint ($12), stair rug ($6). Total of about $85. This could be done with only 2 quarts of paint if I had picked a less difficult color and fewer brushes if I wasn’t so lazy, so you can add color for under $30 if you were on a budget.
Tips: I would go with gloss and not satin finish if I were to do it again. I would also insist on an oil based paint. The white coat just felt so much firmer and didn’t feel like it would scrape off easily. This latex paint does tend to scratch, which is going to be inevitable in a van.