OUR LAND YACHT
After living in a 2006 Dodge Sprinter for two years, Savana and Wes now consider themselves the fortunate owners of their dream home: a 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter that they call Bella. With four-wheel drive and a 170-inch wheel base, Bella is the perfect mix of floor space and all-terrain usability that Wes and Savana need for all their adventures on the road.
Although the vehicle isn’t the largest live-in vehicle, Savana and Wes have managed to maximize the space and turn it into an incredibly cozy and inviting home on the road. Plus, both of them have managed to take their businesses with them. Savana works as an illustrator and designer, and Wes runs his solar engineering company, Tiny Watts Solar, out of their van. Both of them have been able to create a space that is conducive to a healthy living space and a productive work environment.
Savana and Wes have completely overhauled Bella’s interior to make it an easily adaptable and livable home space. With some elbow grease and a bit of help from some friends, they’ve transformed their van into one of the most incredibly well-designed and space-efficient van-life homes we’ve had the pleasure of seeing.
Wes and Savana have designed Bella to be a warm, inviting, and cozy space. With a wood-panel ceiling, wooden flooring and siding, and subtle accents of geometric-pattern wallpaper, the interior exudes rustic charm, feeling more like a family cottage than a vehicle. Don’t let the old style fool you though: Bella boasts the latest modern features to provide a luxurious living experience. Thanks to Wes’ and Savana’s friend Troy and his company VanLifeTech, Bella comes equipped with radiant heating—a rarity in even modern apartments—which only uses 100 Watts at any given time to keep the floors warm and the interior nice and toasty any month of the year.
Equipped with an extensive range of appliances, Bella boasts an impressive kitchen that includes everything Wes and Savana need to make a good home-cooked meal: a sink with hot and cold running water, an electric kettle, a toaster oven, and a dual-burner induction cooktop. Instead of a conventional fridge, Wes and Savana opted for a chest-style D/C refrigerator, which pulls out just like a regular cupboard, is more energy efficient, and prevents items from shifting around when in motion.
With two sets of counters on either side of the kitchen, Bella has plenty of counter space for even the most involved recipes. Thanks to the vehicle’s extensive solar-panel system, Wes and Savana find that they have plenty of power for their kitchen appliances, and can even run both their burners while baking a chicken in their oven.
Bella is one of the few vans that incorporates an indoor bathroom with a shower. The rear of the van includes a wet shower stall, which extends out into a 30’’x34’’ bathroom with its own drain system and composting toilet. When not in use, the bathroom also functions as a wet closet for their clothes and surfing gear to dry.
At the front of the van, Buddhist prayer flags and warm wood paneling adorn the sides of Wes and Savana’s bedroom space, which during the day folds into a comfy couch. At nighttime, the couch easily pulls out to become a bed that comfortably fits Wes and Savana (as well as their hedgehog Hermit if he’s feeling cuddly), while up above wooden storage cabinets keep their bedding and pillows out of the way when not in use. On the road, the bedroom gives the perfect vantage point to peer out the front, side, and rear windows to soak in all the landscapes that West and Savana get to experience.
Despite living in a tiny home, Wes and Savana have developed a remarkably versatile living space. With their bedding packed away and their bed folded back into a couch, their bedroom area doubles as not only their living room and work space, but also their garage. They decided to elevate their couch to incorporate storage space underneath it, which is where they keep their tools and maintenance supplies for the van.
Savana and Wes also like to take full advantage of how close they are to the outdoors while on the road. Their rooftop, though covered in solar panels, also functions as a rooftop terrace which can comfortably seat 6-7 people. And in case Savana or Wes needs to get around but don’t want to leave their parking spot, they can pull out their Inboard electric skateboard that they keep in their van for a more scenic journey.
Thanks to his solar-engineering know-how, Wes has lined Bella’s roof with 1000 Watts of solar panels. Together with 3600 watt-hours of 350 amp-hour lithium batteries, they provide more than enough power to run Bella’s all-electric appliances and heating.
In addition to the the radiant heating system, Troy at VanLifeTech also installed on the rear exterior of the van a prototype of a recirculating shower system that he’s developing. The system recycles water through a UV sterilization lamp to kill off any bacteria, making for clean, fresh, and re-usable water system that for a 15-minute shower uses only two gallons of water instead of 30. When Wes and Savana are craving a long hot shower, it really comes in handy.