Jean Chandler has taken the #vanlife up several notches by building her own van house. The interior designer turned her Bushwick living space into a bedroom for her 1967 Ford Econoline, with her own room lofted right above it.
Chandler fell in love with the van after seeing it on Instagram; though she had never owned a car that was more than five years old, she knew she had to head to a 1960s mod trailer park outside of Los Angeles to pick this one up.
Once Chandler brought her green giant back from Bellflower (now its name) she had to go through the struggle of finding a place to park it. Since it would rust outside and garages were charging her upwards to $500 per month, she eventually decided to build a hybrid garage and home, a.k.a. the van house.
As a kid in small-town Michigan, Chandler was used to building things. Whether it was helping her dad remodel their house, pouring concrete, putting shingles on a roof or weaving ferns for building material, she did it. She even enlisted the help of neighborhood kids to build the ultimate 30-foot treehouse.
“Where I’m from, if you need something you make it and it doesn’t really matter… what it looks like,” Chandler said. “But to me the most important thing is what does it look like.”
After too many nights sleeping in the back of her van in an empty loft, Chandler couldn’t have been more prepared to build her and Bellflower’s new home. “I drew up the plans and I conceived it and I measured everything and mocked everything up and went and bought all the materials,” Chandler said.
Like she once did with her treehouse, she gathered some friends, taught them how to use some power tools, and got to work on the massive plywood loft that would stand above her parked van. She also built an impressive bookshelf and shelves for her kitchen.
After three days of work from five people, the whole setup is entirely impressive– and modular. Chandler has several ideas for what the space can be and is excited about the possibility of creating something new in her home workspace whenever she wants.
“This is all put together with bolts so I could take all of this apart, move it, remove it, build something else,” she said. “That was important to me, the idea of flexibility. This is really a big play zone for me.”
Chandler is always working towards creating pop-up shops with her company Womanufacture, which seeks to provide women access to create and build things and give them the tools to do so. But first, she’s working on an exhibition with Wearable Media at Columbia University that will be opening in October. She’s also working on creating a pop-up shop with Jill Lindsey in her van once she fixes the throttle cable, which broke during a road trip to Atlantic City.