Guy Williams is one of many people who have left the 9-5 behind to live an alternative life on the road. After completely transforming a rusty horsebox into a dream alpine cabin on wheels, he was transported far from his old life as a chartered surveyor in the UK.
He spent $1360 on the 1981 Mercedes 508d horsebox and around $9300 converting it into a tiny home. After completely rebuilding the body of the horsebox, he kitted out his living space with a full kitchen, a log burner, a hot shower, and even a home cinema. His home on wheels, which goes by the name of “The Duchess,” took him just over a year to build. In 2018 he set off to travel Europe with his cockapoo, Ethel while renting out his apartment in Bristol.
The story of Guy’s purchase of the battered horsebox involves a lot of alcohol, psychedelics, a Dutch eBay site, and 24 hours in Amsterdam. Although it might have seemed like a crazy purchase at the time, it turned out to be the best $1360 he’s ever spent. The Mercedes van made the perfect base vehicle for his new home, and the empty horsebox provided a blank canvas for the conversion. Unlike converting an old minibus or work van, there was no interior that Guy needed to strip out so he could get straight on with the build. He immediately saw the potential in the old vehicle and knew that its size would allow him to live comfortably.
The horsebox had a full makeover and was completely transformed. The exterior was restored to its former glory and painted in a stylish cream and brown color. Guy’s only regret with the conversion is not installing double-glazed windows. The van is fully insulated but is let down by the single glazing in the glass which allows heat to escape in the winter.
A fully functioning kitchen was important to Guy in order to live freely off-grid. He made it a priority to have a good sized sink with plenty of running water available. As finding places to fill up on water in the mountains can be difficult, Guy opted for a 170L tank, which would allow him to stay in remote places for at least a couple of weeks.
The conversion also includes a full oven with 4 ring burner so that it’s possible to cook everything you would in a normal house. Guy adapted a 500mm domestic gas oven to run off his LPG system. Even though the oven is slightly narrower than most, it’s more than big enough for the van. There’s also a 12v fridge freezer, which is completely powered by the sun.
From the bed, you could believe that you’re sleeping in an Alpine log cabin. This conversion was inspired by the wooden interiors of refuge huts that you find in the mountains. The natural materials, decorations, and soft furnishings are enough to make you feel at home anywhere.
Saving space is always important in a tiny home. This ladder that leads up to the bed can be pulled out when needed. When it’s not being used, it packs away flat against the wall. There are lots of handy storage solutions in the kitchen too, including hooks for pans, mugs, and onions! Guy has used the full height of the kitchen to store plates, spices and extra utensils – using every inch of space in his tiny home.
Next to the bed, there is a huge wardrobe with two large drawers for storing clothes. When you are living in a truck full time, it’s important to have space to keep both warm and cold weather gear handy. These simple cupboards allow you to step comfortably out of bed and get dressed, with plenty of space for all the essentials. They also have latches to keep the drawers in place while driving.
One of the coziest features of this conversion is the fixed alcove bed. Unlike many other truck and van conversions, Guy can enjoy both a large seating area and a permanent bed, without having to convert the space each night. The bedroom has a reading light and even its own window for enjoying the view in the morning. The bed is raised to allow for a generous storage space underneath, which can be accessed from the back of the van.
To make room for guests, the living space also converts into a second enormous bed. Guests can enjoy a bedside window, a skylight for stargazing and, best of all, a built-in cinema! Guy has made the space irresistibly comfortable, with plenty of cushions and blankets for cooler evenings.
In the daytime, the living space offers a curved seating area with beautiful green upholstery and Douglas fir woodwork. There’s a good-sized table which makes a wonderful space for working, relaxing or having dinner, all with the possibility of epic views. With ample space around the table, the horsebox is perfect if Guy wants to host friends, or simply relax with his dog Ethel for a movie night.
The perfect fit! With the table removed from the living space, the cushions come together to form another huge sleeping area. There are blackout blinds to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep, and plenty of windows to let in natural light in the morning. The space also comes complete with a ukulele for evenings around the campfire!
You can still watch films on the big screen in a tiny home. This conversion features a projector and a home cinema screen that pulls down from the ceiling. When it’s cold outside, there’s nothing better than a movie night. With the log burner going and a vintage lampshade, you wouldn’t believe that you’re inside an old horsebox.
The log burner is by far one of the best features of this tiny home. Guy opted for the Hobbit stove by Salamander Stoves, which he says is great because it will “pretty much go all night”. There is also a diesel heater installed in the living space which makes surviving the winter a lot more comfortable. The space around the fireplace is scattered with unique items that bring plenty of character – like a vintage radio and an old Schweppes crate, which is used to store wine.
One of the most ingenious parts of this conversion is the huge built-in sundeck. On warm days, the living space almost doubles in size when you open up the back of the truck to form this cool hang-out area.
Follow Guy Williams’ travels and work on Instagram @thefatponyworkshop