Lucy and Ben Turned an Old Bedford Van Into a Spectacular 1970s Style Cabin That Wows With Luxurious Shower and Skylight Dome

British couple Lucy and Ben love traveling. In fact, they have just spent the past six years traveling around Europe in their old LDV Convoy. With a dream to travel full-time, they decided to take the leap and buy a second van. So, in 2018, they became the proud new owners of a 1979 Bedford CF. Their goal was to convert it into a house on wheels and hire it out.

When the couple saw the Bedford in a barn in North Cornwall, they knew they had to have it. It was a classic! At one point in time, these old vans were used for everything from serving ice cream cones to transporting horses. So, it wasn’t exactly a leap for it to become a home away from home.

While their Bedford came with a 2.3L petrol slant-4 engine, they decided it wouldn’t be the type of van you would drive. They converted it to a stationary van that couples could rent through Airbnb on a three-acre camping meadow near the north Cornish coast. After all, we all know how uncomfortable old vehicles can be to drive! With it being a stationary van, Lucy and Ben could focus on making it comfortable for accommodation rather than driving.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

The two Brits thought they had nabbed a bargain when they were able to buy their Bedford for £450 (about $570). But as cheap as it was, it wouldn’t stay cheap for long. According to the couple, they stopped counting after £16,000 (that’s about $20,300). They said it cost them more than they could have ever imagined and that pandemic pricing for materials certainly didn’t help.

But all their money and hard work paid off. Now, couples can rent the Bedford and enjoy back-to-basics camping on a serene site with farmland as far as the eye can see. There’s everything you could ever want for a relaxing camping holiday, including drinking water, a composting toilet, and outdoor showers. While there’s plenty of peace and privacy in and around the Bedford, guests can also gather around the communal fire pit and enjoy spending time with other guests.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

When Lucy and Ben first bought their 1979 Bedford CF from a barn property in North Cornwall for £450, it was nothing more than a chassis cab. It didn’t even have a box on the back of it. It was bare bones basic – the perfect blank canvas for a couple wanting to flex their creative muscles with a house on wheels.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Over a period of two long years, the couple constructed the entire box to sit on the back of the Bedford and over the top. They used aluminum sheets on an aluminum box to create the frame and pop-riveted the entire structure together. They also used buffalo boards for the internal floors. By this point, it was starting to look like an actual camper!

Bedford van conversion 1 - Lucy and Ben Turned an Old Bedford Van Into a Spectacular 1970s Style Cabin That Wows With Luxurious Shower and Skylight Dome
Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Lucy and Ben always knew that their classic Bedford would be too old and big for people to drive around the countryside. So, they decided from the start that this vehicle would be parked in a 3-acre camping meadow for people to simply kick back and enjoy in one delightful spot. This decision gave them greater design freedom. After all, they didn’t have to worry about vehicle weight or how items would move around on the road.

They built the entire interior from scratch, starting with the aluminum walls. They then insulated those walls with 25mm Celatex before covering them with plywood.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

While the housing part of the Bedford is already entirely reminiscent of this van’s era, the cab is authentically so. They decided to keep the cab original since they had built everything else from scratch. The cab still has the original 1979 seats and the large steering wheel without power steering. The cab is also home to the engine, which has a small engine cover to muffle the noise slightly. Ben and Lucy considered building a dashboard but decided to keep it as original as possible.

The Interior

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Looking at the Bedford’s interior, it’s hard to believe it’s a box on the back of a van. It seems like a quaint cabin or charming home! The buffalo board floors have 50mm Celatex insulation, a layer of plywood, and gorgeous natural oak floorboards. They undoubtedly add to the Bedford’s charm. The roof is made from the same materials as the walls, including faux wood beams. Ben and Lucy were fortunate enough to find these secondhand, already carved and stained, to save them hours of effort. While they look like genuine wood, they weigh a fraction of the real thing.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Despite the box of the Bedford being an entirely new addition, Ben and Lucy wanted to pay homage to the van’s decade. Rather than going for a modern interior, they designed a 70s-inspired one that’s both charming and practical.

They started by Googling old photos and found a campervan layout with windows looking through the cab and out to the view. This meant the central seating area would enjoy a view wherever it was parked.

When they built their gorgeous green corduroy seating area, they decided to get clever with design. After all, they needed to hide all the essentials of a house on wheels. The right bench seat houses the electrical system. This simple setup allows for a traditional 24-volt mains hookup that feeds through the fuse box. There’s also an AC-to-DC 12-volt converter for running 12-volt appliances like lights.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

A great deal of thought and effort went into the seating area in the heart of the Bedford. And it wasn’t just so they could tuck away the electrical system under the seat. They truly wanted a 70s representation in their Bedford, which led them to purchase green corduroy fabric for their seats. The fabric, coupled with the orange cushions, gives it a retro, vintage vibe.

However, the true standout feature of this dining nook is definitely the table. Ben and Lucy said it’s a van highlight. It’s a piece of British elm from a reclamation yard that they cut to size, sanded, and oiled. While unconventional and a bit odd to eat your dinner from, it’s a focal point that has earned them many compliments.

The attention to detail when it comes to replicating the 1970s theme becomes even more apparent when you look at the windows. Rather than stick with square windows, Ben and Lucy hand-carved and sanded weird shapes out of wood and adhered them to the window to function as the frame. They then hit them with a blowtorch to achieve a charred effect before coating them with wood stain to age them further. The 70s were all about dark wood, and these window frames tick that box.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

The dining area is a great place to enjoy a meal with your spouse while camping, but that’s not all it is. It converts into a double bed, comfortably sleeping one or two people at night.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Above the dining area-turned-double-bed is another sleeping area. This nook above the cab features a full-size double bed. It’s as light and airy as the rest of the van, courtesy of the well-thought-out plastic dome in the roof. This lets in plenty of natural light and has enough space to view what’s happening outside.

The plastic dome was finished with a piece of metal that was once a dinner plate. It was lightly charred for a brassy look to seem more like a porthole than a skylight. Mirror screws and a piece of rope to fill the gaps complete the look!

But there’s more to this bed nook than meets the eye. Ben and Lucy wanted the bedroom area to feel a bit like a gypsy wagon. They used driftwood from their local beach to make a bed divider and also hung a gorgeous tapestry. Combined with the fairy lights, ivy, and green bedding, these elements make the bedroom look like a woodland den.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

While a real wood burner would have been an excellent touch in a Bedford that looks like a rustic cabin from the 70s, Ben and Lucy settled for an electric heater that just looks like a fire. It provides the desirable ambiance of the flames but without all the red tape associated with trying to install a real wood burner. Ben and Lucy said getting the real deal signed off would be too challenging, and insurance premiums would have been costly. However, they say the electric fire does the same job and heats the van well.

Adjacent to the fire, you’ll also spot a few small touches that complete the van’s vintage look. There’s a 1920s radio offering an old-world feeling, and it even crackles when you turn the dial on.

Luxurious Shower

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

While there is no toilet inside the camper, you aren’t without a few luxuries. Adjacent to the living area is a full-size waterfall shower. It’s every bit as luxurious as it sounds.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

The waterfall shower is one of this Bedford’s significant drawcards for couples seeking a night away from home. They made the bathroom walls out of plywood before applying a tanking solution to turn the space into a wet room. Ben and Lucy then painted over them with limewash and black for some artistic texture.

The darkness of the walls makes the green rustic marble tiles and brass shower fittings pop. They also purchased the same fittings for the kitchen to tie the whole look together for consistency.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

A great deal of hard work, thought, and effort has gone into creating the shower room. Ben and Lucy spray-painted the porthole and mushroom vent in brassy tones to help tie the look together.

Galley-Style Kitchen

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Many people installing kitchens in campers put practicality and purpose above aesthetics. However, Ben and Lucy managed to strike a balance. It’s entirely fit for purpose with its galley-style layout and generous workbench space, but it also works harmoniously style-wise with the rest of the Bedford.

They made cabinet frames out of pine wood and added reclaimed elm worktops to the tops that they had made at a local timber yard. The richness of the wood brings out the vibrancy of the green rustic marble tiles that form the backsplash.

Ben and Lucy also gained inspiration from their stay in a bow-top gypsy caravan and decided to stencil the fronts of the cabinets. These make the cabinets more unique. The final touches were the Moroccan-style knobs. In brass, they work in harmony with the other brass features throughout the Bedford.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Wanting to inject farmhouse vibes into the kitchen, Ben and Lucy installed tempered black glass appliances and a Moroccan hand-painted enamel sink. Paired with an ornate brass tap, it’s a stunning match.

However, Ben and Lucy were mindful of their kitchen being fit for purpose. They chose a Thetford oven that runs on gas and an Indel B Cruise Mini Fridge. It’s the perfect size for a van conversion and can fit a week’s worth of shopping inside.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Rather than just tucking all kitchen essentials away in cupboards and drawers, Ben and Lucy decided to leave one shelf open and store a vintage picnic hamper in it. This is where they put their cups, plates, and bowls. The aim was to encourage people to take the picnic hamper out to enjoy the countryside.

The kitchen also boasts a rustic shelf made of driftwood from the local beach that they carefully stained and varnished to add age. Keeping in theme with practicality and aesthetics, this kitchen area has a Quantra LPG boiler. The boiler adequately runs the kitchen tap and shower from a gas bottle outside the van.

Despite all the modern conveniences for a comfortable stay, you’d hardly know they were there. All plumbing has been built into the kitchen unit under the boiler. There is also a water inlet on the outside of the van, making it easy to fill up the 60L tank. This is emptied with a 12-volt pump that delivers cold water to the kitchen and shower. The boiler draws water from the same tank, heats it, and sends it to the bathroom and kitchen. While simple, this plumbing system is more than adequate for the Bedford and its many guests.

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Photo Credit: @fromrusttoroadtrip

Ben and Lucy really wanted to tear up the rule book with their kitchen. Alongside bucking the trend with their picnic basket storage, they also installed a wine rack. There is even a basket of retro 1970s pots and pans for guests to use. After all, new isn’t always better.

You can explore the captivating van further, or secure your booking here