You Won’t Believe This Epic Transformation: From Rusted Out Van to Luxury Live-Work Studio

Sneak Pick of the After Shots to Know How Epic this Project Is!

Vans are hardly the vehicle associated with luxury living. In fact, at best, vans are viewed as a means of lugging stuff about. But recently, Reddit user, ZachBoth, managed to fully transform that van stereotype by undertaking a massive DIY project, to create a van-sized, take anywhere palace, where a rusted out 2003 cargo van once was. Zach had decided to leave his job as an art director for a tech company to commit to filmmaking full-time, living and working on the road. Zach kept costs low by creating a DIY live-work space out of a cargo van he bought off Craigslist. The end results are astonishing!

The Starting Point

Here’s the van Zach bought off of Craigslist. With 200K miles, it had originally belonged to an electrician in Vermont.

A Man with a Plan and a Van

Being a designer, Zach began by making a plan in photoshop. It’s not often that the final product looks better than the plan. This time it did!

Time to Get Cleaning

Over a decade’s worth of dirt and grime requires an industrial vacuum and elbow grease.

Rust Is Every Old Car’s Worst Enemy

And it had to go. Zach used an angle grinder to get rid of it.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

The floors of the final product were going to be quite a bit fancier than just a painted van floor, but by getting the floor back to that starting point, it would be easier to do the rest, not to mention that the floor would be better protected against further rust.


As a good as new after the job as done. Zach used standard gloss spray paint.

A Snug and Cozy Van

This isn’t just meant to be a summertime ride, which means to get the most out of his new home in different seasons, Zach needed to insulate the van.

Measure First

This meant cutting templates to make sure the fiberglass was a perfect fit. Here’s the template for the floor.

A Perfect Fit

And here’s the insulation that would go into the floor. Zach used Reflectix.

A Strong Hold

He used a strong spray adhesive to glue down the cut Reflectix.

The Hard to Reach Spots

He also used a spray foam to fill in all those little cracks and crevices to keep the cold out.

Sticky Situations

He also used hard foam on the ceilings and floors which he secured primarily with Tyvek tape.

Garbage Bags Are Waterproof

For standard fiberglass insulation used along the base of the walls, he used garbage bags to seal it in.

Space-Age Technology

Ok, maybe not space age, but it will do the job of keeping this van warm here on planet earth!

Wood Floors

Ok, here’s where we’re departing van territory and entering the land of beautiful homes, even if you can’t quite see it yet. Zach installed ½” birch for the base of the floors. This is just the beginning.

Seal ‘Em Up

He patched up all the holes so there’d be a flat surface for the vinyl.

Up and Down

The same birch was cut and installed onto the ceiling.

The Good Kind of Stains

After being stained, it hardly looks like simple plywood.

Let the Light In

This mobile studio is going to have airflow. It’s a multi-season home, so it doesn’t need to just stay warm, there needs to be a way to cool off the back in the summertime heat.

A Family Affair

Zach was a little nervous to actually cut the hole. So he had dad do it. Parents, always looking out for us!

Craigslist Helps Again

What better way to decorate things than with old lath. On Craigslist, Zach found a Cleveland Church happy to unload this beautiful lath for free. Now, if only he had a cargo van to pick it up and haul it. Oh right . . .

Another After Shot

The beauty really comes out after being sanded and stained.

Always Measure

Being a designer, Zach never forgets to properly plan. He made a template and marked it into the plywood.

Walls: Stage One

Plywood was also installed along all the walls.

Mind the Gap

Unfortunately, a van has a lot more curves than a regular house, so all sorts of custom pieces had to be carefully cut to deal with the little gaps.

Time to Get Wet

He even soaked pieces in the bathtub to create flexibility.

When Facing the Impossible

With all that, there were just some places where he couldn’t make the wood work. What’s the solution?


Zach had to use so much that he felt a bit out of it afterwards. Lesson learned: use a respirator!

Pop-Out Templates

Zach used sheet metal to create templates for the pop-out windows.


And rivets to secure it.

Onto the Floors


The final stage for the floors was to make the template, of course . . .

It’s All About the Vinyl

And then lay down vinyl flooring. It looks great, is easy to clean, and won’t warp in this all-weather vehicle.

The Reason for the Ceiling Hole, Revealed

Here’s the fan being installed, with the wires running between the plywood and the insulation. But what will power the fan, you ask? We will get to that, but first the build out needs finishing.

But Furniture First

As always, Zach has got a plan. Here’s what his layout looked like on the drawing board

A Place to Lay Your Head

Here’s a square bed in a curved van.

The Kitchen Plan

Yep, we’re going to be cooking in here!

Just Getting Started

He built the kitchen structures using plywood.

A Used Futon

Great for keeping costs low, not great for fitting the space. It turned out too long, so he had to cut a bit off the end.

All Hands on Deck

But as this was a family affair, mom graciously offered to make a cover to keep everything looking neat and tidy.

Where Would We Be Without Craigslist

On the top, Zach installed this roof rack which came originally from a hummer, but that he scored for just $200.

Solar-Powered, Baby!

And that allowed him to install two 90W Goal Zero solar panels.

That’ll Power More Than Just a Ceiling Fan

Who needs batteries, when you’ve got a solar generator? This one will be powering the lights, fridge, fan and of course, the van.

Finishing Touches

Painting and staining to make sure everything looks it’s best.

The Power of Stain

Hard to believe those cabinets are made from plywood.

Chalkboard Paint!

This went on the pop out windows to allow Zach more room to plan. Plus it just looks cool.

There’s Such a Thing as Too Much Light

Especially when you’re trying to sleep. Which is what black out curtains are for. Zach made his magnetic.

No Such Thing As Too Clean

Especially when you’re living on the road. Hence, a well-stocked cleaning station.

71. And When It Was All Done?

Here’s what the final product looks like from the outside, as Zach and his dad celebrating conquering the challenge. Of course they had to give the van a name. What did the choose?


Here’s where Zach sits when he’s driving Rocket, with the live-work studio hidden away behind the curtain. Are you ready to see?

The Bedroom

Hard to believe that’s a cut up used futon!

The Kitchen

There’s even space for a spice rack.

A Room with a View

With many views actually.

What a Place to Work

Sure beats the average office space.

A Chariot to Ride into the Sunset

Here’s wishing Zach and Rocket a very happily ever after.

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