Category: design problems

redesign part 2

I have the foam!!! This is exciting for many reasons. I’d made the old bed out of a 3rd- or 4th-hand foam mattress, seriously butchering it trying to cut it down to 4 inches thick from 6. Then of course there was the mold event, which left it looking even worse. And to top it all off there was the problem with the crack between pieces. So finally I have my very own clean brand new foam, sized to create my new living room arrangement (I called it limo mode in Redesign part 1), and best of all cut at an angle so there’s no cracks to fall in even though it comes in five different pieces. Here’s a photo of the pieces in bed mode so you can see the angle cuts, and a couple photos of how it looks with the new daytime living room arrangement. Way more comfy to do math in, ha ha. Come on over, you’re all invited!



A few weeks ago I wrote that people can’t really come over to my place, seeing as it’s just a bed in a van. That wasn’t entirely true; they can and they have, and in fact I’ve had a couple of really nice visits on cold sunny days, lying comfortably by the beach with a friend, sun streaming in the windows. Still, it’s only the most devoted of friends that are willing to come visit you lying down.

Anyway I thought a lot about how to improve the situation, and came up with a new design for my bedroom. I cannibalized the first bed and just finished reassembling the frame in its new form yesterday. It converts from bed mode to limo mode; so cool! The old one converted to a long sideways bench that wasn’t very comfortable, so it wasn’t worth the effort of tearing apart my bedding, only to have to re-make when it was time to go to sleep. This one is way more rewarding. It makes a cozy little social space for four, and one of the seats is angled backwards for more comfortable lounging. There’s a little ledge that can either be the place to rest our drinks, or be a little perch for a fifth person. Whereas in the old arrangement I could only drive in bed mode (the bed platform locked the bookshelf in place), with this arrangement I can drive safely in either.

I’m very excited about this… you know after a show when there’s a group of people and you’re all juiced up and not ready to go home but it’s late and you all live in different directions and you can’t decide where to go so you all give up and go home? Those days are over, my friends… now the afterparty’s right outside, at my place!

Next step will be to go to the foam shop and order pieces for the mattress/cushions (I’ve tried cutting foam myself before, with lousy results). Once I have them, you’re all invited! Check it out:

I sleep like a champ in the van. My body used to wake up naturally around 7am; now it’s more like 8:30 or 9. I think it’s because I’ve made it so light-tight, far darker than any inside bedroom I’ve ever had. I made window panels instead of using curtains because I wanted extra extra privacy: I wanted to be able to have lights on inside with people outside not even knowing I was there, and in that I think I was pretty successful, so I’m not calling this a design flaw so much as a complication. Two issues came up.

One is that the polystyrene they’re made of is way too brittle… one panel in particular gets moved around a lot and has broken in a couple of places. I think I can strengthen them by wrapping the polystyrene in packing tape, giving them a stronger skin. That would mean a lot of tape though, and it would also be a lot of work unsewing all the fabric I’ve wrapped them in, and then re-sewing it after.

The other problem is that water vapour condenses between them and the windows and gets trapped there, so I’m going to have to periodically take the panels out to let things dry if I don’t want mildew. I hope once a week will be enough: that fits with my plan of having weekends off ‘work’, visiting friends and staying inside on their couches. (This weekend I’m at Veronica’s place. Thanks Vero!)

None of this would be a problem if I were confident about drilling into the van walls. I could mount some real hardware that would allow stronger panels, tighter fit, and easier removal or even just a slightly open position for venting & drying.

Hmm. If I could drill holes in the van that would also drastically change how I’d design the bed… I’m going to have to look into this.

Ah, the interconnectedness of things. Beautiful, isn’t it? I wish I could say that I was able to appreciate that beauty at 3:40am when I woke up deep in the crack (see flaw #1) with my bedding everywhere it wasn’t supposed to be, trying to tie me up and smother me. I can’t of course. No, all I was able to appreciate was the total ridonculousness of a) getting up in the middle of the night to make the bed, and b) of doing so while sitting on top of it. Anyway here they are, the interconnected design flaws.

#2: Bed Platform. I designed the thing to fold in half down the middle, in order to create a bench for daytime use and to access storage underneath. The problem is that in order to fold or unfold it I need to move it through space that’s already occupied by two foam mattresses, four wool blankets, a large memory foam pillow, two large bags of clothing, and me. It’s awkward.

#3: Fur Properties. Fur is slidey while dense foam is grippy, so wrapping the mattresses in fur made them a lot easier to manhandle during the awkward process described in #2. Smart, huh? Well I gave no thought to the direction of the hairs. Unfortunately the mattresses ended up with hairs facing opposite directions, causing one to drift towards the back of the van, the other to drift toward the front. I pull them flush, and after a day the difference is about 8″. Crazy!

#4: Specificity. Remember how proud I was of my contoured mattresses and perfectly positioned snaps? (If you don’t that’s okay, it’s right here.) Well they bit me on the ass, cause the result is I can’t just turn the mattresses over to solve #3.

My 3:40am solution to all of the above was to rip it all apart. I took the fur off both mattresses so that the foam rested directly on the wood (grippy, won’t travel anywhere… temporarily fixes the crack problem and the drift problem), then lay one fur cover on top of both, then put the fitted sheet on top of that. This solution to flaws #1 and #3 made flaw #2 worse, but I solved that one by deciding to never ever ever convert to bench mode again.

Flaws resolved? Not really, but I’m not going to let it keep me up at n… aw geez.

There are so, so many things I wish I’d done differently when I was converting the van. Every once in a while I’ll write about one of them (hopefully once I’ve found a solution). Here’s the first one.

When I was building my bed I cut the mattress in half to make two long narrow ones, so that when it’s in bench mode one piece becomes the backrest. I was hoping that  when they’re in bed mode my fitted sheet would be tight enough to hold the two pieces snugly together, but I was wrong. They drift apart slightly and I can feel the crack… it’s not uncomfortable, just noticeable, and normally easy to avoid because it’s off centre. I think the way around this would be to make that lengthwise slice at a low angle, say 30˚, to make the two sides of the mattress overlap. That way they could drift apart a bit but there would be no space between them, just slightly less thickness of foamy.

Saturday night I had a lovely houseguest, and our shenanigans, um… widened the crack. Yes, many jokes ensued. Anyway since then I’ve realized it wasn’t a design flaw at all, it’s perfect! I sleep on my side, and if I let my hip sink into the crack my back feels better in the morning than if I avoid it entirely. And now the sensation is kind of nice, it feels like someone has their hand on my bum all night. Design flaw resolved!

Progress on the van

Okay, I can’t contain myself any longer. I was going to wait and post pictures of the van once I had truly finished with everything, but I’m so utterly pleased with myself today that I have to jump the gun and tell you about the components now!

So here are some photos of the van, showing it empty, then with the bed frame installed, then with the platform in bench mode. Support doors swing out and the platform unfolds to go to bed mode, which currently also locks the shelving in place (I haven’t thought of a better way to secure the shelf, so for now I can only drive in bed mode).

I’ve made panels for the windows out of polystyrene insulation covered in shaggy burgundy fabric… I’ll leave most of these in place; the side mirrors on the van are quite convex, allowing the same kind of visibility as a delivery truck.

And today I finished the cover for one of the mattresses… this is what I’m so pleased about. After sewing twenty little squares of reinforcing fabric onto the back of a big piece of faux fur, I put twenty snap pieces in place such that the whole thing wraps up and covers the mattress, but can still be unfolded and used as a blanket! The snaps are almost invisible, they disappear under the fur. The mattress gets narrower towards one end, that’s to match the contours of the side of the van.

For me this is further proof of how constraints feed creativity. I only thought of using snaps because I didn’t want to have to learn to use a sewing machine, and now I have a product that makes me even happier than a plain old sewn furry mattress cover would!

Okay, so now I just need to make one more cover like that (ugh, that means sewing another twenty little squares), then I’ll post pics of what it looks like with all the components together.