We all have dreams. Some keep dreaming about them all their lives, while others turn them into reality at the right moment. Arthur and Oliver, co-founders of the van conversion company Brooklyn Campervans, have always been on a quest for a customized life, so unleashing their dream about vanlife was the most natural thing to do. After driving 20,000 miles across the US and Mexico, they decided that van living was their future. And the Brooklyn Campervans was born. Since then, they have been sharing their passion for this way of life with others. Read the interview with them and find out more about their work.
Hi Arthur. Excited to get to know you and your work better. Custom vans, custom life is the Brooklyn Campervans motto. What inspired you and Oliver, your co-founder, to start this journey? What did you want to change (customise) in your and other people’s lives?
We lived by the motto of a “custom (intentional) life” before meeting each other, and that’s why we became good friends when our paths did cross. I had spent 4 years of self-discovery through 35 countries pursuing my passion for storytelling & filmmaking, and Oliver was on a very similar journey. When the pandemic hit, things were put on hold, but it was the perfect time to unleash a dormant dream of #vanlife.
Oliver and I each had about 7 years of research on what we wanted to do with campervans, and our visions very much overlapped. After building out Scotchie, we departed for a 20,000 mile journey across the US and Mexico. From that experience we became so sure of #vanlife as the future that we wanted to share our love with others.
Living a van life and feeling freedom at every step is a lifestyle that more and more people are falling in love with. Why do you think living or traveling in a van has become so popular and what is the future of living/traveling?
I don’t believe van life is just a trend…it had a surge in popularity during the pandemic, but it is very much here to stay. With remote work becoming popular and campervan resources becoming more accessible, the leap into this more logical lifestyle becomes a lot less daunting. It just makes more sense to work rent-free with satellite internet in the outdoors than to sit in traffic for 2 hours a day in a congested city while paying $3000 a month in rent… for a good chunk of people at least.
If we move on to van conversion. On your website you have a nice interactive tool, the Van Builder, which helps visitors take the first steps in the conversion process. But what do they need to be clear about? What questions need to be answered before people come to you?
The biggest challenge when converting a van is to get plenty of storage space. What rules of thumb do you follow when planning this part?
People worry about that, but we are not too concerned. Oliver and I roadtripped with all of our winter and summer clothes, every tool we used to build the campervan, every tool to fix our old Ford E-350, two snowboards, a one wheel, a fog machine, DJ lasers, and a lot more. This E-350 has significantly less storage than a Promaster/Sprinter. People underestimate the power of playing Tetris when packing. However, a good rule of thumb when choosing what to pack is to ask “can I just buy this on the road if I really do need it?”
You spent years on the road as a filmmaker. Staying in a great hotel is a nice experience, but they can't make you feel at home. Your own bed, your bathroom, your kitchen, and the things you use every day, the photos on the walls - these are the things that give a person peace and security. So the interior of the van is important when it comes to these feelings. How do you help your customers feel at home wherever the road takes them?
Customization. We offer clients a wide range of design options to make home feel like home. Sometimes we work with local artists to incorporate bespoke art into the van build. We also offer suggestions and guides for interior decorating to help the migration into van life. Brooklyn Campervans is not about mass production – it’s about custom vans for a custom life.
What part of the conversion excites you the most? The design, the conversion itself, or the moment when you hand over the keys of the van to the new owner?
The moment when the client sees their new campervan for the first time. The look on their faces is incredible. It makes it all worth it. We just started recording some of these reactions, and maybe we’ll make a video with some of the clips.
Everything in our campervan is built so that the client can have peace of mind – that means the latest technology and having an easily accessible smart home. When the grey water tank fills up, you know it, and can empty with a push of a button. You don’t need to go outside and check or be rudely surprised when the grey water backs up or when the fresh water runs out. Understanding the pitch and roll of the van is important too. We love leaving out the guesswork when it comes to parking thanks to the Pico system.
Van conversion is not your only passion. Or should I say, your dreams are much bigger than that. Can you tell us more about why 2023 will be special for you and BKC?
Over the past decade, Oliver and I dreamed about alternative ways of living and building communities. In 2023, we hope to turn that dream into reality. We aim to buy land, craft tiny homes, and build a community for artistic expression.
Imagine a place for art and campervan residencies, permaculture, concerts, workshops, burning man-esque events, and endless creation.