What is the Best Material to Build Camper Van Furniture?

What is the Best Material to Build Camper Van Furniture?

Building camper van furniture specifically designed for your van’s unique layout is a fantastic way to maximise space and create a comfortable living area. But with so many materials vying for your attention, choosing the right one can feel overwhelming.

Here we will delve into the world of camper van furniture materials, exploring the pros and cons of the most popular options to help you make an informed decision:

The Balancing Act: Weight vs. Strength vs. Aesthetics

Unlike stationary furniture, camper van pieces face unique challenges. Here are the key factors to consider:

  • Weight: Every pound counts in a van. A lighter material translates to better gas mileage and improved handling.
  • Strength: Furniture needs to withstand bumps, vibrations, and potential cargo weight.
  • Durability: Moisture resistance, heat tolerance, and easy cleaning are essential for a constantly moving living space.
  • Workability: Can you easily cut, shape, and assemble the material with your skill level and tools?
  • Aesthetics: Consider the look and feel you desire for your van’s interior.

Wood: The Classic Choice

Wood remains a popular option for its natural beauty, ease of customisation, and ability to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. However, wood comes in a variety of types, each with its own set of pros and cons:

  • Plywood: A versatile and affordable choice. It’s lightweight, readily available, and easy to work with. Look for Baltic birch plywood for its superior strength and moisture resistance.
  • Solid Wood: Pine and poplar are budget-friendly options, but heavier and more susceptible to warping. Hardwoods like oak and maple offer exceptional strength and durability, but come at a premium price and require more woodworking expertise.
  • Paulownia Wood: This lesser-known option is a champion in the lightweight department. It’s surprisingly strong, naturally moisture-resistant, and easy to work with, making it a great choice for weight-conscious vanlifers.

Wood Considerations:

  • Finishing: Wood requires sealing with varnish or paint to protect it from moisture and wear.
  • Warping: Solid wood and some plywoods can warp with significant moisture exposure. Proper ventilation and moisture management are crucial.
  • Cutting Tools: Depending on the wood type and thickness, you might need specialised saws for clean cuts.

Camper Van Furniture Materials

Melamine/MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard):

A budget-friendly option that offers a smooth, painted finish. However, MDF is heavy and susceptible to moisture damage. Exposed edges can chip easily.

MDF Considerations:

  • Weight: MDF adds significant weight compared to lighter options.
  • Moisture Resistance: Opt for moisture-resistant MDF (MDF/HDF) if you plan on using it near the sink or stove.
  • Edge Banding: Applying edge banding to exposed MDF edges is essential for a finished look and to prevent chipping.


Lightweight, strong, and naturally rust-resistant, aluminium is a popular choice for modern van builds. It can be left bare for an industrial aesthetic or powder-coated for a custom look. However, working with aluminium requires specialised tools and skills for cutting and assembling.

Aluminum Considerations:

  • Workability: Cutting and shaping aluminium requires power tools and woodworking skills may not translate directly.
  • Cost: Aluminium can be more expensive than wood options, especially for thicker gauges.
  • Denting: Aluminium can dent with significant impact.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride):

A lightweight and budget-friendly option, PVC is readily available and easy to work with basic tools. It comes in various colours and finishes, but can be prone to scratching and may not hold up well in extreme temperatures.

PVC Considerations:

  • Durability: PVC can become brittle and crack in cold weather. It may not be suitable for structural furniture.
  • Off-gassing: Some PVC varieties can off-gas harmful chemicals, particularly in hot weather. Opt for furniture-grade PVC with low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) emissions.

Beyond the Basics: Creative Options

For a truly unique build, consider these unconventional materials:

  • Bamboo: A sustainable and eco-friendly option with a beautiful natural aesthetic. It’s lightweight, strong, and naturally moisture-resistant. However, it can be more expensive than traditional wood options.
  • Recycled Plastic: Eco-conscious vanlifers can explore furniture made from recycled plastic bottles or other post-consumer plastics. These options can be lightweight, durable, and waterproof. Availability and workability may vary.

Camper Van Furniture Reupholstery

The Final Choice: It’s All About You

There’s no single “best” material for camper van furniture. The ideal choice depends on your priorities, budget, and van lifestyle. Here’s a quick breakdown to help you decide:

  • The Weight Watcher: Prioritise weight savings? Look at Paulownia wood, aluminium (if you have the skills), or even high-quality, lightweight plywood.
  • The Budget Builder: Keeping costs down? Pine or poplar plywood offer affordability, though consider weight and moisture resistance. MDF can be a budget option for cabinets, but factor in weight and edge banding needs.
  • The Aesthete: Craving a classic, warm look? Solid hardwood or well-finished plywood can be stunning. Consider bamboo for a sustainable and unique aesthetic.
  • The Minimalist: Looking for clean lines and a modern feel? Aluminium offers a sleek and minimalist look. PVC comes in various colours for a pop of personality.
  • The Eco-Warrior: Sustainability a priority? Explore recycled plastic options or bamboo.

Pro Tip: Combine materials! Use lightweight plywood for cabinet frames and a beautiful hardwood for cabinet doors.

Beyond Materials: Construction Considerations

  • Joinery: How will your furniture pieces connect? Pocket screws, dowel joints, and L-brackets are popular options. Research techniques that suit your chosen material and skill level.
  • Hardware: Invest in good quality hinges, drawer slides, and latches that can withstand constant movement.
  • Ventilation: Proper ventilation is crucial to prevent moisture build-up and warping. Consider installing air vents or small gaps behind cabinets, especially near the sink or stove.

Building Your Dream Van

Ultimately, the best material is the one that allows you to create the perfect home on wheels that reflects your style and needs. Research, experiment, and don’t be afraid to get creative! With careful planning and the right materials, you can build beautiful, functional furniture that will make your van life adventures even more enjoyable.

For more information on building Camper Van Furniture and Camper Van Reupholstery contact Hill Upholstery.

Furniture Trends for 2023

The team at Hill Upholstery & Design like to keep ahead of the game so we can advise our clients on the furniture trends and must have styles for the homes and businesses.

We have already been looking ahead to what is expected to be popular next year and wanted to share some of our findings with you. The following article was published on trendbible.com and highlights some of the furniture design trends you can expect to see in 2023…

Fluid & Curved
For Autumn Winter 2023 householders will relish the experience of opening up their homes again and celebrating being close to loved ones. For furniture designers, focus on products that can help support intimate moments, extra long, curved and fluid style seating helps to create cosy spaces for friends and family to relax, eat and work together.
Take a look at this stunning curved custom made sofa we created for a client in London – Custom Made Sofa, London

Rebooted Classics
Forecast in our Autumn Winter 2023/24 trend, Modern Renaissance; graceful architectural aspects, such as intricate curves, cylindrical shapes, columns and arches are finding new life in modern furnishings. For sofa design, consider playing with sculptural shapes and classical elements to create a monumental presence within the home.
We reupholstered this family’s sofa in South London which fits the rebooted classics theme – Sofa Reupholstery London

Woven Finishes
In our Spring Summer 2023 trend Superbloom, woven finishes and wobbly-lined weave are adorning sofas and soft furnishings. Add surface interest with woven, often multi-coloured yarns, (faux) leather, recycled plastics and dyed rattan weaves.
We reupholstered this Lancaster Easy Chair with a gorgeous multi-coloured fabric – Lancaster Easy Chair Reupholstery

Darker Tones
As forecast in our Autumn Winter 2023/24 trend, Lust for Life, the home becomes a place to embrace yourself and your loved ones. For seating design consider darker tones in deep red and peach tones to create a more intimate, enveloping space.
This bespoke Chesterfield sofa hits the right notes with its dark leather – Bespoke Chesterfield Sofa

Modern Quilting
As householders increasingly immerse themselves in nature, hiking culture weaves its way into the home. For textiles and sofa upholstery incorporate recycling, mending, and repairing to give a modern quilting aesthetic, with clean vertical lines and panelled patch pieces.

You can read the full article on trendbible.com.

If you have furniture which is in need of modernisation, then give the Hill Upholstery & Design team a call and see how we can help update your sofas and chairs. Contact us today – we can hep with your London upholstery and Essex upholstery needs!

How is the sofa frame made?

“How is the sofa frame made?”

If you are looking to INVEST in a top notch, quality sofa, then this is the one crucial question you should ask the seller.

Upholsterers in London, Hill Upholstery & Design - How is the sofa frame made

This is because it is the quality of the frame that generally dictates the longevity of the furniture.

A well-made, good quality sofa or chair should have a frame made from solid hardwood – ideally beech – with joints that are screwed, glued and dowelled.

Here’s a few examples of suites we have made which all include top notch materials and are built as described above.

Find out more about how to go about designing your own custom made suite here.

Sofa Frame London upholsterer, Hill Upholstery and Design (1)