Overhead Storage Cabinet

Overhead Storage Cabinet

The overhead storage cabinet of our Ford Transit DIY camper van conversion is full of exciting features!

  • Removable (to gain access to the van wall)
  • The doors are gas-spring actuated
  • Partially blue


Honorable Guest Appearance throughout that job :

  • Double-Curvature-Everything. (NOTHING is flat in this area: the wall, the ceiling, etc. We wasted a lot of time dealing with this)

TIME SPENT ON THE JOB: ~40 hours (This is approximate. Time has become a vague concept at this point. What we can tell is, woodworking takes much longer than we expected to get satisfying results)


TOTAL COST : 150$ USD approx


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  • The ceiling must be locally completed. Check below you will get it.



We’re not woodworkers. We’re not well equipped in tools. So this is not a “How-To”.  This is just how we did it with our limited knowledge & limited access to appropriate tools. There are probably standards, but we’re probably not following them.



First of all, we modeled and located the overhead storage cabinet. A sketch on a tissue would work too…
3D Model Overhead Storage
Interactive 3D Model here


Here we go:



First, we removed the foam pieces out of the way. They will be trimmed and covered with tissue later. We used vise-grip and raw power to remove the pins (they were not damaged in the process and we were able to reuse them)




We then fitted and bolted the back-panel of the cabinet. Remember, the ceiling is not flat and therefore cannot be used to level the cabinet. We used the “line” in the van wall just below for that.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (2)


We did this to locate the attachment points of the cabinet. We did not want to drill holes in the van, so the cabinet is attached with Cross Nut in existing holes. Check out our detailed Cross Nut Post for explanations/installation tips/size guide!

Check out our detailed Cross Nut Post for more info!


Each divider was “custom-fitted” for it’s own location (to match the ceiling curvature). We left a gap between the ceiling and the divider for the top-panel AND to ensure there is no rubbing (squeaks!). The pattern of the dividers was prepared with cardboard and then transferred to Baltic birch plywood.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (6)


The cabinet is “stand-alone”; it can be removed as a single unit. We therefore glued everything together, because we believe this is the best way to achieve maximum strength while eliminating any squeaks.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (12)
We used Titebond III exterior wood glue. Buy on Amazon

Glue needs proper contact with proper curing time. This is achieved with proper tools (for once!). We used a few Clutch Style Bar Clamps similar to this one (Buy on Amazon), 3-way “C” Clamps similar to this one (Buy on Amazon) and some #4 wood screws.

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (23)
Hold still


After the dividers were assembled, we re-installed the cabinet to check the fit

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (8)


Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (20)


Did we mention nothing is flat here? The back-panel of the cabinet is not properly sitting on the van wall, so we had to add shims of different thickness to ensure that the cabinet does not deform when we are torquing the screws. This was a trial-and-error process…

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (17)
Working on the shims


Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (18)
Using manly tools for gluing the shims to the back-panel of the cabinet. There is no shim on the nearest part of the cabinet because the wall is flat there.


Then, the frame was fabricated with 1.5″x¾” select pine (no knot) and glued to the cabinet

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (24)


We then added the top-panels (made from 1/8″ Baltic birch plywood) and the doors (made from ¾” laminated pine). The doors are hinged with ¼” overlay semi-wrap hinges similar to these: Buy on Amazon.


Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (25)


We wanted the doors to stay in opened position, so we added 80 Newtons Gas Struts to each door similar to these: Buy on Amazon

Van Convsersion Overhead cabinet gas spring
Gas Spring actuated door



To make a flat surface for the gas strut to attach, we had to add shims that we screwed & glued:

Overhead Storage Cabinet Camper Van Conversion (26)


Before installing the overhead storage cabinet forever, we added some Low-E EZ-Cool. This is to break the thermal bridge between the van metal wall & the cabinet. The Low-E EZ-Cool is a closed cell-foam sandwiched in between reflective material.

Buy EZ-Cool on Amazon

We glued the EZ-Cool to the van walls with 3M 90 spray adhesive:

3M 90 Spray Adhesive (Buy on Amazon)


And here is the (almost) final result!



The electric harness is hidden under a “L” shape trim that we fabricated:


The “L” shape trim is screwed from the inside of the cabinet so the screws are not showing:Overhead Electric Harness Trim





The spring-actuated doors worked well… until we loaded the storage with stuff. Then, if taking a sharp turn, doors would sometimes open (because of the stuff pressing against the doors). We therefore added door catchers (Buy on Amazon) to help them stay closed. It works!

Door Catchers Amazon
Door catchers. Buy on Amazon.


November 2017 Update:

We recently noticed that the overhead cabinet latches didn’t align with the doors anymore..!? We found a design flaw: the top frame (in blue) was left “floating”; it’s the only section of the frames that was not glued to the cabinet. With the gas springs constantly applying UP force to it, the wood was slowly bending. No worries, we designed the van so everything can be taken off pretty easily: an hour later the cabinet was fixed AND we had clean laundry, yay!





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Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!




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22 thoughts on “Overhead Storage Cabinet”

  1. One of the problems with those nice comfy seats it that when they are reversed there’s nothing to grab on to pull yourself up (unlike when they are forward).

    So, one thing we added to the drivers end of the cabinet is a grab handle.

    You know that black grab handle that you use to pull your self up on when you get in the side door? You can buy those on eBay for $10 or $15. I mounted one horizontally on the end of the cabinet.
    Now, when I have coffee in one hand I can slowly get up under control!!

    Since we had two of them (the grab handles), I put the other on the back cabinet, to aid in getting into and out of our bed, which is almost as high as yours!

  2. After researching some types of cabinet latches, I decided to buy Magnetic Cabinet Locks to protect my cabinet on each trip. It is flexible to install anywhere you want and keep all of the things stay in the cabinet when we encountered rock road.

  3. I am confused when having many types of cabinet latches in today’s market. I don’t know between Magnetic Cabinet Locks and Adhesive Mounted Cabinet Locks what is better. Do you have any recommendations about each one for me?

  4. Hi Guys:

    Okay, I have looked at this for months, and I have a Q, below.

    We have built along similar lines. Changes: 1/2″ oak plywood, mounted mainly using the factory Ford M8-1.25 nuts (but adding some cross nuts at the ends) and initially pocket holed everything together. Will take it apart for gluing and staining and varnishing next month, as we didnt want the smell en maiden trip. Similar dims to yours (14.5″H X 11.5″D), but only 16″ over the driver side counter cuz of our lower roof. Turns out, that’s what our cabinets are over the counters at home, so fine!! At the moment thinking no doors because of the lower roof, but those can be added later if we decide to. BTW, without glue held together for 6000 miles, but I am still going to add the glue as I think some evil squeaks were heard as we bounced over the CA Sierra!! Only other change is 1X3 pine along the bottom front edge for retention of chaos like objects, 1X2 everywhere else like yours. The pocket holes are on the back of the 1X2s, not on the edges, so you can’t see them (or tighten them again!!).

    But the Q: I can not figure out the purpose for the 1/8″ plywood top panels. We see, in our case, the cedar t&g, and it seems a fine and beautiful “top panel”. Why did you add that and would you do it again?

    Cheers, Don

      • Liked your 2 year aniversary article.

        Okay, I am confused. in the picture under “We then fitted and bolted the back-panel of the cabinet. Remember, the ceiling is not flat and therefore cannot be used to level the cabinet, and that is one of your preconditions. We used the “line” in the van wall just below for that.” with Isabell it looks like the t&g is done above the cabinet. I can’t believe you would take it off. Plus, it is one of your PRE-REQUISITEs: The ceiling must be locally completed. Check below you will get it.

        But I didn’t add the 1/8″, so it really doesn’t matter.

        For the bed storage area, because we sleep transverse, we duplicated that unit in the back, so our feet slip beneath the storage area. Works great. And as you know, when Isabell’s clothes (never yours) roll out after a sharp turn, they don’t make any noise!!

  5. Hi! How wide is the upper cabinet unit?
    From your post a gathered that it is roughly 15 in tall, 12 in deep, but how wide /long?
    Thank you!

  6. How deep were the cabinets vs the counter? Do you ever bump your head when working in the kitchen? Could have gone any deeper? Thanks!

  7. When using your ‘frames’ of birchwood: Were they “Furing strips” or did you use full sections of plywood against the van wall for the back of the cabinets? With it only being 1/2″, how did you fasten the cabinet walls to the birchwood frame?

  8. Hey guys! Loving the build and updates! Getting ready to mount doors on our cabinets…. do you think a stronger gas strut would keep the doors closed, or is a latch an inevitability?

    • I think a stronger gas strut will have the opposite effect and door might open more… there are so much vibrations + things in the cabinet are moving (and pushing on doors). A latch is mandatory!

      • I’m building doors for similar overhead cabinets. Planning on copying your setup of hinge/strut/catches (though, like the electrical system, wish it took fewer components… but I can’t find anything that does all three jobs). 80N seems high for a door face less than 15N- in your experience would a 30N strut (such as https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B016UOFEPK/ref=s9_dcacsd_dcoop_bw_c_x_4_w) be easier to close and put less stress on everything, or are you happy with 80N?

        BTW- Bought Sterling charger and a battery monitor yesterday and looking forward to install!

        Thanks again for all the help. Your site has been an inspiration! We owe you many dank IPAs once we get on the road!

        • Hi Brian,

          We’re happy with the strut; I remember using a table or a calculator back when I chose the strut and 80N made sense for the size/thickness of our doors. Maybe 50N would be fine, but 30N seems a bit on the low side… can’t find the table/calculator right now, but it’s there somewhere on the internet!!

  9. What is the distance between your upper cabinet and the countertop? Did you go with the standard 18 inches of a normal house counter? Or something different?

    Love the build (and all the plusnuts)

    • Hey Matthew!
      We weren’t aware of the 18 inches standard, so we went as follows:
      Countertop Height = 36″ (standard)
      Upper Cabinet Height (from ceiling to bottom of the cabinet): 15″
      Remaining height between the countertop and the upper cabinet: 25″


  10. Hi Antoine, for some reason I don’t get email when you reply to a comment I left, so I just remembered to check now. Thank you for the response. It’s very helpful. Glad to hear that you’re getting ready to take off and travel!

  11. I love the style of your interior. Did you ever do a writeup on installation of your ceiling and wall panels? Is it tongue and groove or sheet paneling? How is the ceiling attached? And are the led lights attached to the ceiling or to some structure above it? What do you think about the weight of the material you used for walls and ceiling? Is it heavy?

    Thanks for documenting all of this.

    • Thanks!
      We’re not completely done with our walls, so the writeup has to wait… Yes, we used tongue and groove screwed to plywood “frames”; the plywood frames are attached into the van with plusnut. The LEDs are attached to the tongue-and-groove panel; we just cut a hole and the light holds very neatly in it. Here are the light we used: http://amzn.to/2p7mIH3. The tongue and groove are just 5/16″ thick and it’s pine wood, so weight is reasonable i think.

      Here is a pic of the frame and the paneling with the LED hole:panel

      Meanwhile, here is a draft i think might help:


      The wood paneling is not attached directly to the van; it’s attached to frames that we first installed. We put frames every 2 feet or so, depending on what was possible. As usual, we did not use metal screws; we used Plusnut to attach the frames to the van walls. Not familiar with Plusnut? That’s fine, we made an article about them here!

      *pic and link to plusnut

      The frames are made from Baltic Birch Plywood; it is a high-quality plywood. For the same thickness as regular plywood, there are more layers and the material characteristics are more uniform.

      It was super important for us to maximize the living area, therefore we did not want to “overdesign” the frames. It made the fabrication of the frames & the installation of the paneling much more time consuming, but we’re very glad we did it.

      The frames are generally 4” wide. We used ½” thickness plywood for the ceiling, 3/8” thickness plywood for almost-flat surfaces of the walls and ¼” thickness* plywood where we wanted the paneling to conform to the van curvatures.

      *Time for a disclaimer! ¼” Baltic birch plywood is THIN! Will it withstand the test of time? We think so, but if you choose the do the same, do it at your own risks! ¼” “regular” plywood is probably not strong enough (it will probably crack at screw locations). If you’re using the van as a cargo or if you plan on attaching heavy stuff to the wall, ¼” is probably not strong enough.


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