Thursday, October 30, 2014

What if: Interior, countertops and cabinets

Aft of the bed there’s a countertop with cabinet below along both sides of the camper. These are both about  3’3” long. This is the distance from the edge of the bed to the point where the floor widens behind the wheel wells, which seemed like a good place to stop.


6.5' of countertop might seem like a lot  for a small, one person space, but because of that limited space it also functions as a table and desk and dresser-top and catch-all and - well, you get the idea.

The right-hand counter is 21” wide. I got that dimension by taking the 20” width of the horizontal over-the-bed-rail wing and adding 1” for counter overhang at the front. This puts the face of the under-counter cabinet flush with the lower face of the camper shell. In other words, there is a single, clean line from the right edge of the floor up to the bottom of the countertop. Clean lines help make a space feel larger and simplify construction.

21” is narrower than a standard household counter top but is exactly as wide as the countertop in the van which is still plenty wide enough to be useful.

The astute will notice that this leaves no toe-kick on the right side but I have lived with no toe-kick in the van for years and don’t really miss it.

The story is a little different over on the left side though. Here the countertop is a little more generous at 24.75” from front to back. I got here because of the required size of the fridge cabinet which I'll get to later.

Allowing for the same 1” overhang for the countertop at the front edge, the face of the cabinet under this counter extends  about 4” beyond the lower face of the shell.

The space left over between the two countertops is about 38".  If this was a serious cruising boat that would be too wide because a person could be thrown far enough to get hurt in rough seas, especially when trying to cook a meal, but this isn’t a boat and it’s highly unlikely I’ll be cooking in it while negotiating any rough seas.

Considering that the aisle/workspace in the van is 18” wide, 38 seems downright decadent, but in the van one side of the narrow aisle is the 18” high gaucho so my ass-ets can ‘hang over the edge’ and it feels much wider.

I also like my countertops high and in this camper have placed them at 38” above the floor instead of the normal 36. This puts a countertop right at hip-bone level on both sides of the aisle so the extra width comes in handy.

There are several advantages to the 4” overhang of the cabinet on the left side besides lining up with the fridge cabinet. For one it's key to routing the plumbing, which I'll get to in another post.

It also adds additional storage between the cabinet and the floor. In fact  the diameter of the standard disposable propane bottle is about 4”. So now I can install a secure rack down there to safely hold several of these bottles tucked away and protected but handy. That will still leave room for other items as well.

Rather than the complication and additional weight of closing this space off with a very shallow cupboard and clumsy doors, I’ll leave it open and add custom brackets and straps to secure other things in any leftover space down there as I go.

I actually like my countertops slightly higher than the 38” I've used here, ideal for me is more like 40 to 41 because I do all my computer work and playing of the keyboard while standing with the laptop and/or keyboard sitting on the counter tops. When I was still working my 'desk' was a standing workstation and I had no chairs in my office. (Helped keep meetings and other distractions short!) Now days, if I sit at a table or desk and try to do much computer work I get a stiff neck and a headache. (I guess that comes with aging and bifocals.) But I settled for 38” in order to leave room for the all-important windows between countertop and upper cabinets. If I raise the countertop any higher I also have to raise the windows and with them the bottom of the uppers and it doesn’t take long before the uppers end up smaller than they need to be.

The countertop on the left side has a sink mounted in it. I chose this side for the sink because it’s the same side standard RV fill and dump connections are found and I’ll get into those later.

Some small-space designers advocate using the largest sink that will fit in the space. I disagree with that and go for the smallest rectangular sink I can find. (Round sinks are just one giant pain in the neck so those are out.) This way I can fill it to a reasonable depth for dish-washing, etc. without using up any more water than necessary.

I like mounting the sink in the middle of the counter space so I have working area
to both sides (i.e. transferring dirty dishes from the left, through the wash-water in the sink, and then to the right where they wait for a return trip during the rinse cycle.) By mounting the sink towards the front of the counter it is easier to reach into, especially with the higher than normal counters, and leaves plenty of space behind it for stuff to sit. And since I’ve found it so handy in my past rigs, there will be a drop-in cover that goes over the sink and hides the dirty dishes as well as adds more work surface.

I see no reason to alter what I cook on now since it works very well for me, so the camper’s stove will be a portable single burner that uses the disposable propane bottles.

When used inside the stove will sit on the right-hand counter. When I want to cook outside I’ll just carry the same stove out to the picnic table and won’t have to have two different stoves along for the ride.

When not in use the stove, always with gas bottle removed, will tuck into a cupboard, probably under my cast iron frying pan like in the van, with a bit of padding between to eliminate rattles. This clears the counter space for other uses.

If I change habits some day and find I regularly need two burners to prepare my gourmet meals all I have to do as buy a second single burner stove for less than $100 and I’m good to go.

And finally; in the van the bottom edge of the over-counter cupboards are 59” above the floor and set back from the front edge of the countertop by 7”. Since I’ve never hit my head on them I’m using the same spacing for the uppers in this camper. As mentioned before, the upper on the right side extends over the head of the bed all the way to the front wall which makes for lots of storage. Over on the right side the uppers are restricted to the same length as the counter by the fridge cabinet on one end and the air conditioner cabinet on the other, but this still leaves quite a bit of storage space up there.

Next time, a word about drawers and doors

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