With some careful planning, even 66 square feet can feel like home. Jay and Abby are living their dream in their Sprinter van conversion. Check out their story below or on their Instagram @imaginalbud and @tinyspacecreations.
Tell us about yourselves.
We’re Jay and Abby. We were both born and raised in the mitten state surrounded by the Great Lakes. We thrive on adventure and slow mornings with a cup of coffee.
Jay is a custom carpenter and builder with a passion for creating small, efficient and beautiful spaces for people to live. In his free time, Jay is a rock climber and an endurance athlete where he can challenge himself and find a spiritual connection to the natural world and his deeper self.
Abby is a freelance graphic artist where she splits her time working with non-profits to optimize their websites and media, and creating landscape and architectural renderings for Environmental and Green Infrastructure consulting firms. In her free time, Abby explores her creativity through mixed media arts like ceramics, drawing and painting, and cooking.
We have a third family member named Bean – a 35 pound Australian Shepard who we take everywhere with us. We love the outdoors and Bean is always reminding us that there is no such thing as a bad day spent outside.
Tell us about your rig.
We travel in a 144 wheel base 2007 Dodge Sprinter van, heated by a Dwarf 3kW LITE.
How did you decide to live in a van?
Since the beginning of our relationship, we’d had a goal to travel and see new places together. We spent a lot of time brainstorming ways to do that, especially with a dog and came to the conclusion that living in a tiny house on wheels would be the most accommodating for our situation.
The other reasons for choosing this lifestyle were to reduce clutter in our lives, to have more autonomy with our time and daily activities, and to just go for it because … why not? We traveled along the east coast and lived in the van full-time for 4 months. Currently we are using it for shorter trips and enjoying it as a beautiful part-time living space, while saving to build a more permanent tiny home in Detroit.
What made you decide to heat your van with a tiny wood stove?
Abby grew up in a home with a wood stove, so there is already a sense of home that comes with having one in a living space. When we found the option of putting a tiny wood stove in our van, it felt like a no-brainer to us. The coziness that you get from a real flame and wood fire is something you really can’t match. It is the only heat source in the van and through the early spring and summer on the east coast, and into the fall and winter in Michigan it was perfect.
Why did you choose a Dwarf stove in particular?
After doing lots of research on available wood stoves that would fit the size limitations of our space and the high quality feel of a true wood stove you would find in a regular home, we were so excited to find Tiny Wood Stove as we felt they produced the highest quality tiny stove on the market.
How did your installation go?
The installation of the stove went really well. This was the first hole we cut in the van (which naturally there is always some anxiety around), but the stove came with excellent instructions, and Tiny Wood Stove provided great and supportive customer service when we had any questions. We did the full installation ourselves in the driveway during the build-out of the van, using a template, a drill, a jig-saw with metal cutting blade, a fine tooth file and high temperature caulk that we purchased from a local wood stove dealer. Overall the whole process went smoothly and we’d feel confident to do it again.
How has your space changed since you installed the stove?
Since installing the Dwarf 3k LITE stove in our van, we were able to finish the rest of our build through the end of the winter as the stove kept the van a comfortable temperature for working. When we set out on our adventure in the van, our favorite times to use the stove were in the mornings with a cup of coffee, on a rainy day stuck inside, after a surf session in the Atlantic ocean, and going to bed at night if it was cold outside. The ambiance of a crackling fire and the glow of firelight is something we are so glad we incorporated into our tiny living space.
The van itself changed minimally as our stove is perched in the doorway of the sliding side door. We chose this spot in the floor plan to give ourselves easy access to loading fuel and taking out ash. It was also the obvious spot for safety and to keep it way from our bedding materials.
How have you enjoyed having a tiny wood stove in your van?
The Dwarf 3k LITE has been a priceless addition to our lives in the van. While down sizing our lives, we found that it wasn’t uncommon to be forced into making compromises with life’s amenities that were important and or necessary to us. Along with standing and having the ability to bake in an oven, having a warm fire really gave us the feeling that we hadn’t sacrificed quality of life to live in 66 square feet.
What advise would you give others who are building out their own vans?
We would absolutely encourage others to incorporate a wood stove in their small living spaces. A wood stove offers a strong sense of comfort in any living space. In our opinion the Dwarf 3k LITE was a great size for our space and we chose the LITE version as we thought we’d be eliminating some weight from the van, but in a colder climate like a mid-winter Michigan night we could see the Dwarf 3kW Standard or Dwarf 4kW stoves working really well as they have more heat mass and a larger fire box to retain and radiate heat for a longer period of time. We can't wait to put another one in our next home!
Interested in a small stove for your tiny space? Contact us on the form below and we can help you sort through all the details in getting the perfect stove and installation configuration for your unique space!