how to make cushions for your diy camper van bed

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to make the cushions for Freebird’s convertible bed. The non-permanent bed is very popular because it offers a more open floor plan than the permanent bed set-up and it prioritizes a work space inside the van. I love this set-up because traffic can flow freely in and out of both the side and back doors. This is a great floor plan if you want to entertain four or more friends in your van and want as much living space as possible in your tiny home on wheels!

Watch how my benches turn into a bed in 60 seconds flat!

You’ve been asking and here it is!! Freebird’s Table Base & Pole System

surfit van life camper van table base black

This is my table base. I have two of these: one connects to the plywood table top (which doubles as one of my backrests) and one that’s drilled to the floor. The floor base protrudes from the floor so it can be a walking hazard, but I don’t really mind.

This is the table pole I use with the base. I have the 29″ high pole. The height of my base cabinets with my cushions is 17.5″ high off the floor.

OK! Now onto the DIY Camper Van Cushion Tutorial

This tutorial is a general how-to for making your own van bed cushions. These measurements are specific to the bed built in Freebird, a Nissan NV2500, so your exact measurements will vary depending on your van and cabinetry dimensions. Use this article as a general guideline but be sure to double check your measurements first!

NOTE: This article is not a “how to sew” tutorial and assumes you have the basic tools and ability to sew. I personally took sewing classes a few years ago, so I was able to do this, but personally, this would have been too complex of a project for me as a beginner.

Materials

latex mattress 3" foam

Pure Green 100% Natural Latex Mattress Topper – Soft – 3″ Queen mattress by Sleep on Latex– 3″ thick latex Latex foam stays naturally cool and is 100% natural without any synthetic fillers. You can read more about sustainable materials in my van here.

2 Packages IKEA Sanela velvet gray curtains 55″ x 118″ (you’ll have a total of 4 curtain panels)

8 Yards Medium Weight Cotton Muslin Fabric (this is for the pillowcases underneath covers, which I recommend for longevity and ease of cleaning the covers)

Cushion Batting 1/2″ for extra comfort (the cushions will be snug but comfort is key)

8 22″ gray zippers (putting zippers on the muslin pillowcases is optional)

Instructions

1) Cut the mattress

NOTE: These are measurements specific to my particular build in my 2012 Nissan NV2500. Make sure you alter these measurements for your specific bed design!

Using the sharpie and a ruler, measure and mark the mattress for cutting. Each cushion is 30″ by 18″, so draw a line down the entire length of the mattress and cut it in half so you have two 30″ pieces. Then cut every 18″ so you have eight mattress pieces that are 30″ x 18″.

NOTE: You will be left with two 30″ x 9″ pieces. I made cushion covers for these pieces as well and stuck them in the back of the van to fill out the total space so the cushions don’t move when I sleep. You’ll likely want to do the same and follow the measurement guidelines below to make cushion covers for these pieces.

2) Cut the batting

Next cut the batting into eight 30″ by 18″ pieces that will go on top of the mattress for extra comfort.

3) Cut the fabric pieces

This video provides an excellent explanation for what dimensions to cut pieces for a box cushion. I watched this video about 30 times because she talks so fast, but you can pause it to get the correct calculations. I can’t stress enough: this video has the real step-by-step sewing tutorial you need for this project!!! Watch it over and over and refer to it as needed for the steps below!

If you’re also sewing pillow cases (which I recommend), you’ll do all of these steps twice for the muslin cotton fabric that’s going underneath the main cushion fabric.

For this project here are the sizes of pieces I cut:

  • 31.5″ x 18.5″ (16 pieces– these are the cushion top and bottom pieces)
  • 5.25″ x 26″ (8 pieces– this is the zipper panel)
  • 72.5″ x 4.25″ (8 pieces– this is the boxing)

4) Serge all the fabric pieces

NOTE: I highly recommend you serge all of the edges of all of the fabric. You might be able to use a serger at a sewing studio or borrow from someone. This will ensure that your cushions won’t come apart at the edges and is really a necessary step to keep them intact!

5) Sew the zipper panel & boxing

Sew the zipper into the zipper panel. Next sew the edge of the boxing to the edge of the zipper panel to create one long piece that goes around the perimeter of the cushion face. The video above shows how to do this.

6) Sew the boxing to the faces of the cushion.

Again, use the video. She’s got the explanation down and it super helpful! Be sure to unzip the zipper before sewing the final pieces on!

NOTE: In the photo below, the zipper is on the end of the cushion. You actually want it on one side so you can hide the zipper in the back of the cushion!

This cutie was my project supervisor. He ran a tight ship.

7) Put the cover on your new cushion!

Put the batting on top of the cushion and then stuff the cushions into the pillowcases (you’ll likely need two people because this will be a tight fit). Then do the same with the cushion covers.

Tada!! Now you have yourself a new van bed/bench cushion!

- Vacay Vans
Vacay Vans author Vacay Vans
Vacay Vans is the complete guide to all things vanlife! Whether you're a vanlifer, in the thick of building out your DIY camper van, or even if you're just a little "van curious" want to learn about the lifestyle, Vacay Vans has all the resources and information you need! Ditch the 9-5 and embrace the open road!

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