From van-dweller, to van-designer.
For as long as he can remember, Chris Ellis has been road tripping around Australia. When he was a kid, family getaways were spent camping down the coast. As an adult the adventures continued; trekking up the east coast with two mates jammed in a little van. And other trips, exploring Tassie’s beauty travelling with his wife and dog.
Ask Chris what he loves the most about being on the road he says: “not really knowing where you're going”.
While Chris has always been a “van-dweller” it was a personal van project that led him to becoming the owner of the bespoke van design company Peachwood Co. Before launching his business, he worked as a full-time carpenter on high-end home builds in Melbourne.
Combining his love for travel and appreciation for design, he turned his former work van into a basic overnight camper. This first project allowed Chris to experiment and develop the signature Peachwood Co. style that clients have come to love. Defined by an interior palette of “white and wood”, Peachwood Co. vans feature natural timber and clean, coastal inspired finishes.
“[The Sprinter’s] reliable, safe and can handle any sort of fit out. Every single nook and cranny within the van is used for storage.”
It wasn’t long after he finished his first van, that a-friend-of-a-friend reached out asking Chris to convert their MWB High roof Sprinter into an overnighter. It was a much more detailed build. But with years of carpentry experience behind him, Chris decided to take on the challenge. The risk paid off.
This project gave Chris the confidence to share his work with his following on social media, and he hasn’t looked back since. As Peachwood Co.’s following grew, more and more people expressed interest in Chris customising their vans.
Two years later, Chris has fitted out a wide range of vans from ex-ambulances to former school buses. When designing a van, Chris draws inspiration from the vehicle’s history. For the school bus project, the roofline was curved so he designed complimentary rounded cabinetry and couches.
Never shying away from a design challenge, Chris customises almost everything you see inside the van from cladding to cabinetry. And for what he can’t make himself, Chris is always on the hunt for new products that fit in with the Peachwood Co. aesthetic but are equally as functional for the road.
The design process with his clients is a collaborative one. While Chris always stays true to the Peachwood Co. style, he’s open to the challenge of finding practical solutions for his client’s needs. The van is converted to be used. This means wiring in a custom audio system, making space for peaceful reading nooks and designing a mountain bike storage unit that slides under a double bed.
Of all the vans Chris has worked on, the Sprinter is an all-time favourite, he says.
“It’s a workhorse, it’s reliable, safe and can handle any sort of fit out”. He describes the Sprinters as not only the best vans to drive but the best to design. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Chris finished modifying a 4x4 ex-ambulance Sprinter for one of his clients. The height of its roof lended itself perfectly to converting the van into an overnighter. Chris explains that “every single nook and cranny within the van is used for storage” and the fact that you can stand up in a Sprinter makes it feel more homely.
Chris’ bespoke camper-vans are more like mini-houses on wheels. When looking at close-up images on social media, it’s easy to mistake one of his kitchen fit-outs for a high end beach house.
Along with his clients, Chris thinks there’s no better time or way to travel around this “great land of ours”. If you want to learn more visit Peachwood Co.’s website - www.peachwoodco.com or go check out @peachwoodco_ on Instagram for inspiration to hit the road.