Toronto couple started building offgrid campervans as a side hustle during lockdowns

A new Toronto company wants to make your vanlife dream a reality.

The trend of tiny living seems to be going strong with a Toronto man building tiny homes, laneway suites going up all over the city, and even a couple who tried out cube van living in Toronto.

The Van Dads is a new Toronto-based design and build company that creates off-grid, winterized homes for vanlifers, festival goers or anyone who wants to escape in their own mini home.

The Van Dads can make a custom campervan.

Like many new ventures these days, The Van Dads grew out of lockdown when Gui Figueiredo and his life and business partner Jeremy Vandermeij decided to take the winter of 2020/2021 and build their own campervan.

This summer they took it on the road, living and working as they crossed Canada to Tofino on Vancouver Island.

The bedroom is small but there is plenty of light.

Life in van has become a cliché with #vanlife movement, Vandermeij admits, but the experience opened his eyes to a different way of living.

"The world is just become filled with so much stuff, digital stuff, physical stuff, thoughts. And then when you live in a van, like when all that's taken away, it just like kind of lends itself to like a healthier way of living," Vandermeij tells blogTO.

The space is tight inside, under 100 square feet.

The space is tight and can sometimes get dirty but Vandermeij says you can just open the door and the outdoors become an extra room.

After Vandermeij and Figueiredo realized they could build custom vans in an open concept and minimalist aesthetic, they decided to start a business offering something different from what is on the market today.

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Toronto couple started building offgrid campervans as a side hustle during lockdowns

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The small space of a van, usually under 100 square feet is a huge design challenge, one that interested Vandermeij who has taught interior design at Ryerson University.

"I've always loved designing small spaces, because I love this fusion between architecture, interior design and furniture making…it's like, interior design meets millwork, right."

The small space is a design challenge.

The Swift Chalet van, now for sale on their site, comes with nearly everything you need including a water system, electrical system, solar panels, a fridge, composting toilet, an induction cooktop and a Wi-Fi system.

They used real Baltic birch plywood for a homey feel and powder pink laminate counters. Everything needs to be durable and secure to withstand vibrations when driving.

The kitchen sink hose could double as an outdoor shower if you open the door.

The only thing the van doesn't have is a shower but you could take the kitchen sink hose outside for an outdoor shower or use campground showers.

The solar panels provide enough power for two days on a full charge and you can plug the van in.

They used pink laminate for the counters, which is very durable and easy to clean.

The cost is steep about $150,000 but that includes the entire set up. People can also buy their own van and bring it to The Van Dads for a design for around $100,000.

Vandermeij says his experience living in a van this summer made him want to bring that to more people.

Getting away in a campervan opened up a new way of life for Gui Figueiredo and his life and business partner Jeremy Vandermeij.

"It's a beautiful experience living in a van especially in the world we live in, where we've been recently trapped in our homes. Having a home on wheels and finding a sense of wonder, again, this summer was brilliant, and made my soul alive again."