The Road Beckons: Swift Chalet
Vanlife gets a chic upgrade.
This is what I see when I think “road trip”: an empty highway running in a straight line through the open plains, toward a bright horizon where mountains or mesas rise, stretching from this point to infinity. The sun is already setting but heat still shimmers from the black asphalt, warping the horizon. Soon the evening breezes will nudge tumbleweeds across the pavement. Guilherme Figueiredo and Jeremy Vandermeij probably have a similar vision, but from the enviable position of inside one of their new luxury camper vans.
Figueiredo, a lawyer turned hotel manager and his partner, Vandermeij, an interior designer and a co-founder of the DesignTO festival, have recently launched The Van Dads, a custom off-grid camper van conversion company that offers stylish pre-built or custom vehicles with a contemporary minimalistic aesthetic that supports the road-tripper ethos of “take only what you need.” Their current flagship model is The Swift Chalet, a fully winterized Ford Transit able to go off-grid yet stay slick in Baltic birch and powder pink materials. “The Swift Chalet is a very tiny home, clocking in at 70 square feet of livable space,” says Vandermeij, yet it still houses a full queen-sized bed, composting toilet, fridge, induction cooktop, sink, heaters connected directly to the gas tank (as opposed to the engine) and enough solar and battery power to live and work from the van.
“We wanted to build the Swift Chalet for the modern traveller, whether you are a digital nomad or recent retiree. Our van has five batteries, where most camper vans only have two, [and] is equipped with cellphone signal boosters that, when paired with a great cell phone data plan, can serve the needs of the remote worker,” says Figueiredo. “We tested it this summer while travelling to Tofino, B.C. in one of our prototypes. We were both able to work remotely in every location that had cellphone service.”
Photography by Jeremy Vandermeij