The problem with caravan seats is that they are not very comfortable, perhaps fine for half an hour but sitting on them for much longer tends to bring on an attack of the fidgets. This is certainly the situation we find in our Lunar Clubman. 

During a recent tour my wife had mentioned that she found our caravan’s seats uncomfortable, mainly due to the absence of a suitable backrest. I should explain here that in the evenings we use these bench seats as a pair of chaise longue because our preferred posture whilst reading or watching our television, is laying along the couch feet up. 

Further discussion confirmed that the discomfort problem was indeed due to the lack of adequate back support, so my allotted task was to find a way of improving the situation. 

My first thought was to remove the front couches entirely in order to create enough space for a couple of free-standing reclining chairs; very much an open plan solution. I also considered removing only the nearside bench seat to fit a couple of chairs in on that side, but there is insufficient room and they would be too cramped. After surveying the amount of equipment underneath both the seats associated with the heating, gas, electrical, and alarm systems that would first have to be repositioned to allow the open-plan solution the enormity of the task became apparent. At this point my resolve weakened somewhat! 

There was also the not unimportant consideration of the effect such a conversion would have on the eventual resale value of the van, as it would also remove the possibility of making up a front bed. 

I reluctantly concluded that I had to discount these ideas as impractical, and rethink the problem, for any alterations would have to be easily reversible.

I first considered making an infill panel to extend the existing low panel by the door up to a suitable height to form a back rest. This idea was initially discounted because I thought such a single panel would be far too flimsy, and in any case a simple vertical panel would not provide the required level of comfort. 

After further thought the idea formed that perhaps a sloping panel with a suitable cushion would work. We happen to have a pair of Ikea Poang armchairs for occasional use at home, and it was whilst measuring one of these to gain an idea of the dimensions required that I started to consider modifying one in some way. After further consideration I concluded that the frame would not be of much use, but the cushion certainly could be. 

Further discussion brought another problem to the fore, that of matching the upholstery of the modification to that of our caravan’s. An hour on the internet brought forth the information that the only way to get a match was the complete reupholstery of both couches and their backrests and cushions, something that would cost in the region of £700. An amount too close to our annual touring budget for comfort, so that idea was discounted. 

The adopted solution was to go for contrast.  

I soon found a brightly coloured Poang for sale on eBay, a colour that met with my wife’s approval, so I brought it. 

The plan was now to form the chair back out of light plywood to support the cushion. Time to go and buy some wood. 

I chose 5mm plywood for the vertical back and 3mm for the shaped front as well as the infill ends together with 40 x 20mm softwood for internal bracing. 

As is usually the case with such ventures, as one problem was solved another arose. The seat-back design required that it had a base of about 200mm to provide the necessary slope. It became obvious that this would prevent the existing slatted hinged seat base being lifted, thereby limiting access to the under-seat storage area. This was solved by removing the frame and replacing it with two plywood infills, a short fixed one under the new seat back and a longer removable section. We still retain the option of using the front drop-down access door. 

In order to create space for the seat-back to sit firmly on the new base the main seat cushion had to move forward by some 200mm. This could be accomplished by removing and discarding the short 400mm end section of seat base cushion normally fitted toward the front. This in turn left a gap at the forward end of the seat, so a short infill section was created out of plywood in order to fill this section and stop the seat cushion creeping forward. 

We had decided that the seat-back structure should be finished to complement the Poang cushion, initially I thought I would be able to find a suitable fabric, but then remembered that I had a supply of heat-shrink film somewhere in my workshop. One sample offered a close match to the new seat cushion so was chosen for the covering. 

Possibly a trifle gaudy, but it does have a warming effect. 

The finished creation has now been installed and is awaiting road testing in the new year, only then will we know if the effort has been worthwhile. 

The slider below shows a few more construction shots. 

Comments as always are welcome.

 

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