Lexus Kitchen

Designed for road trips, car camping, and everyday use – I built a kitchen for my car – featuring a high-performance cooler, a pull-out water jug, and an extendable table.

Pull-Out Water Jug

One primary feature of my car's kitchen is the 3.5-gallon water jug with a faucet. Wrapped in high-quality insulation, this jug remains cool even during the hottest days, ensuring crisp and refreshing water at all times.

Washing my pan after making oatmeal for breakfast

Mounted on smooth, sturdy rails, the water jug can be effortlessly pulled out of the car, preventing any splashes or spills inside the vehicle. This setup is incredibly versatile, making it perfect for refilling water bottles, boiling water for instant noodles, brushing your teeth, or even cleaning up pots and pans after a hearty meal.

Refilling my water bottle

High-Performance Cooler

Another key feature of my mini kitchen is the high-performance cooler, meticulously designed to preserve the freshness of your food, even for perishables like milk and raw meat. Encased in up to 5 inches of foam board insulation, this modified Coleman cooler is comparable in performance to name-brand coolers like Yeti.

Opening the cooler to grab some dinner

The cooler is equipped with a Bluetooth-enabled thermometer, allowing you to monitor the internal temperature directly from your phone. In addition to providing peace of mind with the knowledge that your food is at a safe temperature, this also helps keep the temperature down by preventing the cooler from being opened unnecessarily.

Using my phone to view the cooler's temperature

Versatile Slide-Out Table

Another notable feature is that it doubles as a table, offering a convenient surface for setting up your portable stove or enjoying your meal.

Boiling water for instant ramen

Local taco trucks often lack seating areas, making this a convenient spot for eating without messing up your car's interior. Similarly, when grabbing pizza from Costco's food court, this place offers a quiet and pleasant alternative to Costco's loud and crowded seating area.

Costco pizza

Modular Design

The cooler and the water jug can both be easily removed for restocking and for cleaning. Every piece is built like LEGO – held in place through interlocking friction, gravity, and magnets.

Seamless Lexus Styling

Beyond its functionality, every detail of this build is styled to seamlessly integrate with the aesthetic of this car. The exterior is styled with matching OEM colors and materials, featuring ivory leather wrapping on the face and sides and an OEM cargo mat that's been cut out and mounted to the lid. Even the interior components have been spray-painted black, ensuring a cohesive look.

Lexus Kitchen styling

The tabletop is hand-carved from plywood and wrapped in wood grain vinyl to match the car's wood trim interior, giving it a premium look.

A beautiful wood grain vinyl wrap

Room for Improvement...

I am proud of this project, but it is by no means perfect.

I wanted it to be portable so that it'd be easy to remove from my car when the space is needed for something else. Unfortunately, due to the choice in materials (lots of wood), the final product is way too heavy to be easily moved. If I were to build this again, I would try to use more lightweight materials like plastic or 3D printer filament instead of solid wood.

Another failed goal was for this cooler to outperform name-brand coolers like Yeti. Although I was successful in greatly improving performance of the $20 Coleman cooler that I used, it was not enough to beat a Yeti. If I were to build this again, I would simply start with a high-performance cooler instead of trying to create my own.

The Journey of Creation: Learning by Doing

When I embarked on the project of building a kitchen for my car, I was stepping into uncharted territory. With no prior experience in woodworking, insulation, or vinyl wrapping, I had to rely on a slow process of trial and error. Each step presented a new challenge, but with patience and persistence, I navigated through them.

Lexus Kitchen, WIP

At first it seemed relatively straightforward – just mount the rails with screws and mount the foam insulation with glue – easy peasy.

Lexus Kitchen, WIP

However, I quickly realized that I had committed myself to resolving countless issues, diving into an endless pursuit of perfection and getting lost in the details.

For example, to optimize the cooler's efficiency I ended up creating exact molds of the cooler and water jug using spray insulation foam. First I slathered the cooler with cooking oil to prevent the foam from sticking (a very messy process), then set the cooler into place with a 40 lb dumbbell on top for stability, then sprayed foam everywhere to seal the gaps, and finally waited 6 hours for the foam to harden. I repeated this process over a dozen times in order to achieve the perfect mold.

There are many other details that took an absurb amount of time, such as using frictionless tape to make the moving pieces buttery-smooth, mounting steel braces to reinforce the foam walls, and installing three layers of seal strips around the opening of the cooler.

Lexus Kitchen, WIP

But eventually I forced myself to look past the imperfections and move on to finish the project.

Conclusion

Creating this project was an incredibly rewarding journey, filled with both challenges and triumphs. What started as a simple idea inspired by a YouTube video evolved into a fully functional setup that perfectly complements my car adventures. Each step, from designing and selecting materials to overcoming the trials of woodworking and insulation, taught me valuable skills and deepened my appreciation for hands-on craftsmanship.

Camping

Whether you're a seasoned DIY enthusiast or a beginner like I was, I hope my journey inspires you to take on your own projects and discover the joy of creating something from scratch.

Thanks for reading!