When Chase lost his full-time job, it wasn’t long before he and his girlfriend Mariajosé decided to pursue a skoolie lifestyle with their two dogs. So, they bought a bus and converted it into their dream home!
Meet The Couple
From the moment they first met, the connection between Chase and Mariajosé was undeniable. "I wasn't supposed to be at work, but I went in anyway, and Mariajosé walked in looking for something we didn't carry," Chase recalled.
Mariajosé had walked into the store where Chase worked, and the two hit it off immediately. "I offered to call another store that never answered as a way to find time to talk to her," he continued. After some conversation, the two agreed to go on a date, and soon enough, a relationship blossomed.
A Sudden Loss
Chase and Mariajosé were in deep - not only did their relationship go from strength to strength, but they even bought two dogs and a house together, signaling how solid their love was for each other. Unfortunately, disaster soon struck when Chase was let go at his work. But the couple didn’t let it get them down.
"We both agreed adventure was the next step," the couple shared. Mariajosé still had a remote job as a makeup artist, so the two decided to find a project to dive into while Chase was unemployed. They made an exciting plan to purchase an old bus and turn it into a mobile tiny house!
The Perfect Bus
It was only a matter of time before the two lovebirds came across the ideal vehicle for the job. It was a 2004 Thomas MVP Safety Liner, which had everything they wanted as a foundation for their future home. "When we bought this, we paid $3,500 for it, and it had about 197,000 miles on it, give or take," Chase explained.
"The bus has a caterpillar inline-six 31:26, a 7.2-liter engine - it's a powerhouse," he continued. Though it's "not necessarily top-end," in their words, it was all they needed to get started. The former school bus was preferable to a traditional RV because it could hold more weight and would be fully customizable.
Pulling It All Out
Now that the bus was in their hands, it was time for Chase and Mariajosé to get started on the very first task of any skoolie (the name for a school bus conversion) renovation. They had to gut the entire 250-square feet of the bus, so they could begin building on a blank slate.
The most important task was to remove the seats on the bus, which took up the bulk of the space. "Some of [the seats] came out super super quick and easy, and then others didn't want to do anything," Chase said while describing this part of the process. "So, I'll be glad when the demolition of the seats is over."
Though gutting the interior was par for the course in most skoolie conversions, this couple did decide to do something a little different - they chose to keep the bus's original flooring, which would usually be removed during this process. Their reasoning was simple.
"We decided to keep all of the rubber inside the bus because of the condition of the underneath as well as some areas that we exposed," Chase elaborated. "There was zero rust that we have been able to find anywhere on this bus." Keeping the flooring was a nice and easy way to save time and money.
Though they left the rubber flooring in place, they did plan to add some extra layers over it. They also had to fix the remaining holes in the floor after the seats were removed. Once that was done, they began installing the subfloor with the help of Chase’s dad.
The subfloor was a layer of wooden sheets over the original rubber flooring, which was going to act as a vapor barrier to protect the bus foundation from moisture. Now Mariajosé and Chase could begin laying down the floorboards and start on the walls too - their future home was well on its way!
New Floor Bonanza
Insulating and framing the walls was a simple enough job, although the DIY duo also had to run electricity through the walls before they could add the last layer. Once the electricity was done, the next step was to finish the flooring, which they paneled with laminate bought from Lowes.
Chase and Mariajosé admitted that "It wasn't the easiest to get everything perfect," but they did the best they could. "Now the fun starts because we get to make our plans real. We get to start building where the bathroom, kitchen, and room was planned. The ideas are endless."
The Final Wall
So flooring and electricity prep was pretty much done, and the clever couple now had time to finish off the aforementioned walling. They wanted to use sheets of pine beadboard mixed with local lumber over the insulation, which they felt would be affordable and effective.
"We want to paint them," Chase and Mariajosé added. "We are thinking of white to match with the ceiling and make the space feel bigger, it's going to look so good with the floors." Around this time, they began establishing a floorplan, marking out each space with tape so they could better imagine how the finished product might look.
Just One Month Later
After only 30 days of working on the bus, Chase and Mariajosé had come a long way. They completed work on the walls and floors, painted the ceiling white, and finished off the walls and window frames with a matching coat of smooth, high-gloss white paint finish.
Part of their reasoning for choosing so much stark white on the walls and ceilings was to highlight the contrast between these lighter shades and the dark color of the floorboards, as can be seen in the picture above. Now that they had a lovely layout to work with, they began framing the inner walls of the house bus.
Starting On The Bedroom
The first space they began framing was the couple's bedroom, where they also constructed a frame for their future bed. It was queen-sized and would be placed in front of the garage space they planned to build. "We had originally planned two feet of garage space," Chase said. "We shrunk that down to about 18 inches."
The garage would house some of the couple's extra belongings, including their yoga mats and snowboarding equipment, plus extra chairs, VMax tanks, and AGM batteries. But most importantly, it would store "the heart and soul of our solar setup... a 4000-watt inverter," Chase further explained.
Extra Bedroom Storage
While building their queen bed, Chase and Mariajosé also had to take into account how much storage they would build in the bedroom - after all, storage is one of the most important things to keep in mind when constructing a tiny house. So the couple chose to install a storage compartment right beneath the bed.
The bed could easily be lifted up to access this storage, where the pair planned to keep several extra water tanks. Building top-down access meant they could add wooden boards and trim to the sides of the bed, so the storage would not otherwise be visible.
By now, their future house-on-wheels was really beginning to take shape. Mariajosé and Chase began working on more pieces of furniture for the house, including a handy set of wardrobes and the essential kitchen counter - both of which can be seen below.
"After a couple of weeks working really hard and nonstop on the bus, we are finally seeing things come together," the couple told their friends and followers. "The bed is complete and functional. Storage and 'laundry room' is framed. We painted and painted, then we painted a little bit more."
Walls, Walls, And More Walls
Back to the wall framing we mentioned: the skeleton of the floorplan had already been put up - but now it was time to finish them, so each room in the house bus could be completed. "We got the hall wall up and close to complete," the couple said. "It only needs trim and paint at this point."
In this area, Chase and Mariajosé also hung a fold-up table from the wall via a mirror hook. The table was fully portable, so it could be hung up while the bus was on the road, then easily taken down and folded out to be used in the living room area when the bus was parked.
On To The Bathroom
Working on the walls now meant that the bathroom had formed too. The entire space was approximately 5 x 6 feet and would have a shower (the beginnings of which can be seen below) and a vanity on the opposite wall with a built-in sink. The shower base was also salvaged from a discount scrapyard.
Their plan was to hook the sink up to a gray water tank with a roughly 60-gallon capacity. Opposite their sink was a handy RV toilet that would, in turn, be connected to a 65-gallon black water tank. Both tanks would be fed from a freshwater tank that would be around 100-gallons in size.
The Closets Comes Together
Further down the bus was the couple’s bedroom, which also needed a decent amount of privacy. Mariajosé and Chase wanted to achieve this with a set of closets that would separate the bedroom from the rest of the house. These closets can be seen below before the doors were attached.
The pair painted the backs of the closets black and added trim before considering the next steps. "We are going to put racks and shelves in the wardrobes this week and then find some doors for them as well," they shared online. Once the closets were finished, they would store clothing, a laundry machine, and various other items.
Couch & Cushions
Now to the living room, where they were making quick progress. The twin couches had been fully framed, painted, and had trimming added to the sides. Now Chase and Mariajosé just had to source cushions that would fit them. They soon settled on custom-made options.
"We had several options when it came to seat cushions, one of which was paying someone to make them for us," they later said. "While that would be easy, it's not our style. We watched a YouTube video, bought our fabric, and repurposed an RV mattress while we sewed the box cushions for the sofa."
The Exterior Project
But it wasn’t just the interior that Chase and Mariajosé put their time and energy into. The exterior of the bus was equally important, and the couple wanted it to reflect their personalities as much as the inside did. So they set to work sanding down the vehicle and cleaning the walls with trisodium phosphate.
When it came to painting, they added painter's tape to make sure they got the look absolutely right and used Wagner power spray to coat it. "The painting project was quite a journey, and we absolutely HATED the painting prep... or maybe it was just the wind that made it so bad," they recalled.
A Fresh Coat
After a lot of consideration, Mariajosé and Chase settled on the color they wanted for the outside: a muted grey-green. Once the painting was done, they constructed a small deck on the bus roof, which would be another recreational space. "We spend most of our nights here, just watching the sunset," Mariajosé said.
They also added a hole where their umbrella could be propped while they sunbathed. Further down the roof was a row of solar panels that were connected to the charge controllers inside the bus and used to power their home. They also stored propane tanks and a generator in the bus’s undercarriage.
Back To The Interior
Returning to the inside of the bus, we can see a complete and utterly stylish interior. Chase and Mariajosé had finally finished interior renovations, and the results were stunning! The pair had gone out of their way to show their personalities through the house bus’s trendy decor.
In particular, they went for a ‘boho-chic’ aesthetic that emphasized a sense of warmth and comfort throughout the 250-square feet of their new home. They also added plenty of practical details, such as the seatbelts on each sofa which allowed them to have several passengers while traveling.
The Heating System
They also included an extremely useful wood stove, which can be seen opposite the kitchen area. It was a GRIZZLY Cubic Mini Wood Stove, which kept them toasty and warm, no matter where or when they traveled. The only downside to the stove was the extra storage they needed for wood!
"We've had the bus in temperatures of around 20 degrees [Fahrenheit], and this thing has kept us warm," Chase explained of the handy contraption. "We get about four-and-a-half hours burn time on a full load of wood - which, for something this small, is pretty awesome."
The Living Room Area
To get the look right in the living room area, Mariajosé and Chase had to remove "all of the heavy metal stuff" in the front of the bus and replace it with wooden framing. They also added some special touches, such as making their own curtains with a sewing machine to "save as much money as we could."
They also chose to stain the armrests on both couches, as it would make it easier to clean up and conceal any spills or stains. As can be seen above, their custom-made couch cushions fit the living room perfectly… hard to believe they had been made out of an old mattress!
A Guest Room!
Though it seems unorthodox, making cushions out of a queen-sized mattress had another useful purpose: they could be put back together, and turned into a bed! When both couches were moved together the living room was essentially transformed into a guest bedroom.
If that’s not enough, Mariajosé and Chase took the multi-purpose furniture a step further by building extra storage beneath the couches and hanging baskets from the armrests where they could leave laptops, tablets, and other devices. As with any good tiny house, the living room was lovely to look at and completely functional!
A Fully-Equipped Kitchen
Moving on through the bus, we find one of Chase and Mariajosé's favorite rooms - the kitchen! "When we were building the school bus, we wanted to have something to be more private, so we went with an L-shaped kitchen," Mariajosé explained. At the end of the counter, they also had a full-sized refrigerator.
It was a 110-v electric fridge that the couple described as "significantly more efficient than some of the apartment-sized fridges." Between the fridge and the sink was a handy double-burner stove, and below was a set of mint-colored cabinets for all of their kitchen storage needs.
Double Closet Space
As mentioned, Chase and Mariajosé had installed an impressive set of double closets that separated the bedroom from the rest of the bus. These customized wardrobes made the perfect place for the couple to store their clothing, either on hangers or in the clothing baskets.
Despite all of the space they had, both Mariajosé and Chase had to give away a lot of their belongings. As with most skoolie renovations and tiny house builds, minimizing was an essential step in transitioning to this kind of lifestyle. Now let’s move beyond another set of wooden doors to the bathroom.
A Complete Bathroom
This creative couple did such an impressive job renovating their bathroom that it looks more suitable for an inner-city apartment than a bus. The two did all the tile work themselves, settling on a subway tile aesthetic with marblework for the shower.
Thankfully, Chase and Mariajosé rarely had any trouble with items falling in the bathroom while the bus was on the road. They also used storage hooks for their towels and hangers for hygiene products. A peek behind the bathroom door will also reveal a ladder that the couple used to climb to the bus roof.
The Bathroom Part 2
On the opposite side of the bathroom across from the shower is a luxurious vanity, which can be seen placed against the olive-green bathroom wall. Its sink had a steady supply of hot water, courtesy of the six-gallon propane and electric water heater that was also connected to the kitchen.
Chase and Mariajosé also had a 100-gallon water tank stored in the skoolie, which helped a lot. "We thought that was going to be more than enough... for the two of us and our dogs," Chase recalled. "But now we're contemplating... adding a second 100-gallon water tank."
The Master Bedroom
Now we return to the couple's lovely, light-filled bedroom. "We wanted to make it as cozy and nice as possible," Mariajosé added. And they certainly achieved that! As can be seen below, the room is extremely light and airy, which was helped by the white walls and ceilings, and the light and neutral-toned decor.
Though it certainly looks perfect, the cozy room was actually a work in progress. Like many skoolie renovations, the owners came up with new ideas once living in their home. For example, Mariajosé and Chase built two extra shelves for their bedroom storage.
An Entertainment Nook
What may surprise many is the sheer amount of usable space in the couple's bedroom. Mariajosé and Chase had designed it to be used not just as a place to sleep and relax - but as an entertainment nook as well! As seen below, a sizeable television was also installed in the corner of the bedroom.
Just below and tucked away is a cabinet from TJ Maxx, which stored Chase’s “big boy toys,” i.e, his Xbox, Playstation, and games collection. Opposite the TV, one may notice some hanging hats, decorations, and a small white bench beside the dresser drawer. But what was it?
A Small Makeup Counter
Well, it wasn’t just Chase who got a little space for fun and leisure. This bench space was Mariajosé’s makeup spot, her favorite area on the house bus! Let’s not forget that she was a working makeup artist, so she needed somewhere to practice her craft.
"Giving my life to the road didn't mean I was going to give all of my passion away," she insisted. "We got some IKEA cabinets where I'm able to store all my makeup. It doesn't work the best because my house pretty much moves all the time." Thankfully, she's been able to make it work.
Ever since completing their wonderful home, Chase and Mariajosé have had plenty of opportunities for travel and adventure with their two beloved dogs. So much adventure, in fact, that they named the bus "Tío Aventura," which means "Uncle Adventure" in Spanish!
But what happened next came as a shock to many - the energetic young couple chose to sell their beloved bus! "Tío has been sold and is going to be loved and adored by so many other people in the coming months," they told their followers. "Our bus will be part-time adventure home for the new owner and part-time rental."
A New Set Of Wheels
But their adventures on the road were far from over! Soon after selling their house bus Chase and Mariajosé purchased a new van that they also wanted to turn into a liveable home. They had spent five months searching from "coast-to-coast," in Chase’s words, before finally finding the right vehicle.
At the time, the couple and their pets were living in Tennessee, so they flew straight to Perris, California, to retrieve their new van. They then drove it back to Tennessee to begin work on the renovations. And just like their former bus, the results were impressive.
Before The Build
The dynamic duo had purchased a 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500, which was an “extended” version of the original model with a 170-inch wheelbase. Chase and Mariajosé had purposefully chosen a medium-sized van as their new home as it would be easier to drive.
Before the build was finished, they decided it was only fitting to give the van its own unique name. Again, they used Mariajosé's Venezuelan heritage to choose a name. They dubbed the van "Chevede," which translates to "cool, awesome, rad," in Chase's words.
The Final Look
Let’s take a look inside the couple’s latest DIY project. The final product comes with a lounge, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom, just like their house bus. It’s hard to believe that they fit so much into such a compact space! They even lowered the ceiling to create extra overhead storage.
For lighting, Chase and Mariajosé installed recess lighting throughout the vehicle - they even installed a moveable passenger seat that could be turned around when not in use for driving, doubling as seating in their living space for when visitors might pop by.
Inside The Van
When the global pandemic set in, Chase and Mariajosé had only just purchased their van. Over the first 6 months of the virus sweeping through the country, the couple hunkered down and threw themselves into renovations. During that time, they built the kitchen, which had an apartment-style sink, amongst other things.
They also purchased a 130-liter Isotherm Cruise Elegance refrigerator, explaining that "we used to have a huge fridge in the bus, so having a good-size fridge inside the van without taking the whole space over was very important." Thankfully, the appliance fit perfectly.
The Kitchen Pantry
Beneath the large sink, they stored several other appliances, including the water heater, filtration system, and a vacuum. Above the sink was a cupboard where all their cups, plates, coffee, and other general items were kept. A few baskets also held things in place while the van was on the road.
As seen above, the slide-out pantry was an ingenious idea on Mariajosé's behalf, as it could store plenty of food without taking up the width of the vehicle. "In the bus, we barely had any space for our canned food and dry food," she said. "When we were building the van, we knew we needed a space dedicated to [that]."
Check Out Those Views
The rest of the kitchen can be summed up in the counter space that is used for food prep and the two-burner electric induction stovetop - where they did all of their cooking. Hidden below that is a compact trash can, an essential item in such a small space where smells are often amplified.
Just below the countertop, Chase and Mariajosé had installed handy counters to hold their pots and pans, various kitchen appliances, including a blender, and even some of their clothing. The kitchen was a beloved space in the van as it allowed them to cook with a view!
One thing that was much harder to build into the van compared to the bus, was a fully-functional bathroom. "We decided to keep it all in one place; it's a wet bath," Mariajosé said. "This time, we did not go with a whole black water system. We decided to go with a composting toilet."
It was a much smaller space, but it still included a shower (with a retractable shower door), as well as a fixed and handheld showerhead. And on the wall beside it, they installed a small organizer to hold their shampoo, conditioner, and other hygiene products in place.
The Second Shower
But with such a small bathroom space, Mariajosé and Chase wanted another option for washing up. So they set up an outdoor shower system, too, connected to the outside of the van near the back. It was more convenient for a quick rinse after swimming, tramping, and more, as well as washing off their dogs.
They had to be more careful with their water usage, but they still had a decent amount of water for such a small space. "We have 46 gallons of freshwater, which is underneath the step in our living room area," Mariajosé added. Near the outdoor shower, they also had a flip-up table for outdoor use.
The Ultimate Retreat
Besides the kitchen and the bathroom, Mariajosé and Chase had one remaining area that encompassed their bedroom, workspace, and lounge. "For the layout of the back, we decided to go with an L-shaped sofa, which has worked perfectly," Mariajosé revealed.
Despite the small space, "it's very comfy for being in a van." Their computer monitor could be used for both work and as a television, and they had solar panels on the roof connected to four 142-amp lithium iron phosphate batteries and a 3,000-watt Victron inverter that could power all of their appliances.
The Final Job
But what about the bed? Well, it was a little more complicated than the bus setup. Their dining table (and desk) was on a ‘lagoon mount’ which meant it could be moved or detached as necessary. Chase and Mariajosé would move the table every evening to make room for their murphy bed.
While some RV and van-livers chose to use pre-existing benches as a converted bed, this couple's bed could be stowed away inside the wall - then unlocked and folded out when it was time to go to sleep. And just behind the murphy bed panel is another brilliant detail : they added even extra storage space!