British couple Glen and Lucy always had a dream of adventuring around Europe. So, they used a retired American school bus to do just that! Here's a closer look at their bus-to-home transformation.
Lucy Stevens and Glen Carloss first met in the United Kingdom, where Glen was working as a tattoo artist in his very own studio. By their first meeting, the two hit it off and soon became a powerhouse couple.
But Glen wasn’t the only artistic one in the relationship - Lucy was a jewelry artist. She started pursuing the art form as a career after completing a ring-making workshop on her 30th birthday. So it was no surprise when Lucy and Glen decided to pursue a creative collaboration: turning a bus into their very own home!
Home On The Road
Not long into the relationship, Glen and Lucy realized they had a shared dream: to travel through all of Europe. They loved their lives in the U.K., but they still felt the call of adventure. Soon enough, they came up with a plan. Glen would sell his tattoo parlor, and the couple would buy a school bus to convert into a mobile home.
The couple was in luck. They quickly found a 2009 International CE 300 bus with approximately 120,000 miles on it. It wasn’t located in the U.K., however, which made the process a little more complicated. For example, they had to find a company that could check the condition of the bus before they completed the purchase.
As it turned out, the bus was all the way across the Atlantic Ocean in the Sidney Central School District of New York! It was in good condition, and while the couple waited for the school bus, they began researching everything they could about DIY motorhome conversions and the skoolie lifestyle.
Finally, the school bus arrived safely in the U.K. "The name of the students are still on the walls," Glen and Lucy recalled. "It makes it feel so real/strange that this is actually a used school bus." Now that the bus was here, they could begin planning their "fully functioning luxury tiny home."
Clearing The Interior
The first step in any school bus conversion was to gut the interior of the bus completely. At 32.8 feet long and 7.2 feet wide, Glen and Lucy had their work cut out for them. They started by removing the biggest space-taker of all - the rows of seats down both sides of the bus!
After completing the arduous task of removing every bolt from the floors and walls and pulling out the chairs, they had a better idea of how their new home would fit into the space. It would include a living room, dining room, bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom. A fully-equipped home capable of cross-continental travel!
Rust Be Gone
But they weren’t finished clearing out the inside just yet. The rubber flooring had to be removed too, since neither Glen nor Lucy fancied walking around on grey rubber floors. And underneath, they were greeted with an unpleasant surprise. After a decade in New York’s temperamental weather, the floor had rusted over.
They tackled the rusted floor by brushing, sanding, and grinding the floors until they were smooth. Next up was a rust converter, and they had the ingenious idea to fill the holes left behind by the seats with pennies. Now they could paint over the floor without worrying about rust.
The floor may have been rust-free and fully painted, but it was far from done. This future motorhome would be traveling through various climates and weather systems, so the floor needed to be fully insulated to keep the interior comfortable at all times.
Their insulation of choice was rigid thermal boards from the eco-friendly U.K. company EcoTherm. First, they put framing down on the floor before laying the insulation down. On top of that, they placed a layer of immaculately cut plywood. The subfloor was finally done!
On To The Walls
With the subfloor behind them, the couple then had to apply the same process to the walls. Below the windows, they removed the wall panels and placed insulation over the top. Most skoolie builders choose to use spray foam insulation, but because Lucy and Glen had opted for thermal boards, they would need to install a vapor barrier.
In the photo above, we can see a sheet that looks a little like aluminum foil - that’s the vapor barrier. Using this protects the inner walls from water vapor, which can get inside and cause mold and rot. This usually occurs while cooking and having showers, so safe to say it was an essential step.
Touching Up The Ceiling
Once they had added a top layer of boards over the insulated walls, it was time to move on to the ceiling. Thankfully for the DIY couple, the ceiling insulation was in great condition. All they needed to do was cut holes for lighting and add new paneling over the top.
The paneling was made of tongue and groove wood that they slid right over the top of the metal ceiling. "Our bus is a 2009, so it had a harder ceiling frame to take down, so we went over the top instead," they said. "We still have enough head height, and it now looks more like a home on the inside."'
Bringing The Layout To Life
So after a few weeks of work, the foundation of their future home was done! Now things were going to be a little more exciting onboard the 2009 International. For one, they could now finalize the floorplan of their motorhome. "It's taken us ages to decide on a layout for the bus," the couple admitted.
They began playing around with different ideas, better able to visualize what they wanted now that the bus was cleared out. To make things easier, the couple began marking out their floorplan ideas with tape before settling on the one that felt right.
Working On Framing
The dining room table and benches would be behind the driver's seat, with the bedroom and living room toward the back. The kitchen would be on the right side of the bus, beside the dining room. A large closet for extra storage was also going to be built in beside the kitchen.
This was a space where they could keep essentials such as food, clothing, and extra kitchen appliances. Their bathroom would be opposite the closet, with a sink, toilet, and shower. Their layout was complete. "We now have the shell of the build, and it's really taken us by surprise how spacious it still looks," they shared.
What About The Bed?
As we mentioned, the couple’s bedroom was going right at the back of the bus. This was the traditional bedroom location for most skoolie conversions due to the added privacy and large back window. So the couple began framing their custom-made bed in this area, as well as making space for a small garage area.
The bed would be elevated high enough that Lucy and Glen could maximize the space beneath it for bedroom storage. And just behind the king-sized bed would be the garage space - which alongside the space beneath the bed, would all be accessible from the bus's emergency exit.
With a little effort, their bed frame was done. It was time to start putting walls up, which would be the first step in really bringing Glen and Lucy’s motorhome to life. The first wall to go up was the one that would divide the garage space and bedroom.
They coated it with paint and added a few convenient additions. "The back garage frame includes alcoves for bookshelves and some special lighting," they shared. The wall stretched across the entire width of the bus, keeping all of their outdoor equipment separate. Everything was going smoothly!
Walls Before Frames?
Once the first wall was done, Lucy and Glen could move on to the rest. A typical skoolie builder will usually frame the walls before putting them up, but the U.K. couple chose to reverse the process instead. Once again, they used tongue and groove wood for the walls and put the framing on after.
The couple gave a little bit of insight into why they went down this unorthodox route. "The framing hides all the wiring which we needed to feed through the ceiling for the lighting first. So we boxed it [the wiring] after the ceiling was up!" After putting up the framing, they then had to cover every drill hole.
Priming The Walls
The couple had also saved time and money by using the same materials for the walls, kitchen counters, and bed space. All they needed to do once things were in place was sand everything down and add a coat of primer. After the primer was added, their home was truly taking shape before their eyes.
Thankfully the ceiling didn't need any extra work, and it was the first part of the renovation to be fully complete. "We thought about painting it [the ceiling] white," Glen and Lucy recalled. "But [we] actually liked the color of the wood, so thought we would keep it au nature."
The Dining Room Begins
Below is a photo of Lucy and Glen’s dining room. Or at least, their future dining room. The multi-purpose space included two structures on the left that would eventually be used as seating on either side of an adjustable dinner table (installed later on).
As we can see, there is a second structure to the right of the benches. This was going to be the base for their sofa, creating a small but super functional living room and dining room area with extra storage space. This space would eventually be the center of their home, with plenty of super helpful features.
Adding Some Flair
It was clear that the bare bones of the skoolie were almost done. The foundation for the rooms and even furniture had been built - now it was time for the couple to have some fun decorating their future home! And so, they began “jazzing it up,” as Lucy eagerly put it.
This included building a sofa and dining seats using the remaining pieces of tongue and groove wood and adding trim to the seating. Under their wood burner, they also laid some patterned tile to add some pretty finishing touches. And lastly, they chose to keep the space beneath the burner clear for wood storage.
The kitchen was being constructed directly behind the dining/living room, and it was coming together nicely. Lucy and Glen had finished off the counter space and even added some cabinet doors for extra kitchen storage. The base was done, but they went back and forth trying to choose the perfect color scheme.
The windows in the main body of the house were another matter. They didn’t want to spend extra time and money removing the old school windows and installing new ones. So, the couple opted to box in the original structures, hiding the wiring around them and giving them an entirely new style.
A Multi-Purpose Dining Room
As we mentioned, Lucy and Glen had all but finished their dining room. But through a few intelligent touches, they were able to elevate it above the typical dining room. For example, their new adjustable dining table could be lowered down to the height of the bench seating.
Just throw a blanket over it, and voila! You have another long seat, perfect for any guests that might pop in. Not only that, but by adding a small mattress ontop they also had two extra single beds. And wait for it… the original couch was foldable, so it could connect to the extra seats and form a king-sized bed!
Back To The Bedroom
The renovating couple truly had thought of everything. But now, it was time to return to the bedroom. It was almost done, but there were still a few finishing touches to really bring the master bedroom to life. Remember the back wall, with the small alcoves for extra storage?
They used part of this space to add some much-needed decoration to their sleeping area. This included a few decorative baskets and some well-loved houseplants, all stuck down with strips of velcro - in case of any turbulent driving. The built-in shelving meant they also had nightstands on either side of the bed.
After spending so much time working on the interior of the bus, what were the plans for the exterior? Most skoolie-owners tended to repaint and renovate the entire shell of the bus, but this couple chose not to. They liked the novelty of having a functioning home that still looked very much like a school bus.
Glen and Lucy instead focused on minor repairs on the outside of the bus, to ensure it would be approved for driving by the ministry of transport. This also meant running a check on every mechanical aspect of the bus, from the electricals to the steering. They also built exterior storage for plumbing and water.
Now they could take a step back and look at their home, which was almost complete. Somehow, they had managed to build a gorgeous and fully-functional home in just 236 square feet of space. They had chosen a light-grey blue color scheme for the living/dining room space and the kitchen - and it looked great.
By using a lighter color palette in place of the original dark blues and greys, the motorhome interior felt lighter and more open. They had maintained the original curve of the bus ceiling, and this also made the space feel bigger. The emergency exits also helped to open up the front and back of the house.
The Wood Burner
Though Glen and Lucy had installed the subfloor themselves, the finished flooring was done by hired professionals. The sleek flooring, along with extra details like their wood burner and matching clock, made the bus feel extra homey. Exactly what they needed while they were traveling from country to country.
We didn’t realize it at first, but the wood burner is completely non-functioning, and it even creates fake smoke! Even without the warmth, it still added some necessary ambiance to the tiny house. "After many issues with insurance, we decided against the [real] wood burner," the pair shared.
An Impressive Kitchen
One thing we haven’t mentioned is the sheer amount of electricity that Glen and Lucy had to generate to operate their kitchen, one of the most important areas in the house. They installed three batteries, two leisure batteries, a 3kw inverter, and a 4kw Diesel heater just for the kitchen and lighting.
Thankfully, Glen had previously worked as an electrician, so the process wasn’t as difficult as it sounded. Along with the water tank, this setup was all they would need to run a fully-equipped kitchen with a sink, mini-fridge, two gas hobs, and an electric oven.
The Seating Area
And what about the living room area they had designed so beautifully? Well, the couple added some aesthetic touches to the space to make it feel as cozy as possible, including custom-made upholstery for the sofa and velvet cushions and pillows for the sofa and seats.
And because the couple had refrained from adding overhead kitchen cupboards (a staple in most skoolie kitchens), it meant that the whole area from the living room to kitchen flowed into one another. It was one cohesive space - from the furniture to the contrasting color schemes.
Wining and Dining
Over by the dining room, Glen and Lucy had chosen to add a white top to the dining table. This way, it would match the kitchen counter, the cream-colored custom upholstery on the sofa, and the bench seating on either side of the table. It was important to ensure that every element of the house worked in unison.
They also added beige curtains that they could close in the mornings, so the couple wouldn’t get a face full of sunlight while enjoying their breakfast. This was also helpful for any guests who wanted to stay the night on the foldout couch and convertible bench/table.
Now we’ve talked about bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, etc, but what about the bathroom? The last little room can be found past the living room and dining room area and just opposite the kitchen. After a lot of thought, Glen and Lucy had decided on a composting toilet which would need to be emptied regularly.
It may take a little more effort, but a composting toilet was guaranteed to smell less than a typical RV toilet. Not to mention, the toilet itself was beautiful - with a lovely color palette that brought some character to the bathroom. And right beside it was a small but convenient sink.
Across from the toilet and sink was a spacious and comfortable shower, every bit as good as the ones they’d had in past apartments. And by lining the shower with subway tile, they were able to make it feel a little more expansive, adding an extra element to the small washroom.
There was one downside to the shower, however. Despite feeling spacious, it had to be built against the side of the bus, at the lowest point of the curved ceiling. This meant that Glen, and any other tall person who happened to use the shower, might be in danger of hitting their heads while washing up.
The In-Home Theater
Yes, we’ve covered much of Glen and Lucy’s lovely bedroom. But by the end of their renovations, they had added even more to the spectacular space. For one, they’d installed a retractable screen where they could project movies on the wall above the bed!
That ledge just below the screen also had a super useful feature built into it: a flip-top that could be used to access the couple’s under-bed storage. This way, they could get any extras they need from inside the bus and from the garage door. Behind the wall, they had also installed their water tank.
By now, most readers probably think that it would be impossible to fit anything else into Lucy and Glen’s motorhome - but they’d be wrong! Somehow, the ambitious couple had also built a small vanity with a series of drawers that fit perfectly into the space, although they were a “nightmare” to build.
After a few alterations, they finally had the perfect set of draws, and all it needed were the right doorknobs and a coat of paint! And beside the bed, they also had a small desk just for work projects and hobbies, including painting and jewelry making.
After months of renovating the old school bus into their dream home (a process they described as being the “definition of blood, sweat & tears”), it was time to hit the road and see what the rest of Europe had to offer. But things didn’t quite go to plan.
As much as the freewheeling couple loved their DIY motorhome, they decided it wasn’t quite fit for continental travel. So instead, they bought another school bus, especially for their future adventures. For now, they plan to sell their lovely motorhome to a willing buyer, and we wish them the best of luck!