Martin and Iona dreamed of a life on the road. So, with a run-down delivery truck and a little DIY spirit, the two gave it their all and ended up with their dream home on wheels. Here's how it went.
Meet Martin and Iona
This story starts with Martin and Iona. Iona is a Scotland-born creative who studied illustration at the City of Glasgow College. But shortly after graduating, she switched gears and started working as a chef instead.
Martin, on the other hand, lived all the way in Nottingham, a quiet area outside of London. The two met and bonded over a passion for all things active - including both sports and adventure. It was a spark that would take them on the journey of a lifetime.
Soulmates on the Slopes
But how did they cross paths with over 200 miles between them? Well, it all started with a spontaneous trip to the French Alps. Iona, who was busy working away in restaurant kitchens, decided to hit pause and visit the French alps for an action-packed ski season.
And as luck had it, her future adventure partner had the very same idea in mind. Martin was also in the region to shred up the slopes on his snowboard. The outdoor getaway proved to be the perfect meet-cute for these two, and sparks immediately flew between them.
Taking the Next Step
Sure, their chance meeting was undeniably romantic, but this wasn't the average holiday fling. Iona and Stewart were two peas in a pod when it came to what was important to them in life. They were all about getting as much out of life as possible when it came to adventure and the great outdoors.
It didn't take long for them to shack up together in a motorhome, but they both knew it wasn't permanent. "The RV we were staying in needed a lot of work," Iona explained. "So it was either gut that out and completely rebuild that or start fresh." The wheels started turning as the couple planned their next home.
Home, Sweet Truck
Sure, school bus renos are fairly common, but these two took their reno in a different direction. "We came up with a silly plan to build a new camper out of lorry," Iona recalled. For those needing some translation, a "lorry" is what folks in the UK call a flatbed truck. And Iona and Stewart wanted to live on one!
And as silly as they thought the plan was at first, it came to fruition thanks to an eBay purchase. The two splurged on a run-down delivery truck for a local bread factory. It cost them roughly $4,600 and weighed in at 5-tonnes. But would 28 by 7 feet be enough for them?
A Snug Home
"Most people get keys to a new home... we got keys to a lorry to convert into our new home," Iona said of her and her partner's thrilling new purchase. And, from the picture below, it's clear just how snug of a fit their new abode would be. But that didn't damper their spirits one bit.
Together, the floor space of the lorry was the equivalent of just a park space and a half. But a spacious home wasn't the number one priority for the couple. Instead, it was putting as much money as possible into their adventures and having a functional space to kick back at the end of the day.
Let the DIY-ing Begin
"We will just put a mattress on the floor and a camp stove... job done," Iona jested about the long DIY project that laid ahead of her. This was going to be no make-shift camping situation - she and Martin's plans were nothing short of ambitious when it came to their sunshine-colored lorry.
A bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, and more... The blueprints had it all. And the couple was eager to wrap up the renos while in the United Kingdom before heading off to the Alps for another winter packed with adventure. But first, they had to strip the truck down to its bones.
Weather-Proofing Their Home
Stripping the truck was an important first step to ensure that Iona and Martin were starting with a fresh canvas for their home. It also opened up the space marginally to make the walls and ceiling more workable for another vital step in the DIY process...
With dreams of parking their home on wheels at the base of a mountain for a whole winter, insulation was a must for Iona and Martin. And, of course, keeping cool during the summer months was also incredibly important. While the progress seemed minimal, it was an unskippable step. "From empty box to still empty box," Iona joked.
One Month Later
When it comes to DIY mini-home projects, it's astonishing what difference just four weeks can make. "Our wee home is starting to take shape," Iona shared of hers and Martin's future adventure pod. With the insulation completed, the couple started working on the bones of the build.
From the photo above, the truck was well on its way to looking more like an apartment and less like a delivery lorry. Iona couldn't help but gush about how pleased she was with the progress so far and included a special shout-out for the builder of this custom corner kitchen.
"Kitchen nearly finished," Iona captioned her progress picture. "Hats off to Martin for making it all from scratch!!!" As it turned out, Martin had quite the hand for home builds, and he channeled all that energy into his and Iona's future abode. And Iona had her own talents to bring to the table.
"I'm handy in design," the Scottish truck owner shared. "Martin knows electrics, plumbing and generally likes building stuff for fun, so we work well together." But seeing as it was their first build, there were some bumps in the road, but the couple stayed determined to get the job done.
Designed from Scratch
From start to finish, Iona and Martin were the brains and hands behind nearly every inch of the truck renovation. From the bulkier parts of the build to small aesthetic touch-ups, the DIY couple rolled up their sleeves and tackled their to-do list. The benefits of doing it themselves were numerous...
Forget the IKEA theory, which suggests people appreciate things more when they've had a part in their construction, the custom aspect of the design meant that Iona and Martin were maximizing every little inch of their truck. Buying pre-made would have saved time, but it would have cost them the functionality of the space.
Function and Beauty
Plus, with the majority of the build in their hands, everything was to their specific taste. "I've finally been able to start painting and giving it a woman's touch," Iona explained of the DIY project. "Martin is being a clever cookie and making all the side panels to make the outside look less like a big yellow lorry."
And whenever possible, Iona and Martin built in an ecologically-friendly manner. They opted for thrifted objects and brought new life to old materials. Their coffee table, for instance, was made from a recycled beam! This not only allowed them to think green but save money, too.
It's one of the pinnacles of skoolie and motorhome conversions: build multi-purpose furniture. With such little space to work with, it was vital to maximize storage all while maintaining a final look that was pleasing to the eye. After all, it wasn't meant to be a storage locker!
So, Iona and Martin racked their brains during the planning stage to make sure they would have room for all their belongings in the final product. Photographed above is just one of the many clever aspects of their furniture that provided as much space as the average closet.
A Functional Bedroom
The bed wasn't the only piece of furniture in Iona and Martin's future home that was working overtime when it came to storage... Most of the wall space that the bed's headboard rested on was dedicated to custom storage solutions. Some were floor to ceiling, while others were overhead spaces for smaller items.
Iona and Martin topped all their bedroom closet space off with a fresh coat of grey paint to match the interior style they were leaning towards. It looked like a great deal of space, but would it be enough to store all the clothing and gear of this adventurous couple?
A Planet-Friendly Build
As they planned to hit the road shortly after the build was completed, Iona and Martin wanted their home to be totally self-efficient. While some skoolie folks rely on Walmart parking lots or camping grounds for facilities, these two wanted to power the home on the go. The solution was simple: solar panels.
It offered them the freedom of mobility and kept their home as green as possible. "We didn't go out purposefully to design our lorry to be green. It's just the way we live," Iona shared. "We live in a beautiful world, so why ruin it with unnecessary pollution?"
All Eyes on the Outside
For anyone familiar with a truck or bus renovation, it's always a moment of success when attention switches to the exterior. It means that the build is well on its way! And it was no different for Iona and Martin's lorry. They tackled the bright yellow exterior panels and upgraded them to a calming grey.
It was looking like win after win for the DIY couple, and their beautiful surroundings only inspired them to get the job done and hit the road. "Getting the finishing touches of our lorry done with a view," Iona wrote. It was almost like the mountains were calling them...
From a look at this truck - just from the outside - it's hard to picture it as the run-down yellow delivery lorry the young couple bought. And it had all the fine finishes of a proper home on wheels: doors, windows, and solar panels on the roof. All the time that Iona and Martin had put in had really paid off...
And just how much time was it exactly? "We renovated it in four months," Ioana gushed about the speedy renovation. "We were lucky enough not to have to work, so we worked on it nearly every day." With both of them working seasonally, it allowed them to give this truck their full attention.
The Final Cost
With the final build done in under half a year, the adventurous couple gave themselves a well-deserved pat on the back before taking a look at how much the project had racked up in expenses. And the total damage? Iona and Martin estimated they dropped $24K on the renovation - however that didn't include the cost of the truck.
While it may seem like a lot for such a small space, the alternative was far more expensive. In Nottingham, Martin's hometown, the Daily Mail UK reported house prices equating to over $240,000. Suddenly, the $24 thousand didn't seem so bad compared to the sky-high market prices!
Crunching the Numbers
When it came down to it, Iona and Martin only saw positives when it came to living on their lorry, so they were naturally very committed to it. So committed, in fact, that Martin sold his property in Nottingham in addition to his business. The two were ready to hit the road and never look back!
And when it came to the financial burden of living on the road, it was clearly a smart decision. "We feel that our money goes a lot further in life without the bills of a house," Iona explained. "We pay about $51 a month for gas and fuel for heating. That's it." Wow!
A Look at the Amenities
So, besides the $24 thousand on the DIY project, the couple had widdled their expenses down to just 51 bucks a month! And they weren't sacrificing much either. "We have a full kitchen, just like any house - apart from a toaster and microwave because they're too high in power," Iona shared.
And it's true: from the looks of this picture, it's easy to forget that this is a kitchen in a truck! Especially when it came to the fully-functioning stove, oven, fridge, and sink. Plus, Iona and Martin had ample storage room for all their kitchen necessities, including food and equipment.
Making the Space Work
While Iona and Martin were more than aware of their space limitations, they also knew that mobile home living was all about maintaining order and organization. After all, just a few items out of place in such a tight space can make the lorry feel like a dump rather than a humble home.
And so, the design of the DIY home prioritized organization at every corner. In the photo above, their smart layout clearly paid off as they were able to keep their arrangement of spices in a clean and orderly fashion even while they were twisting and turning through the mountains.
It may be hard to imagine, but with smart design, Martin and Iona worked in a kitchen, lounge area, bedroom, and bathroom all into their humble lorry. And thanks to special touches like this floor-to-ceiling shelving unit, they even managed to make the spaces flow smoothly from one to another.
And in the midst of all that practicality, Iona and Martin made sure that their unique styles weren't lost in all the storage solutions. Creative lighting elements, a chalkboard fridge, and personal items are just some of the many little extras sprinkled throughout this decorative home.
The More the Merrier
And having put thousands of dollars and four months of their time into this build, it made total sense that Iona and Martin were eager to share it with their friends and family. Lucky for them, they had a great lounge area that opened up their hosting possibilities even while on the road.
The sofa pictured above was a must-have for the adventure-loving couple. "We wanted space to have friends and family over, too," Iona explained of the couch that doubles as a bed for two. "Living in it full-time meant it had to be spacious." And, let's not forget about those cold winters in the Alps...
Cozy Winter Additions
Sure, the French Alps provided Iona and Martin with all the fun and adventure they desired - but it also provided some sub-zero temperatures! But, with that in mind, they opted for a pellet stove to keep their little home as toasty as can be. "It creates hardly any pollution," Iona said proudly of the purchase.
When measured up against wood-burning stoves, Iona and Martin's pellet stove was the greenest option around. Not only did it reduce their electric heating output, it also resulted in fewer pollutants like carbon monoxide and carcinogens. It was clear that a lot of thought went into every detail of the home.
Even when it came to necessary elements in the house, Iona and Martin took their time to make sure it included their unique flare. For example, the stove's backing featured this beautiful nature imagery - a natural fit for this outdoors-loving couple. And what's even more impressive? It was completed by Iona!
For those who forgot, Iona's formal training was in illustration, and she certainly employed those skills wherever she could in her and Martin's humble abode on wheels. From this beautiful wood art to other illustrations around the truck, Iona's artistic touch was practically everywhere.
And as practical and well-decorated as Iona and Martin's home was, there were some corners where the minimal square footage was felt more than others. For example, the bathroom (a notorious problem area for skoolies and motor homes alike) faced some serious constraints, as the small space fit a toilet, sink, and shower.
As fun as a bubble bath or long shower may be, it's just one of the few compromises that are necessary for those embarking on a life on the road. "Tiny-home life isn't for everyone," Iona warned. "It's a completely different way of living." But the pros definitely outweighed the cons for her and Martin.
How It Works
While some parts of the house compare impressively with that of a traditional apartment or home, there's no denying that Martin and Iona's bathroom is particular to the motor home life. But, similarly to four-walled homes, the toilet is fortunately hooked up to a plumbing system.
However, it involves one crucial step that the average bathroom goer skips out on... Martin and Iona's toilet requires them to put water in the toilet prior to use. That way, there's reserve liquid to wash everything down. But hey, for $50 a month in utilities, it doesn't seem that bad!
Steps = Storage
In the quest to build smart and still pleasing to the eye, Martin and Iona's humble lorry also has some levels to the flooring. In fact, the bedroom is actually elevated compared to the rest of the truck. And connecting the two levels are the steps shown below. And like all other parts of the house, they're working double-time.
"The stairs to the bedroom also pull out for more storage," Iona shared of the functional hardware. "We raised it for storage and also as it looks pretty," she continued. "The ceilings are also very high, so makes it more snug in the bedroom." And she wasn't wrong…
A Place to Rest at Night
From the picture below, it's easy to forget that this is, in fact, the rear of the bread delivery truck! Thanks to Martin's building skills and Iona's eye for interior style, their bedroom has reached Pinterest levels of beauty with the mixture of neutrals and greys.
But how did the space measure up storage-wise? Iona had zero complaints to share on behalf of herself and Martin. In her eyes, it was all about the proper mindset. "When you live in a van full-time, I think you live a more minimalist life, so you don't keep as much stuff as people do in a house," she explained.
Worth It In the End
And while some collectors or fashion-lovers may see the minimalist lifestyle as a no-go, for Martin and Iona, it's the perfect solution for their true priority in life: experiencing Europe's great outdoors. This way, their money and energy went to satisfy their wanderlust bug.
Not only that, but they get to look around their four-wheeled home and know that their own sweat and money went into creating their little home. And not many people their age can say that! It was a priceless experience that neither of them would give up, provided the chance.
Room with a View
Plus, if they ever bonk their head or get annoyed at the mini bathroom, all that they need to do is take a look out their window and see the true prize for their efforts: the view. Thanks to their DIY project, they've been able to travel French Alps and many other destinations all in their home!
"Van life beats house life for us any day, and our lorry is exactly how we want it," Iona gushed about her beloved truck. And from a quick look at the picture, it's not hard to understand why she feels the way she does. Now, all that's left is for them to do is continue living out their outdoor adventure dreams!