Young couple Gracie and Dylan always dreamed of exploring Australia. Their vision slowly began to turn into reality after they decided to buy a minibus and convert it into a home. Here's their Skoolie story.
The DIY Couple
A couple from Queensland, Australia, made a decision that totally changed their life. Gracie and Dylan dreamed of traveling the world - an ambition that prompted them to take on a major DIY project.
According to this adventurous couple, they were "Keen to see what life is like living on the road, waking up in new destinations whenever we feel like and really just living life on the wild side." Soon enough, they had made up their mind and got to work on their very own minibus.
The 2006 Toyota Coaster
The two wasted no time planning out their exciting project. They knew they had to start somewhere, and a 2006 Toyota Coaster seemed like the perfect choice. But there was just one issue. "Dylan and I agreed I'd buy the bus with my savings, and Dyl would pay for the fit [the conversion]," Gracie explained.
"So I went to look at this bus.. and fell in love instantly," she continued. "I said, 'This is the one it's perfect!' But there's one problem, x amount is exactly how much I have to my name, no more, no less." But was this new lifestyle going to be worth risking all her savings?
Taking on a Challenge
After giving the matter some thought, the couple decided to jump in with both feet. They grabbed the keys to their new vehicle and hopped inside. Of course, though, they had their fair share of reservations. "We've never built anything and no carpentry experience," the couple explained.
"So diving straight into the deep end of a bus build has definitely been a challenge," they added. Motivated by their vision of traveling the world while living on their own minibus, they got to work straight away. Fortunately, a few of their friends also lent some helping hands.
Emptying the Interior
The first issue to tackle was creating more spaced inside the vehicle. Approximately 8.5 feet high, 23 feet long, and 6.5 feet wide, the 2006 Toyota Coaster didn't provide too much space to move around comfortably inside. So they began to empty out the vehicle to make more room.
But it was by no means a smooth process. "We were told the bus used to transport workers from the island, and after pulling everything apart, it was unbelievable because there was red dirt absolutely everywhere," the couple confessed. "Not one part of the bus wasn't covered in dirt."
The Foundation of the Home
The couple had a lot of work to do. The first step was to unscrew every one of the tiny bolts on the Coaster to remove its original chairs, floor, walls, and ceiling. Next, they removed the minibus's insulation to make sure the vehicle was properly prepared for the transformation.
After removing all the old parts out of the old minibus, Gracie and Dylan took care of any damage and rust that remained. Then they used foam ply panels as a new foundation for their future home, which would provide insulation underneath the final layer they would later install.
Finishing Up the Floor and Walls
Soon enough, the foundation was all set. "It took a weekend and a bit to completely fit and seal the floor, but we wanted to make sure it was perfect, and we did it right," the couple shared. The beautiful finishing touch was a layer of vinyl floorboards.
Vinyl is a popular option among motorhome converters for a couple of good reasons. Not only is it favored for its aesthetic touch, but its water-resistant and durable qualities make it ideal for road trips and adventures. After adding the floor, Gracie and Dylan sound-proofed the engine and insulated the walls.
The Blueprint on the Floor
Now that the walls were insulated using thick foam and earth wool, they were ready for extra layers. Gracie then added the vapor barrier to prevent water vapor from spreading into the wall, ceiling, or floor. Not only that, but they marked their final floor plan on the new vinyl with tape!
"We have worked out all of the dimensions on our floor plan," Gracie and Dylan shared. "Our bus will be a 4 seater with the shower toilet right behind the passenger seats, kitchen following, and bed at the back. On the right-hand side will be a long couch that can pull out into a second bed for visitors."
The First Mistake
Next on their list of things to do were the vehicle's windows. The duo planned on tinting the glass of the windows before adding curtains to them. However, they ran into some issues along the way. "Today, we had a crack at window tinting," they shared.
They went on to reveal that they "made the executive decision after a few failed attempts that this is better off in the hands of a professional." The couple then decided to invest around 1,100 AUD (about $850) to get the windows professionally tinted to the darkest shade that the law allowed.
Cutting Into the Bus
After the windows were finished, the couple got to work on the bus's exterior. After sanding the roof, they added a few layers of Thermo shield to protect the minibus from the harsh weather conditions it might face on its many journeys. They then cut a hole in the vehicle's new roof.
In the picture above, the hole Gracie's head is sticking her head out of was used as a running air vent for the motorhome. Friends of the couple also helped them fix the vehicle's backlights. With the essential work done and out of the way, it was finally time to start working on framing their future home.
Planning the Bedroom
It's pretty common for DIYers converting buses into homes to custom-make their furniture. They do this to make sure to use the space inside the minibus as efficiently as possible. Although Gracie and Dylan had little experience in furniture-making, they ended up constructing all the furniture themselves.
The unfinished bed frame, as seen in the photo above, still needs one more piece of plywood to cover the area where the mattress will be placed. A few holes were later drilled through the plywood to prevent moisture from accumulating underneath the mattress.
The couple got quite creative in planning the bedroom in their future motorhome. Not only would the space be used for their sleeping mattress, but it would also contain a storage unit. Since the bed was elevated, it left plenty of space underneath it to install cupboards and drawers.
Dylan took on the job of constructing the drawers with his own hands. "Today, we tackled our first drawer and are over the moon with how it turned out," the two shared on Instagram. The carefully-measured drawers were then coated in white paint before they were installed in their places.
Considering the size of the minibus was significantly smaller than their previous home, the couple knew that not all of their belongings would fit in it. Nevertheless, they creatively thought of possible ways to use every small corner the vehicle offered for storage spaces, including adding overhead bins.
"Dylan absolutely smashed out the framework for our bedroom overhead cupboard while I was painting up our new fitted face fronts for the draws," Gracie enthusiastically told followers. Dylan constructed the shelf so that it had a small wall at the bottom so that items wouldn't fall out on the road.
The Storage Closet
Following the final plan they taped onto their new floor, the couple put up a thin closet beside their bed. They drilled a few pieces of wood together to create an incredible storage unit. According to Gracie and Dylan's plans, all electrical tools and devices would be kept in there.
"This will be where all of our batteries, inverter, fuse box, solar charger, mains power (basically everything power related) with a bit of extra room to play with for miscellaneous stuff," the couple told their social media followers. What used to be a minibus was now looking like the future home they had in mind.
The Future Lounge
Pretty soon, the couple got to work on their mini living room, which would be just before the bedroom in the back of the vehicle. In keeping with their goal of using up the space in the minibus as efficiently as possible, they had the idea of adding a couch bench that could also be turned into two chairs and a table for meals.
"We had our mates come over today for help and moral support for the dining/lounge area process," they shared. "The outcome speaks for itself. We got almost all of it smashed out with just some final touches and paint. Now to order some comfy couch cushions and to make the adjustable table!"
Setting Up the Kitchen
Across from the living room and dining area, an outline of Gracie and Dylan's future kitchen was beginning to form. After putting together the framework, Dylan added a benchtop counter with a sink and a tap. He also made sure to add enough space underneath it for drawers and cabinets, as well as a shelf above it.
"A lot less space in the bus now with almost all the framework done, which is an exciting feeling," the couple shared. "We've now got a great sense of how much space we are going to have and working out how to maximize the space we do have so it doesn't seem like too much of a downgrade once we move in."
Of course, the soon-to-be motorhome wouldn't be of any use to the couple on the road without a functioning bathroom. However, the bus' small size didn't allow the couple much room to get fancy with their bathroom. So, they were only able to set up a toilet and shower in the tiny space and had to wash their hands in the kitchen.
The couple wanted the bathroom to be waterproof, so they used a fiberglass shell that they bought from Custom Coasters Conversions. Dylan placed the shell securely in the base he built for it and later installed the room's toilet and shower. As for the plumbing, the couple had help from a friend.
A Wooden Ceiling
We can probably agree with Dylan and Gracie that bare insulation foam boards and metal frames weren't the best finishing look for their ceilings. They wanted their motorhome to feel cozy, so they decided to cover the unfinished ceiling with some panels made of fine wood.
Dylan's height of 5'10" proved very helpful in working on the ceiling of the minibus. He installed a few pieces of the thin wooden panels, which left the interior of the minibus at the perfect height for him to move around in without having to crouch over. They also added some recessed lighting to the new ceiling.
Power and Plumbing
But to get those recessed lights, as well as the bathroom and kitchen, to work on the road, Dylan and Gracie had to come up with a special plan. They cut more holes in the minibus to make room for the equipment they needed for power and plumbing while on their adventures.
The shot above shows the place Dylan constructed to install the minibus' Truma RV AquaGo hot water system. "Slowly getting less scary cutting big holes in the bus, but luckily, it turned out pretty good," he explained. A similar structure was designed for a gas box that would be used to power the stove.
The Roof of the 'House'
The only thing left to worry about was the electricity that would be essential for the couple to power their mobile home. The plan was to take a generator along with them, but they wanted their main source of energy to be solar. The pair installed a few solar panels onto the roof of the vehicle.
After the solar panels were installed, there was a bit of room left on the roof for fun. The couple added a small rooftop deck that was just large enough to fit two! They used the leftover pieces of wood from the project, sanded them for a finished look, and inserted them beside the solar panels.
Looking Like a Home
The couple's DIY project was finally completed almost 1 year after they bought the Toyota Coaster with the dream of converting it into a motorhome. At long last, the vehicle looked and felt like a real home. Even the driver and passenger seats got an improved look.
Gracie and Dylan got to work removing, cleaning, and reinstalling the floors at the front of the minibus. The chairs themselves were also replaced with new ones, and the walls surrounding them got a fresh new coat of paint. They also placed a colorful rug in the middle.
The First Steps Inside
Although the new mobile home still had the folding doors of a minibus, its entrance didn't look like it led into a vehicle. The colors the couple chose were white with dark brown accents that gave it a fresh look. They also adorned the doorway with photos of themselves and Grace's dogs.
Thanks to the personal photos, the minibus already felt like home within the first few steps they took inside it when it was finished. Not only that, but the couple also added a mini-fridge behind the driver's seat and a cupboard above the seat for storage.
After the driver's seat and fridge came the bathroom of the house-on-wheels. Its final look was a toilet and a shower with a head made of stainless steel in a dark color. To save both money and time, the couple used adhesive stickers to make the walls of the bathroom seem like actual tiles.
"The plumbing for the shower and toilet are hooked up and runs behind the kitchen cupboards and straight to the hot water system/gas," the couple shared. "Thankfully, we have had our friend who's a plumber come and help set up our plumbing for the shower, toilet, and sink."
The Practical Toilet
Like the couple originally planned, the small bathroom also included a toilet right next to the shower. The type of toilet they installed was made from plastic and empties that contents of the toilet into a tank that could be dumped out later. It can be cleaned using a hatch from the exterior of the motorhome.
A hole cut out behind the toilet allows waste to be removed easily outside the house. This allows the owners to avoid of carrying out the unpleasant waste by hand. Additionally, the couple added an air vent in the bathroom that helps keep the air circulating to avoid humidity and smells from building up in the small room.
A Chic Look
Nearly a year after they took on the impressive project, the couple saw their vision become reality when the final look of their motorhome was finished. Their creativity allowed them to turn an old vehicle into a stunning mobile home. In the photo below is a peek at the finished kitchen, the bedroom, and small lounging area.
The couple used a clever trick to make the inside of the minibus seem more spacious. They painted the walls, ceiling, cupboards, and drawers in white and added tan edges and handles to the cabinets and storage areas. More storage solutions included a built-in shelf next to the sink and a straw basket hanging over the counter.
A Safe Kitchen
A shiny, black stovetop was neatly installed over the counter on the very left. In accordance with the motorhome guidelines, they inserted fire-resistant tiles around the burners that added an aesthetic touch to that corner of the kitchen. They also added a fan with a protective rain dome for permanent ventilation.
The couple apparently believed they couldn't be too cautious about safety on the road in a mobile home. They also used child-proof latches for the drawers and cabinets to keep them securely closed. The idea to child-proof some of the furniture came after they had some difficulty building push-out rails for the drawers.
A Space to Relax
Across from the kitchen counter was the boho-style lounge with pink and yellow pillows that gave the interior a gorgeous color. The white-and-tan colors of the interior gave it a nice vibe for a vehicle made for outdoor adventures. Plus, the couch has cushions that are easy to clean in case one adventure got a little too messy.
Not only that, but the cushion in the middle can be removed to reveal a wooden surface underneath that can also be used as a table. "We cut and varnished a piece of pine and routed the edges so it would sit perfectly flush with the seats," Gracie and Dylan shared.
The Finished Cupboard
As for the cabinet frame that was set up beside the space for the couple's bed, it's now a completely finished cupboard where electrical boxes and messy cables can be hidden from sight. After sanding the wood, the couple painted it a darker shade to match the tone of the rest of the interior.
Gracie and Dylan gave the cabinet a nice finishing touch with a rattan sheet that covered the door. Although the minibus makeover took them longer to complete than planned, the couple could finally see that all their hard work had paid off. Every detail in their small new home was carefully thought out.
A Cozy Bedroom
The couple's bedroom, in the very back of the minibus, had a view most people - even those who live in regular houses - could only dream about. They installed darkening curtains to shield the curtains from excessive sunlight and added USB ports on either side of the bed.
Gracie and Dylan initially intended to cover up the beams underneath the overhead cupboard but later decided against it. "I've always loved the exposed beams in houses but never thought we could incorporate this into the bus," Gracie noted. "So glad we stuck with it because I am in love."
Besides the overhead cabinets and the small side table, Gracie and Dylan also installed a small wooden rack. Although it was originally set up to cover some exposed nails from the closet beside the bed, it ended up being a beautiful space to display Gracie's gorgeous stones and crystals.
According to Gracie, her "favorite nook" will "probably look a lot different once we are on the road… I do plan to get Velcro patches for some things, but others like these will probably get kept in a bag while traveling." But besides from these little touches, the couple was carrying other treasures on board…
The Ultimate Treat
The pair bought an EE CUBE portable projector that they used in their bedroom for fun movie nights. Gracie shared how impressed she was with the product, saying, "My jaw actually dropped when I turned it on and saw how clear the image was and the sound quality for such a small box."
But what's even cooler is that the wireless projector wasn't only for indoor use - it can also be set up outdoors! The couple set up hanging lights and patterned carpets for the perfect setting for a pleasant evening relaxing in the open air. After all their hard work, this adventurous duo is now living out their dreams!