Young Woman Turns a Bus Into Minimalist Home
| LAST UPDATE 04/10/2022
After years of living in small New York City apartments, Jessie Lipskin made the switch to a skoolie lifestyle. Here's a closer look at how she converted a 1966 Greyhound bus into a stylish, liveable home!
During her late 20s, Manhattanite Jessie Lipskin bought a 1966 bus and transformed it into her very own tiny home. But it didn't happen overnight. Let's take a look at her DIY journey and where it all began.
It all started when Jessie was living in New York City. The young woman watched the documentary Garbage Warrior for the first time, a film about “Earthship biotecture,” and a group of people who were dedicated to building functional, sustainable, and self-sufficient communities.
An Inspirational Film
Garbage Warrior spoke to Jessie, who became more and more inspired by the work of the group involved, particularly the architect Michael Reynolds. Using entirely recycled materials, these people were building eco-friendly buildings that were also super functional homes.
Over time she began researching voraciously, slowly changing her lifestyle to match. She was already vegan, which helped. "The transition was pretty natural after I read more about sustainable lifestyles, Earthships… all of that," she said. "I kind of just went all in."
A New Home
But that wasn’t the only big decision Jessie made to segue into a sustainable lifestyle. One of the biggest earth-friendly movements was the switch from traditional housing to living in converted buses and RVs - and she knew she wanted to take the plunge.
So Jessie began looking into her options. She already knew she didn’t want a traditional RV or motorhome and was looking for something a little more unique. So when she first laid eyes on a 1966 GMC Commuter Greyhound bus while browsing eBay, she knew it was the vehicle for her. But it wasn’t going to be that easy…
The bus looked perfect for her. Despite being over 5 decades old, it was also a spacious 40 feet long and 9 feet wide. And... it was only $7,000! Unfortunately for Jessie, it wasn't all roses. Her dream bus was also located all the way in California… and she didn't have her driver's license.
Thankfully, she had some help. "My two friends drove it back to upstate New York, and I rented a place there for a bit while working on it and gutting it," she said. During that time, she got her driver's license, and once the bus was finally in New York, she was ready to get started!
Onward And Upward
Although she started her DIY journey in upstate New York, she soon moved her future home to New Jersey. "I know people who could help me work on it there," she clarified. Finally, Jessie and her bus were settled into their new spot in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
All this moving from state to state and city to city couldn’t be easy on such an old vehicle. Before shifting to NJ, Jessie had to fix the engine and motor and took it to a mechanic for a transmission oil filter change. Thankfully the old bus was well-maintained and still had many of its original parts.
And it wasn’t just the engine that was fascinating to look at, with its old-fashioned mechanics. The interior of the bus was seriously interesting, particularly because it was the same model as the famous bus in the 1994 thriller film Speed. But as nostalgic as the interior was, it wasn’t in great condition.
So Jessie and her friends got to work, repainting the exterior of the greyhound and bringing it back to life. She wanted it to look bright and lively, as well as have some functional features that would protect it in the future. "We powder-coated the bumpers to help prevent rust," she explained.
Inside The Bus
By now, the exterior of the bus was in top-notch condition. Sadly the same couldn’t yet be said for the vehicle interior, which had a long way to go before it would be livable. And the first step was taking care of the rows of 1960s seating, as well as the floors, walls, and ceilings.
Jessie had bought the Greyhound because of its authentic, retro vibe. But the fact was that she couldn’t live with all of the 1960s fittings. So the next step involved removing every seat one by one, as well as dismantling the old paneling that covered the walls and ceiling.
Finding A Carpenter
Soon enough, she and her friends had finished gutting the interior, giving Jessie the chance to figure out the layout for her new home. Once that was done, she needed to start on the first important step in forming her new home - and she was going to need some helping hands.
That’s where Asbury Park came in. Jessie knew that there were very talented builders and specialists in Asbury who could help her. The first was a master carpenter who could build custom-made furniture and frames specifically for Jessie’s uniquely shaped home.
But before she could start installing any of the custom woodwork, Jessie had to make sure the bus was fully insulated. The northeast could be cold, especially in winter, so it had to be done before further renovations could begin. She began adding insulation to the bus ceilings and walls.
After the insulation work was complete, the woodwork could be built. This included the framing of the bus and various pieces of furniture, including the base of the closet seen in the photo above. The piece of furniture had an interesting purpose too. Not only was it built for storage, but also as a support for the ceiling!
And it wasn’t just the closet. The majority of Jessie’s furniture would have to be custom-made, with the exception of some kitchen appliances. But by the end of her DIY journey, practically everything else would be built to fit her 400-square foot house.
Above, we can see the first set of framing. Jessie shared the picture on Instagram with the caption "framing out the back bedroom area." After the framing was finished, the room would have enough space for a large bed fit for two and more than enough storage, including a set of cabinets and an access point for the water filter.
The next set of framing was for the kitchen, one of the most essential areas of the bus. Jessie needed a lot of different appliances, including a refrigerator, freezer, oven, stovetop, and sink. The carpenter would need to build a custom frame for everything. But would there be enough space?
Fortunately for the young DIYer, the carpenter she had hired was a master at his craft. Everything she needed fit perfectly into the framework he had built. And not just the kitchen. He was able to fit all of Jessie’s requirements into just 400-square feet of space. But would that be enough for her?
Not For Everyone
If we look below, we'll see the tiny bathroom sink. It’s the perfect symbol of tiny house living, which is all about downsizing belongings and making them fit into a small space, all while still being functional. A lot of people would find it difficult to adjust to the lifestyle - but Jessie wasn’t fazed.
As it turned out, the young DIYer had enough experience living tiny. "I grew up in Manhattan, so smaller square footage and limited space have never been an issue for me," Jessie said. "I've always been very organized and love the idea of holding onto only what you really need."
But it wasn't just good organization that Jessie had learned while living in The Big Apple. "I… had the realization that people waste a lot of time focusing on physical items: purchasing them, misplacing them, and subsequently looking for them," she explained.
"Most of these items, from my standpoint, felt superfluous to a meaningful life, and I realized that the time and emotional energy devoted to physical things could be better spent elsewhere," Jessie elaborated. This conclusion was perfectly in-line with the ethos of the tiny house movement, and Jessie fit the lifestyle perfectly.
The Toughest Part
Over time, Jessie’s house bus began to come together as a fully-fledged tiny home. After the frames and custom furniture was built, the walls were paneled with light-colored wood. Some parts of this stage were easy, but others? Unfortunately, not so much...
"One of the hardest challenges was building walls and storage and closets in," Jessie explained. "If the angle isn't exactly the same every time you park [the bus], you might have an issue with opening a door or something like that." It required maximum precision and attention to detail to get it all right.
Her Floor Plan
There were a few more storage areas, too, an essential component of tiny house living. Further back in the kitchen area, there was extra seating space for when she wanted to entertain guests, and in the bedroom was a large bed built to fit the space. Last of all was the gorgeous floor, inlaid with dark wood.
And Jessie could already see her future home coming to life. Her mind was full of plans, particularly where the style and decor were concerned. "Scandinavian minimalist," she explained about her plans for her new home. As for what that truly called for?
A Minimalist Vision
Upon completing the carpentry, the bus looked entirely different. The same space that was once hijacked by metal walls and vintage seats now resembled a tiny home. Sure, there was still lots to be done - but the progress already made continued to serve as motivation for the young visionary.
"Eclectic antiques, clean lines, bright natural light with pops of color," Lipskin added as she described her inspiration for the bus's future decor. With paint and decor up next on the list, Jessie already had a full vision. And it wouldn't be long before those same dreams were brought to life.
But let’s go back to Jessie’s bedroom, all the way at the back of the bus. After the insulation and paneling were complete, she had space for a luxurious queen-sized bed and a set of storage cabinets on the sides for her clothing. Though she originally planned to install a TV, she changed her mind at the last minute.
Her reasoning for going without a TV was very compatible with the philosophy of tiny house living. "I had the option to have a TV, but I really like waking up in the morning and hearing the birds outside my window," she explained. "I love not having a TV."
Painting The Interior
One thing she had to take into account was the color of the interior. It took a few weeks of deliberation, but she finally went for a creamy white. Once that was done, the bus truly felt transformed. And though she was happy with the final product, her proudest DIY accomplishment came next.
And according to Jessie, that was "Sanding and sealing the maple countertops in my kitchen. They are one of the few places you can see the wood grains. I love how it looks against the crisp white walls and ceiling." As time went on, she was truly able to step back and see the fruits of her hard work.
Once the wood-grained maple countertops were in place, and the painting had been completed, the bus truly looked like the house Jessie had imagined for herself. She had chosen to design it in a sophisticated minimalist style, very similar to Scandinavian interior design.
It was finally time to move her belongings into her new home - but it wasn't as simple as some might expect. "The downsizing process coincided with a period of frequent moves," Jessie said. "During the process, I relocated seven times, and by the end, just about everything I owned fit in my SUV."
The Perfect Fridge
Like many new tiny house owners, the downsizing process was a tricky one, but everything Jessie owned fit into the space with plenty of room to spare. So much, in fact, that her 400-square foot home could also have a fully-equipped kitchen aside from all of her belongings.
One of the most prized appliances in Jessie’s kitchen was her silver IGLOO - a side-by-side refrigerator and freezer coming in at 5.5 cubic feet and 33 inches wide. It wasn’t as big as the average family fridge, but it was perfect for her home and could easily hold enough for two people.
On To The Kitchen
Jessie took plenty of inspiration from modern Scandinavian designs, and this is particularly clear when looking at her sleek, simple kitchen with its light color palette and emphasis on being as functional as possible in a small space. She splurged on a sin, too, as she knew she’d get plenty of use out of it.
"I knew I wouldn't have a dishwasher, so I wanted to have that," she said. She also purchased a 21-inch joint stove and oven from PPL Motorhomes, built specifically for homes like hers. She also used it to store pots and pans and had a hot water heater and propane tank beneath the sink, so she could shower and wash her dishes.
The bathroom is another space that has to be well-designed and carefully thought out in a tiny house. And of course, Jessie’s bathrooms were small, but they had everything she needed. That’s right, we said bathrooms. She had two! In one small room, there was the aforementioned tiny sink and a compostable toilet.
Just across the hall was another small room for the shower, but it wasn't the only space she needed for washing. Jessie also installed an appliance with a small washing machine and dryer that could be attached to the sink, meaning she could wash and dry her clothing regardless of the weather.
And the shower proved to be spacious and extremely well-designed. "The bathroom has mahogany wood slotted flooring that drains for drying off post-shower," Jessie said. "The shower drain connects to the floor drain and they both lead to the gray water tank which is mounted under the bus."
She had more than enough space, and though it wasn't as large as some New York apartments she had lived in, it was certainly nicer. When Jessie's friends and family came to visit, they were stunned by the final product. "This is nicer than my apartment!" one friend commented, while another teased, "Is this actually a bus?"
The Driver's Seat
One area we haven't touched on is the driver's seat, which hadn't been in use very much since the Greyhound arrived in Asbury Park. Jessie used the space beside the driver's seat to build a deceptively simple bench space that could be converted into a guest bed, and closet/storage space.
The custom-made bench rounded out the front part of the bus, but there was just one missing feature. Jessie took to Instagram for help, writing, "On the hunt for 6 ft cushions to fit the couch / pull out bed guest space. 26" for the seated, and 18" for the back. Anyone know of places to look?"
The View To The Bedroom
Now let's take a peek into Jessie's gorgeous bedroom space. After her renovation, she shared this picture with her followers, and captioned it "view from the kitchen area towards the main bedroom." In the foreground is her kitchen counter, which she used for meals as well as working from her laptop.
The bench space by the window was another dual-functioning storage space. Thankfully, it was much easier to get the right cushion. The off-white cushion in the picture above was custom-made at Final Cut in New Jersey. And just beyond the doorway was the best room in the house - the bedroom.
A Place To Sleep
Beyond the living room area was Jessie’s own bright and cozy bedroom, where she often spent the daytime hours relaxing and listening to the sounds of nature through her bedroom windows. In the evenings and late at night, she could switch on her LED lights to read a book or do some writing.
Unfortunately, there was one small fault she had made while fitting out her bedroom. The curtains she chose were a tad more obstructive than she had realized. "Since they're a thick velvet material, they take up too much space when pulled to the side," she said. Her only solution was to flip them up over the curtain rods instead.
Sleeping and relaxing weren't the only thing she used her bedroom for. It quickly became her favorite place to read when she had the time. "I feel like I've been so busy these past few years that I haven't read as much as I'd like," Jessie said. "I have the time now to do that." It was an ideal spot to turn into a tiny library.
And since she had to spend much less time on housekeeping and chores in her little home, she had much more time to read. She could also line up her books on the small shelf near her bed and keep the rest in the storage space beneath the kitchen window. "It's nice to just cozy up in bed and just read a book," she said.
A 7-Foot Closet
Jessie had put countless hours of time into planning and organizing her house bus, and it had paid dividends in the form of her enormous closet. "This is just one portion of the closet; it extends to the left and right a decent amount," she explained regarding the picture below.
It was more than just convenient. The closet was over seven feet wide, making it practically luxurious. "This is bigger than any closet I've had in any apartment or space before this," Jessie said proudly. It even had a shelf above the clothing rack and a small bench below for extra storage.
It’s In The Details
By this point, all the most important parts of the home had been finished, from the kitchen to the bedroom. There were just a few more things Jessie chose to add to complete the picture. She rounded up some precious family heirlooms and beloved pieces of art, as well as decorations she had found in thrift stores.
One of her friends pointed out some of these special details, saying, "An oil painting found at Goodwill adorns the hallway. I think these finishing touches really help it feel more like a home than a bus." Now everything was complete - after years of work, renovation, and $125,000 out of Jessie's own pocket.
Back To California
Yes, it took Jessie Lipskin three years of planning, organizing, building, and decorating to finally finish her dream home. But sadly, after everything was done, she realized she couldn't keep it. "It's too large for me to drive alone, and I have been given the opportunity to set out to some international travel," she explained.
Jessie always wanted to travel, and now she had the opportunity to work remotely, anywhere in the world. Today her beautiful Greyhound tiny house can be found in California, where it’s listed on Airbnb. But that's not the end: if everything goes to plan, Jessie will move home in the future and convert a new bus for herself!