Like many young couples, Charlie and Luke were disenchanted by soaring rent prices in their country. So they bought a double-decker bus instead! Keep reading to see how they built their unusual home.
Meet The Lovebirds
As of today, young couple Luke Walker and Charlie MacVicar live in the United Kingdom. But prior to settling down in their new lifestyle, they were traveling the world like many couples in their 20s do.
Over the course of their adventures, the couple touched down in various countries throughout Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia! They also spent time in Australia and backpacked through Europe before returning home to the U.K. Talk about well-traveled!
Making Life Decisions
But when they finally touched down on home soil, Luke and Charlie realized it was time to plan for the future. So, they returned to the workplace, where she started a job as a logistics coordinator, and he worked for an insurance company. But they knew they wanted to live together too.
After looking around for potential accommodation, they came upon an interesting idea. While they likely made good money, the idea of spending most of it on rent was deeply disheartening for the happy couple. And they didn’t want to spend the rest of their lives paying off an astronomical mortgage. But what could they do?
A Great Idea
While they mulled over the next step, scrimping and saving for whatever housing conclusion they were going to come to, Charlie had a sudden revelation: Her father had property, a bare stretch of land in Essex! The two of them could move to the county that lay just northeast of London.
But they needed to build housing on the land to make it livable. Again, they didn’t want to build an entire home because of the associated costs, so they ran through some ideas. They were thinking of tiny houses, maybe a refurbished shipping container or RV. But then it hit them: a double-decker bus!
Scouting A New Home
It just made sense. They were living close to London, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find an old decommissioned double-decker bus, as the city is the double-decker capital of the world! And, of course, it was going to have twice as much space as an RV. Unfortunately, the search wasn’t as easy as they expected.
Luke and Charlie went from bus to bus and couldn’t find a good fit. Too many were shabby and worn-out, requiring work that was going to be too time-consuming and expensive. Luke was also 6 ft tall, and some ceilings just weren’t high enough. They were getting ready to give up.
The Volvo Plaxton Bus
That is until they came across the Go-Ahead London Volvo Plaxton bus. It was exactly what they were looking for, fulfilling all their requirements, unlike the buses that came before. So in 2017, they shelled out 2,500 GBP, or approximately $3,500. It had been recently decommissioned.
For this reason, the bus was in surprisingly mint condition, with only a few signs of wear and tear. It was slightly dirty, but nothing a good clean-up wouldn’t fix. The double-decker was also an excellent size for the couple, standing at 14.6 feet, with a length and width of 32.8 by 8.3 feet.
The Challenges Begin
It was time to get to work! The first step Charlie and Luke wanted to take was drawing up the ideal floor plan for their new home. What they hadn’t realized is that while school bus conversions are normal, double-decker conversions are very unusual. It seemed that finding a reliable floor plan guide might be tricky.
And they were right. There were very few examples that the young couple could take from, so designing and building everything from scratch was going to be a difficult feat. While they did manage to find a few double-decker conversions to generate ideas from, they knew they had to be original and branch out on their own.
The First Floor
Soon enough, Luke and Charlie had drafted what felt like an ideal floor plan, despite redrafting many times. After all the sweat and tears, they had finally managed to design a floor plan kitted out with everything they might need in a regular home - including a master bedroom, kitchen, and living.
But they also had to split everything between the first and second floor - so what would the first floor include? According to their layout design, the first floor was going to be the site for a kitchen located behind the driver's seat. It would also include a dining table as well as the bathroom and living room.
The Second Floor
Their floor plans had managed to fit almost everything on the first floor. This meant that the second floor was going to be entirely devoted to their bedroom, giving them more space than they needed for just one bed. So Charlie and Luke figured out how to fully utilize the space.
What they designed was a fully personalized and unique master bedroom, with all the basics of a bedroom - and a few extra perks. They also included a massive closet to fit both of their clothing and a free-standing bathtub! But they still had a lot to do before they could bring their plans to life.
Gutting The Interior
First, they had to gut the bus. Their double-decker had been delivered to them in driving condition - including all of the seats that were used for inner-city passengers. It was impossible to build their home with all of these seats inside, so they set to removing everything they could.
As many people do with this kind of build, Luke and Charlie teamed up with friends and family, who helped them to remove every seat on the bus. It was slow and steady work, removing every set of screws used for each and every seat. The task was time-consuming, but they weren’t even close to being finished.
Just like many couples who take on bus conversions, Charlie and Luke had very little experience with DIY building - especially on a scale like this. They were nervous and stressed about the operation, so it was important that their loved ones were willing to pitch in.
Charlie was completely out of her element. "It was my first time picking up a screwdriver," Charlie told Insider magazine, "We got really overwhelmed." But she and her partner were driven by a desire to see their home come to life, so they pushed on.
Pulling Up the Floor
With further help, the couple had to pull out all of the remaining frames from the seats, and the back row of seats was especially difficult. Once that was all done, it was time to rip up the flooring of the bus. This may have seemed counter intuitive as the flooring was in good condition, but their reasoning was sound.
They weren’t exactly going to lay pristine marble floors down, but that didn’t mean they wanted the old double-decker linoleum. Although it was in good condition, it had also been walked on by potentially thousands of strangers over the years, which wasn’t appealing to them. Instead, they opted for grey flooring.
Let’s Get Building
By some miracle, given the size of the job and their inexperience, the process of gutting the bus had all gone to plan. According to Charlie, this was because "There weren't many challenges with the bus. We got very lucky with the condition we bought the bus in," she admitted. "The conversion went quite smoothly."
Unfortunately, there were different degrees of difficulty on each floor. And the second floor was much harder. "Building upstairs was more of a challenge as, on the top deck, the floor is slightly curved," Charlie elaborated. They had to custom-build their furniture to fit the structure, only adding to the build time.
But how much was the build going to cost exactly? We already know that the bus cost approximately $3,500, but what about the rest? As it turns out, after finishing their new home Charlie and Luke calculated that they had spent 15,000GBP, roughly $21,000, on the build itself.
So essentially, for one decked-out dream home, this smart twosome spent under $25,000! It’s an incredible lesson for those of us who don’t want to be shackled to astronomical rent payments or a life-long mortgage. Just looking at their renovation work is enough inspiration to get out there and look for a bus of our own!
On to the trickier aspects of the build: This includes the kitchen, which was decked out with everything a couple could need, including an oven, stove, sink, refrigerator, and microwave. They even fit a washing machine in the kitchen area too! Thankfully, they had help installing everything.
This was smart, as the couple had no experience installing electrical appliances or plumbing. Charlie confirmed with Insider, saying, "The electric, plumbing, and carpentry were done by either family or professionals. As much as we would like to take credit for the hard work, we certainly couldn't have done it without others."
As mentioned, they decided to set up their kitchen area just behind the driver's seat and on the same side of the bus. Most of their kitchen furniture came in a retro design, bringing a welcome touch of personality to their cooking space. They also opted for a lighter color palette to match the narrow space.
Currently, Luke and Charlie’s new home is parked up on Charlie’s dad’s piece of land in Essex, but it may not be there forever. The pair decided to keep the bus in driving condition, on the off-chance, they want to take it on the road someday. It’s hard to drive a double-decker, but there’s no harm in keeping options open.
But completing the kitchen didn’t end at simply installing their appliances. They also had to build sufficient counter space, as well as proper storage for their appliances. They also hung up a fruit basket to add some tasteful decor as well as extra storage space.
They also needed a separate space to eat, so they brought in a three-person dining table to fit neatly in next to the kitchen cabinets. But they tried not to bring anything else into the space, with Charlie saying that "the more stuff you build, it's going to make the bus feel smaller."
Home Hacks For Organizing Space
Having a full-sized oven may seem sufficient for a small home like theirs, but they had to add the gas stovetop as well. Their kitchen is more than enough for two inhabitants, but to maximize counter space completely, they made sure to keep any utensils and extra ingredients in jars and baskets.
They were particularly happy with the smooth countertops that look and feel like real marble. They match perfectly with the neutral and earthy tones of the kitchen area, and the green accents even go with the incredible view outside! But for now, let’s move on to the rest of the interior.
Renovating The Restroom
Believe it or not, but the couple also managed to fit their restroom downstairs beside the new kitchen. Because they wanted extra storage space in the restroom, they fitted the room with a hinged door rather than the typical sliding door used in tiny houses.
This area is the only space in the double-decker bus that is completely closed off. They wanted the whole bus to be as open as possible, to make the space seem bigger than it is. As a result, the restroom is the only space that feels confined, but it was a worthy sacrifice for the couple.
Back To Basics
Not to mention, the space may be small, but there's plenty of storage, even with the presence of the only toilet on the bus. "We've made it work," Charlie insisted. "Anything that we would normally have in a house, I don't feel like we're lacking in the bus."
Now you may have noticed that we called this the restroom, not the bathroom. That’s because there is no bath or shower here, as you may have noticed from the photos. Believe it or not, Charlie and Luke chose not to have their bath in the usual space.
And let's not forget the rest of the double-decker first floor, which houses the couple's gorgeous lounge area. The furthest section of the bus from the front door is used as both a living room and a guest bedroom for any visitors. And its comfy cushions and tasteful art make it super cozy!
This area can get a little cold in the winter, so Luke and Charlie opted to buy a wood-fired stove for this part of the home - especially important for when they have guests over. It's a small area, but more than enough for them. "To be honest, it feels like we've got a lot more space than some people we know," Charlie said.
The Suite Upstairs
When people think about bus conversions, they are often turned off by the prospect of downsizing. But this was never an issue for Charlie and Luke, who both lived with their parents previously. Charlie said, "For me, it felt like we've got more space moving into the bus than when we lived at home[…] It was upsizing, really."
And now we unravel the biggest mystery in this house... the bathtub. The couple decided that the ideal place for their tub was in their own bedroom! They fit their double bed, enormous closet, and bathtub all in one space. And it works great for them.
What To Do With The Windows
As mentioned, renovating this space and fitting in furniture was a bit of a challenge due to the curved walls and ceilings. But they managed to fit their bed at the far end of the second floor. They "had to custom build the bed, level the bath, and other furniture," according to Charlie.
One thing they didn’t have to worry about was windows. The double-decker is chock-full of wide windows that span both sides of the bus. And though many DIYers in their position would choose to knock out a few, Luke and Charlie kept every one. Having natural light flood in from both sides was just too tempting.
If you take a look at the view from the perspective of the bed, you can see how incredibly spacious the second floor of the double-decker is. The couple was even able to set up a television, making use of the extra space. Their choice of bright white for the walls and ceiling also made it seem more expansive.
But how are they able to power everything? It’s an important question when it comes to living in a converted home. Thankfully, Luke and Charlie have rigged up their double-decker to the local grid. Not to mention they also have access to gas and water, meaning they can live just as they would in a traditional home.
The Best Bath In Essex
But let's go back to the most unconventional feature of their very unconventional home: the bathtub in their bedroom. This claw-foot Victorian-style bath couldn't just be taken up the stairs. It had to be airlifted through the emergency window, all so that they could have a bath with a view.
And in Charlie's eyes, the effort was well worth it. Enjoying a soak with an incredible view is an absolute luxury. "You just forget that you're on a double-decker bus," she shared. "And then you just have to sort of think, 'Wait a minute, I'm having a bath on a double-decker bus.' It's a weird thought."
And what about their spacious closet? If you walk around to the other side of their double-bed, you’ll find a closet space that is more than enough for two people, with plenty of storage and hanging space. There’s even enough floor space to model your daily outfit!
To further utilize space, Luke and Charlie keep their beauty and grooming accessories and supplies on the nearby window ledge. Just below are small baskets for extra storage. And as a result of the open closet space, their clothing and storage actually become a feature of the room's decor!
The Great Outdoors
But if you think that’s all to be seen of their extraordinary home, you’d be wrong. Just take a step outside of the bus, and you’ll see that they have more space than they could possibly need! They were right when they said that they aren’t downsizing by any means. And the views are stunning.
Luke and Charlie see their outdoor space as a great privilege and do the best they can to make use of all of it. They see it as one of the great benefits of renovating their unusual home. "At night, it's like a bonus, it's really dark, and no one's around, and it's really quiet and peaceful," Charlie shared.
And around the back of their double-decker is their designated backyard fit with a gorgeous outdoor couch. When they lounge outside with their guests, they can't help but be grateful. "It has been the best thing we've ever done," Charlie said about their home.
It has its fair share of good and bad aspects, but she would never go back. "Some days I sit here, and I think, 'Oh, why am I living in this bus, this is so annoying,'" confessed Charlie. "But the majority of the time, I think we're just so grateful for being able to do something quite creative when we're not creative people."
As if having an expansive backyard wasn’t enough, Luke and Charlie really do use it as a second living room. They even move the television outside when the weather is good, enjoying the ambiance of the outdoors while they relax. But that doesn’t mean everything is perfect.
Speaking of the weather, it can make life difficult in the double-decker. Charlie explained that "in the winter, it can sometimes get really cold, and the other side is in the summer it can be like a greenhouse." It makes it difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature, as they had chosen not to insulate the bus.
But that doesn't change all of the benefits of their home. And in fact, the couple can't choose what the best aspect of their home is. "I love being able to look outside, and… have a more country, outdoor living sort of space," Charlie shared. "It's been the best thing for us."
Avoiding the pitfalls of rent payments and a mortgage is also a huge plus. "The freedom of being able to travel back and forth without being tied down […] is the main bonus to living here," she explained. "We love to travel and wanted a hub that we could return home to and then leave again and have a lot of flexibility."
Keep Up With Their Adventures
Somehow, this inspiring couple set off on a DIY adventure with absolutely no experience, but a lot of hope and ambition. And they smashed it out of the park! "It was definitely a shock to the system," Charlie remarked on the entire process. It's safe to say they won't be moving anytime soon.
Today Luke and Charlie live in a gorgeous home they designed themselves, with no mortgage or rent payments! And they have two goats to boot. "When you live in a bus, you live a weird life, so you might as well have two goats," Charlie laughed. For more news on their double-decker, follow @doubledeckerhome on Instagram.