This Couple Transformed a Toyota Coaster Into a Lovely Home
| LAST UPDATE 04/25/2022
Gracie and Dylan are a young couple who dreamt of exploring Australia in style and comfort. So the self-starters purchased a minibus and spent nearly a year converting it into a home. Here's the incredible transformation.
Gracie & Dylan
Meet Gracie and Dylan, a loving couple from Queensland, Australia, who one day decided to give their lifestyle a total shake-up. A dream of traveling and seeing the world led this duo to a DIY adventure.
The young partners described themselves as "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." And so this itch for exploration brought them to a... minibus!
The couple wanted to convert a minibus into a home on wheels and found the perfect opportunity in a 2006 Toyota Coaster. But there was one small problem. "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." Would the 21-year-old go all in and take the risk to make her dreams come true?
Big Project, Little Experience
The duo decided to dive off the deep end and invest everything they had in the big DIY. So they got the keys to the 2006 Toyota Coaster and got ready to transform it into a little home on wheels. "We've never built anything and no carpentry experience," the couple shared.
They added, "So diving straight into the deep end of a bus build has definitely been a challenge." With life on the road as their motivation, Gracie and Dylan began the minibus conversion. Luckily, they also had the help of loving friends and family members along the way.
Gutting the Coaster
The 2006 Toyota Coaster measured about 102.4 inches in height, 275.2 inches in length, and 78.7 inches in width. Even without a ruler at hand, it's easy to tell that's not a whole lot of space for a house! So the DIYers started by totally gutting the vehicle.
And the process was far from easy - or clean. "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," they shared. "Not one part of the bus wasn't covered in dirt."
Laying the Foundation
Gracie and Dylan got to work unscrewing each tiny bolt on the Coaster until the original chairs, floor, walls, and ceiling were all gone. They then had to grind off the minibus's current insulation. The duo wanted to see what lay beneath and make sure everything was in decent condition for the build.
Gracie and Dylan laid the new foundation for their future motorhome after taking all the old parts out and dealing with any damage and rust. The DIYers used foam ply panels for the floor, which provided a layer of insulation before installing the final layer.
Vinyl Flooring & Wall Insulation
The duo soon had their subflooring complete. "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," they shared. Gracie and Dylan then put in the final layer: gorgeous vinyl floorboards.
Many motorhome conversions use vinyl as it not only looks great but is also water-resistant and durable - perfect for on-the-road adventures. During this stage of the transformation, the DIYers also sound-proofed their engine and insulated the walls with 8mm thick foam and earth wool.
The Floor Plan
With the insulation foam and earth wool carefully installed, Gracie then put up the vapor barrier, a material that prevents water vapor from diffusing into the wall, ceiling, or floor in the colder seasons. The couple also taped out their final floor plan onto the newly-installed vinyl!
"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."
Their First DIY Mishap
While Dylan and Gracie planned on putting curtains on their windows once the home was complete, they also wanted to go the extra mile and tint the glass structures. But things didn't go as planned with this part of the project. "Today we had a crack at window tinting," the duo shared.
They continued, "And made the executive decision after a few failed attempts that this is better off in the hands of a professional." Gracie and Dylan invested about 1,100 AUD, equal to around 850 USD, and got the windows professionally tinted to the darkest legal tint.
A Big First: Cutting Into the Bus
All the while, the couple also worked a bit on the bus's exterior. They sanded the roof and added various layers of Thermo shield, giving the bus a fresher look while preparing it for harsh weather conditions. They also cut their first of what would be many holes into the minibus!
The spot where Gracie is seen sticking her head out became a running air vent for the home-on-wheels. The DIYers also fixed the minibus's backlights with the help of some friends. With the basics finished, it was time to start the exciting part: framing the future house.
The Bed Frame
In many bus conversions, the owners choose to custom-make the furniture. This allows for the most efficient use of space in the small motorhomes. Despite having little construction experience, Gracie and Dylan built all of their furniture themselves.
Above is a shot of the unfinished bed frame, with one more piece of ply missing to cover the mattress space. The couple later drilled holes through the plywood where the mattress sits to allow the bed to breathe and prevent moisture from building up underneath.
The Custom Drawers
The "bedroom" area would serve as a sleeping space and a storage unit. Gracie and Dylan designed their bed to be quite high off the floor and planned to install cupboards and drawers underneath. Dyl constructed the drawers himself, measuring everything many times.
"Today we tackled our first drawer and are over the moon with how it turned out," the DIYers shared on Instagram. They then gave the fixtures a fresh coat of white paint before sliding them into their new homes. Gracie and Dylan later added beautiful handles.
Dylan and Gracie knew they would have to downsize their belongings once they moved into the small home on wheels. But the creative duo also made sure to use every nook possible for storage solutions. Aside from the sizeable drawers and cabinets under the bed, they designed overhead bins, too.
"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 excitedly shared. Dyl made sure the custom shelf had a small wall at the bottom to prevent items from flying out while on the go.
The Future Electrical Closet
The couple's final floor design called for a tall but rather thin closet right next to their bed. What started as a couple of pieces of wood drilled together, later transformed into a stunning storage unit. Gracie and Dylan planned to keep all things electrical inside here.
"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 explained on social media. Slowly but surely, the couple's vision was becoming real.
The Lounge in Progress
The little motorhome's mini living room was soon underway, located right before the bedroom in the vehicle's back. Dylan and Gracie had a fantastic idea for the final product: a couch bench that could also convert into two separate chairs with a table for eating.
"We had our mates come over today for help and moral support for the dining/lounge area process," they said. "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!"
The Kitchen in Progress
The framing for the kitchen was also underway across from the lounge and dining area. Dylan constructed the framework and then added a benchtop counter with a stainless steel sink and a tap. Drawers and cabinets would go underneath, and an overhead shelf above.
"A lot less space in the bus now with almost all the framework done, which is an exciting feeling," the DIYers said. "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."
The Bathroom Shell
Gracie and Dylan wanted their small home to have everything they would need for life on the road, including a functional bathroom. But since the minibus measured only 275.2 by 78.7 inches, the room had to be a tight squeeze. The couple resolved to wash their hands in the kitchen and have a toilet and shower in the small area.
The DIYers bought a fiberglass shell from Custom Coasters Conversions to guarantee the small room would be waterproof. Dylan built a base for the shell to sit in and secured it in place. The duo later installed the toilet and shower and had a friend help with plumbing.
The New Ceilings
Dylan and Gracie understandably didn't want to leave their minibus's ceiling as bare insulation foam boards and metal frames. After all, they wanted the house-on-wheels to feel like a proper home. So the partners chose some gorgeous wood panels for the final layer.
Dylan, who is about 5 foot 10, cleared the ceiling by a couple of centimeters before the panels went in. With the new pieces installed, the minibus's height was the perfect fit for him to live in without having to crouch over. The DIYers also installed some recessed lighting.
Powering the Appliances
So how exactly did Dylan and Gracie plan on energizing those recessed lights, as well as a fully-equipped bathroom and kitchen? The couple cut more holes into their minibus to install all of the equipment necessary for power and plumbing on the motorhome.
Pictured above is the structure Dylan made to install the home's Truma RV AquaGo hot water system. "Slowly getting less scary cutting big holes in the bus but luckily it turned out pretty good," he said. The adventurer did a similar fitting for a gas box to power the future stove.
The Rooftop Deck & Solar Panels
As for the motorhome's electricity, Gracie and Dylan planned on taking a generator on the road but mostly wanted to rely on solar energy. The DIYers installed multiple solar panels onto the minibus's roof. They drilled holes into the roof and used nutserts to bolt in the appliances.
But the bus's exterior didn't just get an upgrade in functionality. The couple also used the space for a fun project: a small rooftop deck! They put together the reclaimed wood lying around from the conversion, sanded it, and painted it for a fresh look. The little space is perfect for two.
The Finished Product
Nearly a year after purchasing the Toyota Coaster, Gracie and Dylan completed their DIY journey. The finished product was breathtaking and felt like a true home. Well, except for the front part where the driver and passenger seats are located! But even this area got an upgrade.
The duo removed, cleaned, and reinstalled the front vinyl for a fresh feel. They also bought and installed new chairs, replaced the old boarding with tongue and groove wood, and painted the walls and ceiling white. A colorful rug in the middle, which they sometimes throw over the seats, provides the finishing touch.
The Homie Entrance
Even with a folding door typical of a minibus, it's hard to believe this home entrance is located on a vehicle. The DIYers painted the walls white and added dark brown accents throughout. They also placed sentimental photos of themselves and Gracie's family dogs.
The framed pictures make the bus feel like home right away. Seen on the right of the photo above is the house's mini-fridge, the Freeline Elegance 115, which Gracie and Dylan placed in a frame behind the driver's seat. The duo also installed a cupboard above the driver's seat for storage.
Following the driver's seat and the fridge is the motorhome's bathroom, complete with a toilet and shower. The stainless steel shower head's dark color gives a beautiful pop to the room. The DIYers used adhesive stickers instead of real tiles for the walls, an easy method for an incredible look.
"The plumbing for the shower and toilet are hooked up and runs behind the kitchen cupboards and straight to the hot water system/gas," Gracie and Dylan shared. "Thankfully we have had our friend who's a plumber come and help set up our plumbing for the shower, toilet and sink."
Right next to the shower is the motorhome's toilet. The appliance is a Dometic RV toilet. These are usually made from plastic and release all of the toilet's content into a holding tank for later dumping. A hatch that's accessible from the home's exterior makes for easy access and cleaning.
The home-owners cut a hole behind the toilet to easily remove the carriage from the outside, a great solution to avoid carrying the yucky contents inside their house. An air vent on the ceiling keeps the bathroom air circulating and helps with humidity and smells.
The New Look
The finished look is absolutely breathtaking. Gracie and Dylan brilliantly managed to transform a small bus into a stunning little home-on-wheels. On the left of the below photo are the complete kitchen, a peek into the bedroom, and a bit of the lounge/dining area.
The DIYers painted the walls, ceiling, cupboards, and drawers in white to open up space as much as possible. They added tan straps to the kitchen cabinetry and the under-bed storage. The built-in shelf by the sink and clever details like a hanging fruit basket provides storage solutions without cluttering the space.
The Gas Stovetop
All the way in the left-hand corner of the cooking space is the gas stovetop. The DIYers followed the motorhome guidelines and installed fire-resistant tiles around the burners. They also have a fan with a protective rain dome for permanent ventilation.
The couple took other safety precautions like using velcro patches to stick things down and not have flying mason jars while driving. Dylan and Gracie have child-proof latches to hold the drawers and cabinets closed, a feature they decided on after building push-out rails for the drawers proved too challenging.
The Lounge & Dining Area
The lounge across from the kitchen turned out amazing, with Gracie's boho-chic pillows giving the perfect pop of color. Most of the home has a white and earth-tones aesthetic, a fitting color palette for a life of exploring the great outdoors. The cushions on the couch are easy to clean, so no need to worry about muddy clothes.
The middle cushion is removable, and the wood underneath doubles as a table. "We cut and varnished a piece of pine and routed the edges so it would sit perfectly flush with the seats," the DIYers said. Dylan built an adjustable pole that lengthens to prop up the table for date nights.
The Rattan-Sheet Cupboard
What was once just a cabinet frame made of raw wood is now a good-looking cupboard that hides the electrical boxes and messy cables. The duo sanded and painted the wood a darker tone that compliments nicely with decorative mirror and their earthy linen bedding.
Gracie and Dylan then made their Pinterest fantasies come true with the rattan sheet covering the closet's door. It took them longer than intended, but the nearly-year-long process was worth it. The DIYers thought out every detail in their little home.
All the way in the back of the minibus is the bedroom, where some of the best views can be seen. Dylan and Gracie installed ready-made room darkening curtains, which they cut to length and hemmed themselves with tape and an iron. On either side of the bed are two USB ports.
While the renovators initially wanted to cover up the beams underneath the overhead cupboard, they ultimately didn't. "I've always loved the exposed beams in houses but never thought we could incorporate this into the bus," Gracie explained. "So glad we stuck with it because I am in love."
Gracie's Favorite Nook
Aside from the overhead storage and a little side table, the DIYers also installed this wooden rack. The little shelf was an unplanned addition to cover some exposed nails from the electrical closet. It turned out great for showing off some of Gracie's stones.
Gracie admitted that 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." These aren't the only little treasures found on the minibus.
Outdoor Movie Nights
The adventure buddies bought an EE CUBE portable projector that they often set up in their bedroom for movie nights. "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," Gracie said of the product.
The couple also uses the wireless projector for outdoor movie nights, made comfortable by their retractable Fiamma F45S awning. The hanging lights and patterned carpets/blankets make for an Instagram-worthy setup. But these go-getters are living their dreams in real life, too.