When Glen and Lucy decided it was time to start a new chapter in their lives and embark on a European adventure, they knew the perfect way to do it: turn an American school bus into a luxury motorhome.
The Artistic Couple
Meet Lucy Stevens and Glen Carloss, a British couple with big dreams and the artistic talents to accomplish them. When the couple first met, Glen worked as a tattoo artist and even owned his own studio.
Lucy was creative in her own right and became a jewelry artist after she attended a ring-making workshop for her 30th birthday. When the artsy duo came together, it wasn't long before they planned their biggest DIY project yet: a bus-to-home conversion.
The Future Home
While Glen and Lucy were happy with their U.K. life, they dreamed of seeing all of Europe. So the couple decided to buy an old school bus and convert it into a home-on-wheels to travel throughout the continent. Glen would sell his tattoo parlor, marking a new chapter in the partners' journey.
The DIYers purchased a 2009 International CE 300 with a little over 120,000 miles on it. Since Lucy and Glen bought the vehicle from overseas, they hired an independent company to check the bus's mechanical and structural conditions. Once it was approved, the bus was on its way to the U.K.
A Typical School Bus
The 2009 International was shipped to the United Kingdom all the way from Sidney Central School District in New York. "The name of the students are still on the walls," the new bus-owers shared. "It makes it feel so real/strange that this is actually a used school bus."
But Glen and Lucy had a long way to go before this old cheese bus became the "fully functioning luxury tiny home," of their dreams. The couple read many books on skoolie living and motorhome conversions and watched plenty of YouTube tutorials before getting started on the epic transformation.
Gutting the Bus
The school bus measured about 32.8 feet in length and 7.2 feet in width, so every inch of space had to be taken advantage of. Lucy and Glen began by totally gutting the inside of the bus. All of the original seats were torn out, a difficult task considering how securely bolted they were!
The vehicle needed to be completely cleared to make room for the couple's dream home-on-wheels, which would include a living room, dining area, fully-equipped kitchen, a fully-functioning bathroom, a cozy bedroom, and a garage. The travelers would have everything they need while roaming Europe.
A Rusty Problem
After all of the seats were finally gone, Glen and Lucy continued stripping down the bus. They removed the original rubber flooring to make room for something nicer. Although the bus was just over a decade old, hot New York summers and icy winters resulted in a rusty floor.
The DIYers took care of the rust issue by brushing and grinding the floors to smooth them out. They then applied a rust converter and used pennies to cover the holes where the old seats had been. Lucy and Glen finished by adding a couple of coats of paint.
Once the rust was handled, the duo started putting in the motorhome's new foundation. To keep the skoolie at a comfortable temperature regardless of the climate, Glen and Lucy installed floor insulation. They chose thin but rigid thermal boards from U.K.'s EcoTherm.
Before placing the boards, the couple framed the floor with thin pieces of wood, a process they would later do on the entire bus. On top of the insulation, the DIYers carefully cut and put in pieces of plywood. With the subfloor done, it was time to tackle the walls!
Insulating the Walls
Like with the floor, Lucy and Glen took off the original walls on the bus's bottom half and inserted insulation. Since the couple opted not to use spray foam insulation, they had to install a vapor barrier on top of the boards. The barrier is the aluminum foil-like sheet seen in the photo below.
The special material stops water vapor inside the home from getting into the skoolie's walls and causing damage. Moisture from cooking, washing, and hot showers can otherwise lead to mold. The DIYers later added wooden boards for the motorhome's new walls.
The New Ceiling
The gorgeous ceiling was the first part of the conversion to be fully completed. The bus-owners didn't remove the original insulation as it was in decent shape. So they cut holes into the metal to make room for future recess lighting and added the panels seen below.
Glen and Lucy put the tongue and groove wood directly on top of the bus's metal ceiling. "Our bus is a 2009 so it had a harder ceiling frame to take down so we went over the top instead," they explained. "We still have enough head height and it now looks more like a home on the inside."
Taping the Layout
The new subfloors, walls, and ceiling were all done, which meant the skoolie's foundation was finished. Now, the fun could begin as the hands-on duo turned an empty school bus into their dream home. "It's taken us ages to decide on a layout for the bus," Glen and Lucy shared.
The couple used tape to visualize their many floorplans and finally chose a layout that they made up on the spot. At the front of the bus would be, of course, the driver's seat, followed by a dining room table/benches and a living room/guest bedroom.
Framing the Home
Following the driver's seat and dining/living area, Glen and Lucy decided to have the kitchen on the right side. The frame for the counter space can be seen in the shot below. Next to the kitchen, they planned on building a large closet for plenty of storage space.
The custom cupboard would store food, appliances, and clothes. The DIYers wanted the future bathroom, complete with a little sink, a toilet, and a shower, across from the closet. "We now have the shell of the build, and it's really taken us by surprise how spacious it still looks," the couple said.
The King-Size Bed
The floorplan Glen and Lucy settled on put the bedroom at the bus's rear, as with most school bus conversions. The location gives maximum privacy in the small home. The picture here shows the frame for the couple's custom-made king-size bed and garage.
Lucy and Glen elevated the bed just enough to have no problem hopping on but still provide some storage space underneath. The small garage behind the bed and the under-bed storage would ultimately be accessible from the skoolie's former emergency exit.
Once the king-sized bed's frame was complete, Glen and Lucy carefully put up and painted the wall that divides the bedroom from the storage in the rear. "The back garage frame includes alcoves for bookshelves and some special lighting," the couple shared.
The wall completely covered the back, where the duo planned on storing their outdoor equipment. It looked absolutely gorgeous after just one coat of paint, and the final product turned out nothing short of amazing. The rest of the home-on-wheels was slowly coming along, too.
Walls Are Up
Meanwhile, the walls around the rest of the motorhome were going up, as well. While some skoolie designers put their new ceiling up after framing the walls, Lucy and Glen chose to do it the other way around. They put the structures in place after finishing their tongue and groove design.
"The framing hides all the wiring which we needed to feed through the ceiling for the lighting first," the couple explained. "So we boxed it [the wiring] after the ceiling was up!" The DIYers then tediously covered all of the tiny drill holes on the new walls.
Sanding & Painting
Lucy and Glen used the same material for the walls as they did for the kitchen counter and bed space. After some thorough sanding and just one coat of primer, the school bus looked more like a house than ever before. While the walls still needed a lot of work, the renovators decided to leave the ceiling as-is.
"We thought about painting it [the ceiling] white," the DIYers admitted. "But [we] actually liked the color of the wood, so thought we would keep it au nature." Glen and Lucy did treat the wood with a clear varnish to give it some additional durability without changing the look.
The Future Dining Area
The photo below captured the very beginnings of the home-on-wheels multi-functional dining room. The two structures on the picture's left side are the skeletons for seating benches, and Lucy and Glen later installed an adjustable table in between the seats.
On the right side is the base for the couple's future sofa. The couch would provide a comfortable mini-living room and some more storage space. But once they finished this part of the skoolie, it actually became a multi-purpose area with lots of little tricks that enhance the home.
Jazzing It Up
Now that Glen and Lucy had constructed the foundations for most of the skoolie's walls and furniture, it was time to start glamming up the place. Or, as Lucy said, "jazzing" it up. The bus-owners used left-over wood and groove cuts to give the dining seats and sofa a sophisticated touch.
They also added trim to the seating for a more complete feel. Next to the couch, the couple chose a gorgeous-patterned tile for under their wood burner and left the space under the burner's loft unboarded as it would later store pieces of wood for the fire.
A Closer Look
Behind the dining and living area, the kitchen also got a major upgrade from its initial skeleton framing. Gleen and Lucy put the counter in place and installed the cabinet doors, although they later changed their minds about the kitchen's color scheme.
The DIYers also refurbished the old windows. To save time, money and get plenty of natural light, they kept the school bus's original glass structures. But Glen and Lucy boxed in the windows so that there were a whole new look and no more ugly wires on display from the inside.
More Than Just a Dining Room
The skoolie-renovators soon had their dining room complete, but it turned out to be much more than just a place to eat. The table Lucy and Glen built between the small benches is adjustable: it can be raised to serve as a table or lowered to make the two benches come together as one longer seat.
So the table and seats can actually turn into a second couch across from the long sofa, and the structures can be used as two twin beds. But wait - there's more. The longer couch can unfold, connecting everything. When the table is lowered, the whole thing forms another king-size bed!
The Almost-Finished Bedroom
As mentioned earlier, the finished wall in the skoolie's bedroom looks absolutely stunning. Lucy and Glen managed to block off a small section of the back for storage while turning the wall into more built-in storage for beautiful art and accessories.
On the hop shelf, the couple placed some rustic baskets and plenty of potted plants. They likely used Velcro strips to keep the decor in place while on the road. The built-in shelves on either side of the wall provide a perfect alternative to little night-stands and add depth to the bedroom.
Lucy and Glen chose to keep most of the home-on-wheels exterior as it was, in all of its yellow school bus glory. While some skoolie-owners give the bus's outside an extreme makeover like the inside, these DIYers didn't want to forget what their house used to be.
The couple did some checks and repairs on the bus's mechanics and got it approved by the ministry of transport. The bus's electrical, steering, tires, and pressure were all in safe conditions. Lucy and Glen did add to the outside by constructing exterior storage for water tanks and plumbing.
The Finished Look
The skoolie's finished look is breathtaking. It's hard to believe this gorgeous home is on roughly 236 square feet. Lucy and Glen ended up swapping the somewhat dark blue color palette on the dining room, couch, and kitchen for a lighter grey-blue mix.
The light colors open up the home, making the small bus feel quite spacious. Glen and Lucy installed the tongue and groove panels to follow the curved ceiling perfectly, adding depth and height to the bus. The former emergency exits, one in the front and one in the bedroom, further open the space and bring in the outdoors.
The new floors, which Glen and Lucy had done by professionals, were the final touch needed to make the vehicle feel like a house. But details like the wood burner and the stunning clock above it are what make the skoolie feel like a home. And the mini fireplace is actually fake!
"After many issues with insurance, we decided against the [real] wood burner," the duo shared. They settled on this adorable little heater that even creates pretend smoke to complete the cozy vibe without the fire hazard on the road! So how do the home-owners power the appliance?
Glen and Lucy installed a total of three batteries, one 4kw Diesel heater, two leisure batteries, and a 3kw inverter to power appliances while on the road. Glen's previous work as an electrician came in handy when figuring out the complicated electrical work.
These tools, plus the water tanks, are also what make the skoolie's kitchen fully functional. The small house-on-wheels has a working sink, a mini-fridge, an electric oven, two gas hobs, and lots of storage in the cupboard and pull-put pantry next to the counter.
The Living Room
The complete living room is the perfect combination of cozy but airy. Lucy and Glen had custom upholstery made for the sofa, and the cushions match with those on the dining benches, too. The velvet and patterned pillows add a pop of color and texture.
While not having overhead cupboards in the kitchen means less storage space, it also means the motorhome flows easily from the living room to the kitchen, creating one big entertainment space. The two different colors on the back walls make for an unexpected and beautiful contrast.
The Dining Room
Glen and Lucy finalized the dining room by adding a white top to the adjustable table. The style choice once more contributes to the house's overall flow, as it ties the table to the kitchen counter space and even the light-colored sofa and bench cushions.
When the long couch is unfolded, the dining area becomes suitable for two more guests. The beige curtains make sure the bus-owners can eat comfortably without the sun in their eyes but are subtle enough not to take attention away from the home's more special details.
Past the living and dining area, across from the kitchen pantry and the couple's wardrobe, is the bathroom. Glen and Lucy chose a composting toilet rather than an RV toilet, so the waste is collected and periodically emptied out. If used properly, this appliance is no smellier than your average toilet.
Plus, the composting toilet the couple chose is beautiful. No detail went unnoticed, and even this appliance has a pretty and interesting color palette! The wall above holds the boiler and some of the plumbing. Next to the elevated toilet is the tiny sink.
The couple's sink might be very small, but the shower is comfortable and comparable to those found in some city apartments. Lucy and Glen used subway tiles for this part, a timeless style choice that also helps the shower feel bigger than it actually is.
Although the shower is spacious, especially when one considers it's located on an old school bus, it is arguably the bus's most uncomfortable part for a tall person. The shower is located right under the lowest part of the skoolie's curved top, so it's the one room where Glen can't help but graze the ceiling.
The Bedroom & Movie Room
The finished bedroom is more than just a place to sleep; it's an incredible entertainment center. Lucy and Glen installed a huge pull-down screen and a movie projector above the bed. Even world travelers sometimes need to just Netflix and chill, and this couple is prepared.
The ledge below the projector screen has a flip-up top with storage underneath, and the under bed storage is accessible from both the bedroom and the back garage doors. The stunning wall, which even boasts some family art, covers the water tanks and other equipment in the bus's back.
The Vanity & Work Space
While many skoolie conversions don't have room for more than the bed in the rear, Lucy and Glen somehow managed to fit way more than that. Across from the sleeping cloud is a little vanity that the DIYers built themselves. Although the drawers were a "nightmare" to get right, the finished product made it worthwhile.
Once they figured out the drawers, some coats of paint and statement doorknobs transformed the corner into a mini dressing table. Right next to the bed and under the window, Lucy and Glen built a desk for work stuff, painting, and jewelry. When not in use, it's a great spot for fresh flowers.
Blood, Sweat, & Tears
Lucy and Glen called their beautiful skoolie the "definition" of blood, sweat, and tears. And while the adventure buddies planned on taking their home-on-wheels on some European adventures, they changed their minds at the end of the conversion. Well, kind of.
The couple still wants to hit the road on a skoolie - just not this one. Glen and Lucy bought a second school bus and are in the midst of transforming that one. The handy duo decided to use their first project as a luxury bed and breakfast until they find a buyer for the breathtaking motorhome.