This Couple Transformed a Bus Into a Boho-Chic Motorhome
| LAST UPDATE 04/11/2021
Chase and Mariajosé were living a happy life with their two pups in Nashville when he lost his job. So the go-getting couple made the best out of a hard situation: They bought a bus and turned it into a home to live life on the road.
Boy Meets Girl
When Chase and Mariajosé met, it felt like a match made in heaven. "I wasn't supposed to be at work, but I went in anyway and Mariajosé walked in looking for something we didn't carry," Chase explained.
"I offered to call another store that never answered as a way to find time to talk to her." When the other shop never responded, it gave Chase plenty of time to strike up a conversation with Mariajosé. They went on their first date soon after, and things got serious between the lovebirds.
He Lost His Job
It wasn't long before the happy couple was deeply committed to each other, buying a house and adopting two dogs together. But things took an unexpected turn when Chase lost his job. "We both agreed adventure was the next step," they recalled. Mariajosé was a makeup artist and could continue working remotely.
And so the young pair decided to make lemonade with the lemons life threw at them. Rather than get down in the gutters when Chase became unemployed, he and Mariajosé planned to buy a bus and turn it into a small home-on-wheels to live life on the road with their pups.
The Thomas School Bus
When the aspiring skoolie-livers found this 2004 Thomas MVP Safety Liner, they knew it was perfect for them. "When we bought this, we paid $3,500 for it, and it had about 197,000 miles on it, give or take," Chase said. "The bus has a caterpillar inline-six 31:26, a 7.2-liter engine - it's a powerhouse."
Chase added that the vehicle is "not necessarily top-end," but it would get the couple where they needed to go. The lovers chose a school bus rather than an RV because of how much weight the cheese bus can hold and its structural security/foundation. Plus, the new owners wanted to customize their home-on-wheels themselves.
Everything Must Go
Before the conversion process could truly begin, Chase and Mariajosé had to do what all skoolie-renovators do: gut the bus of its existing furnishings. With only 250 square feet to call home, every inch of space counted and would need to be used. So they got started with ripping out the seats.
"Some of [the seats] came out super super quick and easy and then others didn't want to do anything," Chase said of this stage of the renovation. "So, I'll be glad when the demolition of the seats is over." Once the seats were gone, the couple was met with a pleasant surprise - floors in good condition!
A Clean Slate
While some DIYers tear out all of the bus's original flooring before beginning construction, these skoolie-owners chose not to. "We decided to keep all of the rubber inside the bus because of the condition of the underneath as well as some areas that we exposed," Chase said.
He continued, "There was zero rust that we have been able to find anywhere on this bus." The couple lucked out with a vehicle in incredible condition. Keeping the rubber flooring meant they saved a chunk of time on this stage of the conversion. While Chase and Mariajosé kept the floor, they did add new layers on top.
The DIYers made sure to patch up all of the holes left behind where the seats used to be. They then used the remaining rubber floor as a vapor barrier and put their subfloor on top. With the help of Chase's dad, the couple fit the wooden sheets perfectly around the wheel boxes.
While the skoolie didn't look like much yet, Mariajosé and Chase were actually quite close to getting started on the serious parts of the build. The final layer of more aesthetically-pleasing floorboards would go in soon, along with sturdy new walling.
Time for New Flooring
The shot below shows the walls once they were insulated. The DIYers ran electricity before adding the final layer of walling on top. They then added the gorgeous flooring - a standard laminate from Lowe's. "It wasn't the easiest to get everything perfect," Chase and Mariajosé admitted.
Measuring everything twice and carefully cutting the new floor to fit nicely was no simple task. "Now the fun starts because we get to make our plans real," the couple excitedly said. "We get to start building where the bathroom, kitchen and room was planned. The ideas are endless."
Putting up the Walls
With the new flooring in and electricity preparations complete, the duo started putting up the final layer of walling. Mariajosé and Chase bought well-priced pine beadboard sheets from Lowe's and a local lumber yard to cover the insulation. "We want to paint them," the skoolie-owners said at the time.
They added, "We are thinking of white to match with the ceiling and make the space feel bigger, it's going to look so good with the floors." Chase and Mariajosé also started marking out their floorplan onto the bus using painter's tape. That way, they could really visualize the design and make any necessary changes.
One Month In!
One month into the bus build, the DIYers had made incredible progress. New walls and floors were in, and the ceiling was painted with a nice high-gloss white finish in place of the original cream. A few coats of white paint on the walls made the transition from wall to windows to ceiling a smooth one.
Chase and Mariajosé thought the dark floorboards would contrast beautifully with light walls, and the shot above proves their instincts were far from wrong. It was now time to begin framing the space, which meant creating the skeletons for all of the rooms and even some of the furniture,
The Bedroom in Progress
All the way in the back of the bus, Chase and Mariajosé built the frame for their queen-size bed. The skoolie renovators designed a garage on the other side of the bed's back wall. "We had originally planned two feet of garage space," Chase shared. "We shrunk that down to about 18 inches."
There, the duo later put their yoga mats, snowboarding equipment, extra chairs, VMax tanks AGM batteries, and "the heart and soul of our solar setup... a 4000-watt inverter," Chase said. But the handy garage is not the only storage compartment they organized in the home.
Accessible Under-Bed Storage
Check it out - there's a whole other storage compartment underneath the large bed! To make for easy access, Chase and Mariajosé designed the bed so that it could be lifted up, rather than needing to squat down and uncomfortably search for things under the fixture.
The DIYers later stored multiple water tanks in this handy under-bed storage. Since the storage would be accessible from the top, the skoolie-dwellers added more wooden boards and trimming to finish off the bed, covering the existing holes. Other parts of the bus were quickly progressing, too.
With the bed finished, Mariajosé and Chased moved their focus to the rest of the bus. Seen on the left of the picture below are the beginnings of the skoolie's wardrobes. On the right is the kitchen counter, not yet in its final position. The corners of the two living room couches are also visible.
"After a couple of weeks working really hard and nonstop on the bus, we are finally seeing things come together," the couple shared. "The bed is complete and functional. Storage and 'laundry room' is framed. We painted and painted, then we painted a little bit more."
Adding More Walls
With the furniture framing nearly done, the DIYers started putting up the walls to divide the motorhome's separate areas. "We got the hall wall up, and close to complete," they said. "It only needs trim and paint at this point." Visible on the right side is a wooden table that Chase and Mariajosé hung on the wall using a little mirror hook.
They designed the piece of furniture to be portable so it can be taken down and moved into the space between the two future couches. Metal legs unfold from the table's bottom to make it stand. The DIYers saved space by designing a practical two-in-one dining/living room that later came together beautifully.
Bathroom in Progress
Once walled up, the bathroom measured about 5 feet by six feet. A bit of the in-progress-shower can be seen in the lower right-hand corner. The skoolie-renovators found the shower base at a discount scrapyard. They put the vanity with a standard-sized sink on the left.
The couple later connected the sink to an almost 60-gallon gray water tank. For when they gotta go, Chase and Mariajosé bought a standard RV toilet and connected it to a 65-gallon black water tank. All of that water would eventually be fed from a 100-gallon freshwater tank.
Closets & Bedroom
The shower and toilet wouldn't be the only room with some privacy. Once the closet walls were in place (but still missing doors), the bedroom became more closed off from the rest of the little home-on-wheels. While the back wall was painted, the DIYers still needed to add some finishing touches, including trim.
The comfortably-sized closets would later house the couple's clothes, some miscellaneous items, and a laundry machine. "We are going to put racks and shelves in the wardrobes this week and then find some doors for them as well," Chase and Mariajosé shared on social media.
Cushions in Place!
Things were soon coming along quickly in the living room. The framing for the couches was complete with fresh paint and trimming. When it was time for finding the perfect cushions, Mariajosé and Chase knew they needed something custom-made to fit the DIY sofas.
"We had several options when it came to seat cushions, one of which was paying someone to make them for us," the couple explained. "While that would be easy, it's not our style. We watched a YouTube video, bought our fabric, and repurposed an RV mattress while we sewed the box cushions for the sofa."
Workin' on the Outside
The skoolie-owners wanted their bus to look as hip on the outside as it eventually would on the inside. But before giving the exterior a fresh coat of paint, Mariajosé and Chase spent a lot of time getting it ready for the new look. They sanded the vehicle and cleaned it thoroughly with trisodium phosphate.
The DIYers then placed painter's tape to avoid painting mishaps and used a Wagner power sprayer to apply the new color. "The painting project was quite a journey and we absolutely HATED the painting prep... or maybe it was just the wind that made it so bad," they said.
The Fresh Exterior
The duo chose a grey-green color for the bus's new exterior. On the skoolie's roof is a rooftop deck that the couple built and stained. "We spend most of our nights here, just watching the sunset," Mariajosé said of the 8-by-8 foot amenity. A hole in the deck's middle provides a spot for a big umbrella.
The various solar panels seen above have cables that run through one of the walls inside the home's closets and connect to the charge controllers inside the bedroom. The skoolie's exterior also boasts plenty of storage accessible from the outside. There, the DIYers put propane tanks, a backup generator, and other necessities.
The Finished Interior
Now let's take a look at the breathtaking interior. With construction finished, Chase and Mariajosé added spunk and personality to make the house-on-wheels a home. The couple decorated with earth-tones, some pops of color, and plenty of textures in the lampshade, rugs, and pillows.
The finished look is a stunning boho-chic that feels welcoming yet spacious in the 250-square-foot motorhome. Aside from making it aesthetically pleasing, it's also practical. There are two seatbelts on each sofa, providing space for a total of four passengers plus the driver to travel safely.
The Mini Wood Stove
On the right side, across from the fridge, is the motorhome's GRIZZLY Cubic Mini Wood Stove. "We've had the bus in temperatures of around 20 degrees [Fahrenheit], and this thing has kept us warm," Chase shared about the product, which he said was a "must-have."
"We get about four-and-a-half hours burn time on a full load of wood - which, for something this small, is pretty awesome," the proud home-owner continued. However, Chase added that the mini heater's downside is that it requires "a lot" of storage space for the wood.
The Living Room
The couple ripped out "all of the heavy metal stuff" at the bus's front and built a lightweight wooden frame instead. They bought cloth and a sewing machine and put together curtains for the living room windows themselves to "save as much money as we could," Marijosé said.
The DIYers stained the armrests on the sides of each couch to make for easy cleanups. The couch cushions that they made themselves using an old queen-size mattress turned out incredible, and wait until you see what this gorgeous living room converts into...
A Magical Guest Room
Just as Mariajosé and Chase split up the original mattress, they can also put it back together at a moment's notice. Yup, that's right - This tiny living room can also convert into a queen-sized guest bed. And that's not the last aspect of this multi-functional piece of furniture.
Mariajosé and Chase built storage units underneath the cushions of both the couches. Little baskets hung on the armrests' side provide convenient space for laptops, tablets, and more. The key to comfortable tiny living is undoubtedly beauty and functionality.
This rustic kitchen is one of Chase and Mariajosé's favorite areas on the bus. "When we were building the school bus, we wanted to have something to be more private, so we went with an L-shaped kitchen," Mariajosé said. While the refrigerator's position takes away from the open-space concept, it does allow for more cabinetry.
The duo chose a full-size 110-v electric fridge because it was "significantly more efficient than some of the apartment-sized fridges," explained Chase. They also installed a double-burner stove. They painted the cabinets in earthy-tones to bring a beautiful pop of color into the home.
Ample Closet Space
The couple's small home-on-wheels has a surprising amount of closet space, with the shot below showing just part of it. Behind the rustic wooden doors are customized wardrobes with plenty of room to hang clothes and convenient cloth baskets that hang from the doors' insides.
While the skoolie-residents have a lot of space, Mariajosé clarified that they still gave away many things before making the transition into tiny living, choosing to keep only the stuff that's most important to the couple. Behind another one of these wooden doors is the finished bathroom.
The Stunning Bathroom
It's hard to believe the bathroom seen below is inside of an old school bus. Mariajosé and Chase chose subway tiles and marble for the shower's final look. The DIYers tiled it themselves and said they didn't have any issues with things falling apart as they travel around.
The couple screwed hooks above the toilet to hang their towels and added hanging storage for shampoos and soaps. They usually store a latter on the bathroom door's backside that can be easily moved to the bedroom's skylight to access the rooftop deck.
The Bathroom Vanity
By the door is the finished vanity against an earth-green painted wall with detailed light fixtures. The skoolie-owners installed six-gallon propane and electric water heater for hot water in the restroom and kitchen. As mentioned earlier, Chase and Mariajosé also installed a 100-gallon freshwater water tank in the skoolie.
"We thought that was going to be more than enough... for the two of us and our dogs," Chase said at the time. "But now we're contemplating... adding a second 100-gallon water tank." Past the bathroom is the couple's private - and very stylish - bedroom.
"We wanted to make [the bedroom] as cozy and nice as possible," Mariajosé said. Needless to say, the DIYers succeeded in their mission. The private room is filled with natural light during the day, with the earth tones and tongue and groove panels creating a snug atmosphere.
Sometimes, motorhome living means realizing what you need only once you're moved in. After some time traveling on the bus, Mariajosé and Chase added two sturdy shelves for extra decor-space above the bed. On the other side of the white wall is the bus's mini garage.
But sleeping and waking up to lovely views is not the only thing the homey bedroom is good for. Chase and Mariajosé's incredible floorplan allowed for some entertainment space in the room. The couple managed to fit a nicely-sized flatscreen TV that can extend to face the bed.
Below the television is a little media console from TJ Maxx. The cabinet provides the perfect amount of space for Chase's Xbox, PlayStation, and a few games. On the right side, the duo hung some chic hats for decor and created an amazing makeup station for Mariajosé.
The Makeup Area
It's hardly surprising that this nook is Mariajosé's favorite spot in the small home. After all, every makeup artist needs a fabulous space to work their magic. "Giving my life to the road didn't mean I was going to give all of my passion away," she explained.
"We got some IKEA cabinets where I'm able to store all my makeup. It doesn't work the best because my house pretty much moves all the time," Mariajosé admitted. But she said that so far, she's been able to make it work and has continued filming tutorials on the road.
On To New Adventures
Mariajosé, Chase, and their two furry pups have had endless adventures on their skoolie, which they named "Tío Aventura," Spanish for "Adventure Uncle." But these go-getters are always looking for the next adventure and decided to sell their beautiful motorhome.
"Tío has been sold and is going to be loved and adored by so many other people in the coming months," the couple shared on Instagram. "Our bus will be part time adventure home for the new owner and part time rental." But the happy couple continues living life on the road in style - now in a van!
Just when we thought Chase and Mariajosé couldn't possibly downsize any further, they moved into a van with their two dogs. After searching for nearly five months and looking "coast-to-coast," as Chase said, the pair finally found the ideal home to share with their furry friends.
The couple flew from Tennessee to the west coast to pick up the van from Perris, California. After getting their new ride, they drove it straight back to Tennessee to get started on the van-to-home conversion. Hardly surprising after the magic Mariajosé and Chase worked on their old bus, the latest transformation is incredible.
The van is a 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 with a 170-inch wheelbase. Chase explained that the model is the "extended" version of the vehicle but still not the longest van available. Basically, the couple chose the medium-size option for their new home.
Just as they named their old skoolie "Tío Aventura," using Spanish to honor Mariajosé's Venezuelan roots, the travel buddies chose a new name in Spanish for their latest down-sized home. They named it "Chevede," which Chase said means "cool, awesome rad."
The finished home-on-wheels has a lounge and bedroom, bathroom, and a kitchen. The DIYers built overhead cupboards for much of their storage space. Above the driver's seat, visible in the photo below, Mariajosé and Chase lowered the ceiling to create more storage.
The handy duo also installed recess lighting throughout the van, including in the front. The passenger seat can swivel around and become another seat fixture for their living space, perfect for when the couple has friends over. Let's take a closer look inside.
A Look Inside
Mariajosé and Chase bought their new ride at the beginning of the global pandemic and spent six months transforming it while much of the world was in lockdown. The couple installed an under-mount apron-style sink in the kitchen that looks as big as many apartment fixtures.
"We used to have a huge fridge in the bus, so having a good-size fridge inside the van without taking the whole space over was very important," Mariajosé explained. The couple went with a 12-volt, 130-liter Isotherm Cruise Elegance refrigerator. The top of the appliance is visible in the bottom corner of the above shot.
The Slide-Out Pantry
The van-dwellers put a vacuum, water filtration system, and water heater under the sink. In the overhead cupboard above the sink are their plates, coffee-making tools, and other everyday items. The couple stored these in little baskets to avoid stuff rattling around while they drive.
Next to the sink is one of Mariajosé's "must-haves" for the van: a slide-out pantry that extends even further than in the photo above. "In the bus, we barely had any space for our canned food and dry food," she shared. "When we were building the van, we knew we needed a space dedicated to [that]."
It's All About the Views
On the other side of the kitchen is a multi-purpose space with lots of prep room for when the couple is cooking. They installed a two-burner electric induction cooktop. The kitchen trash is hidden away in a small compartment, making sure the van doesn't get stinky.
Under the spacious counter are plenty of pull-out drawers, which are locked while driving. Chase and Mariajosé put towels, a blender, pots, pans, and much of their clothes in there. But arguably, the best part of the kitchen is cooking with a view. Unlike the skoolie, the van can roll onto tons of different landscapes.
Even though they downsized big time, the DIYers still wanted a functional bathroom in their home. "We decided to keep it all in one place; it's a wet bath," Mariajosé explained of the tiny room. "This time, we did not go with a whole black water system. We decided to go with a composting toilet.
The bathroom has a retractable shower door to keep all the water inside when they shower. The amenity includes two shower heads: a fixed one and a handheld one. The couple installed a dispenser on the wall with their shampoo, conditioner, and body wash to keep things organized.
An Outdoor Shower
But that's not the only place for showering on the luxury van. Mariajosé and Chase also installed an outdoor shower system linked to the back of the van. The fixture is perfect for washing off after long adventures, bathing under the stars, and cleaning up the pups.
"We have 46 gallons of freshwater, which is underneath the step in our living room area," shared Mariajosé. Aside from the shower, the back of the van also features a small flip-up table that's ideal for outdoor dining or just placing their shampoos, etc., while bathing outside.
This part of the bus is a multi-purpose area that includes the duo's living space, workspace, and bedroom. "For the layout of the back, we decided to go with an L-shaped sofa, which has worked perfectly," said Mariajosé. "It's very comfy for being in a van."
They also put in a large television that can function as a computer monitor. To power the TV and other appliances, the DIYers have four 142-amp lithium iron phosphate batteries, a 3,000-watt Victron inverter, a 60-amp charge controller, and 600 watts of solar on the roof.
A Murphy Bed
The dining/working table is on a lagoon mount, which means it can be moved around and removed when the couple wants to turn the lounge into a bedroom. While some van conversions use the sofa and table as a base for the bed, Chase and Mariajosé chose a murphy bed system instead.
The bed is hidden away inside the wall where the television is mounted. All the DIYers have to do when it's time to catch some Zs is unlock the murphy bed and pull it down. Not only that, but once the bed is lowered, they have access to more storage space previously hidden away behind the bed.