One Young Woman Is Transforming a School Bus Into Her Ideal Tiny Home
| LAST UPDATE 03/18/2021
Cassie dreamt of a tiny home she could travel around the country in. After buying a school bus, she put her carpentry skills to work and started making that dream a reality. Here's the transformation so far.
Cassie Furlong grew up in the Upper Midwest of the United States. She lived mostly in Minnesota, but her family was not one to stay put in one place. The Furlongs loved to travel around the country.
"I spent my childhood in the backseat of my family car road tripping around and outside the great state of Minnesota," Cassie shared. "My most beloved place was a seven-hour drive from the cities to the northern border of the state."
She Was Raised a Handy Gal
Road-tripping was not the only form of quality time Cassie spent with her family. The young girl's dad was a carpenter, and she often watched him as he worked and built. When in need of help, Furlong's father usually called to his daughter for assistance.
"From a young age, I developed the skills to make useful items with my hands," Furlong explained. "The art of woodworking takes trial and error of which I developed by age 12." These skills would prove invaluable for fulfilling one of Cassie's biggest dreams.
Big Dreams of a Tiny Home
There was hardly a thing Cassie loved more than exploring the great outdoors. She dreamt of a way to travel comfortably around the country, getting to stop in gorgeous destinations. With the rise in popularity of tiny homes, Furlong suddenly had an idea.
Cassie wanted to mix her love of nature with her carpentry skills to create the ideal on-the-go house. "I have always loved traveling and spending time in the outdoors," she said. "I decided to combine these passions into a project converting [an] old school bus into a camper."
Her 2007 GMC Mini School Bus
The innovative young woman was not the first to turn a school bus into a tiny home. Using the school vehicle as a base for a tiny house was likely an appealing idea because it already has four walls, a roof, and it's on wheels! Plus, it's usually cheaper than an RV.
So when Furlong came across a bus for sale, she knew it was time to get started on her passion project. "This dream recently became a reality when I found a 2007 GMC mini school bus for sale in my hometown," Cassie said. "So, of course, I had to buy it!"
Picking a Name For Her Home
The first thing on Cassie's to-do list after receiving the minibus was to choose a name for her future home. She took to Instagram and asked friends for suggestions. Petunia, Tedy, Marguerite, Thomas, and Lightning Bug were some of the recommendations Furlong received.
Ultimately, Cassie went with something totally different. "The bus was a challenge I took on to fulfill my childhood nostalgia," she explained. "It only felt fitting to name my tiny home on wheels after what I was referred to as a child, Sassy." Now it was time to turn Sassy into the dream mobile home.
Starting From the Outside
First impressions are important, and Furlong wanted her bus's exterior to match the gorgeousness that would soon be inside. That meant the future mobile home needed a major paint job. Cassie looked to the outdoors for color ideas and settled on a beautiful shade of green.
"Inspired by spring to find the perfect exterior paint color," Furlong said. "I started this transformation so one day I can travel the world and see beautiful places. It only feels right that I find a color that reminds me of nature!" A few more outer details needed attention next.
Deciding What to Get Rid Of
Furlong removed the big, bulky mirrors found at the front of school buses since they weren't necessary for solo travels. The young carpenter couldn't decide whether to remove the vehicle's STOP sign and asked her followers, "Should it stay, or should it go?"
The tiny home didn't need it, but it was a beautiful reminder of where the project started -- a mini school bus. Cassie ultimately decided to keep the sign but painted it white. Now there was one more thing that needed taking care of before moving on to the interior.
Workin' on the Wheels
If Cassie wanted to take her tiny home around the country and on rough terrain, she needed to fix the wheels. The old bus was also filled with dust and dirt that had accumulated throughout the years. Safe to say, Furlong had a lot of work to do.
The hands-on homeowner used a special sanding machine to smooth down the wheels' centers and the bus's front and back bumpers. After getting rid of the rust and leveling the surfaces, Cassie painted the details white. She then moved on to the bus's interior.
Redesigning the Interior
Furlong put a lot of thought into what the outside of the mobile home would look like. No detail escaped her as she painted the exterior walls, roof, rims, bumpers, and even the stop sign. But all of that was arguably the easy part. Now? It was time to get started on the inside.
Creating a tiny home was no easy task. Furlong needed to figure out how to fit everything she needed inside a mini school bus. She was not a high-maintenance traveler, but she wanted her tiny home to be a total oasis on the road. But first, she needed to take apart what was already inside.
Removing the Seats
At the moment, the bus had no room to become a tiny home, as Cassie had to remove all of the old seats. The leather structures used to carry tens of children every day, so we can imagine they were screwed in well! Furlong spent a couple of hours on the grueling task.
The seat removal was Cassie's first big challenge. "The hardest part so far was the hours spent grinding out the bus seats," she shared on Instagram. "If you know of anyone looking for bus seats, send them my way!" Now that the vehicle was cleared, the real fun began.
Adding a New Floor
The bus seats were finally gone, but the floor wasn't looking too good. Cassie couldn't imagine climbing onto a tiny home filled with rubber flooring after a long day of hiking. She needed something practical but aesthetically pleasing. While Furlong couldn't yet make a decision, she got started on the base.
Cassie bought floor insulation material and some affordable wood. After Furlong carefully measured the bus and sawed the customized wood pieces, she installed it on top of the insulation. "Two days of work later, and we have an insulated subfloor," the hard-worker said. "Now, time to create a floor plan!"
The Floor Plan
Before building the inside of the tiny home, Cassie carefully planned each aspect of it. No nook or cranny could be taken for granted in the old school bus. Furlong wanted a design that flowed but also fit all of her living essentials. So, she got to the drawing board.
The young designer needed to think about many aspects- where would the kitchen appliances be plugged in? How would she go to the bathroom? Where did she want to sleep? After many different blueprints, Furlong finally chose the one she liked most.
From the Drawing Board To the Bus
Cassie had the perfect blueprint for her tiny home. With the floor base installed, she could finally get to work on building the rooms and furniture. To make the building and design process easier, Furlong used painter's tape to mark the plan onto the bus's actual floor.
After keeping the driver's seat at the front of the bus, Cassie wanted to add two benches with a table as well. Across from that, she'd put a sofa bench that doubled as a guest bed. Past the dining and living area would be the kitchen and then the bedroom. Furlong also wanted an outdoor shower and toilet situation.
She Upgraded the Engine
Cassie was proud of her work so far. The outside of the bus looked incredible, and she had figured out a design that would turn the bus into a glamping dream. But all of that wouldn't matter much if she couldn't take her tiny home where it needed to go.
Furlong didn't want a cute little house parked in her driveway. She wanted to travel around the country in it. So before doing further work on the interior design, Cassie worked on the bus's engine. She even replaced the battery with a NAPA Legend 75.
A Road-Trip Intermission
With the battery replaced and the engine all checked out, Cassie felt confident that her bus could now handle a long drive. Although she just started working on the inside, the outdoors lover was tempted to take the bus out for a spin. So, she grabbed the keys and went off.
"Took a break from the renovation for a little road trip," Cassie shared on social media. The passionate traveler was already seeing the fruits of her labor. She drove Sassy to beautiful forests and stunning bodies of water around Minnesota. After the short hiatus, Furlong got back on the grind.
Insulating the Walls
With the insulation and base flooring installed, Cassie moved on to the walls. Winters in the Upper Midwest were certainly tough, so Furlong had to make sure the bus walls would keep her and any travel companions warm. While school buses are usually insulated, they are not intended for long-term stays.
Using measuring tape, power tools, and building wood, Cassie made a frame on the walls for insulation. She then covered the purple foam in light wood pieces. Furlong left in the original white metal ceiling. The vehicle looked less like a yellow bus and more like a future home.
Cassie then started the furniture, which she designed and built herself. On the left, after the door, Furlong constructed two wooden benches that would eventually have a table in the middle for eating. To maximize the space, both seating structures had discreet storage included.
Across from the dining area, Cassie built another seating space. The mini living room had a bench with storage underneath. Furlong put the pieces for a guest bed inside of the seat. She planned to make use of the multi-functional area when she traveled with friends or family. Next was the kitchen.
Building the Kitchen
With the living and dining room almost complete, Cassie built the kitchen next. After all, what good would the benches be if she had nothing to eat while she sat on them? Plus, the young carpenter also had a passion for baking treats and needed an on-the-go cooking area.
Furlong designed a counter space and cabinet area that included storage space as well as holes for appliances. Like most things so far, Cassie built the structure from scratch using power tools and wood. It wasn't long before the kitchen's skeleton was complete.
Making the Home Compact and Efficient
Once the frames were set in place, Cassie added storage space and a sink. The designer built a compact counter space that had room for three cabinet doors underneath. She stuck with the beautiful yet affordable light wood material for the kitchen cabinets.
Cassie cut a hole on the new counter to fit a small sink. The plumbing aspect would be dealt with later. Trying to cut costs wherever possible, Furlong snagged the cute appliance at no cost. It was an old bar sink and looked good as new with a little refurbishing.
"Can't Let Any Space Get Wasted"
While one side of the kitchen already had three cabinets, the other side would be mostly dedicated to the cooking appliances. Cassie needed more storage space. After all, she would need to keep not just food, but clothes and camping supplies stored in the tiny home.
As Furlong looked around the small house, she realized the wall above the kitchen sink was totally blank! The clever young woman built more storage space there. "The cutest little cabinet," Cassie excitedly shared. "Can't let any space get wasted." Minus plumbing, one side of the kitchen was basically complete.
Many people who camp in nature choose easy-to-prep meals that don't require a lot of materials. But Cassie wanted to up her camping game with the tiny home and designed a full kitchen. She built customized frames to hold a small oven, 2-burner stove, and a mini-fridge across from the sink.
Furlong planned to plug the small refrigerator into an electric source in the future. The oven and stove were powered by propane. Very soon, Cassie would be able to cook everything from bacon and eggs to pies and cookies. But, as she later explained, always in an eco-friendly way.
Saving Money and the Environment
Furlong was ballin' on a budget as she built her dream mobile home. Whenever she could, Cassie got things for free, like the old bar sink she painted. But building furniture independently and refurbishing old appliances was good for more than just her wallet.
"A large part of bus living and camping is the no trace left behind policy," Cassie explained. "From a young age, I learned to conserve the outdoors." Furlong's eco-consciousness motivated her to be earth-friendly as she transformed the old bus. And she was indeed transforming it into something magical.
The Amazing Progress
The old school bus already came a long way from where it started. The exterior was so beautiful that it hardly looked like a school bus. But the interior changes were arguably the most incredible part. "It's really starting to come together," Cassie said of the progress.
She wasn't the only one who thought so, as various social media users congratulated her on the progress. "Good job on all the hard work. I love it!" one commenter applauded. After all of that tough work, Cassie needed a place to rest. So, she focused on the bedroom next.
Cassie's floor plan put the communal hang out spots, like the mini living and dining areas, towards the bus's front, leaving the bedroom in the back. To create a sense of privacy in the tiny home, Furlong built thin walls between the kitchen area and the bedroom.
The area left beside the bus's emergency door was the perfect size for a queen-sized bed. Always thinking practically, Cassie lofted the mattress and created plenty of storage space under it. "Even though there is still a lot of work to do, it's come a long way," Furlong said when she completed the sleeping area.
"The Coziest Spot"
Once complete, Cassie called her new bed, "the coziest spot," and it's easy to see why. Tucked into the back of the bus and surrounded by sunlight, the bedroom felt warm while still bringing the beautiful outdoors in. But all of those windows could be problematic.
The bus had an old air conditioning and heating system, but Furlong needed more than that for the cold winter months. So Cassie got a customized down quilt from Enlightened Equipment. The "ultralight" quilt guaranteed practicality and warmth. There was one aspect of the bedroom that still needed attention though.
Dealing With the Bus's Ramp
The back of the tiny home transformed into a cozy oasis, but remnants of the school bus remained. Next to Cassie's bed was an accessibility ramp. The young carpenter couldn't decide whether or not to keep it, so she asked friends and followers for their opinions.
"It's heavy. I would remove it to save gas, and free up useable space," suggested one person. Another recommended using the ramp as a headboard for her bad. Ultimately, Cassie decided to keep the structure because it "works great as a patio and outdoor table."
Creating a Power Station
Things looked great, but without any power, the tiny home was more like a tent on wheels. Cassie got the kitchen appliances hooked up to electricity and powered by solar panels, an efficient and green option. To charge her phone and other electronics, Furlong got a power station.
The innovative builder partnered with MAXOAK for a solar generator, wireless charging battery. "Thanks to MAXOAK, I can work on the go with the Power Station," Cassie shared on Instagram. She soon got back to toiling over the bus's interior, which still needed many finishing touches.
The Wooden Flooring
Most of the tiny home's interior was covered in light wood material, and Cassie wanted to bring more style and sass into the Sassy bus. The walls needed paint, and the floors needed finishing, although they came a long way from the school bus's original rubber ground.
Furlong found rustic dark wooden floorboards for her home. With the rubber floor, insulation on top, a layer of carpenter's wood, and then the beautiful floorboards, Cassie hoped her feet would stay warm in the wintertime. Plus, the wooden planks looked great with her shoes.
Always On the Move
Although the Sassy bus still needed some work before it became Cassie's ideal dream home, that didn't stop the nature-lover from using her new vehicle for outdoor adventures. The house might've needed some paint on the walls, but it already got Furlong to all kinds of destinations.
"From the sunny afternoons in Glacier to a chilly sunrise hike in Acadia," Cassie shared about her travels with Sassy. The nature buff drove her tiny home to a few national parks and even celebrated her birthday on the bus! She baked plenty of delicious goods in her tiny kitchen for the celebrations.
The ambitious midwesterner has already taken full advantage of her mobile home. Cassie has hosted friends and spent magical nights by the fairy lights hanging off her bus. But the work inside the house still isn't done. So, what's next for the young builder and her Sassy vehicle?
For starters, Furlong is trying to decide what color to paint the walls of her small home. Perhaps something light to keep the space open, or a warmer color to add coziness. She likely also wants to paint her kitchen cabinets and make a final decision on the flooring. We can't wait to see the progress!