Jessie Lipskin lived and worked in New York City until she decided to change her lifestyle. Lipskin spent three years transforming a 1966 bus into a tiny home, and the results are absolutely breathtaking.
Meet Jessie Lipskin
Meet Jessie Lipskin, a young native of Manhattan, New York. In her late 20s, Lipskin bought what would later become a gorgeous tiny home. But let's rewind a couple of years and see how this journey began.
Jessie lived in New York City when she saw the riveting documentary Garbage Warrior. The film followed a group of people dedicated to "Earthship biotecture," building self-sufficient communities that mix both modern design, function, and eco-consciousness. The new knowledge sparked a fire in Lipskin.
She Was Inspired
Lipskin felt inspired by the work in Garbage Warrior. She watched in fascination as architect Michael Reynolds built incredible structures from recycled materials, all with functionality and nature conservation in mind. Jessie decided she wanted to live in a more eco-friendly way.
"The transition was pretty natural after I read more about sustainable lifestyles, Earthships... all of that," Jessie explained. "I kind of just went all in." Lipskin was already vegan, which she viewed as a sustainable practice, but wanted to do more. It wasn't long before an idea popped into her head.
Finding the Perfect Bus
Looking for ways to live more sustainably, Jessie came across the tiny home revolution. She saw people buying buses and RVs and transforming them into incredible homes that were usually more earth-friendly than the average house. It seemed perfect. Now she needed to find a vehicle!
Lipskin searched the web for options. But for the most part, she didn't like the style of traditional RVs. Eventually, Jessie found a 1966 GMC Commuter Greyhound bus on eBay. The vintage vehicle had the ideal retro aesthetic. But there was one problem...
The Bus Was in Cali
Lipskin was excited about the 1966 bus. The 40 feet by 9 feet vehicle cost about $7,000. But it was currently in California, and the NYC native didn't have a driver's license to pick it up! Thankfully, she got by with a little help from her friends.
"My two friends drove it back to upstate New York and I rented a place there for a bit while working on it and gutting it," she said. By the time Jessie and the bus were in the same state, the city woman had gotten a driver's license and was good to go!
Lipskin began work on the bus in upstate New York but eventually transferred the tiny house-to-be to New Jersey. "I know people who could help me work on it there," explained Jessie of the move. So the vintage vehicle went to its new home in Asbury Park.
But how could such an old bus handle so many transitions? Lipskin made sure the engine and motor were all fixed up for the drive and had a transmission oil filter change. Seeing some of the original parts was incredible; California's desert climate did well for the bus's maintenance. The renovations soon got underway.
A Fresh Coat of Paint
The bus was pretty incredible on the outside. In fact, the same model appeared in the 1994 thriller film Speed, adding to its nostalgic and retro vibes. But up close, the vehicle looked too old and dirty for Lipskin's liking. Something had to be done.
Jessie and her handy helpers gave the bus a major exterior makeover with just a new coat of paint! Lipskin chose a fresh and bright color that brought life to the old bus. They also upgraded other aspects: "We powder-coated the bumpers to help prevent rust," she shared. It was now time to work on the inside.
The outside of the bus looked rocking. The new shiny exterior made a great first impression on friends and family who came for a peek. But the interior was a whole different story. The bus was filled with its original seating, floors, walls, and ceilings.
While Jessie could certainly appreciate the Greyhound's history, she didn't really want to feel like she lived in a 1960s vehicle. The vehicle had to be gutted. So with some help, Lipskin removed the paneling on the ceiling and walls. She also tore out all of the seats.
The inside was now empty, and Lipskin could see the layout for her future home more easily. Jessie chose to park the bus in Asbury Park because she knew some talented fellows out there who could assist with the transformation, including a master carpenter.
Lipskin hired an Asbury carpenter to design and build custom woodwork for her tiny home. Due to the unique measurements of the small houses, many owners choose to customize their own frames and furniture. Now that the bus was cleared, the framing could begin!
Let the Building Begin!
Since the bus was parked in the chilly northeast, and the renovation would take a while to complete, Jessie did something to make the vehicle warmer. Lipskin added new insulation to the walls and ceiling of the bus before the framing started.
Once the insulation was finished, the Asbury carpenter started the custom woodwork on the bus. The skeleton for one of the closets in the tiny home can be seen in the picture above. This custom piece served a double purpose: future storage and ceiling support. Then they worked on the bedroom area.
Framing the Bedroom
Almost all of the furniture in the tiny home needed to be custom made. Except for appliances, which would come in later, everything else from the kitchen countertops to the bed was built specifically for the 400 square feet bus. This photograph captured the frame for the future bedroom.
"Framing out the back bedroom area," Jessie shared on Instagram of the progress. The bed would be big enough for two and feature plenty of storage in the surrounding areas. The carpenter made narrow cabinets between the windows and the mattress space, and an area at the end of the bed would provide access to the water filter.
Framing the Kitchen
Once the framing for the bedroom was complete, the carpenter moved on to the kitchen area. The cooking room needed a customized framework for a small refrigerator, oven/stove, and sink. Jessie also wanted a significant amount of counter space. Could she have it all in her tiny home?
Apparently, yes! The expert carpenter had a perfect design that would fit everything Jessie needed in her home's 400 square feet. But regardless of counter space, moving into a tiny house required a bit of a minimalist lifestyle. Did Jessie have what it took?
Could She Manage Tiny Living?
A peek into the framing for the home's bathroom shows a small white sink. The minute appliance indicated a general rule for tiny home living: everything needed to be downsized and minimized to live comfortably. Thankfully, Lipskin had plenty of experience in that arena.
"I grew up in Manhattan, so smaller square footage and limited space have never been an issue for me," Jessie explained. "I've always been very organized and love the idea of holding onto only what you really need." Living in New York City taught Lipskin many lessons about material items.
A Minimalist Lifestyle
The lessons Jessie learned growing up in NYC went beyond organizational skills. "I... had the realization that people waste a lot of time focusing on physical items: purchasing them, misplacing them, and subsequently looking for them," Lipskin shared.
She added, "Most of these items, from my standpoint, felt superfluous to a meaningful life, and I realized that the time and emotional energy devoted to physical things could be better spent elsewhere." This belief, mixed with a desire to live more sustainably, led Jessie to a tiny home.
The Hardest Part
The tiny home was slowly and steadily coming alone. The walls had been covered in a light wood that matched the newly-built frames and custom furniture. It turned out building these pieces was tougher than one might think. "One of the hardest challenges was building walls and storage and closets in," Jessie told Insider.
Lipskin explained, "If the angle isn't exactly the same every time you park [the bus], you might have an issue with opening a door or something like that." The carpenter had to be extra precise with all of the designs. But the challenge was almost completed, and the bus even had a gorgeous ceiling and working lights!
The Floor Plan
With the custom furnishings for the house mostly completed, the tiny home was really coming along. At the front of the bus was, of course, the driver's seat. In the same area, the carpenter built a custom closet, a bench that could double as a guest bed, and more storage nooks.
Then in the middle of the bus was the kitchen area that included extra space for working and hanging out. At the back end of the bus was the custom-built bed. Once the woodworking was mostly complete, Jessie put in a beautiful dark wood floor. Her home already looked amazing.
A Scandinavian Minimalist Vision
Once the carpentry was complete, the bus was unrecognizable. The vintage Greyhound that was once filled with metal walls and old seats now looked like a tiny home base. There was still a lot of work to be done, but looking around at the progress was plenty of motivation.
While the space lacked paint and decor, Jessie already had a vision for her future home. "Scandinavian minimalist, eclectic antiques, clean lines, bright natural light with pops of color," Lipskin said as she described her inspiration for the bus's future decor. It wouldn't be long before her vision came to life.
At the back of the bus was the future bedroom. Once the building was finished, there was space for a queen-sized mattress plus small storage cabinets all around the bed. Jessie considered making space for a TV in the bedroom but ultimately opted not to.
"I love not having a TV," Lipskin later said. "I had the option to have a TV, but I really like waking up in the morning and hearing the birds outside my window." It might not yet look like much yet, but the back area would later become a cozy oasis.
After much consideration, Jessie decided to paint most of her tiny home an airy shade of white. The fresh coats gave the space a totally new feel. While Lipskin hired outside contractors for a lot of the work, there was one project she worked on alone.
So what was the home-owners proudest DIY project? "Sanding and sealing the maple countertops in my kitchen," Jessie said. "They are one of the few places you can see the wood grains. I love how it looks against the crisp white walls and ceiling." As we're about to see, Lipskin's hard work paid off.
The fresh paint, Jessie's countertop project, and the added decor made the bus feel like a totally new space. It was hard to imagine that the 1966 Greyhound commuter bus transformed into this lovely, Scandinavian-style space. But even for a minimalist like Lipskin, moving one's possessions into the tiny home was challenging.
Lucky for Jessie, a series of life events made the adjustment easier. "The downsizing process coincided with a period of frequent moves," Lipskin explained. "During the process, I relocated seven times, and by the end, just about everything I owned fit in my SUV."
While downsizing her belongings was definitely necessary, the tiny home still had a surprising amount of space. Jessie knew the mobile house would be a comfortable living space. With the right design, many items could fit into the bus's 400 square feet.
In fact, even this silver refrigerator could fit! Sure, it wasn't as big as the average fridge, but it had enough space for one or two people. Lipskin settled on an IGLOO side by side refrigerator/freezer. The appliance measured 5.5 cubic feet and had a width of 33 inches. That wasn't the only thing she splurged on.
Jessie's kitchen was a tiny home Scandinavian dream. Light colors, sleek lines, and functionality were the essence of the space. One of Lipskin's top priorities was a big sink. "I knew I wouldn't have a dishwasher, so I wanted to have that," she explained.
Jessie bought a 21-inch stove/oven from PPL Motorhomes. The oven was multifunctional, as it served for cooking and was also the storage space for pots and pans. Lipskin had a propane tank and instant hot water heater installed under the sink. When she needed to cook or shower, Jessie turned on the tank.
Closer to the front of the bus was the small but functional restroom. On one side, there was a room for the sink and the toilet. The shower had its own space across the small hall. Jessie bought a compostable toilet and a little sink to fit the space.
So Lipskin had an appliance to wash her hands, but what about her clothes? A standard washing machine was had to fit on the bus, so she bought a small washer/dryer that hooked up to the sink. The machine didn't fit a lot of clothes, but it was energy and space-efficient.
Across the hall from the toilet was a comfortably-sized shower. "The bathroom has mahogany wood slotted flooring that drains for drying off post-shower," Jessie explained. "The shower drain connects to the floor drain and they both lead to the gray water tank which is mounted under the bus."
The home may have been small, but it was better looking than some NYC apartments. Lipskin's city friends couldn't believe their eyes when they saw the transformation. "Is this actually a bus?" Some asked. While others said, "This is nicer than my apartment!"
A Cozy Nook
Before heading to the back of the bus, let's take a look at the driver's seat area. There was some leftover space past the shower and toilet rooms, and Jessie didn't let it go to waste. By the driver's seat were a custom bench that turned into a guest bed, a cabinet for storage, and a closet.
The front area was complete except for one important detail. "On the hunt for 6 ft cushions to fit the couch / pull out bed guest space," Lipskin posted on Instagram. "26" for the seated, and 18" for the back. Anyone know of places to look?" But even with missing pillows, the area looked bright and welcoming.
A Peek Into the Bedroom
"View from the kitchen area towards the main bedroom," Jessie wrote on Instagram as she shared a beautiful shot of the upgraded tiny home. The kitchen counter doubled as a working area for the young professional. The comfortable bench space under the windows also doubled as storage.
While Lipskin had difficulties finding the perfect cushion for the bench at the bus's front, the bench at the back proved less troublesome. She bought a custom-made cushion from Final Cut in New Jersey to complete the hangout spot. Now on to possibly the best part of the tiny home.
Past the kitchen was a big closet and then the bright and beautiful bedroom. In the daytime, Jessie watched the birds chirping outside. In the night time, she could read a book in bed and dim the LED lights above the dream cloud. It was perfect, except for one thing.
The velvet curtains Lipskin picked turned out not to be the most ideal for the bus. "Since they're a thick velvet material they take up too much space when pulled to the side," she explained. Jessie resolved to just flip the curtains over the rod when she wanted natural lighting.
A Little Library
The bedroom doubled as a little library, too. "I feel like I've been so busy these past few years that I haven't read as much as I'd like," Lipskin said. "I have the time now to do that." Tiny home living meant less housekeeping and more reading. This area provided the perfect space for that.
"It's nice to just cozy up in bed and just read a book," Jessie shared. She kept many of her novels on the shelf by the bed. Lipskin stored her smaller books in the thin bench/storage space under the window by the kitchen. It wasn't always easy, but Jessie managed to make room for everything she wanted.
Lipskin's organizational skills paid off in the fashion department, too. "This is just one portion of the closet; it extends to the left and right a decent amount," Jessie clarified. Overall, the closet in the back of the bus extended for a little over seven feet.
"This is bigger than any closet I've had in any apartment or space before this," Jessie said. Her tiny home's wardrobe was bigger than any she'd owned living in NYC! The functional storage had a top-shelf, followed by a hanging rod and a bench storage area at the bottom.
The Small Touches
The tiny home was largely complete. Now, it was time to add the finishing touches. Jessie decorated the house with family heirlooms and sentimental art pieces. She also did some thrift-shopping and found a few special pieces, such as the one seen below.
"An oil painting found at Goodwill adorns the hallway," one of Lipskin's helping friends said. "I think these finishing touches really help it feel more like a home than a bus." By the end of the renovation, Jessie spent a total of about $125,000. This included everything from woodwork to appliances.
Back To Cali
For three years, Jessie invested time, money, and sweat into the bus's transformation. But she ultimately decided to sell her dream house. "It's too large for me to drive alone, and I have been given the opportunity to set out to some international travel," Lipskin explained.
Jessie's job offered a chance to work remotely worldwide, and she accepted the opportunity. Her first tiny home is now available as an Airbnb in California. Once Lipskin stops traveling for work, she hopes to buy a smaller vehicle and do it all again!