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How Did an Artsy Couple Turn an Old School Bus Into an Awesome Loft?

How Did an Artsy Couple Turn an Old School Bus Into an Awesome Loft?

School bus loft

Expedition Happiness

DIY enthusiasts have been turning old school buses into homes on wheels for decades now. (Anyone remember the “Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”?) But as any HGTV fan will tell you, the variety, aesthetic appeal, and popularity of these rolling homes have been six-wheeling their way to new heights in recent years. So how do you pull off a perfect, personalized, bus abode of your own?

It turns out that aspiring tinkerers don’t need a background in construction, automotive repair, or even experience tiling bathrooms to transform old clunkers into fully functional—dare we say, sometimes beautiful—mobile homes. They just need to watch YouTube tutorials. A whole lot of them.

Documentary filmmaker Felix Starck and musician Selima Taibi were so inspired after randomly seeing one such transformation online, they bought their own 1996 bus for $10,000 on the internet two days later, according to TinyHouseBlog.com.

In February, they picked up the vehicle, with 120,000 miles on it, in Asheville, NC. And then they embarked on the adventure of transforming the thing into a home.

“You can imagine when we first bought it it was a totally normal school bus,” Taibi said in a video the couple filmed of their new home. “It had all the seats still in for the schoolkids, and it was yellow of course.”

The artists had no prior experience tackling a project like this. Undeterred, they binge-watched instructional videos, read libraries’ worth of  construction manuals, and enlisted the help of an older couple who had done a similar project.

“We did most of the conversion ourselves,” Taibi said in the video. “But it turned out pretty cool.”

The duo spent 12 weeks—and about $50,000—turning the bus into a 200-square-foot, air-conditioned loft with wooden floors similar to a recreational vehicle. It even has solar panels.

The couple painstakingly gutted and customized their school bus into a home over 12 weeks.
The couple painstakingly gutted and customized their school bus into a home over 12 weeks.

Expedition Happiness

Perhaps needless to say, the transformation didn’t always go smoothly. The first day Starck cut his finger nearly to the bone while prying the seats out of the bus. The second day, while ripping out the flooring, they discovered a rusted hole in the bottom of the bus. The floor was later treated with rust converter and covered by a metal sheet.

There were victories, too. They found used pallets on the side of the road which they deployed as wood siding on the bus.

Eventually Starck and Taibi finished their home on wheels and, along with their Bernese mountain dog Rudi, drove to Alaska. They now plan to take it down to Argentina as they film their adventures.

The vehicle has a living area behind the driver’s seat, with a fold-out couch for guests, and a wooden table attached to the other side of the bus that folds down. The kitchen is equipped with a propane stove, a sink with running water, and a refrigerator with freezer. The bathroom has a composing toilet and a hot water shower (thanks to a heater in the back of the bus). There’s also a master bedroom with a queen-size bed facing a flat-screen TV.

Starck and Taibi have plenty of company in the DIY movement to turn old buses, vans, and just about everything else on four wheels into living spaces.

The couple created a living room, kitchen, master bedroom, bathroom and a separate shower area in their new home.
The couple created a living room, kitchen, master bedroom, bathroom, and shower area in their new home.

Expedition Happiness

“There’s been an influx of people desiring to [make] campers out of all types of vehicles over the last few years,” says Aaron Lane, a design engineer at Creative Mobile Interiors in Grove City, OH. The company transforms old and new vehicles into customized RVs and campers.

“A lot of the DIY stuff is pretty simple,” he tells realtor.com®. “It’s often something people can do on their own.”

The projects can run anywhere from $50,000 to more than $250,000 if done professionally, he says. But the DIY crowd can do more stripped-down, basic versions for considerably less—like a few thousand dollars.

However, intrepid folks without plumbing and electrical expertise may want to consult a specialist, he cautions.

“It’s easy to tinker with cutting wood on a table saw,” Lane says. The ins and outs of electrical and hydraulic systems on your movable house? Not so much. Plan accordingly.

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