This Bus Became The Perfect Small Home For This Incredible Woman
Living in Manhattan was starting to feel cramped for Jessie Lipskin when she decided her life needed a big change. No longer comfortable with her path, she desired more freedom and personal flexibility. To achieve this, she turned to eBay, where she started looking for a new home. Not just any home, though. She wanted a bus she could envision living in. Lipskin was about to embark on a life-changing DIY project that would give her everything she wanted. This is her incredible journey to freedom and happiness.
Ditching The Everyday
Jessie Lipskin was 27-years-old and living in New York when she began to grow weary of the hustle and bustle of the city. Seeing the people she loved struggle to survive made her realize she needed a way out.
That's when she came up with her tiny home idea. She saw happiness on the road and just needed to figure out a way to make her new dreams come true. Little did she know her small ambitions were about to turn into a massive project!
Jessie Missed Nature
Going to college at Binghampton, Jessie Lipskin found nature was easily accessible. Her school had a nature reserve nearby, and she fell in love with the outdoors. When she moved to Manhattan, she wasn't able to be surrounded by nature and her happiness began to fade.
In 2015, Jessie began researching housing alternatives. All of her research ended up paying off when she found the perfect solution to get back into nature. What she didn't know was just how much work her dream life would take.
Inspired By Eco-Architecture
Figuring out her next step was easier than Jessie anticipated. While researching she came across the documentary Garbage Warrior, a film about sustainable living alternatives. It was here she learned about eco-architecture - the practice of building homes out of recycled material.
The film inspired Jessie to build her next home out of old material. Now that she knew she wanted to live on the road, she just needed to find the right vehicle!
No RVs Allowed
As she began searching for her mini-mobile home, Jessie Lipskin knew one thing; an RV wouldn't do. She didn't like the way they were designed and wanted something simpler. Then, searching eBay one day she found the perfect vehicle.
Staring at the page, Jessie fell in love with an old defunct school bus. Without a second thought, she paid $7,000 to jump-start her new life. She would probably have to jump start the bus, too, but that's a story for another slide!
The Greyhound That Dreams Are Made Of
The bus that Jessie bought was a 1966 Greyhound. She had 400 square feet of space to play with if she could get it delivered to her location. Buying the bus was easy, bringing it to its new home was not!
The bus was parked in California when Lipskin made the purchase. Living in New York, her purchase suddenly didn't seem so wise. To get the bus and start her project, she would have to fly out to California and drive it cross country back to her base of operations.
Jessie Couldn't Drive...
While the idea of flying out to California and driving cross country was fun, there was still one problem; Jessie Lipskin didn't know how to drive. Growing up she learned to rely on public transportation and never ended up getting her license.
Even scarier, the bus she had just bought was a manual, meaning not only did she need to teach herself to drive, but she also needed to learn without the ease of an automatic transmission! While Jessie stayed in New York to get her license, a few good friends flew out to California get the bus.
Starting From Scratch
Jessie rented out a location to park her new home so the renovation project could begin. Once it arrived the first step was adding a fresh coat of paint and stripping the inside clean.
In order to get an idea of what her dream home would look like, Jessie needed it to be completely empty. To help with her vision, Jessie brought in expert carpenters. Once she could see how much space she had to work with, she could finally begin.
Jessie had a clear passion for her DIY home, but she didn't have a clue about where to get started. To help out with the logistics, she brought in professional designers to help.
Along with her friends, Jessie began to lay out exactly where everything would go in the bus: the bathroom, the kitchen, the bedroom, and the general living area. A lot needed to go into a small space, and Jessie was determined to make it perfect.
No Room For Error
Designing her perfect home wasn't just a matter of putting what she wanted where she wanted it. Jessie needed to make sure her measurements were exact and that every structure was perfectly fixed into the wall.
It would be a disaster to be on the road, hit a bump, and have everything topple over! There was no room to make an error on any of the measurements, which made putting her new home together that much more difficult.
The Bathroom Is Standing Room Only
Designing the bathroom was an interesting task for Jessie Lipskin. She got lucky in one regard that because she bought a bus, there was plenty of room for a fully functioning standing shower. She just needed to figure out where all the water would go.
To solve this problem, Jessie and her team built a slotted wood floor for the runoff water. This would allow excess liquid to fall through the slats into a grey water tank to be recycled.
Creating Closet Space
With no room for bulky dressers, creating closet space was the next big challenge Jessie needed to figure out. Installing one closet was easy and surprisingly simple. Now she had a place for her clothes, but what about her other things?
Incredibly, after building one closet, the team realized they could build two more, giving Jessie plenty of room for all of her stuff! Now that she had plenty of storage space, the real work could begin.
Deciding to live a life on the road meant Jessie needed to make sure she had certain appliances: a clothes washer, a fridge, a stove, and other electronics that needed to be meticulously researched.
Jessie wanted to make sure that every purchase she made would fit in her new home and be as energy efficient as possible. Once she found all the right appliances, her friends helped her install them.
The Kitchen Made Cooking A Breeze
If Jessie liked cooking before she created her mini-home, the finished results made her love it. Her stove top was in front of one of the bus' many windows, giving her a gorgeous view of nature while she cooked.
In her new kitchen, Jessie could make anything her mind could come up with. Not only was her stove the perfect size, but there was a small oven located underneath it, making life a breeze. Especially with the window open!
Learning From Others
As great as Jessie's vision was, she knew that at times she would need to be flexible. Not all of her plans would work perfectly in a converted bus home. Knowing this, she researched how other tiny home owners created their houses.
The most striking thing to Jessie about other inspiring tiny home builders was their process. She found hundreds of pictures on social media and decided she would document her own journey on Instagram, too.
The Master Bedroom
As the story goes in any house, the most important room was the master bedroom. Jessie had just enough space in the back of the bus to make the most luxurious tiny master bedroom she could come up with.
To start, she brought a queen bed aboard and adorned the bus windows with velvet curtains. Jessie then set up a table next to her bed where her small but mighty book collection would go. What could be better than waking up to the morning light and reading a chapter from your favorite book?
Everything Was Included
It took Jessie Lipskin and her crew of friends three years to complete her tiny bus home. The journey was long but worth every second. Inside the finished home, Jessie was able to include three closets, two AC units, and an environmentally-sustainable water and electric system!
It was perfect but lacked one finishing touch. To truly make her bus feel like her home, Jessie needed to add a touch of her personality to it.
Bringing The Past Into The Present
With all the traveling Jessie planned to do, she wanted to make sure she didn't forget her roots. To do this, she brought a set of fine china with her that had been in the family for generations.
Jessie's grandmother originally bought the fine china while living in immigrant housing in New York. The dishes were subsequently passed down from generation to generation until they belonged to Jessie, and she wasn't about to let them go.
Who Needs Television?
Deciding to live a simple lifestyle meant one creature comfort of everyday life needed to be left behind: television. For Jessie, the decision to cut the cord was both easy said and easy done.
Nature would be her television. She could go anywhere she wanted and see anything she desired. She no longer needed to be taken to another world like the one on TV. Instead, she could create her own new and amazing world.
The Bus Lacked Color
For the most part, Jessie had chosen a white paint scheme for her bus, which left a lot to be desired visually. To make up for this, she went to her local Goodwill store to find cheap artwork.
At the store, she found the beautiful oil painting pictured, as well as other small homey touches. The painting was placed in her new home's central hallways, and everything was placed in other spots needing extra love.
Finding Time For Other Things
Jessie had been so focused on creating her mini home for so long that when it was finished she realized she had a few regrets. She wished she had read more, among other things.
It wasn't long after Jessie finished her bus that she made another drastic decision. Once again she would re-purpose the tiny bus home, but this time it wouldn't be for her convenience, but the world's instead.
Once Jessie finished her travels, she knew it was time to move on. It wasn't an easy decision, but she wanted to settle back into regular life, and selling the bus was the best option.
Jessie listed the bus for $149,000 on Craigslist. Overall, she had put $125,000 into the renovation, so she wouldn't be making a huge profit from the sale. Money wasn't her goal, sharing her happiness with the world was.
A New Home
Today, Jessie Lipskin's 1966 converted Greyhound bus lives in Joshua Tree, California. Anyone looking for a unique camping experience can rent out the tiny bus home on Air BnB. Reviews so far have been stellar!
While returning the bus to California might not have been the original goal, it was a poetic ending for Jessie's tiny home journey. The bus' story, as well as hers, really came full circle when the bus arrived at its new home.
Living A New Dream
Since letting go of her bus and moving on, Jessie has found herself living a brand new dream life she never imagined. Currently, she works remotely, which allows her to create her own schedule and travel to her heart's desire.
Surprisingly, Jessie says she has more freedom now than when she had her bus. She no longer has to worry about maintenance and another day to day issues. The best part, of course, is that she can travel abroad, which has opened up a whole new world to her.
From Old School Bus To Tiny House: How This Texas Man Built His Dream Home
Like Jessie, Michael Talley of Austin, Texas, was sick and tired of high rent costs. Unlike most of us, he did something about it. Michael got creative and purchased a used school bus for practically nothing, then converted it into a tiny home anyone would envy. Before you think that this transformation was a snap for him, just wait until you see all the hard work he faced before finally seeing the finished product of Michael's labor. Wait until you see what the rundown old bus looks like today.
The High Cost Of Living Forced Michael To Get Creative
Over the years, Austin, Texas, has become one of the most desirable places in the country for young people to live. As a result, rental prices in the area have been rising at a rapid pace. Michael Talley lived in a studio apartment in North Austin, and he was fed up when his rent topped out at $1,500 a month.
As a graphic designer, Michael was creative. He decided to look into the tiny house trend and work up a plan for a new home of his own.
This Should Be A Snap, Right?
Michael had seen some buses that had been converted into impressive tiny houses and figured he could do the same thing. "Ultimately I decided upon a school bus because I thought 'Hey, there's already four walls and a roof,'" he said.
Not so fast! Michael didn't know it yet, but he was about to get in way over his head. He started his search for the perfect bus to serve as his new home.
Michael Wasn't A Handyman
It wouldn't be terrible to assume that someone who started a project to convert an old school bus into a comfortable home probably had a good bit of experience doing handy things. However, in Michael's case, that assumption would be incorrect.
Sure, he had dreamt about doing this for a long time and even had some designs sketched out. But "I have never built anything. Ever," he confessed. But that didn't deter him.
He Lucked Out In His Search For A Bus
The Austin School District sells its old buses on an auction site called PublicSurplus.com, which also sells police repossessions and other government items. Michael found the site and was surprised that there weren't many bidders for the 10 school buses listed for sale.
As Michael describes it, he "made out like a bandit." He got one of the district's old buses for just $2,200. Oddly, the other nine school buses were sold to the same person.
His Plans Expanded
Now that Michael had the school bus in his possession, his plans changed. Rather than just using the bus basically as a frame, Michael wanted to create a masterpiece of a tiny house. He envisioned a fully livable space with separate areas for a living, sleeping, bathing, cooking, and eating.
He had drawn up a few different options for floor plans, including one that was based on a motorhome featured in the blockbuster 1997 film The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Although that would have been an interesting choice, Michael went in a different direction with his bus conversion.
Practical Issues Dictated Michael's Design
You might not be able to tell from the earlier photo of him, but Michael is a tall guy, standing at six feet six inches. This posed a problem for his home plans because the inside height of the bus was only six feet one inch!
This wouldn't do if Michael wanted to be comfortable in his own home. He decided that he needed to raise the roof of the bus, even if that meant a lot more work. He was determined to build the tiny home of his dreams, and this obstacle wouldn't deter him.
The Final Plan
Although movie fans would probably vote for Michael to go with the Jurassic Park vehicle plans, he didn't. Instead, he opted for a layout that would put the living and entertainment spaces of his house toward the front. That would make having friends over easier.
Amazingly, Michael's plans would give him a bigger kitchen than the one he had in his $1,500 a month studio apartment! He’d also have room for a large bed and some handy storage space.
Making Sacrifices To Reach His Goals
During his journey to repurpose the old school bus into his dream home, Michael was willing to make any sacrifices necessary. He decided to dump the $1,500 per month apartment he'd been living in and switched to sparser accommodations.
"I moved into a tent in order to save money while working on the bus, commuting 40 minutes to work every day, just to afford more steel and more wood," Michael said. A friend allowed him to park the bus at his farm just outside Austin during construction.
The Seats Come Out (With Some Difficulty)
Obviously, one of the first things on Michael's to-do list was removing the rows of seats from the school bus. While this might sound like a simple task, it wasn't. In fact, Michael called the procedure "grueling," since each bolt had to be removed individually.
Where did the seats go? "A nice man came with his 7 months pregnant wife and 8-year-old daughter to cart away all these seats to the scrap metal yard," Michael shared. "I was super impressed his wife was lifting these heavy seats into the trailer!"
A Mistake And Some Regret
Next up was taking down the paneling from the bus ceiling. Unfortunately, this was a task that Michael regrets doing. "Removing these panels was the absolute worst," he said, mainly because he didn't know how to use (and had never even heard of) an impact drill.
"I wish that I had ended up keeping this insulation in," Michael said. “It was in remarkably good shape and would have saved me a few headaches if I kept it in."
It Wasn't All A Headache, Though!
Fortunately, Michael's ambitious project wasn't all hard work. There were some fun breaks along the way, which he documented on social media. This sticky note, for example, brought a smile to his face.
"Found this actual Kick Me sign while cleaning out the bus," he wrote. Hey, kids will be kids! That simple note is a fun souvenir… we hope he kept it to display once the bus was completely renovated.
Completely Stripping The Bus
The rubber floors and ceilings were the next things that Michael removed. He said that taking that heavy-duty floor out was not a fun project, adding that it was "hella gross."
The windows also came out and weren't so hard to remove. "Part of me wanted to keep them, but I knew they would rattle, provide little privacy or insulation, and look weird with my roof raise and design," Michael said.
Making Room For Michael
As mentioned earlier, Michael was quite a bit taller than the ceiling of the bus. "As soon as I stepped onto the bus for the first time I knew me being 6'6″ was going to be a huge problem," he said. "I was going to have to do some MAJOR work to get this thing comfortable for [me]."
Next, he built a scaffolding system from 2x4s in order to elevate the roof and ceiling to a more appropriate height.
The Scaffolding Is Up!
After the framework was in place, Michael shared this close-up illustrating exactly how the 2x4s were attached to the ceiling. "Scaffolding ready, screw jacks in place, all that's left to do now is cut my bus in half!"
Before he could install metal ribs, Michael was faced with the unusual task of cutting his bus in half horizontally so that the roof could be raised. First, he cut the sides.
The Roof Is Raised
To raise the roof, the bus was cut in half. "Used a Sawzall to cut the roof from one end to the other," wrote Michael. "Have I mentioned how nerve-racking it was to basically destroy my bus by doing all of this?"
After cutting his school bus in half, Michael and some of his friends used screw jacks to lift the roof. Although Michael had originally wanted to bring it up an extra two feet, everyone thought that would be pressing his luck. They still managed to get it up 20 inches, though, and then removed the scaffolding.
Enclosing The Bus Ended Up Being Painful
After the roof was lifted up an additional 20 inches, it felt much more spacious. Now, Michael needed to enclose the bus. He closed up the open areas where the windows had been with large metal panels.
Unfortunately, he suffered a pretty bad injury in the process. In an update, he wrote, "First side done. Easily the most painful and bloody part of the build. Got a sweet permanent scar on my forearm from when one of these steel sheets fell and sliced my arm open. Don't worry, I'll spare you the gory photos!" Ouch.
That Texas Heat
Now that Michael had finished covering the bus with metal sheets he had an unexpected problem on his hands. The Texas heat was relentless. "The bus is basically an oven right now, what being solid steel and in Texas," he shared.
Michael and his friends installed new insulation everywhere and celebrated afterward. "Bus is insulated and me and my friends decided to get very drunk and relax on our make shift lounge area." Sounds like they needed a break!
Bring In The Light!
The newly-enclosed bus was dark inside. To give the construction site a bit of light and personality he hung a strand of lights. "Steel walls complete, with a festive Christmas motif going on"
The next step of the renovation was to cut out the new window holes and bring some natural light into the space. The holes shown here would eventually become the windows for the bathroom and living room.
During His Time Off
Michael worked hard as he converted an old school bus into a tiny home, and he was still commuting to his job in Austin. He managed to carve out some R & R when he could.
He later wrote of this time, "Before the roof raise I moved the bus to a friend's farm in Manor, TX for $0 a month. I would regularly go sit on the roof of the bus and drink some wine and watch the sunset over the Texas farmlands." Work hard, play hard.
The Interior Begins To Take Shape
Now for the fun stuff! With the walls and roof completed, Michael got to work on renovating the inside of the school bus. The kitchen was one of the first areas he tackled. He hit up IKEA and got a steal!
"IKEA phased out their old kitchen line and I got a hell of a deal on these drawers and cabinets," he shared. "I paid $30 for everything! The butcher block was also a great deal. All the butcher block in this bus was bought on clearance for $120."
IKEA Comes To The Rescue For The Living Area, Too
Always one to save money and repurpose things, Michael used his existing furniture to carve out a comfortable living area in the converted bus. "I took my IKEA Karlstad couch from my apartment and took off the back, arms, and feet so I was left with the cushions and the box spring base," he shared.
He then built a new frame for the couch, as well as a storage area for water next to it and began to frame out the bathroom. Michael found the American flag at a Goodwill.
Well, This Is Unexpected
Anyone undertaking a major construction project like Michael's is bound to run into some unexpected snags. This is probably not one that he had in mind! While he was applying insulation to the ceilings, Michael accidentally got some of the stuff in his beard.
"Fun fact, while spraying insulation I got a bunch in my beard and didn't noticed until an hour or so later, and had to shave the whole thing off," he wrote. This photo was presumably taken quite a while after the incident.
He Took Advantage Of The Texas Climate
Thanks to that same Texas sunshine that made the newly-walled bus so hot, Michael can live off the grid. He installed solar panels on the school bus roof in order to harness the power of the sun. It wasn't easy, though.
"This was the most frustrating day of the build," he said. "I was doing it myself, it was very windy, and things kept falling off the roof." He captioned this photo, "Desk walls and sneak peek at my Solar panels and batteries."
Behind The Walls
Michael installed the wiring seen here, now hidden behind a wall. "Most likely not perfectly up to code, but a peek at the wall behind my desk. I have 300 watts of Solar panels on the roof, a 3000 watt Pure Sine Wave inverter, and six 6v batteries wired in series."
"White is 12v which powers all my lights, my vent fans, and my water pump. Yellow is standard 110v that powers everything else."
He Needed A Large Office
Having a large and functional office was a must for Michael's new home. "Being a graphic designer I need a proper workspace. Most tiny houses have these little dinky desks that flip up from a wall or are tucked away in a small alcove," he said.
"This desk is 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep, the largest desk I've ever owned!" A skylight provides some natural lighting to the work area.
Though small, the bus has a fully-functional bathroom that's hidden from view with a restored wooden barn door. Although he can use the bathroom any time he wants, Michael confided that he prefers to take his business outdoors.
"I can use the bathroom in it, however, I rarely do. I pee outside like the good Lord intended," he said. "As for showering and stuff, I built an awesome little outdoor shower or I shower at the gym." Thanks for letting us know, Michael!