A 320-Square-Foot School Bus Becomes an Airy Abode For a Family of Five

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By Melissa Dalton
After responding to an ad on Craigslist, a couple decide to embrace minimalism by converting an old bus into their new family home.

It all started in February of 2016 when Ashley Trebitowski spotted an ad for a 1999 Bluebird school bus on Craigslist being sold in Ennis, Texas. Given the low asking price of $4,400, her husband, Brandon, hopped on a flight to check out the bus and drove it back to their home in New Mexico. 

Inspired by friends who had already made the commitment to downsize, the Trebitowski family were eager to test out the minimalist lifestyle. So over the next few months, the couple overhauled the bus with a $30,000 DIY renovation and made the 320-square-foot interior a comfortable and efficient space for their family of five. 

Before:

Here is the bus before the renovation.

Here is the bus before the renovation.

"We really went over-the-top minimalist," Brandon states. "We sold, donated, or gave away every single possession we had except for what we could fit on that bus." 

As you can see above, the entire family took part in the conversion project.

As you can see above, the entire family took part in the conversion project.

This included their 2,100-square-foot house, which they sold to embark on a five-month road trip, during which Brandon would work remotely while Ashley continued to home-school the kids. 

Ashley says she was excited to use her "power tools for something more than a DIY coffee table and derby cars."

Ashley says she was excited to use her "power tools for something more than a DIY coffee table and derby cars."

When the family returned to New Mexico after their five-month trip, they remained so enamored of their new lifestyle that they decided to make the bus their full-time residence.

A peek inside once the bus before the layout is built.

A peek inside once the bus before the layout is built.

The entire experience has been an empowering adventure for the family. "Before this bus we knew nothing about building. We knew nothing about engines. We knew nothing about solar energy. We knew nothing about plumbing. We couldn’t imagine building our own home," the couple writes on their Instagram. "Yet, here we are—we learned we could and we DID!"

The kids test out their bunk beds.

The kids test out their bunk beds.

After:

Although the couple originally painted the bus with a white and blue color scheme, they are currently repainting the body gray, as the white tends to show dirt. "Bus life is fixing things, tinkering, and constant changing, but we love it," explains Ashley. An 800-watt solar collector on the roof charges four six-volt batteries, which powers the lights, outlets, water pump, and water heater.

Although the couple originally painted the bus with a white and blue color scheme, they are currently repainting the body gray, as the white tends to show dirt. "Bus life is fixing things, tinkering, and constant changing, but we love it," explains Ashley. An 800-watt solar collector on the roof charges four six-volt batteries, which powers the lights, outlets, water pump, and water heater.

A look at the view toward the driver's seat and front of the bus. The family built two camel leather couches facing one another for the living area. A table can be placed between them for family meals. Built-in storage in the couch bases hold everything from extension cords and leveling blocks to board games and kettle balls. The armrests also open up and have outlets inside. "I intentionally built the five-inch ledge behind the couches for our coffee in the morning," says Ashley. "The kids also use this ledge to play with their LEGO mini figs or their tech decks. It serves its purpose well!"

A look at the view toward the driver's seat and front of the bus. The family built two camel leather couches facing one another for the living area. A table can be placed between them for family meals. Built-in storage in the couch bases hold everything from extension cords and leveling blocks to board games and kettle balls. The armrests also open up and have outlets inside. "I intentionally built the five-inch ledge behind the couches for our coffee in the morning," says Ashley. "The kids also use this ledge to play with their LEGO mini figs or their tech decks. It serves its purpose well!"

Here is a look at the central aisle to the back of the bus. On the left, there is a fold-up tabletop tucked behind the couch armrest and a seat for one person, serving perfectly as a homework or writing spot. The bus also has a tiny wood stove—along with wood storage—on the ledge to the left of the fridge. 

Here is a look at the central aisle to the back of the bus. On the left, there is a fold-up tabletop tucked behind the couch armrest and a seat for one person, serving perfectly as a homework or writing spot. The bus also has a tiny wood stove—along with wood storage—on the ledge to the left of the fridge. 

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In the kitchen, white cabinets are combined with black accents and a butcher block countertop, including the sink basin and faucet. Windows at the counter bring in lots of natural light.

In the kitchen, white cabinets are combined with black accents and a butcher block countertop, including the sink basin and faucet. Windows at the counter bring in lots of natural light.

The bathroom hosts a composting toilet from Nature's Head and is spruced up with white wall paneling and a black-framed window.

The bathroom hosts a composting toilet from Nature's Head and is spruced up with white wall paneling and a black-framed window.

The couple improved the shower before moving back on the bus full-time by enlarging its size so they don't have to crouch under the shower head. "Before we moved back into the bus, we decided to lift the roof and build a proper shower," Ashley states. "We enlisted our best friend (@nomadicmillers) and he and Brandon worked to come up with the perfect solution: a 14" lift with a custom skylight, a step, and subway tile. It’s now our very own spa-shower in a bus. It took about three weeks to complete and about $1000, but has been worth every penny."

The couple improved the shower before moving back on the bus full-time by enlarging its size so they don't have to crouch under the shower head. "Before we moved back into the bus, we decided to lift the roof and build a proper shower," Ashley states. "We enlisted our best friend (@nomadicmillers) and he and Brandon worked to come up with the perfect solution: a 14" lift with a custom skylight, a step, and subway tile. It’s now our very own spa-shower in a bus. It took about three weeks to complete and about $1000, but has been worth every penny."

The kids' bunk area originally housed four bunks, but one was pulled out to create more storage. Two new sets of drawers and a closet can now hold the pantry, miscellaneous items, and the dirty clothes hamper. The drawer handle cut-outs double as footholds for climbing into the top bunks.

The kids' bunk area originally housed four bunks, but one was pulled out to create more storage. Two new sets of drawers and a closet can now hold the pantry, miscellaneous items, and the dirty clothes hamper. The drawer handle cut-outs double as footholds for climbing into the top bunks.

The couple were able to fit a king-sized bed in their sleeping area, where peachy-pink accents warm the interior charcoal and white scheme. "Our bed is the most comforting place I’ve ever been in," says Ashley. "It’s like an adult fort!" The mattress lifts up for easy access to electrical components and a 100-gallon water tank, along with extra towels, sheets, and winter coats.

The couple were able to fit a king-sized bed in their sleeping area, where peachy-pink accents warm the interior charcoal and white scheme. "Our bed is the most comforting place I’ve ever been in," says Ashley. "It’s like an adult fort!" The mattress lifts up for easy access to electrical components and a 100-gallon water tank, along with extra towels, sheets, and winter coats.

Looking back toward the front of the bus, more storage becomes visible. The pink dresser on the right holds the family's clothes. The gray dresser to the left incorporates a standing desk for Brandon and hides mechanicals.

Looking back toward the front of the bus, more storage becomes visible. The pink dresser on the right holds the family's clothes. The gray dresser to the left incorporates a standing desk for Brandon and hides mechanicals.

To learn more about the renovation and/or to follow along with their adventures, check out their website and Instagram.