A Couple Convert An Old School Bus Into A Light and Efficient Family Home

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By Melissa Dalton
The Mayes family transformed a Thomas High Top into a well-organized and airy humble abode, using thoughtful storage and a minimalist color palette.

When Gabriel and Debbie Mayes decided to embrace the tiny house movement, they knew the transition would be anything but easy. For starters, they—along with their four children—were used to calling 5,000 square feet home. But they were intrigued with the idea of living in a much smaller space, so when they found "Skoolie," an old school bus, they knew the time had come to take the plunge and downsize.

Yet, before they could kickstart their adventure on the road, they had to conduct a major DIY renovation. After months of hard work, the Mayes Team successfully transformed the 250-square-foot bus into a comfortable home for their family. 

Keep scrolling for all the fascinating "before" and "after" images.

Before:

When the Mayes Team found "Skoolie," it still had the bus seats intact.

When the Mayes Team found "Skoolie," it still had the bus seats intact.

Here is what the bus looked like once the seats were removed.

Here is what the bus looked like once the seats were removed.

The team taped the layout on the floor and carefully installed the framework for the home.

The team taped the layout on the floor and carefully installed the framework for the home.

They opted for a clean, crisp shade of white for the exterior of the bus.

They opted for a clean, crisp shade of white for the exterior of the bus.

In the redesign, the couple eschewed a common center aisle layout, as they did not want people walking into the bus and having a sightline to the sleeping area. Therefore, they decided to cluster the kitchen and bathroom together about midway through the bus's length. 

By positioning the children's bunks and master bedroom toward the back, they were able to keep the social areas—such as the kitchen and living space—separated from the private sleeping quarters.

For finishes, they opted for a predominantly black, white, and gray palette, while also incorporating wood accents for warmth.  

After:

Above is a look at the living area. The couches can seat the entire family, and can also be converted into a full bed, if needed. There is storage in the bases of the couch and a shoe shelf by the front door. "This has been such a blessing and has helped us to keep the bus organized," the Mayes Team explains.

Above is a look at the living area. The couches can seat the entire family, and can also be converted into a full bed, if needed. There is storage in the bases of the couch and a shoe shelf by the front door. "This has been such a blessing and has helped us to keep the bus organized," the Mayes Team explains.

Here is a close-up view of the entry. Note the organization tricks for a small space, such as the tray, wall hooks, message board, and paper catchall.

Here is a close-up view of the entry. Note the organization tricks for a small space, such as the tray, wall hooks, message board, and paper catchall.

Due to limited space, the couple maximized storage in every inch possible on the bus.

Due to limited space, the couple maximized storage in every inch possible on the bus.

For the L-shaped kitchen, the family chose an under-counter fridge/freezer unit in order to have more counter space. The 23-inch Vigo sink is deep enough to bathe a baby, or hide dirty dishes.

For the L-shaped kitchen, the family chose an under-counter fridge/freezer unit in order to have more counter space. The 23-inch Vigo sink is deep enough to bathe a baby, or hide dirty dishes.

The countertops are birch-wrapped plywood. The matte black hardware and faucet punctuate white cabinets and peel-and-stick tile. A magnetic knife strip and mounted paper towel holder is another way they can save space. The dish rack is folded and stored under the sink when not in use.

The countertops are birch-wrapped plywood. The matte black hardware and faucet punctuate white cabinets and peel-and-stick tile. A magnetic knife strip and mounted paper towel holder is another way they can save space. The dish rack is folded and stored under the sink when not in use.

The Mayes did not want to separate the fixtures in the bathroom, so this one hosts the sink, toilet, and a shower. The brass mirror bounces light in the small space.

The Mayes did not want to separate the fixtures in the bathroom, so this one hosts the sink, toilet, and a shower. The brass mirror bounces light in the small space.

The matte black hardware and shower fixture is consistent with the kitchen finishes.

The matte black hardware and shower fixture is consistent with the kitchen finishes.

There are four bunks for the kids' sleeping area, fitted over the wheel wells, and a door that separates the parents' bedroom at the back of the bus. Because the mattress is positioned over the engine, it sits high enough so there can be clothing storage below it. The couple writes on their blog: "Our bedroom has so much storage we haven't even used all of it!"

There are four bunks for the kids' sleeping area, fitted over the wheel wells, and a door that separates the parents' bedroom at the back of the bus. Because the mattress is positioned over the engine, it sits high enough so there can be clothing storage below it. The couple writes on their blog: "Our bedroom has so much storage we haven't even used all of it!"

To learn more about this renovation, or to follow along with the family's travels, check out their website and Instagram.