Young lovebirds Charlie and Luke wanted to move in together without the hassle of a mortgage or pricey rent. So they turned a British double-decker bus into the ultimate crib. Here's a look inside their stylish and unconventional home.
Meet Luke & Charlie
Meet Luke Walker and Charlie MacVicar, a hip couple in their 20s. These love bugs reside in the United Kingdom at the time of this article's writing. But before finding themselves in an unconventional home, they did plenty of traveling.
The British couple traveled the world, visiting countries in Southeast Asia from Thailand and Malaysia to Indonesia and Singapore. They also explored places in Europe outside of their U.K. home and had a blast in Australia. But then it was time to settle down in one place for a bit.
They Wanted To Live Together
After returning to the United Kingdom, Charlie began working as a logistics coordinator, and Luke joined an insurance company. With their adult salaries, the adventurous couple felt it was time to take their relationship to the next step and move in together.
But while they each likely earned a decent amount, Luke and Charlie didn't want all of their income going straight to their housing. The 20-something-year-olds wished to avoid being weighed down by a lifelong mortgage or expensive rent. So they brainstormed other options.
Welcome to Their Crib
As the young couple figured out how to live together without breaking the bank, they realized something: Charlie's dad owned some land in Essex, an English country northeast of London. The love birds could live on that property for a small price, but there was one problem.
The Essex property had plenty of land but no actual housing unit. So Charlie and Luke considered different options: turning a shipping container into a home, upgrading an RV, or transforming a school bus into a home. Finally, they landed on the impressive double-decker pictured above.
The duo settled on a double-decker rather than a school bus or RV for an arguably obvious reason: more space. But finding the right two-story vehicle wasn't easy. Luke and Charlie went to see what probably felt like an endless number of buses before finding the right one.
Many of the double-deckers the couple visited were in poor condition and needed a ton of work. Some models couldn't accommodate Luke, who stood at 6 feet tall and had issues with the bus's ceiling height. But then this bad boy came along for a fairly reasonable price.
Charlie and Luke found their perfect match in a red Go-Ahead London Volvo Plaxton bus. The young professionals purchased the vehicle in 2017 for 2,500 British Pounds, equal to roughly $3,500. The bus was still carrying passengers around just a few months prior.
The double-decker was quite dirty but in good condition, compared to the other buses the couple checked out. And at 14.6 feet high, it had enough headspace for both Charlie and Luke. The rest of the vehicle's dimensions were 32.8 feet by 8.3 feet. It was time to make it a home.
Making a Floorplan Was Challenging
Once they officially had the bus, Charlie and Luke got to work on designing the perfect floorplan. But it turned out to be quite difficult. While there were many examples of school bus-to-home transformations, double-deckers were a rarer pick for the skoolie community.
So making a floorplan was no easy feat. The couple wanted to do most of the work on their own, but they had few examples to look at for inspiration. Charlie and Luke only found a few other double-deckers turned into homes and realized they'd have to get extra creative for this DIY project.
The Downstairs Floorplan
After many drafts and some frustration, Luke and Charlie came up with what would hopefully be the perfect floor plan. Their double-decker home conversion would be equipped with the same amenities that most other average home or apartment has, from a full kitchen to a bedroom.
So what did the DIYers plan for the bus's first floor? The final floorplan included a kitchen right past the double-decker's driver's seat, complete with all cooking basics and a dining table/workstation. The ground floor also would include a restroom and living room.
The Upstairs Floorplan
With the kitchen, toilet, and living room planned for the downstairs, all that was left for the double-decker's second floor was the bedroom. But with 32.8 feet by 8.3 feet of space to work with, Charlie and Luke knew they could fit much more than just a bed upstairs.
And so the couple planned a unique layout that involved a double-bed, a free-standing bathtub, and a huge closet all in one open space. The end result would be a funky and chic living space. But before that could be a reality, the bus had to be gutted.
Bye, Bye Seats
Of course, there was no room on the double-decker for a home when Charlie and Luke first got a hold of it. As with most skoolie conversions, whether it's a two-floored bus or not, the renovation process began with destroying what was originally inside.
So the adventurous couple enlisted the help of friends and family to help gut the vehicle of its original seating. Screw by screw, they slowly removed each of the blue seats to make room for their future two-story home on wheels. The seats were just the beginning.
First Time DIYers
Charlie and Luke were lucky to have loved ones lend a helping hand, but that didn't mean the bus conversion wasn't stressful. It was actually the couple's first time taking on such a big DIY project, and it was at times overwhelming, to say the least.
"We got really overwhelmed," Charlie shared with Insider magazine. "Like, it was my first time picking up a screwdriver." Nonetheless, the young pair's vision for an incredible home together kept them motivated through all of the difficulties. With the seats gone, it was time to rip out the floor.
Gutting the Floor
Charlie, Luke, and their assistants moved on to getting rid of any seat framing left, including some difficult-to-budge framing from the back seats. Then they moved on to getting rid of the double-decker's original flooring, despite it being in decent condition.
The creative couple didn't plan on replacing the old flooring with anything too glam or fancy, but they also didn't want to build their new home on the same floor that countless people had stepped on. So they ripped out the first layer and replaced it with a simple grey flooring.
Let the Build Begin
Tearing the bus apart was sweaty work, but overall, it went quite smoothly. "There weren't many challenges with the bus," Charlie said. "We got very lucky with the condition we bought the bus in." She added that even once building began, the "conversion went quite smoothly."
But the second floor proved the most taxing. "Building upstairs was more of a challenge as, on the top deck, the floor is slightly curved," Charlie explained. This meant the couple had to custom-build their bed, headboard, and side tables. After twelve months of dedication, the home came together.
Their Total Spending
Charlie and Luke spent roughly $3,500 on the double-decker purchase, but naturally, the costs didn't end there. The DIYers completed the conversion about a year after buying the bus and ended up spending 15,000 British pounds, equal to about $21,000, on the renovation.
So the young couple invested around $24,500 and got a fully-equipped home out of it. Their wishes to avoid being chained to a pricey mortgage or expensive rent came true, and with less than $30,000, they had a dream home to live in together. The transformation was a sight for sore eyes.
The finished kitchen turned out stunning. The cooking area is complete with a black oven, gas stovetop, microwave, gorgeous farmhouse sink with a copper tap, refrigerator, and a washing machine. Setting up the kitchen was certainly one of the tasks Charlie and Luke needed extra help with.
As mentioned before, the lovebirds were first-time home-renovators and got help when necessary. "The electric, plumbing, and carpentry were done by either family or professionals. As much as we would like to take credit for the hard work, we certainly couldn't have done it without others," Charlie said.
The couple installed their refrigerator, microwave, and toaster on the side of the kitchen closer to the driver's seat. The retro-inspired appliances certainly brought some spunk into the apartment. But Charlie and Luke prevented the kitchen from becoming overwhelming in the narrow space by sticking to lighter colors.
Although the travel buddies have kept their double-decker parked on the Essex property, Luke and Charlie wanted to keep the driver's seat and all of the wheel arches intact and driveable. After all, what was the harm in leaving their home mobile? Although driving a double-decker requires some serious skill.
The Dining Area
Charlie and Luke decided to install a bit more counter space and storage cabinets across from the main kitchen counter filled with the fridge, oven, and other appliances. A hanging fruit basket provides more food-storing options and a homey-vibe to the double-decker.
Next to the extra cabinets is the couple's dining table, which sits up to three people. Charlie and Luke wanted to avoid cluttering their motorhome with too much stuff, hence the open floor plan. "I think the more stuff you build, it's going to make the bus feel smaller," explained Charlie.
On the other corner of the kitchen is everything the couple needs for a fun night of cooking. Aside from their sizeable oven, Charlie and Luke have a two-burner gas stovetop to cook on. They keep things organized by putting their spices and cooking utensils in little baskets and jars.
The marble-like countertops make for an open and airy feeling but contrast beautifully with the earth-toned walls. The green accent brings the great outdoors into the narrow bus. And let's just say that what Charlie and luke have out their windows is pretty incredible. But we'll take a closer look at that later.
Following the double-decker's spacious new kitchen is the motorhome's restroom. Charlie and Luke chose a hinged door rather than a sliding one, which in turn provides more storage in the small bathroom. The DIYers added a pop of color to the tiny space by putting some art on the door.
The downstairs restroom is the only closed-off space on the bus, as the rest is totally open. It might be small, but it's all the young lovebirds need after downsizing their belongings to fit into the motorhome. Let's take a closer look inside the toilet room.
Just the Basics
A closer look into the tiny restroom reveals plenty of shelving space and the home's one and only toilet. "Anything that we would normally have in a house, I don't feel like we're lacking in the bus," Charlie said after the renovation. "We've made it work."
With that in mind, some readers may be wondering where in the world Charlie and her partner take showers. The toilet room does not double as a wet room where the couple can clean off. The second part of the bathroom is actually upstairs in the bedroom.
The Cozy Lounge
But before we head to the gorgeous upstairs, let's take a look at what's happening at the rear end of the double-decker turned home. A living room that doubles as a guest bedroom takes up the last fourth of the long bus. Grey couch cushions with colorful pillows and art make for a fun vibe.
The DIYers installed a wood-fired stove back here to heat up the spacious double-decker. And while their living room might seem small to some, they've got no complaints. "I remember looking at some flats with my boyfriend, and to be honest, it feels like we've got a lot more space than some people we know," Charlie said.
The Magical Upstairs
In fact, while most skoolie-dwellers have to do some major downsizing, these residents said they did not. "It was upsizing, really," Charlie explained. "For me, it felt like we've got more space moving into the bus than when we lived at home." The couple previously lived with their respective parents.
The upstairs is arguably the most unusual part of this already unconventional home, as there is a gorgeous bathtub smack in the middle of the room. Aside from the tub, the upstairs holds a cozy bed and an incredibly spacious closet. Let's take a closer look.
Why They Kept All the Windows
At one end of the double-decker's second floor is the couple's bed. As noted before, the second floor was a challenge to renovate because of its curved walls. "We had to custom build the bed, level the bath, and other furniture," Charlie said. One thing they didn't worry about was removing any windows.
Like much public transportation, this double-decker was built with plenty of windows alone all of its walls. While some skoolie-conversions cover up some of the windows, these DIYers chose not to. Charlie and Luke enjoy all of the natural light and have enough privacy even without curtains or walls.
The Other Side
The view from the double-decker's bed highlights just how spacious this motorhome is. And painting the walls and ceilings with a fresh coat of white further opened up the space. While they opted for no TV in the downstairs living room, Luke and Charlie installed a television upstairs.
The TV runs on electricity, as the bus is connected to a local electricity source and WiFi. It's also connected to a water source and the couple gets gas delivered. While this means the bus is not totally equipped to go off-grid, it also means easy living in the unique home.
Bath With a View
Perhaps the best part of those home-on-wheels is this surprising feature: the free-standing Victorian claw-foot bathtub. The amenity had to be lifted into the double-decker through an emergency window by a crane. But, according to Charlie, it was well worth it.
"You just forget that you're on a double-decker bus," she shared. "And then you just have to sort of think, 'Wait a minute, I'm having a bath on a double-decker bus.' It's a weird thought." With these breathtaking views, soaking in this tub likely feels more like a country home paradise.
The Walk-in Closet
Following the tub, on the other side of the bed, is Charlie and Luke's walk-in closet. The space is fit for any fashion lover, with lots of hanging room for clothes and even more space to model it in. The couple keeps the bulk of their beauty supplies on the little ledge on the front window.
The bus owner's stylish clothes became a part of the decor because of the open-space concept and compliment nicely with the color-blocked rug thrown on the floor. The little baskets laid on the ground provide easy storage space through chic accessories.
Plenty of Room
And the fun doesn't end inside the double-decker. Luke and Charlie pay her dad a small amount of money to rent out his Essex land, and they get plenty in return. The couple has about an acre of land to themselves with plenty of privacy. Not to mention, beautiful views.
"The land we live on means we have lots of outdoor space," Charlie said. "At night, it's like a bonus, it's really dark, and no one's around, and it's really quiet and peaceful," she said. The DIYers made sure to take advantage of the outdoors and make it a part of their living quarters.
The double-decker's private yard holds a second living room. The outdoor L-shaped couch has plenty of sitting room for when Charlie and Luke welcome guests. It might've been difficult at times, but the couple said the bus renovation "has been the best thing we've ever done."
"Some days I sit here, and I think, 'Oh, why am I living in this bus, this is so annoying,'" admitting Charlie. "But the majority of the time, I think we're just so grateful for being able to do something quite creative when we're not creative people."
The Bad Part
Whenever Luke and Charlie want to - and the weather allows - the couple brings their television into the great outdoors for a movie night surrounded by nature. The string lights and colorful outdoor rug make for an inviting space. But being smack in the middle of all the greenery has its downsides, too.
"In the winter, it can sometimes get really cold, and the other side is in the summer it can be like a greenhouse," Charlie explained. Even with the wood-burning stove, other heaters, and an air conditioning unit, the bus's temperatures are hard to control since it wasn't insulated.
The Best Part
But the best part of the house? Well, it's probably hard to narrow it down to just one thing. "I love being able to look outside, and... have a more country, outdoor living sort of space," Charlie shared. "It's been the best thing for us." But just as amazing is not being tied to a mortgage or rent.
"The freedom of being able to travel back and forth without being tied down, but living together is the main bonus to living here," she continued. "We love to travel and wanted a hub that we could return home to and then leave again and have a lot of flexibility."
Follow Their Adventures
It's safe to say that embarking on their biggest DIY yet was well worth all of the headaches that came with the renovation. "It was definitely a shock to the system," Charlie said of taking on the bus conversion without any building experience. But the end result is irreplaceable.
Luke and Charlie have a hip and spacious home with no mortgage and minimal bills. Plus, plenty of outdoor space - so much of it that they even got some pet goats! "When you live in a bus you live a weird life, so you might as well have two goats," Charlie joked. You can follow their bus adventures on Instagram @doubledeckerhome.