Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budget

Caleb Brackney is a dual master’s student at the University of Tennessee, studying architecture and landscape architecture. He also chose interior design as his undergrad. An older student in his program, Caleb’s design mentor, built a tiny house in his parent’s driveway.

Caleb, seeing his progress and the support he got from his family and community, wondered if tiny home living could be for him. The night he spent in the tiny house, called Kinetohaus, was just the beginning. After watching his cousin and her husband purchase a school bus to convert into a tiny home, he decided to do the same.

In February 2020, Caleb’s journey began. He purchased a 1995 International Thomas 3800 36-foot school bus from the Boys and Girls Club in Rome, Georgia for $3,000, and spent $7,000 renovating it. He shared the project with his girlfriend, family, and friends over seven months.

Before he got stuck in with the renovation of his new bus ‘The Roamer’, Caleb made use of his education to think about how a practical layout would look. He drew out each functional space in bubbles, then mentally walked through each area to establish how he would carry out activities in those spaces.

He then got to work, and it wasn’t long before he was moving into the bus while he completed graduate school. He now plans to travel to cities, explore national parks, and live remotely while deciding which city he would like to settle down in.

Through Caleb’s experiences with converting a school bus to a mobile home, he has some advice for those who want to do the same.

“I would suggest to not shy away from starting projects you do not know how to finish. If you wait to learn everything before you start, you will never have the time or energy to finish.”

the roamer bus - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetCaleb Brackney purchased a 1996 International Thomas 3800 36-foot ex-school bus for $3,000 from Rome, Georgia. He and his friends painted it tan and black, incorporating a mountain-scape to incorporate more of the black color, which was cheaper than tan.

roamer bus conversion 10 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetCaleb wanted to make the most of the space, so he attached magnetic strips on the walls to hang things. The kitchen features plenty of bench space and beautiful ceramic tiles.

roamer bus conversion 11 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetThe black color scheme of the cabinetry is striking and beautiful against the wood bench. The kitchen also has everything Caleb needs to cook up a storm.

roamer bus conversion 18 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetCaleb arranged the kitchen in two sides at the front of The Roamer, sitting tucked behind the cockpit and bus entrance.

roamer bus conversion 17 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetThe majority of the bus is fitted out with recycled materials. He cut up old furniture, and his ceiling is made from outdoor siding, which is lightweight and waterproof. The beautiful country-style flooring came from an overstock store. There is also a clerestory skylight, which is a lovely feature above the kitchen and dining space.

roamer bus conversion 8 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetThe dining area bar is one of Caleb’s favourite parts of the bus, for it features the signatures of several hundred friends who visited his apartment during his senior year of undergrad. It’s also home to a slide-out keyboard.

roamer bus conversion 12 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetStorage is typically an issue in tiny homes, but not The Roamer. Caleb installed a seven-foot-long closet for all his clothing and footwear.

roamer bus conversion 9 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetThe living space is both comfortable and functional, with a six-foot-six-inch sofa with plenty of room to stretch out. It also converts to a double bed for guests.

roamer bus conversion 2 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetThe living area is kitted out with everything the average home has, including couch cushions from his apartment sofa.

skoolie bedroom - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetThe use of outdoor siding on the ceiling added a layer of user-friendliness to the entire bus, including the bedroom. Caleb also added a PVC pipe light fixture that he painted with copper spray paint.

roamer bus conversion 19 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetThe Roamer is entirely functional for Caleb, his girlfriend Tierra, and their dog. It was a team effort that well and truly paid off. They were able to pool their ideas and come up with unique features like hidden cabinet doors in the bed’s headboard.

roamer bus conversion 15 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetCaleb decided to add a full bathroom into The Roamer. By doing so, he can maintain his independence as he travels.

roamer bus conversion 1 - Caleb and friends converted old school bus into a lovely mobile home on $10K budgetNo stone was left unturned in creating a warm, welcoming, and functional mobile home. Caleb and Tierra even turned an old pallet into a green wall on the rear of the bus.