3 Brilliant Lessons to Steal from This Tiny Kitchen in a Converted 220-Square-Foot School Bus

published Apr 13, 2022
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Back in 2020, Caleb Brackney was looking for an affordable home while he attended graduate school as an architecture student at the University of Tennessee. That’s when he had a brilliant idea: He decided to put down $3,000 and buy a 1995 Thomas International school bus. Brackney then used the remaining $7,000 of his $10,000 budget to create a 220-square-foot house on wheels!

“What I love the most is how this renovation taught me to live more sustainably. I never realized how much water and power I used daily, but now that I have a limited supply of each, it has taught me how to be more mindful of my habits,” he says. Of course, there’s an added advantage to living on a bus. “I love the freedom my home on wheels gives me to travel on breaks, affordably live wherever I work during internships, and not be tied to a lease,” says Brackney, who describes “The Roamer” as the ultimate bachelor pad.

Caleb Brackney with his Goldendoodle, Ivy.

As we took the tour, we found three brilliant lessons worth learning from Brackney’s tiny kitchen remodel. So, buckle up because we’re about to take a skoolie spin!

1. Find unconventional ways to upcycle.

One of Brackney’s biggest obstacles in remodeling his home was his limited budget. “As a college student, I refused to take out loans to do this project, so the money I reserved for this adventure dictated almost every decision,” he explains. So, Brackney turned to scouring Facebook Marketplace for clever ways to upcycle. By upcycling and using gently used items from Facebook Marketplace and thrift stores, Brackney found a budget-friendly approach to furnish his home, allowing him to “brainstorm alternative ways to create a homey space out of everyday materials.”

In fact, one such Facebook find is now his absolute favorite item in his home. Brackney turned a semi-truck bed into his beautiful kitchen countertop. “After planning, sanding, staining, and sealing it, the counters offer a vibrant natural texture to the front of the bus and set the tone for the rest of the home,” he says.

2. Get super creative with storage.

With such a small living space, Brackney also had to be smart about kitchen storage. Besides using a magnetic strip to hold his knife set and stocking up on plenty of baskets, he also created a gorgeous system for holding all of his dry goods. Check out how he conveniently mounted Mason jar lids along his bottom kitchen shelf. The jars screw into the lids for brilliant under-shelf storage!

“I took this a step further and dropped lights into every other jar to provide ample light across my bar, and the jars which encase the lights are used as my drinking cups since they are always clean and empty for the light to shine through. This keeps them from breaking during travel and serves multiple functions,” he says.

3. Never underestimate the power of natural light.

While the walls of the bus confined any way that Brackney could expand, that didn’t stop him one bit. “My favorite part of my home is the clerestory skylight down the middle. This opening was inspired by sailboat skylights, which are instrumental in creating an atmosphere that is inviting and iconic,” he says. The 7-foot-long skylight allows plenty of natural sunlight to stream into the kitchen, helping Brackney save on electricity expenses.

On the roof of the bus, Brackney also installed his very own garden. Using an old mowing trailer, Brackney built a rooftop deck. “I took the axle off and bolted the frame to the roof of the bus. The tiny garden up top was an experiment of how I could productively use some of the sunlight and rainwater runoff. This strip garden hosted carrots, wildflowers, peppers and a few herbs,” he says.

Think you could ever live in a school bus? What about one that looked this cool? Discuss in the comments below.