Yes, you read that title right! Homeowners all over the world have been looking for how to build a tiny house that suits their needs. Whether it’s on a low-budget, on a short-time frame, or even on a boat.
In one of our previous pieces on the DIY tiny house movement, we followed the journey of a U.S man named Michael Talley, who built his home out of a school bus. It seemed too good to be true…until we read about the British couple who built their home out of a double-decker!
So today, we’re going to tell you the inspiring story of Luke Walker and Charlie MacVicar, who built a two-story tiny house out of a decommissioned double-decker bus. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll consider DIYing your own double-decker too.
Meet Luke and Charlie
Like many young couples, Luke and Charlie spent a good amount of their 20s traveling the world together. From Australia to South East Asia, to various countries throughout Europe – they were making the most of their youth.
But soon they had to return to the U.K, and back to reality too. Both had settled into their new jobs, as logistics coordinators and insurance agents respectively. But what about finding a new home?
Well, despite both earning a respectable salary, they were also wary of taking on a huge rent or mortgage bill. And like so many tiny house owners we’ve covered in the past, they realized that alternative housing was the only option.
Finding The Bus Of Their Dreams
The couple was lucky, as Charlie’s father owned a plot of land in Essex, a county northeast of London. He was willing to let them use the land as they pleased, but it was completely bare. They needed a house.
So they began brainstorming and inevitably settled on the idea of a tiny house. But what kind of tiny house did they want? They knew they wanted to be mobile, so they could move easily… something on wheels? An RV, or a school bus?
Soon enough a brilliant idea struck them. What about converting a double-decker? They wanted a home that was still mobile, but also bigger than a traditional tiny house. It just seemed perfect.
And after weeks of searching with no luck, they finally found it – a red Go-Ahead London Volvo Plaxton bus. Many of the decommissioned double-deckers they looked at were in a terrible condition, but the Go-Ahead was just a bit disheveled. Nothing some TLC couldn’t fix.
Size-wise it was perfect too. Measuring in at 32.8 feet by 8.3 feet, with a height of 14.6 feet, it was even tall enough for the 6’2 Luke! They happily paid 2,500 British Pounds (equal to around $3,500). Now it was time to start the build.
First, they needed to design the floorplan of their new tiny home. And this is where they ran into their first real problem. Figuring out how to build a tiny house out of a double-decker was going to be harder than they thought. This was exacerbated by the fact that neither had any building experience.
“We got really overwhelmed,” Charlie shared with Insider magazine. “Like, it was my first time picking up a screwdriver.”
That’s because there are very few examples of double-decker tiny house conversions. They had thought they might take some ideas from other builds, but there was little to go on. Luke and Charlie were going to have to go out on a limb and design it all themselves.
After a few weeks of planning and discussion, they finally had a plan that looked like this:
First Floor: One full-sized kitchen directly behind the driver’s seat, and on the same side of the bus. The kitchen includes a small three-chair dining table/workspace. Behind that, a small restroom and dining room.
Second Floor: The rest of the space would be a large bedroom with extra features.
It was basic, but it was enough of a plan to justify starting their build. And they did just that.
Gutting The Interior
Now it was time to remove everything inside the bus. It was still in working condition, with two levels of seating to take out. It was going to be a hell of a job.
So with the help of their family and friends, Luke and Charlie set to removing each seat screw-by-screw. They then dismantled all of the metal framings below the seats. Once the seats were out, it was time to remove the flooring.
The linoleum floors were in technically good condition. But neither relished flooring that had been walked on by thousands of strangers. So they ripped out everything, replacing it with sleek and simple grey flooring.
Building Up Their Double-Decker Home
Gutting the bus had been long and physically straining work, but it was straightforward. Unfortunately, the same wasn’t true for the second floor. When they started their planning, they hadn’t taken into account how to build a tiny house when your large furniture had to be taken through a very narrow bus stairwell.
“Building upstairs was more of a challenge as, on the top deck, the floor is slightly curved,” Charlie told Insider magazine. It was a setback they hadn’t expected, and it cost a pretty penny as the couple had to have most of their upstairs furniture custom-made. But that wasn’t the hardest part.
Charlie also wanted to have their free-standing bathtub on the upstairs floor, within their bedroom space. It may sound unconventional, but it allowed them more space to enjoy bathing. Unfortunately, it was impossible to get their claw-footed Victorian tub up the stairs… they had to airlift it in with an industrial crane!
The rest of the house was simpler. They built a conventional kitchen with all the appliances of a full-sized kitchen, making the most of clever storage tricks like hanging fruit bowls and ornamental jars to save space. They have a sizable oven and a two-burner gas stove.
The restroom was simple as well, as they didn’t need it to accommodate a bathtub or shower. It’s decked out with a simple toilet and sink arrangement, as well as plenty of storage for the rest of their belongings.
Next, the living room. They designed it to double as a guest room for visiting friends and parents and decked it out with a small wood-fired stove to heat up space during the winter months. The room is small, but they don’t mind.
“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. In fact, they feel a little spoiled by the space that living in a double-decker has afforded them.
“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.”
There are a few other nice touches they added to make their home feel special. For example, the windows. When most people research how to build a tiny house out of a bus, they decide to remove many of the windows. But Luke and Charlie kept every one intact, and both sides are open to the stunning English countryside around their home.
When it comes to electricity and water, utilities were an easy fix. They hooked their bus up to the local grid and connected it to a local water source. They also have gas delivered weekly. In short, they have everything they need to live the way people do in a traditional home.
Living Tiny In A Double-Decker
Charlie and Luke are happy to admit that learning how to build a tiny house, and applying that to a double-decker, was difficult. “It was definitely a shock to the system,” Charlie admitted. But regardless, they couldn’t be happier with their efforts.
They now live 100% independently, without having to pay rent or a mortgage, in a home that they built themselves!
“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 continues. “We love to travel and wanted a hub that we could return home to and then leave again and have a lot of flexibility.”
“Some days I sit here, and I think, ‘Oh, why am I living in this bus, this is so annoying,'” she admits. “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.”
Though we don’t have a video of Luke and Charlie’s build, we do have a video of a similar double-decker conversion, so you can take a look yourself. Seeing the conversions with your own eyes may also help with figuring out how to build a tiny house like these ones.
And if you’d like to see photos of Luke and Charlie’s stunning Essex double-decker home, follow their adventures on Instagram at @doubledeckerhome.