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1988 Short School Bus Converted By Group Of Students

As any American school kid knows, the short bus gets a bad rap, but this RV conversion might just allow it to redeem itself. Lacy Leonard, a college sculpture student, and a partner took this on as a graduate level project. The bus was a year in the making and they were on a tight budget, meaning lots of repurposing, recycling and upcycling in its construction.

The entrance to this charming short bus RV.

bus exterior
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The base was a 1988 Ford Econoline School Bus. The small amount of space was used to their advantage as they were able to focus on elements that were truly necessary, while still presenting a fully realized design that is often not as polished on some of the larger buses, where more space means more to transform.

Looking toward the back.

front to back
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Looking toward the front.

view front to back
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They didn’t spend a lot of time camouflaging the bus’s origins and most of the original elements are still visible. The seats were stripped out to provide open space and lots of reclaimed oak barn wood was brought in to line the interior. Floors are covered in wide plank, rough cut oak that lays a rugged foundation.

Kitchen sink and cabinets featuring reclaimed materials.

kitchen cabinets
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The rest of the interior got a fresh coat of sky blue paint that softens the look and brings in a lot of light. Since the short bus is a relatively small space, the floor plan was developed galley style, with seating and cabinets along both outside walls and a wide walkway down the middle. Because the windows were all left intact, the conversion elements were kept low to allow a lot of light in.

This beaded curtain conceals the composting toilet.

beaded curtain
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Right behind the driver’s seat we find the water closet, which features a composting toilet. It is closed off from the rest of the cabin with a curtain. The kitchen is compact, contained in one short row of cabinets that provide ample storage and a work platform for the portable camp stove.

Custom carved shelf bracket ornaments add an artsy touch.

bus bracket
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Bedding is provided by two banquet style seats on either side, with thick foam cushions for converting to sleeping quarters. Underneath the benches, lots more storage, featuring some open shelving and repurposed drawers from old metal filing cabinets. Up overhead, classic bus shelving, built from metal brackets and rough oak slats provides room for luggage and other items.

Everything is kept intentionally unfinished to give a sustainable mid-century vibe, including the beautiful kitchen cabinets which feature a blend of repurposed mid-century kitchen drawers, reclaimed barn wood, and a canvas drape in place of one door. An improvised latch made from an antler tip completes the effect.

Roman style linen blinds cover the windows and add a warm glow to the light when closed. All in all the effect is laid back and comfortable, with a cool color palette that invites relaxation and a sense of adventure into this well designed and ruggedly constructed space.


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