The layout and design
How do you fit space for 8 people to live and sleep in a school bus?? The answer is...very strategically. From the beginning, we knew we wanted a few things for sure: we wanted to dedicate the most square footage to where we spend the most time (the traveling and the sleeping), we knew we wanted to have our own bedroom space, we knew we wanted each kid to have their own real bed (not 2 teenage boys sharing a 38" fold-out dinette!! which seemed to be the best we could find in any other RVs), and we knew we wanted safe seating for 8 while traveling with actual legit seat belts for everyone. We started with some graph paper and started sketching. We have used Google Sketch Up for some past projects, but for this one we found that we liked doodling with graph paper and being able to quickly erase and redraw lines.
First we put in the must-haves at the front and back of the bus (again the traveling and the sleeping) and then moved to the middle. Whatever was leftover was for the kitchen and bathroom. We knew we wanted our bus to be dedicated to traveling rather than being a stationary tiny home as some people use theirs for, which is fine too- just not our purpose. To that end, we didn't need a large or fancy bathroom or kitchen. Usually when we have traveled in past RVs we do a majority of our cooking outside- whether that be campfire cooking (we love pretty much anything that comes out of my Dutch oven!) or the grill or the camp stove. We discussed doing a split bathroom, but I just didn't like it. I knew I would have to listen to kids crying that they forgot to go pee before they left the toilet part of the bathroom to go to the shower room and they're naked already and someone else is in the toilet room. Blah blah blah! Sometimes as a mom the job is really about eliminating problems before they arise. So- no split bathroom. We discussed doing a side hallway because that allowed for a bigger bathroom or kitchen in the center of the bus, but then everything just wouldn't fit. I guess middle hallways are common because, well- they work.
Next question was to roof-raise or not to roof-raise? Some people make their buses taller by slicing horizontally all the way down the bus, cutting each rib and then welding in an extension piece to each rib therefore raising the roof up that much. Well, extra headspace would be really nice- especially in a vehicle built for kids. But for us it came down to a question of return on investment. It's a LOT of work and it would effect the strength of the bus which was one of the reasons we were drawn to a bus in the first place. Unfortunately it's almost impossible to do a side hallway layout without a roof-raise since the roof arches down on the sides to a point too low for an adult to walk underneath. This was another contributing factor to us doing a center hallway.
For our bedroom we knew we wanted at least a queen sized bed with a walk around bed as opposed to a climb in bed. I'm talking about the kind where there's no foot room to walk around the bed and you have to climb over someone to get to the other side of the bed. We knew we wanted enough space to walk around and get into bed. More details in the *master bedroom post coming soon.
For the kids bunks we knew we needed 6 beds for the 6 kids. Fortunately Jared was able to remove the wheel wells as referenced in this post *here* so we decided to put 3 bunks on either side of the walk way. More details in the *bunk beds post coming soon.
For the dinette and bench area we knew we needed seating for 8 with seat belts. But we didn't have the option for seating for 8 for traveling and another seating for 8 in a dinette for eating. So we decided to do a mix of both. We wanted the kids to have a place to do homework, play games, art projects and such at a table while traveling. But the galley style seating doesn't allow for a table to be up during travel because undoubtedly the person trapped on the other side of the table from the bathroom would have to use the bathroom. So we wanted an area where a table could stay up all the time. Of course that wouldn't allow for enough seats so we still needed a second seating area. Hence the bench. The dinette could still be folded down into a "guest bed" if needed. More details in the *dinette/bench post coming soon.
The bathroom and kitchen got whatever was leftover. So they're going to be rather small, but that's just fine with us. They are not a space to hang out it in- it'll be just a place to get the business done. We decided to save space in the kitchen by skipping a full stove and going with a couple of induction cooktops *here* and a *convection microwave. We really wanted to avoid the use of propane as much as possible anyway, since they are the main cause of fires in RVs. More details on that in the *kitchen post coming soon. The bathroom is tiny, but has a toilet, small sink, and a standup shower 27"x24" base. More details on that in the *bathroom post coming soon.
Now I've explained a lot about the floor plan, but as far as the color scheme and decorating goes, we knew we wanted the bus to be light and bright with a little bit of farmhouse because that's the look of our home. We decided to go with a white and grey color palette.
Here are a few of our floorplan sketches before we got to the right one:
This was drawn before we actually had our bus and realized that side hallways were impossible without a roof raise. Also we decided against this drawing because we had to crawl over the bed and there wasn't enough bench seating for everyone.
This one had a walk around bed, but still a side hallway. But we're getting closer.
This one had a crawl over bed. In order to facilitate the zig zag hallway we had to make one bunk shorter than the other, but we didn't like that because it limited our use of the beds for kids as they got bigger. I really liked the bigger kitchen and bathroom that a side hallway allowed for, but once we realized how much work was involved in a roof raise we eliminated the side hallway.
Back to a crawl over bed, yuck. This one had a split bathroom which I decided was a big NO. We moved the door in this sketch so that a bench could wrap around the front of the bus and then have seating next to the driver. We decided that moving the door was too much work. But I'm not sure that we maybe should've done that.
This is our final floor plan. Starting at the rear we liked the lift up queen bed that allowed us to walk around it and also lift it up for storage. 2 closets across from each other give us storage for kids clothes which we can't get enough of. The split triple bunks gives each of the 6 kids their own bed. Sliding pocket doors allow us to close the bedroom area off to add a second changing room or to section off a smaller area to air condition. The kitchen and bathroom are next- they're not much, but they'll do. Then for the seating we have a long 8' bench that will seat 4 or 5 of us with a seat belt system attached to the wall. Across from that is a 4 person dinette with a table. The table will collapse so it can turn into a guest bed. Backing up to the dinette is a front facing bench that seats another 2 people and is the nearest seating to the driver so I can sit behind Jared and talk to him. The only thing I wish I had was a chair to sit next to him, but oh well, we can't have it all. This floor plan gets the closest to everything we wanted.
(*Asterisk represents links to come)