Mother and Daughter Team Transform Bus Into 'Cottage Farmhouse' on Wheels

This duo is inspired by the message to live simply, in memory of a lost loved one.

Tobius bus conversion by Live Simply Buses interior

Live Simply Buses

Whether they are entrepreneurs, outdoor enthusiasts, veterans, or digital nomads working remotely full-time, more and more people are becoming interested in van life and bus life, which often offers people more financial freedom, flexibility, and opportunities to travel more widely. Interest in these readapted tiny homes-on-wheels is growing, likely facilitated by technologies like ubiquitous Wi-Fi, as well as an increasingly expensive housing market in North America.

But some may be introduced to bus living through some kind of tragic circumstances, like a natural disaster or perhaps a death in the family. That was the case with Lisa and Megan Donahue, the mother and daughter duo behind the North Carolina-based bus conversion company Live Simply Buses, which has been converting old buses into gorgeous skoolies since 2017. It launched as a way to honor the memory of Lisa's son Michael Donahue, who tragically died after being hit by a car in 2015 at 15 years old.

Lisa and Megan explained to Treehugger in an email that the sudden loss of a son and brother was what prompted them to find a creative way to transform tragedy into something positive:

"The way we got into bus conversions probably isn't what you're expecting. It wasn't because we were tired of paying a mortgage and decided to build a bus to escape the everyday costs of life, but due to the passing of Michael (a brother to Megan and a son to Lisa). Shortly before he passed he had tweeted, 'It's the simple things in life that make it worth living.' We decided to take his love for simple living and merge it together with our passion for interior design to create a legacy that will 'drive' on forever."

That beautiful message of enduring memories is behind each and every one of the pair's carefully renovated buses —one of which is Tobius, a 2002 Thomas Freightliner that was transformed into a "cottage farmhouse" on wheels. Tobius was Lisa and Megan's fifth bus build and is packed with plenty of charming decor and clever space-saving ideas.

Tobius bus conversion by Live Simply Buses exterior

Live Simply Buses

Tobius' distinct 30-foot-long interior features a ceiling covered with tongue and groove wooden cladding, which helps to add warmth to its atmosphere. Lisa, who has experience as a visual coordinator and professional organizer, and Megan, a communication design graduate, explain that the aesthetic of the buses they build (already a dozen so far) range from modern to rustic:

"We adore the clean and simple lines modernism brings to the table. But we also love rustic design because of the warmth and home-like feeling it gives off. With the buses, however, we like to try as many colors and design themes [as] we can to appeal to our entire client base. We love trying new things and working with colors and patterns outside of our comfort zones."

There is a small lounge for sitting at the front of Tobius, created out of wood panels, with some integrated storage cubbies for storing items, while the custom-made cushion here adds some extra comfort.

Tobius bus conversion by Live Simply Buses lounge

Live Simply Buses

Across from the lounge area is a small dining table that is suspended by metal chains from the ceiling. By floating the table in this way, it helps to minimize the potential bulkiness of such furniture items, while creating a more open floor space and reducing overall visual clutter. If more space is needed, the table can be unhooked from the chain and folded down.

Tobius bus conversion by Live Simply Buses dining table

Live Simply Buses

Next up is this lovely kitchenette, which has a sink with a pull-down faucet, mini-refrigerator, and some cabinets under the counter, as well as open shelving above to store food, cups, and display some plants.

We love this built-in dish drying rack, which keeps the plates within easy access and lets them dry properly at the same time.

Tobius bus conversion by Live Simply Buses kitchen

Live Simply Buses

Behind the kitchen, we have the bathroom off to one side. There's a toilet here, in addition to these repurposed lockers, which have separate compartments for storing things.

Tobius bus conversion by Live Simply Buses bathroom

Live Simply Buses

Toward the rear, we have some bunk beds, the topmost of which can be accessed by a small set of steps. The bottom bunk has a chalkboard ceiling painted onto its roof, a nice touch to add some creativity to the project. At the rear, there is a "garage" that has been sectioned off to provide extra storage space. As Lisa and Megan tell us, the bus' previous owners already had this rear part of the bus sectioned off to hold their daughter's piano, which she would play at every stop during their travels.

Tobius bus conversion by Live Simply Buses bunkbed

Live Simply Buses

After finding the perfect old bus to convert via Facebook Marketplace, Lisa and Megan combine their expertise to create small but comfortable tiny homes like Tobius, which was eventually sold for $27,500 to a family that wanted to homeschool their children, while traveling around to all of America's national parks. That idea of living simply and enjoying life with those you love is the driving force behind Lisa and Megan's tasteful bus conversions. As they explain:

"We love promoting bus life for the simple fact that people get to really enjoy their lives. These buses allow people to live 'a simple life' — one where they're able to just pick up and go explore another state at the drop of a hat. Parents traveling with children don't just read or hear about landscapes in different states, they get to see them. The whole thing is really beautiful if you think about it. Our hope for everyone is that they get to live a life they enjoy, and the people who buy our buses truly do. And to us, that makes it all beyond worth it."

Lisa and Megan are currently working on a new pair of builds that they plan to call Otus and Titus, and there's more to see on their website, Facebook and Instagram.