Architecture Student Converts Bus Into a Roaming Home on Wheels

This clever bus conversion features recycled materials and a creative layout.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney interior

The Roamer Outpost

For many young architecture students, school is a great time to learn new ideas and concepts about how to create harmonious and functional spaces, and how to put different materials and building systems together. But prior to setting up an architectural practice or getting that first job in an office, there aren't often many real-life opportunities to experiment with these concepts hands-on and put that learned knowledge into actual application. That is, unless you create your own opportunities.

At least, that's the case with Caleb Brackney, a graduate student at the University of Tennessee's architecture school. Brackney put his schooling to good use by recently completing a lovely bus home, which he's nicknamed The Roamer Bus, on a modest budget. We get a tour of Brackney's self-built home-on-wheels, thanks to the folks over at Alternative House:

Brackney explains how everything came together in order to pave the way for this ambitious project:

"I studied interior design in my undergrad, and really grew an appreciation for the way spaces are laid out, and learning how to use textures and materials to improve the quality of life that people live. So last year I had a little bit of extra money I'd saved up, and I had some time during last summer where I didn't have to do an internship, and I thought this would be the perfect summer to do a personal case study where I could learn how plumbing works, how electrical works, and insulation -- things like that on a small scale, and to learn how to do it myself."

Brackney started by first purchasing a used 1996 International Thomas 3800 school bus, which he found online and bought in Rome, Georgia. The 36-foot vehicle was then painted over in tan and black colors, with an additional emphasis on the black stylized rendition of a mountainous landscape, as black was the cheaper paint to buy.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney exterior
The Roamer Outpost

Past the driver's seat and a small set of storage shelves, the first zone we enter into is the kitchen.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney counter
The Roamer Outpost

Here, everything is done with an elegant palette of contrasting colors and materials: there's the darkly painted cabinetry that is offset by the lighter colored wood counters, and the light gray hexagonal tiles covering one small area of the kitchen.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney kitchen
The Roamer Outpost

There are all the basic appliances and accessories in the kitchen, and then some: a double sink with sprayer faucet, microwave, coffee machine, toaster oven, a built-in wine rack, and an Instant Pot and air fryer tucked away in one of the kitchen's deep drawers.

The design incorporates some slick space-saving ideas, like the wall-mounted magnetic strips for knives, as well as the row of suspended Mason jars which act as food storage, lighting, and for displaying them as drinking vessels. Brackney has kept one long row of windows along one side of the bus mostly untouched, in order to maximize natural cross-ventilation as much as possible.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney mason jar storage
Alternative Houses

The middle zone of The Roamer features an extra-large closet behind two bi-fold doors. There's oodles of space here for clothing, shoes, and other random gear. This area is topped off with a skylight, which allows the 6'2" tall Brackney to fully stand up when changing clothes. Much of the bus's interior was clad with wood that was cut up and reclaimed from old pieces of furniture or reused old exterior siding, which is lightweight and waterproof.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney closet
The Roamer Outpost

Opposite the closet, we have a lengthy, multipurpose countertop that serves as Brackney's dining table and workspace, which is made out of repurposed wood planks that have been signed by the multitudes of friends who visited his previous apartment during the last year of his undergraduate studies. Underneath, there's an ingenious slide-out drawer that holds an electric keyboard, which stores it out of sight until it's needed.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney keyboard slide-out
The Roamer Outpost

At the rear of the bus, we have a television screen on a swivel-arm, facing a comfortable, custom-built sectional sofa that can also transform into a double-sized guest bed.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney sofa and television
The Roamer Outpost

Brackney kept the bus' side door intact here, as a way to ensure that more light and air will enter the rear, and as a convenient way for his dog to jump in and out of the bus.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney sectional sofa
The Roamer Outpost

The queen-sized bed has an intriguing checker-patterned headboard that doubles as small storage cabinets. Underneath the bed lies the bus' 50-gallon freshwater tank.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney bed
The Roamer Outpost

Beside the bed, we have a door that leads to the bathroom at the very rear of the bus, which includes a composting toilet and a shower stall that vents out moisture through the rear door—a smart layout that we've yet to see elsewhere.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney bathroom
The Roamer Outpost

Brackney's creativity in recycling extends to the top of the bus, which features a roof deck that was made out of an old utility trailer, which has its axle cut off.

bus conversion The Roamer Bus Caleb Brackney roof deck
The Roamer Outpost

All in all, it took Brackney six months to convert the bus, $7,000 for materials and various accessories, in addition to the $3,000 for the bus itself, totaling an impressive $10,000 for an extraordinary home that he can call his own.

To see more, visit Caleb Brackney on Roamer Outpost (plans are available for purchase) and on Instagram.