Poor Texas man Michael Talley lost a lot of important things, including his girlfriend, his job, and even his grandpa all in one year. You can imagine what a tough time it was for him! Fortunately, this down on his luck guy finally found his place in the world - on a school bus. What happened? Read on...
For most people, a rusty, old school bus is useless, but for Michael Talley, it's a vehicle full of potential. With a little bit of money and a lot of grit and determination, Talley transformed the bus into something completely different - a tiny luxury home. This enterprising man had a clear plan of how to convert the used bus, but things did not start out easy.
Michael Talley was exceptional at design but was a bit green in the hands-on side of construction. What's worse, he didn't have enough money to support this huge project. So he moved out of his cheap apartment, and "moved into a tent in order to save money while at the same time working on the bus, commuting 40 minutes to work every day, all just to afford more steel and more wood."
With next-to-no experience in construction, Talley considered using a preexisting structure as the foundation. Ultimately, he decided upon a school bus because "there's already four walls and a roof." At just $2,200, Talley bought the old school bus. There was a heartwarming story behind Talley's choosing this specific vehicle for his home transformation.
The story lies in his childhood. "My bus was the 'Armadillo' bus. I have two friends who actually rode this bus when they were kids," he said. Sadly, Talley had to scrape this off in order to apply the finishing touches to his mobile home. With a lot of hard work, creativity, and a little help from his friends, this genius transformed the rusty bus into something completely different.
Talley firstly removed the seats, turning the bus into a completely empty vessel. His stepdad helped remove every single bolt, crawling under the bus. A nice family helped cart away all these seats to the scrap metal yard. Interestingly, while sweeping away the remaining dirt and debris, Talley stumbled across a funny note, reading "kick me." It's a classic school prank.
Once Talley had emptied the bus, there was now lots of space with endless possibilities. As Talley stepped onto the bus for the first time though, he met the second problem - being 6'6", he was 5 inches too tall for the bus! How could he be comfortable in this small thing? To solve the problem Talley then did one of the most radical things in the whole project - cut the bus in half.
"I cut a section out of one of the steel ribs and took it to a metal fabricator," Talley said. "I had him craft 25 identical steel 'sleeves' that could slip over either end of the rib once the roof was raised." After seeking advice from his helpers, Talley finally lifted the ceiling 20 inches higher. "It's remarkable how much more spacious the bus feels than I thought it would," he said.
Looking a bit weird after the roof was raised, the windows were stripped down and replaced. Now the frame of his tiny "home" was almost finished. As a professional designer, Talley got inspiration from the adventure vehicle in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and made this final design. "I put all the public areas towards the front and all the private areas in the back," he said.
Consulting his blueprint, Talley began to build his kitchen, living room, bedroom, and more. With just a pile of scraps to work with, this single guy felt overwhelmed by the task of successfully completing his project. "I couldn't sleep for months because my brain was constantly going a mile a minute about how to build this and what I was going to do to build that. It was the hardest thing I've ever done."
As a food lover, Talley equipped his mini kitchen with everything needed for cooking, including a beautiful black sink, a kitchen counter, butcher block countertop, some drawers, and cabinets. All these were bought on clearance from IKEA. One of the standout features of Talley's kitchen was the tiles he had fitted. "The only cosmetic design that I knew I wanted in the bust bus was dark hardwood floors, butchered block, and white subway tile with black grout,” he said.
In addition to the kitchenware, genius Talley also has that important must-have every kitchen requires - a fridge. He had an elevated fridge/freezer combo slotted into his dream home after making inch perfect measurements. "Not the best job, but then again; the first time I've ever done any of this stuff," he said. But it looks thoroughly impressive.
Young Talley is also a big fan of movies, so it made perfect sense that he would need a TV in his place. "I like movies. Film and television are my favorite things, so I wanted a great movie watching room," he said. Taking full advantage during the final stages of the build, Talley had not one, but two TVs fitted into his new home - one in the living room, the other in the bedroom.
Between his TV watching and kicking back to enjoy his food, Talley made the best of the space in his new home. "I took my IKEA Karlstad couch from my apartment and took off the back, arms, and feet, so I was left with the cushions and the box spring base," he said. "I built that into the bus for added comfort and style." His simple lounge is a thing of beauty!
Of course, what is a home if you don't have a place to rest your head at night? For Talley, it was imperative to have a cozy sleeping space. His comfortable bedroom has an incredible view of the forest. "It's a lot of fun opening the back emergency door at night and waking up the forest every morning." After months of effort, Talley finally achieved what he set out to when he first bought this school bus - to feel at home.
A dream home is even better with a dream office. As a professional designer, Talley needed an office wherever he ended up living. "Being a graphic designer I need a proper workspace. Most tiny houses have these little dinky desks that flip up from a wall or are tucked away in a small alcove," he said. "This desk is 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep, the largest desk I've ever owned!"
Not only has Talley been efficient with his space in his new home, but he has also been thoughtful when it comes to what materials he uses for it, especially for interior furnishings. "I need to say I SUPER lucked out with this wood," he said. "It's reclaimed floorboards from a house here in Hyde Park in Austin, from 1941. I just flipped it upside down and used the unfinished sides for all my accent walls/couch."
Outside of the home's design, basic essentials such as electricity and plumbing needed to be executed to a tee to make the vehicle work as a home. In order to be environmentally friendly and energy efficient, Talley also added solar panels onto the roof. "Installing my solar panels. This was the most frustrating day of the build," he said. "I was doing it myself, it was very windy, and things kept falling off the roof."
When transforming the bus into a house, Talley kept the key components such as the engine of the vehicle and changed one of the school bus' tires which was financially demanding for him. This made sure his home could act as one that he could actually drive. "Engine work. I got stuck in the mud and messed up my power steering trying to get out," Talley wrote. "You have any idea how hard it is to try and parallel park a 40-foot school bus with no power steering? I do."
During the project, Talley made a couple of mistakes and also bled and sweated. "First side done," he said. "Easily the most painful and bloody part of the build. Got a sweet permanent scar on my forearm from when one of these steel sheets fell and sliced my arm open." While in the thick of the build, Talley was working during long, sunny days, and he had to have fans dotted around the vehicle to stay cool.
Although Talley made a lot of sacrifices to get his fantasy home, transforming this school bus was undoubtedly one of the most memorable experiences he'll ever have. "Fun fact, while spraying insulation I got a bunch in my beard and didn't noticed until an hour or so later, and had to shave the whole thing off." Talley also kicked back from time to time. "I would regularly go sit on the roof of the bus and drink some wine and watch the sunset over the Texas farmlands."
What is life if you are not able to have a joke every once in a while? Talley is a guy who doesn't take things too seriously. In fact, every step of the way, he approached his project with a quirky sense of humor. He even played a prank on his friends by posting this photo online. "Best April fools joke I've ever pulled," he said. “Everyone on Facebook freaked out and my mother nearly had a heart attack, haha."
Painting the iconic yellow color white was the last job Talley did to his modified home. Now after a lot of hard work, Michael Talley can look back at his new home with pride. Looking completely different, the old school bus is now a luxury home with a stunning white paint job. "Painted with Rustoleum," he said. "White is best for the heat here in Texas and leaves me open to add colors down the road. I also couldn't think of what colors would go with my wood interiors."