mid-century modern school bus tiny home on wheels

  • Christine Saldana and Kathy Mariscal live in a 298-square-foot bus they purchased in June.
  • With the help of contractors, the couple renovated the bus into a mid-century modern tiny home on wheels.
  • While many people live in buses, vans, and RVs for the freedom to travel, the couple told Insider their main motivation was saving money. 
  • "We made every single penny, nickel, and dime count for this bus," Mariscal told Insider. "It almost seems surreal sometimes. We did this."
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Christine Saldana, 28, and Kathy Mariscal, 34, weren't inspired to live on a bus because of travel. They also weren't eager to live a minimalist lifestyle.

Instead, the couple was motivated by money.

For Saldana and Mariscal, a bus meant cheaper living costs. And cheaper living costs meant more savings for their future. 

"We could save up a lot of money, get married, and use the money to start a family," Mariscal told Insider. "Living on a bus was the best option."

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In June, the couple purchased a 1988 Crown Coach school bus. After spending the summer renovating, the couple and their dog, Lolita, moved into their skoolie, nicknamed Adelita, in October. 

The couple wanted to save money for their wedding and future family, so they decided to move into a bus

The couple and their dog, Lolita, live together on the bus.
Adelita

In February, the couple got engaged and decided to move in together in Los Angeles, California. 

But with a wedding on the horizon, they quickly realized just how much married life can cost. 

"We didn't realize how expensive weddings and marriage and everything that comes with marriage is," Mariscal said.

They looked at their finances and realized their rents in LA — $4,500 total each month for their two individual apartments — was their biggest expense.

After brainstorming ways to lower that cost, Saldana came up with an idea: living on a bus. 

Using savings, they purchased a bus for $7,500 in mid-June. 

They hired contractors to help them create their dream home

A before-and-after photo of the interior of the school bus.
Adelita

The couple started watching people on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram who were doing skoolie and van renovations for inspiration.

"There were all these people doing it themselves, and we were like, 'We're two smart girls, we could figure this out,'" Mariscal said. "Very quickly we realized that we did not know what we were doing."

So they turned to their friends and family for help. After asking around, they found a nearby contractor who could build the infrastructure of their bus.

He built the walls, AC, plumbing, and electrical systems. Up next was the interior.

Their bus has a bright mid-century modern design

The couple said their couch has become a focal point in the home.
Adelita

The couple said they wanted the interior to be "timeless," so after scouring Pinterest, they decided on a mid-century modern aesthetic with bright colors.

Mariscal's sister and brother-in-law own a custom furniture company and offered to help build the furniture inside their bus. 

Saldana and Mariscal picked out the size, shape, color, and texture of the cabinets, couch, dinette, and chairs that would fill their home.

The bus features an open living room area that seamlessly connects to the kitchen. It also has a bedroom, closet, and bathroom.

Saldana and Mariscal said they sacrificed closet and bathroom space to have a larger living area. 

"Ultimately, that's where we were going to spend most of our time," Mariscal said.

In the living room area, they picked out a pink fabric for their couch, which instantly became the focal point of their home. 

There's also a yellow corduroy "co-captain chair," which is where Saldana sits when the couple travels to new destinations. 

The kitchen area features a teal color and a leather dinette.
Adelita

In the kitchen area, there's a leather dinette, wood countertops, and deep teal cabinets. 

They said they decided against upper cabinets because "we didn't want to feel like we were living in a hallway," Mariscal said. 

The kitchen is particularly minimalist, with just a sink and fridge and without traditional appliances like a stove, microwave, or dishwasher. Mariscal does most of the cooking with a Ninja Foodi, which works as a pressure cooker, air fryer, and Crock-Pot, instead.

Behind the kitchen is the bathroom, which features pink tiles, a compost toilet, and a shower. 

By the end of the renovation, the couple estimates the entire bus cost around $50,000. 

The couple said downsizing was the biggest challenge

The couple moved from Los Angeles, California, to Houston, Texas, during the pandemic.
Adelita

Saldana said the hardest part of moving into the bus was getting rid of a majority of their belongings. 

"Not all of the things we had in a regular apartment were going to fit in a bus," Saldana told Insider. "Letting go of a lot of our stuff was hard."

When designing the bus, the couple said they intentionally avoided creating extra storage space, such as storage under the couch or extra kitchen cabinets, because they wanted to fully commit to a minimalist lifestyle. 

"We both have a little bit of hoarder tendencies already, and if we don't have the space, we can't hoard," Mariscal said.

The couple moved from Los Angeles, California, to Houston, Texas, because of the pandemic

The bathroom includes a shower, sink, and compost toilet.
Adelita

At the beginning of October, the couple moved into their home. 

Initially, they'd planned to stay in Los Angeles, California, and park their bus at Mariscal's mother's house. 

But the pandemic hit, and Mariscal got a new job opportunity in Houston, Texas. 

So they spent a week driving from Los Angeles to Houston and exploring along the way.

Today, the couple lives in an RV park.

"There's literally everything you can think of as far as amenities, but we just get to live on our bus," Mariscal said. 

They have access to electricity, water, a dog park, a pool, and showers, and they pay about $800 a month for the lot. 

The couple never planned to travel full-time

The couple plans to take weekend trips instead of travel full-time.
Adelita

A main motivator for many people living in RVs, buses, and vans is the chance to constantly travel. 

For Mariscal and Saldana, that was never their game plan.

"We have a stable home life," Mariscal said. "But we just come home to a bus."

The couple takes weekend trips to explore their new state, but for now, they aren't looking to travel for extensive periods of time.

Now that the renovation is complete, they've acclimated to a minimalist lifestyle, and their dog, Lolita, has adjusted to her new home, the couple said they're proud and amazed that they turned this idea into a reality. 

"We made every single penny, nickel, and dime count for this bus," Mariscal told Insider. "It almost seems surreal sometimes. We did this."

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