B&A: This Mother-Daughter Design Duo Transformed This Bus into a Tiny Home

B&A: This Mother-Daughter Design Duo Transformed This Bus into a Tiny Home

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November is Family Month on Apartment Therapy! We’re sharing stories all month about families — whether that’s partners, kids, roommates, parents, pets, or plants — from improving your daily relationships or going home for the holidays. Head over here to see them all!

Designer’s Names: Lisa Donahue and her daughter, Megan Donahue, owners of Live Simply Buses.
Location: Linus was built in the beautiful beach town of Eastham, Massachusetts, but given the fact that he is 100% mobile his permanent or temporary residence can be just about anywhere in the United States!
Type of Home: Linus is a “skoolie,” a school bus transformed into a tiny home/motorhome.
Size: 97.5 square feet

Megan and her mom Lisa started Live Simply Buses as a tribute to their brother and son Michael who passed away at the age of 15. Transforming school buses into homes-on-wheels allows them to spend quality time together while honoring Michael’s memory. In fact, the idea to renovate buses came when they combined the spirit of Michael’s life motto, “It’s the simple things in life that make it worth living,” with their own love of creating and designing beautiful spaces. “We really pride ourselves in promoting how important it is to spend time with your children/loved ones because you really never know what each day brings,” they explain.

This particular bus-turned-home is their ninth renovation, and they’ve named it “Linus.” (They name all of their buses with names that end in “us”.) “Linus is a 2011 Chevy school bus that has been transformed into a one-of-a-kind surfer’s dream,” they describe of the skoolie they designed and long-time carpenter Bob Field built. “We found Linus on Facebook Marketplace in the beginning of June and he has been a full-time project ever since.” It has less than 100-square-feet of living space inside, but Lisa and Megan maximized every single inch of the home with storage and smart designs, like a dining area that transforms into a couch or a twin-sized bed for guests. They also expanded the available living space by creating an outside dining area with two barstools for outside entertaining and more.

While Lisa and Megan don’t themselves live in their creations, it’s amazing that they’ve been able to turn a hobby into a business, selling their creations on wheels to potentially helping other families find connection. “Linus’ future owners are still up in the air as we do a thorough job interviewing all possible candidates,” they explain. “We hope that whoever is the lucky owner is an adventurous spirit who looks forward to making a lifetime of memories in this one-of-a-kind home on wheels.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Design professionals’ Inspiration: When we build a bus we first give it a name. This one is named Linus which was named after the character in Charlie Brown. The color comes from Linus’ childhood blanket in the Charlie Brown specials. We took that color and ran with it. Since Linus was built near the beach we decided to make him a “surfer’s dream machine.” It is sleek, modern, and minimalistic with touches of warm colors to make it feel like home while also still giving it the light and airy feel associated with beach homes.

Design professionals’ Favorite Element: Ooooh this is a tough one! We might be biased because we love every piece that’s in this quaint small space. If we had to answer, we would have to say the backsplash in the kitchen, the two-tier counter setup, or the kitchen faucet. The backsplash really makes it feel like a home and the two-tier counter adds a little bit of movement to the kitchen area. A fun fact about the countertops/dining table is that they used to be a part of the bar from the restaurant that Bob the builder’s family owned on Cape Cod for decades called Hole in One. We love tying in pieces that have sentimental values; it makes the build even more special. We’re also huge fans of the little matte black canisters on the shelf in the kitchen and the fun burnt orange runner.

Design professionals’ Biggest Challenge: We’d say the biggest challenge was the size of the bus. With less than 100 square feet you HAVE to make sure you utilize every square inch. A way we overcame this obstacle is making sure every element in the bus has at least two purposes. For instance, the dining area can transform into not only into a couch but also a twin-sized bed for a child or even a guest. Another challenge we have with buses is sound. Since everything is metal it can be challenging adding elements to a bus without hearing it on the road. A way we solve this issue is taking it for test drives after we add something each time, pinpointing that sound and then securing it when we get home to eliminate the rattling and bangs for the future buyer.

Homeowner’s Proudest DIY: This is a funny question because the answer would probably be the entire bus because the whole thing is a DIY. We are so proud of each of our buses; they are like our children in a sense; we want to send them off and watch them do big things!

Biggest Indulgence: The biggest indulgence would either be the flooring or the solar!

Homeowner: Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Since it’s a skoolie, we would have to say that everything is pretty unique. It’s not every day that you see a full-on home inside of a vehicle you used to get on to go to school as a kid. We hope that the new owners of this bus will take it on a lifetime’s worth of adventures!

Design professional: What’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? Our best advice would be to start with buying a throw pillow or bedding first when designing a bedroom. This way you’re not picking a paint color and then looking for materials to match. If you pick the pillow or bedding first it’s a lot easier to carry that around with you when searching for a paint color or other elements to match it. We also always suggest designing around things/colors you love. At the end of the day your home is where you go to relax. You want to make sure it’s a breath of fresh air every time you walk through that door.

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.

Adrienne Breaux

House Tour Editor

Adrienne loves architecture, design, cats, science fiction and watching Star Trek. In the past 10 years she’s called home: a van, a former downtown store in small town Texas and a studio apartment rumored to have once been owned by Willie Nelson.

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10 Homes That Prove a Room Doesn’t Need a Rug to Feel Complete

10 Homes That Prove a Room Doesn’t Need a Rug to Feel Complete

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Many people have bought into the idea that a room isn’t finished unless there’s a rug. It adds warmth, color, and texture. Without it, the room feels cold and sterile — like there’s something you’re still waiting to add. Right?

Not so fast. These 10 spaces show there’s often no need for a rug at all. These rooms are so stylish, so clearly finished, and, yes, 100 percent devoid of rugs. The design experts and enthusiasts behind these rooms might be onto something. They’re not spending extra money, not cursing another puppy accident, and they’re showing off their stunning floors.

1. A Light-Filled Scandinavian Dream

With gorgeous wood tones, subtle Scandinavian boho vibes, and lush plants, the living room in this Barcelona home doesn’t need an ounce of additional texture. The light floors and neutral upholstered furniture, as well as the natural sunlight streaming in, get to shine without a rug to temper the look.

2. Wood Floors Steal the Spotlight

Floors this stunning shouldn’t live their life covered up by rugs. So this former barn disregards the commonly accepted principle that a bedroom should have a rug to warm your feet in the morning. Without a rug, the floors take center stage and the bed linens are allowed to serve as the soft, cozy element in the room.

3. 1920s Tile Is a Showstopper

It would be a travesty to hide the tile floors in this 1920s Cuban Victorian. This vintage element, in its varying stages of preservation, is an absolute showstopper in this historic home, which has four different types of Spanish tiles. The decor throughout the rooms is informed by the rich, warm colors of coral, green, and turquoise. 

4. A Bohemian Oasis Makes a Case for No Dining Room Rug

When you stop to think about it, does a rug in the dining room really make sense? There are crumbs, spills, and that glass of red wine that will inevitably take a tumble. That’s why this lush, bohemian oasis of a dining room is so perfect. Its green walls mimic the plants inside and out, the chandelier adds a touch of formality, and the wood table seems like it has stories to tell. 

5. Wide-Plank Floors Feel Grounded to the Earth

With striking wide-plank floors painted a consistent gray from room to room, this house in the Netherlands shows there is no need for a rug when you have an intentional approach to design. Warm pottery, an earth tone palette, and furniture that straddles the line between rustic and industrial give the home a sense of place and grounding, eliminating the purpose of a rug.

6. A Sleek, Minimalist Look 

Going without rugs is already one step toward a more minimalist approach. It’s less stuff to fill your space! This Virginia home, however, takes it to the next level, and the result is ultra calming. With a limited color palette, sleek-lined furniture, and few decorative items, it’s a soothing minimalist dream.

7. Soft and Cozy Without a Rug in Sight

Again with the gorgeous wood floors that deserve the spotlight. This soft, pretty Scandinavian apartment gets the coziest light, and its owners have leaned into that look without relying on textured rugs to make it feel intimate. Instead, they’ve turned to a delicate color palette and furniture that feels well loved. The result: a space that feels both homey and styled.

8. Bold Black-and-White Tile Shines

The timeless black-and-white tiles are the star of the show in the kitchen of this West Hollywood apartment. The room plays off its limited color palette by keeping everything in the monochromatic black-and-white family. A rug wouldn’t do anything but distract from the bold pattern, and the tile makes for the most perfect retro style.

9. Let the Dark Wood Have Its Moment

There is something sultry about a dark wood floor shining beneath ornate antiques — and this 1909 Los Angeles home is a perfect example. Its untouched hardwood floors are one of the original architectural details that give this house its “creepy, sexy, vintage vibe.” While some of its rooms do include rugs, the dining room is an absolute stunner without one.

10. A Chic, Sleek Basement Lounge

The owners of this Chicago cottage knew its 900-square-foot basement would make a perfect lounge. After they removed the carpet, they decided to keep things sleek — no rug needed. Books, lamps, games, and DIY flower mirrors add plenty of intrigue. All that’s left to do, the owners say, is to install a “proper Chicago basement bar.”

11 Rooms That Serve Way Cooler Purposes Than They Were Originally Intended For

11 Rooms That Serve Way Cooler Purposes Than They Were Originally Intended For

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If people have learned one thing from the pandemic, it’s the need for flexibility. This spirit of adaptability reflects strongly in how people are living in and using their homes. They’ve turned offices into homeschooling classrooms, closets into noise-proof Zoom meeting safe havens, and garages into home gyms. 

Using spaces to their fullest potential matters now more than ever as people continue to spend lots of time at home. These 11 house tours are great examples of flexibility and innovation — because they all feature rooms that are being used differently than their intended purpose. Here’s to adapting to meet the needs of specific situations, and doing it with style.

1. A Tiny Closet as a Minimalist Kitchen

When this renter realized her Los Angeles apartment didn’t have a kitchen (it was called a bachelor apartment) she took matters into her own hands, turning a closet into a makeshift cooking space. The best part? She can hide the mess with a curtain in a pinch.

2. A Combined Office and Dining Room

Home organizer Fay Wolf used a secret weapon in this Los Angeles apartment — a bold, diagonally painted wall — to create the illusion of two separate spaces in one room. A kitchen table sits very close to an office desk and bookshelf, but they visually look like two rooms in one. That’s not the only way she made her apartment more personal; she and her boyfriend decided to put their bed in the living room to turn the bedroom into a music space, an idea Fay attributes to her partner Garrett. “He had the brilliant idea of moving the bed into the main room, allowing for a larger, closed-off creative space for us both.

3. A Cozy Bedroom Inside a Closet

This clever Chicago renter figured out how to convert her 500-square-foot studio into a one-bedroom. How? By turning her closet into a cozy bedroom. “Yes, my twin bed is in the closet!” she said in her tour. By turning the closet into a cozy sleep space, it opens up the rest of the small apartment, making the entire place feel much larger than it is.

4. A Closet as a Workshop

Katie R. T. Giaimo wasn’t afraid to use the rooms in her home for exactly what she wanted… instead of just what they were intended for. She and her husband use the second bedroom as a main because she thinks it’s “dumb to have the biggest room be one you just use to sleep instead of enjoy.” Perhaps most impressively, they use the main bedroom closet as a woodshop thanks to shelves and other smart organizing tricks. In fact, she got creative with just about every room in the apartment: “The main bath is storage and the cat’s own bathroom for their litter box. We don’t have a dining room; instead I have an open office space in the living room because I work from home so much.”

5. An Extra Bedroom as a Second Living Room

Haley Boyko, a footwear designer and freelance illustrator, shares this three-bedroom apartment with her partner, Nick Sylvester, and their three dogs, Maya, Emma, and Penny. Thanks to an abundance of bedrooms (three!), they were able to use two of them for other purposes beyond sleeping. “The third bedroom is used as my office space, and then the second one we decided to turn into a separate living room,” explains Haley. 

Natalie Wong removed a hallway closet and added a wall in her Los Angeles condo‘s upstairs to create a third bedroom that she calls the “cloffice.” It has served many purposes during the pandemic, like an office, yoga studio, and a closet. Oh, and it even works as a guest bedroom, too.

7. A Lofted Bedroom as a Home Office

When there isn’t enough space, look up! This New York City renter converted a lofted bedroom into a small home office, as the built-in platform the owner installed can’t be removed. He and his designer added carpet on the platform, moved in a desk and shelves, and built a custom wall divider to turn an area that was meant for just a mattress into a compact but efficient workspace.

8. An Extra Bedroom Turned Into a Boutique Walk-in Closet

Gone are the days of messy closets with buckets of clothes and purses strewn everywhere. This Philadelphia homeowner opted for built-ins that made this extra bedroom (which was honestly pretty small as far as bedrooms go) into a stylish walk-in closet, making the room feel more like a boutique clothing store than a storage space.

9. A Hallway as a Vanity Station

If you’re already putting on your makeup, perfume, and sunglasses as you race out the door, you might as well move them to a convenient location. This brilliant space hack in a 600-square-foot Manhattan apartment has a hallway doubling as a vanity, complete with organized glasses storage and beautiful wallpaper.

10. A Living Room as a “Cozy Cuddle Puddle Room”

What if you took any room of your house and turned it into a place to snuggle with your pets? Sounds like a quarantine dream. This couple did just that in their Venice Beach bungalow. Now they spend time hanging out with their pups on a variety of soft textures and pillows right on the floor.

11. An Alcove into a Kid’s Bedroom (and a One-Bedroom into Two)

When Jenny Davis and her husband, Cory, had their first child, instead of moving from their one-bedroom NYC apartment, they made a small alcove off of their living room (likely intended originally for a home office or something!) into a small bedroom for their son. Not ones to waste space, they also managed to fit a living room and dining room in the rest of their apartment’s open living space along with ample room for toys and playing, too!

This Clever Bedroom Mural Was Inspired by an Apartment Therapy House Tour

This Clever Bedroom Mural Was Inspired by an Apartment Therapy House Tour

Sometimes house tours are simply fun to look at — they’re sneak peeks into the idiosyncrasies of other people’s homes, lives, and styles. Other times, though, a house tour has the unique ability to become a catalyst for creativity.

That’s exactly what happened to medical student Natasha Natarajan when she saw the tour of graphic designer Chanae Richards’ Philadelphia apartment. One particular aspect of Richards’ home jumped out at her — so much, in fact, that she wanted to recreate it in her own space.

“On a snowy day, she decided to stay in and create a mural on her bedroom wall with only a sample can of paint and a ketchup bottle,” Natarajan says. “I was so inspired by her creativity, I decided to do the same.”

Because Richards owns her apartment, she was able to paint directly on the walls. Natarajan, however, was renting her 500-square-foot Manhattan apartment at the time, and her landlord didn’t allow painting, so she decided to try painting the mural on canvas instead.

“I undertook the project with my partner and it was actually a Valentine’s Day activity for the two of us!” Natarajan says. They started their arts-and-crafts date night by heading to an art supply store to purchase an unstretched canvas and some paint. The next step was to paint the entire canvas black, which ended up being the most time-consuming part of the project.

“After we did that portion, we used mini ketchup bottles and alternated different colors to create the streaks,” Natarajan says.

One challenge the couple faced was that because they used canvas instead of painting directly on the wall, the lines started to curve as they dripped downward. “So our lines aren’t as straight as the inspiration we used. But turns out we loved it that way!”

The project took about three hours and cost $40 for the supplies. “It was worth it for how much of a glow-up it gave our small bedroom,” says Natarajan, who often turns to home projects as a way to tap into her artistic side. “I find that interior design provides me a creative outlet outside of my more scientific and regimented career.”

Natarajan’s mural is a great reminder that Apartment Therapy house tours aren’t just meant to be ogled — they’re meant to offer inspiration and serve as a jumping off point for new ideas.

“This was a great example of how the AT community inspires one another to use creativity to design our homes no matter what restrictions we have!” Natarajan says.