A Woman Transformed This Banged-up Old Bus, And Now The Gorgeous Interior Is A Minimalist Haven

The Greyhound bus had once shuttled San Francisco Bay Area commuters in the 1960s and ’70s, so by the time Jessie Lipskin found the vehicle in 2015, it had seen better days. Still, the dusty interior had plenty of potential, the New York City native thought. And Lipskin did indeed prove the old bus’ worth by turning it into a chic tiny home.

Jessie Lipskin grew up in New York City, and she returned there after a four-year stint studying financial economics at the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her post-grad career kept her in the Big Apple, too, as she has worked for investment bank J.P. Morgan since earning her diploma.

Once Lipskin was back in the city, though, as she told Apartment Therapy in 2018, she had had “the realization that people waste a lot of time focusing on physical items: purchasing them, misplacing them and subsequently looking for them.” She began to feel, too, that many material goods were “superfluous to a meaningful life.”

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This realization therefore led Lipskin to downsize much of what she owned. And fortuitously, she added to Apartment Therapy, this spree “coincided with a period of frequent moves.” The New Yorker explained, “During the process, I relocated seven times, and by the end just about everything I owned [fitted] in my SUV.” Getting rid of her belongings allowed her to test the waters of a more mobile lifestyle, too, which ultimately suited her.

But a turning point for Lipskin came after she watched a documentary called Garbage Warrior, which featured eco-architect Michael Reynolds hard at work. Reynolds relied on recycled materials to build solar-powered creations that he called Earthships. And Lipskin told Apartment Therapy that his approach to a “alternative sustainable lifestyle” had drawn her in.

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In fact, one quote in particular in the documentary truly stuck with Lipskin. Reynolds says at a certain point in proceedings, “I feel like I’m in a herd of buffalo, and they are all stampeding toward a 1,000-foot drop-off, and I’m in that herd. And I’m like, ‘I’m not going there. I’m not going down that way.’ So I have to somehow affect the whole herd so that they will take a left turn or right turn and not go off this edge.”

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The sentiment that Reynolds expressed, then, sparked Lipskin’s desire to begin leading a sustainable lifestyle of her own. By that point, however, she had already begun to adhere to veganism, so she needed a plan that’d allow her to continue on that path. And finally, Lipskin realized what she wanted to do: she’d move into a tiny home-on-wheels.

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Nor was Lipskin alone in her desire to move into a smaller space; a tiny home movement already existed. The concept of living in a less-than-400-square-foot abode had been around since the early 1970s, in fact, although the idea didn’t take off in any great capacity until the economic depression of 2008 hit. After that, many Americans were seeking low-cost housing options.

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For Lipskin, though, the choice to move into a tiny home was triggered more by the aim to live sustainably rather than by the money that she’d save by doing so. To that end, she decided to use a recycled vehicle to serve as the shell of her tiny home. And she found just the right one for the job on eBay.

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Initially, Lipskin had considered a traditional RV for her tiny home, but she found that none of the options available to her possessed the character she wanted in a vehicle. Then she landed on something similar – and with the aesthetic feel she was looking for. It was a vintage Greyhound Bus from 1966 complete with old seats.

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“It looked just like a commuter bus from the ’60s or ’70s. All the original seats were in,” Lipskin described to CBS 2 in 2018. That said, the vehicle wasn’t entirely in mint condition. The finance manager continued, “[The bus] was pretty dusty, but it had lived its life in the desert after it retired from the San Francisco Bay Area.”

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Still, the bones of the Greyhound bus remained intact and full of character, and that was enough to sway Lipskin to snap it up. Indeed, she later told Apartment Therapy, “It was love at first sight.” Lipskin therefore handed over $7,000 in exchange for what she hoped would ultimately become her tiny home. Right away, though, she faced an issue.

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You see, as Lipskin admitted to Insider in 2018, she didn’t have a driver’s license before she bought her Greyhound. And while she did earn the license afterwards, she nevertheless struggled to drive the bus back to New York. Lipskin first needed to learn how to drive in manual – a skill that she was still mastering in summer 2018.

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So, when Lipskin had initially needed to move her bus in 2015, she enlisted some help. The finance manager told Insider, “My two friends drove [the bus] back to upstate New York, and I rented a place up there for a bit while working on it and gutting it.” She went on to re-park her Greyhound in New Jersey, though, because she “knew people who could help [her] work on it there.”

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Lipskin’s team in Asbury Park, New Jersey, consisted of handy friends and contractors who would helm the three-year renovation. And by way of inspiration for the project, Lipskin turned to the social media accounts of other tiny homeowners and enthusiasts, including The Modern Caravan and Fern the Bus.

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But, of course, Lipskin’s work wouldn’t just encompass decorating her Greyhound; she and her team had to install plumbing, update electrical work, house appliances and add storage, walls and closets, too. And the latter endeavor proved to be particularly tricky to carry out. Lipskin told Insider, “If the angle isn’t exactly the same every time you park [the bus], you might have an issue with opening a door or something like that.”

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Fortunately, Lipskin and her friends and contractors worked hard to build a totally modern living space in a Greyhound bus that also still functioned as a vehicle. And over the three-year renovation, the New Yorker invested $125,000 to transform her bus into the tiny home that she had envisioned.

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In the end, though, Lipskin found herself with a property larger than some New York City apartments, as she told CBS 2. In her kitchen, for starters, the finance manager had all of the modern must-haves, including a stove top, oven and wooden countertops. She even fit a washing machine in the space – albeit a non-traditional one.

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“In here, I have the washer spinner, which is an apartment washer-dryer. It has a washer compartment and spinning compartment, and it fits about seven pairs of jeans,” Lipskin told Insider. Rounding out the kitchen’s features were a propane tank and a hot water heater that worked instantaneously.

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And that quick-heating feature would come in particularly handy in the space adjacent to the kitchen: the bathroom. Lipskin was able to fit a full-standing shower onto her Greyhound, too, as she had split a portion of the interior into two separate spaces. She explained on Instagram, “[There’s a room] for the sink [and] toilet and a separate room for the shower directly across the hallway. Both are the same size.”

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But the area that proved to be Lipskin’s favorite was her cozy bedroom, with her lifted bed sitting right next to a giant window. And although she continued the Greyhound’s bright white color scheme into the sleeping space, she added a pop of rainbow color via a stack of hardcover books.

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One feature of most homes was conspicuously absent from the bus, however. You see, Lipskin decided not to add a television to the Greyhound – and she felt better for it, too. The New Yorker told Insider, “I love not having a TV. I had the option to have a TV, but I really like waking up in the morning and hearing the birds outside my window. It’s nice to just cozy up in bed and read a book.”

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As for the rest of the living space, Lipskin’s renovated bus perhaps surprisingly featured a second sleeping area for guests. This sat at the front of the cabin and consisted of a bench that could be pulled out into a full-sized bed if so desired.

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And Lipskin has since explained that her life in small New York City apartments had prepared her for dwelling in such a tiny home. She told Insider, “I’ve always been very organized and tidy and kind of tried to get rid of whatever I don’t need.” Even so, the finance manager did hold onto some sentimental items, and the things she chose to bring into her Greyhound all came with their own special meanings.

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For instance, Lipskin told App.com that her counter hosted a stack of china “from [her] great-grandmother’s tenement on Delancey Street” in New York City. And the set had even survived the building catching fire, although Lipskin could still point out visible burn marks on the china.

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In fact, Lipskin’s family heirloom made the perfect addition to her tiny home – and not just for the incredible story that the china told. She said, “You can’t microwave them or put them in the dishwasher, so they’re actually good for my home because I wash everything by hand. I still use them. I kept the whole set.”

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And the decision to keep the china represented Lipskin’s personal version of minimalism. She explained to App.com that while she typically adhered to the principle that less is more, she made exceptions for comforts such as her family hand-me-downs, classic hardcover books and personal photographs. Of her other items, Lipskin divulged, “I’m giving [them] up, but I’m gaining through the experience of having had it.”

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And according to the Greyhound owner, her tiny home had afforded her new experiences and opportunities that she enjoyed. For instance, she had parked her bus on a slice of private land in Asbury Park that faced a stretch of woods, where she loved to walk and spend time outdoors.

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Plus, as previously mentioned, Lipskin made a point to keep books in her abode – even though, as a busy finance manager, she hadn’t always had the occasion to dive into stories. She said to Insider, “I feel like I’ve been so busy these past few years that I haven’t read as much as I’d like. I have the time now to do that.”

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Yet Lipskin did say that she would change one thing about her little home if she could. Specifically, as she revealed to Apartment Therapy, she wanted a roof deck – and she had already started work on the project, too. Lipskin added, “I’ve had metal brackets installed which can either be used for solar panels or decking.”

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Yet even without such an addition, the Greyhound’s transformation shocked those who came to visit Lipskin in her Asbury Park abode. As she reported to Apartment Therapy, the most common sentiments from her guests were “Is this actually a bus?” and, “This is nicer than my apartment!” Much of those complimentary comments can be chalked up to Lipskin’s aesthetic and well-planned layout, of course.

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And yet despite all of the beauty that Lipskin had created as well as the benefits she had reaped from her Greyhound renovation, she announced that she’d be selling her creation following the completion of the project. It turned out, you see, that her work was set to send her overseas to Italy and Russia; it didn’t help, either, that she still could not drive the manual vehicle.

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Fortunately, Lipskin’s stunning renovation – and the Instagram account that charted its progress – had already racked up lots of followers and fans by this point. She told App.com, “There’s been a lot of interest. I’ve received a vast array of messages from people who are considering this lifestyle.”

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Lipskin first listed the bus for $149,000 on Craigslist – presumably factoring the $125,000 that she had spent to renovate the vehicle into the price. She went on to put the makeshift home up for auction on eBay, too, for a starting amount of $49,999. But after the buying window ended on August 30, 2018, no one had bid on the Greyhound.

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Additionally, Lipskin put advertisements for her bus-based tiny home on websites dedicated to buying and selling such properties. This would fit in with her goal of selling the place to someone who would “really appreciate it,” she told CBS 2. She added to the station, “It was a labor of love, for sure, so I want to find the right person.”

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Thankfully, though, someone did eventually purchase the Greyhound, and they gave the story a very full-circle ending. You may remember that Lipskin had purchased the bus after finding that it had ended up in a West Coast desert; aptly, then, the bus now sits once again in an arid area, where it acts as Airbnb accommodation.

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And even without Lipskin’s design aesthetic, the Greyhound remains an adorable place to rest one’s head. Its new owner, Genie, splits her time between Joshua Tree, where the bus resides, and New York City. On the Airbnb page, she notes, too, how modern and eco-friendly the lodging is – as well as making the revelation that a new bathroom has been added to the property.

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What’s more, those who have spent the night in the Greyhound bus seemingly find it to be just as comfortable and unique as Lipskin once did. One reviewer, Kate, wrote, “The conversion is super cool.” Another Airbnb user named Hannah agreed, writing, “Awesome and funky spot! We had a great time. The bus was as pictured – super hip and cozy.”

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So, with her bus given yet another new life, Lipskin told Apartment Therapy that she’d be taking the opportunity to travel internationally. Once she comes home, though, she went on, she’d “love to return to [her] tiny home life.” That said, Lipskin may plump for a smaller vehicle as her future abode, such as an Airstream trailer.

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And Lipskin revealed that she may eventually end up back on the East Coast of the U.S. – although perhaps further north than the Big Apple. She told Insider, “I haven’t decided where I want to settle down, but I do love the northeast. New England, I love it there.”

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