Living Large in a Tiny School Bus

published Aug 22, 2016
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(Image credit: Selena Kirchhoff)

If anyone has any insight into sharing a small space with another person (and pets), it’s got to be Julie and Andrew, who have been (successfully) living together in a Blue Bird school bus for a year. They graciously let us share their incredibly tiny yet stylish home in a house tour, and they’ve also shared some of their secrets to living harmoniously in a shared small space. Whether you currently share a small space, are thinking about sharing a small space or wouldn’t share a small space under any circumstances, their answers are both informative and entertaining.

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Is this the smallest home you’ve ever lived in?

Julie: Definitely. Prior to living in the bus, most of our apartments fell within the 500-1,000 square foot range. We thought 500 feet was tight (ha!), but then again, we were squeezing in lots of furniture and instruments without a lot of regard to functionality. When we moved into the bus, we absolutely had to consider how the space would function best, otherwise we’d have lost our minds by now.

Is this the smallest home you’ve ever shared with someone?

Julie: Oh yeah. We have two humans, a dog and a cat that mysteriously all live together here pretty harmoniously. It helps that everyone has their own space, economized though it might be.

(Image credit: Selena Kirchhoff)

How and when did you first consider sharing a space this small someone — and whose idea was it?

Julie: Andrew and I were still living in downtown Chicago in 2012, working full time jobs, as well as trying to make time for auditions and shows, and we were getting pretty burnt out. It was around then that I remember becoming aware of the tiny house movement for the first time, and thinking how cool it would be to have a little more financial wiggle room in our lives. I proposed the (still very general) idea to Andrew, just to see how he felt about it, and I got a pretty lukewarm “huh.”

A few years later, we were pressed to the point of a decision by our suddenly-unaffordable rent, so we decided to use our savings and just go for it. I was never really worried about Andrew and I in such a tiny space. We’ve been through a lot together, and always come out stronger. I trust him with my life. I’d never do something like this with someone I felt less than stellar about, but Andrew’s an easy person to love.

“Take separate time whenever you feel like you need it (and learn how to identify what it feels like to be at that point).” — Julie

What’s the secret to harmoniously sharing a small space with someone?

Julie: Take separate time whenever you feel like you need it (and learn how to identify what it feels like to be at that point). Invest in self-care. It’s considerate to those around you to try to be your best self, and you can’t do that if your batteries are running low.

What’s the best thing about sharing a tiny space with someone else?

Julie: I’ve never felt so bonded to another person. Andrew and I always know what’s going on with each other, and we’ve grown a lot in our marriage as a necessity. You have to be on top of communication in any marriage, but in these close quarters, it’s even more imperative.

Andrew: 1) Being so close to your best friend 2) Smelling all the smells together 3) You have fewer places to lose your keys (as an added bonus, you get an obligatory search partner!) 4) Reduced living expenses + increased energy efficiency 5 ) Ice Cream

See their entire tiny shared homeJulie and Andrew’s Cozy Home in a Blue Bird School Bus

(Image credit: Selena Kirchhoff)

The worst thing?

Julie: Ironically, the bondedness. If one of us is having a bad day or a meltdown, it’s impossible for the other to not feel extremely affected.

Andrew: Traffic jams. With a dog, a cat, and two humans, a narrow hallway can be tricky to navigate, especially when everyone’s running late (looking at you Mr. Butters).

Is there anything that surprised you about living in a small space with someone else?

Julie: The weeks leading up to our move-in date were full of nights where I’d sit up in bed, panicked about where I would store certain things (“OMG, where is my keyboard going to go?? We’ve made a huge mistake!!”), but honestly, we planned that part so well that we’ve yet to run out of space (knock on wood).

“Try living in a small space for at least a week before you commit to living in it long term. You know, because experience is a teacher and stuff.” — Andrew

Would you ever move to another small space again? Or are you ready to move and stretch out?

Julie: We’ve talked about this a little, and I think that in a couple of years we might get a small cottage (around 1,000 square feet) so that we can start a family. Nothing huge, after living in a bus, most things feel massive.

(Image credit: Selena Kirchhoff)

What advice do you have to anyone considering moving into a small space?

Julie: Be honest with yourself about how much space you really need, and what you’re willing to part with. Living in a tiny space won’t be sustainable for long if you’re miserable two months in.

Andrew: Try living in a small space for at least a week before you commit to living in it long term. You know, because experience is a teacher and stuff.

Do you have any design tips for people wanting to transition to a small/tiny space?

Julie: The best tiny homes I’ve seen are the ones that really lean into the unique aesthetic of the owner. When we first moved in, I had designed a much more neutral space, but after living here a year, I’ve injected a lot more color and whimsy into our design. It makes the space feel perfectly me, which is important since everything in the space is in my line of vision from most areas of the bus. In short: you do you.

See their entire tiny shared homeJulie and Andrew’s Cozy Home in a Blue Bird School Bus

Thanks Julie and Andrew!

The look of their bus home has changed a bit since they first moved in; as you can imagine, living in a 200 square foot home for a year can teach you a lot of lessons about design and decor. They have made some visual and functional upgrades (that you can check out on their blog) and Julie now offers design consultations for other tiny housers (To submit a request or get pricing information, you can email her)! You can also follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.