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Angie Mori
June 30, 2022
117 views

The Double-Decker Hideaway – A 1995 British Leyland Olympian

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in converting a double-decker bus into a coffee shop, restaurant, Airbnb, or a bus conversion to travel in, we have several listed for sale on our Classified Ad page.

We did it again! Our first double-decker bus conversion was so much fun, we decided to take the leap a second time. We just celebrated our third anniversary of being open with Double Decker Espresso. You can read more about this bus here in the December 2020 Issue of BCM.

Many of the first comments that we heard from excited customers were things like “This would be so cool as an R.V.!” or “I would love to live in something like this!” Well, it seemed an idea began to form early on.

What if we converted a double-decker into an Airbnb bus? That would be so cool! However, life has a way of slowing those kinds of ideas down. We had plenty to keep us busy with the first bus (learning the business side), homeschooling six kids, a day job of sorts for my husband, Dustin, and everything else. The idea was growing in our minds.

We had been looking at pictures of double-decker buses that were just waiting for a second chance and a new purpose. We were ready (as much as one could be).

In August 2020 we made all the arrangements to ship our 1995 Leyland double-decker bus from England to Idaho. We decided to have it shipped to the West Coast this time. Our first bus was shipped to the East Coast and had quite the drive to arrive in Idaho.

Tacoma, Washington seemed much more doable of a drive. We did have to decide on the paint color first, school bus yellow was not what we had in mind for our new venture.

Painting expenses were more reasonable in the country that manufactures them. We settled on something close to classic race car green.

The bus is 33 feet long, instead of 30, and a bit taller than our previous bus as well. The vinyl-wrapped seats were all intact and had a very similar layout as our first bus. She drove a little smoother and a bit slower (top speed around 45 mph) with an L10 Cummins engine.

All in all, she was in pretty good shape, but we knew most everything would be changed in our grand remodel. We had never attempted a project like this (besides our first bus).

This design seemed much more complex, with a full kitchen and full bathroom while attempting to keep the bus mobile. We sketched out our rough ideas and knew we just needed to dig in and learn as we go.

My husband can do anything, and I had to rest on that fact. This is hard for someone who can’t see things that aren’t there (visionaries can do that so well).

We removed all the seats up and down. Took off the upper ceiling material and removed a heater that did not work and was taking up a lot of room. The downstairs is taller by quite a bit compared to the upstairs.

Framing in the bathroom upstairs.
Framing in the bathroom upstairs.
Before shot of the staircase.
Before shot of the staircase.

It made more sense to have the bathroom upstairs by the bedroom, but it would mean anyone over 5’10” would need to duck when walking and sit while showering. Tough decisions to make right out the gate. We couldn’t change everything on this bus!

Click HERE to see a video of the beginning of the build process.

Removed the heater and placed an electrical panel there instead.
Removed the heater and placed an electrical panel there instead.

Dustin laid out the electrical and installed the breaker panel. Everything would run off 120V to help keep it mobile with easy hookup options. The bus does not have a very high underneath clearance (school buses have it made!) so we could only fit one 25-gallon gray water tank that we had custom-made.

Our son, Josiah cleaning the bathroom before the flooring was installed.
Our son, Josiah cleaning the bathroom before the flooring was installed.

The black tank would have to go inside the bus and that would become part of the utility closet. No fresh water tank. We plumbed the bathroom to be upstairs and use gravity for the flushing toilet. A large farm sink in the kitchen rounded out the plumbing needs and ended up being one of my favorite parts.

My job was to work on the look of the project while Dustin was doing the heavy lifting on the function. A dear friend helped me process the look I was after and put words to it. The downstairs would have an English pub feel, leathers, dark woods, metals, and an overall comfy feel.

The upstairs would be an English cottage and feel lighter, floral, and airy. Once I had a definable theme, I was able to start making decisions, like paint, flooring, counters, etc. We had a couple of work parties with friends and slowly but surely began to see our vision take shape.

The bus has curved edges on the floor upstairs that run the full length on both sides (I’m guessing to catch any liquids English riders might spill while riding). This was tricky. We decided to leave it there instead of building it flush as we did not want to lose any more height.

It would limit our flooring to a rolled vinyl product or carpet. We chose a mixture of the two. The upstairs front, we call inspiration corner, and bedroom would have carpet, and the landing, bathroom, and hallway to the bedroom would be vinyl. Downstairs flooring was easier without curved edges. We used a vinyl plank floor product that was installed nicely.

We love our faux marble shower surround.
We love our faux marble shower surround.

The bathroom was the first room on the bus we worked on. Dustin framed the walls and even added a curved wall that came out from the stairwell landing. We added a full shower, vanity, and toilet. We did not want to put tile in the shower thinking that might not be good for the mobility aspect (although I have seen many people use it). I couldn’t find a product that had the look I was after.

We went to Lowe’s. It was settled in my mind we would have to do tile when right on the endcap of the flooring section (the one we had been in many times before) was the perfect solution! It had the look of marble but was waterproof with tongue and groove hard plastic tiles! No visible grout lines, lightweight, great price, and looks so good. (I can’t remember the name of the exact product.) Lots of decisions people!

The finished bathroom.
The finished bathroom.

Dustin installed the product like a pro and so far, it has held up perfectly! We found a vintage nightstand and converted that into our vanity. Three attempts at an IKEA sink finally paid off. (COVID added some supply issues but not many). A little paint and wow, a great custom vanity. You probably can’t do backflips in this bathroom but it feels roomy with all things considered.

Initially, we hoped to have the bus ready by the end of May 2021. We were working on the bus in all of our spare time, the trouble was we didn’t have a lot of spare time! That date came and went. Friends would see us and ask how it was coming…” We’re getting closer” was always our answer.

We did not have a financial burden pressuring us to be done, but the weight of the whole project was pressing in and we were ready to check it off our list. We took a week's break for a special anniversary trip to Costa Rica at the end of May and came back with a bit of energy. Still so many decisions!

Summer came and the heat with it. It is not very fun to work on a double-decker bus in the heat. Press on! Painting done. We went with the butcher block for the kitchen counter. The counter base is custom-made with two built-in drawers. We built a dining bench with hinges for storage and a kitchen table.

The master bedroom with a queen-size bed.
The master bedroom with a queen-size bed.
Inspiration corner with a day bed option.
Inspiration corner with a day bed option.
Stair landing and upper hallway.
Stair landing and upper hallway.

Upstairs there is a day bed type frame and two-bedroom nightstands. With so many windows in the bus, we knew we needed to help protect the inside of the bus from the heat, adding heat-blocking tint to all the windows and custom curtains, helped achieve this.

I had found an inspiration picture for the pub feel downstairs and located a local upholstery business to help pull it off. The green tufted leather seating area downstairs was the only part of the project we hired out.

My husband never ceases to amaze me! Our property also had to be prepared for the bus to park. We have two acres of farmland surrounding us with great views of distant mountains and beautiful sunsets. The bus would need electricity and water ran to it. Check. We had planted grass the spring before in anticipation of this project. It was starting to look like a place people would find pleasing.

October rolled around and we were finally ready! We hosted an open house for our friends and family to come to see what the crazy Mori family had been working on for the past 13 months. Their feedback was so encouraging. We were very pleased with how it turned out. It seemed obvious to us that we would at least start the bus listing with Airbnb and take advantage of their huge platform.

Tea for two? Two-burner stovetop.
Tea for two? Two-burner stovetop.
Closeup view of the kitchen counter top and custom base.
Closeup view of the kitchen counter top and custom base.
The downstairs lounge.
The downstairs lounge.

We are the first double-decker in the United States to be listed on Airbnb. We did find others listed from distant countries and found comfort in studying their pictures to see what they had done. A great friend offered to come to take pictures and just like that we were ready to go live. October 8th was our first date. Within hours of listing, we had our first guest (we were sobered to know that we really had to be all the way ready)!

The kitchen.
The kitchen.

We are three months in, and I can say it has been a ride! It feels so good to have the gigantic task of transforming the bus behind us. We were very ready to take a break. Our first guests have all been so kind with their reviews and seem to genuinely love the bus.

Dustin and Angie Mori with their second double-decker bus.
Dustin and Angie Mori with their second double-decker bus.

We have a list of things we would like to work on or add to, but all in due time. We are learning as we go. We had some sub-freezing temps causing the inside water lines to freeze. Things to work out. We are planning to add a mini-split in the spring to help with cooling and heating.

We plan to keep it open year-round, learning this first year with all the “firsts” before we introduce the possibility of mobile delivery. We are considering a third bus plan…. but it doesn’t seem likely for this crazy family.

The second bus is a little taller than the first.
The second bus is a little taller than the first.

Two double-decker buses on our double acres seem just about right. If you are passing through Idaho and want to stay in a fun, unique double-decker, we’d love to have you!

Check us out at www.airbnb.com/h/doubledeckerhideaway.

Article written by Angie Mori

Angie Mori is never afraid to add one more thing to her ever-growing resume.  She is a homegrown Idaho girl.  She is the wife to a fearless, YouTube, Doctorate, hunk of a husband. She is also a home educator to six spunky kids, family business administrator, wedding food caterer, and general family visionary and go getter.

Angie does not travel full-time in a vehicle but does own and drive two double-decker busses and one travel trailer. It seems likely, one day you will find her on the road. Make sure to honk and wave when you do.

You can follow the Double-Decker Espresso Bus on Facebook and Instagram: 

 
Click HERE to read other articles by this Author
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