Havwoods And The American Skoolie
28 May 2021
Ruth & Guy Wimpory from Brighton have just launched a brand-new glamping experience - Skoolie Stays - in a stunning 37ft American school bus based in the South Downs National Park!
Back in 2019, Ruth and Guy decided they wanted a change. They had always loved to travel so they packed up the house, took the kids out of school and bought themselves an American school bus in Utah. They found themselves a U.S-based builder and remotely managed the transformation of their big, yellow bus into a Skoolie home for the ultimate road-trip across America.
‘We had an amazing year covering 14,000 miles across 20 states, but it was life in our off-grid Skoolie that elevated our journey into something more than just a travel experience. The bus became an icon for living differently and, as our time in America drew to a close, we knew we did not want that to end. We decided to keep a Skoolie in our lives, only this time we would bring the bus to join us in Sussex.’ Ruth and Guy explain.
‘Converting a school bus is an enormous undertaking and it requires plenty of time and lots of different skills. Prior to our American trip, our only experience had been a campervan conversion. The bus became so important to us though we often lamented not being part of the build. We made lots of improvements but oh, the things we would do differently if we had the chance to build a new one ourselves'. Ruth and Guy remember.
‘Then we got an unexpected chance to fill in those learning gaps. Covid-19 sent the U.S into lockdown and we quarantined with a Skoolie Community in Georgia and spent two-months living with American families, couples and individuals who were converting their buses to become full-time homes. We put our lockdown hours to good use helping them at all stages of the build. By the time we left, we not only had experience living in a skoolie, we had the skills to convert one. We also had a plan - a brand-new bus project in the UK!’
The Skoolie Stays bus has been carefully designed to balance luxury, freedom and environmental impact. We wanted to work with UK companies and minimise the impact of our design choices. Wood is a renewable resource if it is harvested and managed correctly, and Havwoods promotes the responsible management of the world’s forests. We also loved the herringbone effect of the flooring’, Ruth and Guy explain.
‘We stumbled across Havwoods whilst looking for an eye-catching flooring. We try to reduce, reuse, and recycle where we can, so when someone offered us some gorgeous wooden flooring, but not quite enough to cover our bus, we tracked Havwoods down to make sure we could run the product the whole length of our bus. Havwoods loved the idea of using their flooring in such an iconic vehicle conversion so were happy to help us finish the floor.’
The bus is an iconic American vehicle that has staked its claim on the pop-culture landscape. Ruth and Guy wanted to balance the fun of its backstory with the charm of its new home: the stunning South Downs. They also wanted to show how off-grid living in a small space does not mean compromising comfort and quality! The bus is full of creative solutions and the result is a spacious and luxurious home for four people with quirky design features making it entirely unique.
‘Most of the project has been wood-based and though much of the structure is plywood, we have done our best to reuse and recycle old pieces of hardwood furniture from the local wood recycling centre. We even have an old teak table from a local Hove school, complete with teenage graffiti!’, Ruth and Guy explain.
‘We also managed to re-purpose lots of the original features of the school bus. The original chairs have been reupholstered to make an American diner booth, we have used metal sheets to create the entrance steps and the original bus rear-view mirror is now mounted on the wall.’
When Ruth and Guy look back on their project they admit that the early days were quite hard. They spent several days angle-grinding thousands of bolts from the floor, and then the same again as they worked on sealing the windows and rivets. It had been snowing outside and their fingers were frozen to the bone! Moving onto building the internal structures and the design details had been more satisfying. The epoxy resin penny-countertop is a stunning feature and the angled wood designs on the doors are very effective. Adding the herringbone floor tied everything together with the rich earthy tones with the copper pennies, and the sharp angles with the wood designs.
‘We’d encourage anyone and everyone to live and travel in a tiny home. Whether you undertake the project yourself (and if you do, be prepared to put in the hours and get your hands very dirty) or if you pass it over to someone else to interpret your ideas, there is nothing like living in a space that is both beautiful and unusual’, say Ruth and Guy.