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A Live/Work Bus Named “Cozy” with Hygge Style

by Rebekah Carey

Jennifer Lorton is a fine artist, and for the past year she has been living and working on her converted 1992 Ward school bus wherever it may take her. It’s cozy at 89 square feet, a term that Jennifer was often using while it was being converted to reassure herself that she could make such a small space work. The name fit, and her bus is now lovingly referred to as “Cozy.” What Cozy may lack in extra space she makes up for with ease of parking and maneuvering, being efficient, and even having a “French door,” as Jennifer refers to the former ramp door. Jennifer loved the idea of having a “skoolie,” which is what they call converted school busses, and she especially wanted it to come with “eyelashes” (the headlights that have shields on them), because why not?

When Jennifer began converting the bus, it had an all-pink interior which had to be painted white per Jennifer’s inspiration of Hygge style. The seats and lift were removed, insulation was added, and it took another four months for Cozy to be ready for full-time living. “I wanted the space to be as open, airy, comfortable, and as functional as possible. To achieve this I kept the colors light, and kept sight-lines unobstructed. I incorporated a lot of texture, repurposed materials (palette wood, vintage doors, etc.), and natural materials (birch wood branches) to keep the space comfortable and not at all sterile.” Amazingly, Jennifer said that most of the work she did was during the Las Vegas summer: “I’ve never sweated so much in my life! It was also really rewarding and I’m so happy with my tiny home. I would like to give a shout-out to friends and family members that pitched in, and helped me to make it happen!”

The process of creating a home out of the bus thankfully lent itself well to Jennifer’s talents. “I’m a fine artist currently working with mixed media painting. For many years I worked with interior designers, painting murals and doing color consulting, primarily on large residential and commercial projects. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed dabbling with almost every type of art and craft. Teaching art is another one of my passions. I love watching my students gain the confidence to express themselves through creativity, and like my students, this bus project offered me this same opportunity. It was a real learning process, but I loved the creative expression that it offered me. I look forward to doing another bus someday soon.”

Jennifer truly wanted to be able to have a live/work space that was mobile. That meant that storage and supplies all had to be able to withstand the jostling of life on the road. As you’ll read, Jennifer has lots of tips for small-space living and creating storage was key. One of the most important storage areas of the bus is under Jennifer’s bed; she can also conveniently access this space from the back door.

Jennifer says that people are typically pretty shocked when they hear that she lives on a school bus, and even more so when they step inside and realize how cozy her home is! It’s been a year and the only update left is possibly adding a tiny wood stove (she currently has a propane one) down the line, but Jennifer and her rescue cat Furgus couldn’t be happier! —Rebekah 

Photography by Jennifer Lorton 

Image above: “Cozy the skoolie in the forest. The freedom to relocate, on a whim, or with the seasons, is one of the biggest advantages to living in a bus. To illustrate that, I painted a dandelion on the bus to symbolize breezing from place to place, and making wishes come true,” Jennifer explains.

Exterior Of Home/Studio/Bus
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One of the best aspects of Jennifer’s home is the open air it enables her to have, “I love the connection that the bus has to nature. One of my favorite features of the bus is that it has that large second door (I call it my French door), that used to access the wheelchair lift. Now, I can open that door, rotate my comfy chair, and enjoy nature from my living room. It’s like combining the best elements of being at home and camping, at the same time.”

This Artist's Home Is A Converted School Bus Now Named Cozy Tour On Design*Sponge
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Jennifer and her cat, Furgus, peeking out of their bus, aptly (and sweetly) named, “Cozy.”

Portrait by Nat Montoya

Driver's Area Of Cozy The Bus Home Tour On Design*Sponge
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“The driver’s area, with my high-efficiency cooler for food storage. I have plans to do some decorative things with the seat cover and the steering wheel in the near future,” Jennifer explains.

Converted Bus Home Front Seat Tour On Design*Sponge
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Not only is Jennifer’s bus efficient, it’s also full of meaningful and clever details. “Entering the bus you see the galvanized metal map of the United States and the high-efficiency cooler that acts as my refrigerator. As I visit states, I paint them with washes of white paint. The cooler works perfectly as an arm rest while driving, and underneath it I have a storage space for my shoes.”

The Bus Home And Studio Of Jennifer Lorton On Design*Sponge
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“A view from the bed to the front of the bus,” Jennifer explains.

Art Supplies Storage Area For Cozy The Bus On Design*Sponge
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Jennifer knows that because a petite space has so many custom details, it doesn’t mean it can’t also incorporate recycled materials as well. “Repurposed palette wood was used to create the storage area for my art supplies. All my supplies are easily accessible, and I love the artists-loft vibe that it adds to the bus.”

Bus Art Studio Tour On Design*Sponge
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“In a tiny space, it’s best if things can do double, or triple, duty. Wood and metal storage containers hold everything from art supplies to silverware,” Jennifer explains.

A School Bus Conversion Bathroom On Design*Sponge
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“The bathroom area features an ever-rotating collection of my artwork and birch wood elements. The bus has a composting toilet and Furgus can access his cat box through the framed opening in the front of the birch-covered bench,” Jennifer shares.

Shelving Made With Birch Bring The Nature Into Cozy The Bus On Design*Sponge
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More examples of how Jennifer brings the outdoors in with her design on the bus’ interior: “Open shelving, made with birch branches and natural rope, hold food and the inverter for the solar panels that are attached to the roof of the bus. This shelving, tucked under the kitchen counter, was kind of an afterthought but has proven to be invaluable for storage.”

The Petite Bathroom Of A Converted School Bus On Design*Sponge
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“My art and design aesthetic are inspired by nature. In the bathroom area, hunks of driftwood mix, collected rocks, metal elements, and one of my abstract paintings mingle to create an interesting collection of textures inspired by natural history.”

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Jennifer describes her reasoning of how she installed repurposed doors into the bus, “I used old doors from an architectural salvage yard to create walls to divide the space and create separate areas in the bus. I chose not to take the walls all the way to the ceiling so that sight-lines would remain clear, to give the illusion of more space. A natural birch branch serves as a rustic towel bar.”

Bedroom In The Converted School Bus Of Jennifer Lorton On Design*Sponge
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“The bedroom area. I hand painted a soft vine above the bed in neutral colors. At night, I use tiny, solar-powered ‘fairy lights’ to light the bedroom area, which creates a dreamy sleeping nook. It’s one of my favorite things about the bus,” Jennifer admits.

An Incredibly Efficient Small Kitchen On Design*Sponge
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“The kitchen is small but remarkably functional. Repurposed palette wood and natural birch branches create open shelving. The small farmhouse style sink was found at the Habitat For Humanity ReStore, and the pump faucet came from a marine store. Metal canisters hold cooking utensils, and magnetic spice jars cling to the metal bus walls, ready to be used, [but] out of the way,” Jennifer explains.

Art Studio In The Converted School Bus Of Jennifer Lorton With Tour On Design*Sponge
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“This area of the bus is multi-functional. It serves as my art studio, dining area, office, and nightstand. This table was my art studio table for many years (notice all the paint), and I couldn’t bear to part with all its personal history, so two of its legs were removed, and it was repurposed to function as my ‘everything table.’ I love all the texture that it adds to the space,” Jennifer shares.

Light Painted Interiors Keep The Tiny Bust From Feeling Oppressive On Design*Sponge
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“A view from the front of the bus to the back. My design aesthetic for the bus was all about being hygge (a Danish word that roughly translates to ‘hug’), I wanted it to feel open, airy, but cozy. I incorporated lots of soft textures, elements from nature, and light colors so that the space feels like it’s bathed in sunshine. I kept the color palette mostly neutral, with a splash of yellow as an homage to Cozy’s school bus origins. The ceiling is covered in embossed wallpaper, and the baskets under the bed hold my clothes,” Jennifer explains.

Jennifer Lorton's Love Note To Her Home On Design*Sponge
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Naturally, Jennifer created a beautiful piece of art to illustrate what she’s most thankful for in her home, “The thing I love most about my home is the freedom to enjoy the journey.”

SOURCE LIST

Bedroom
Yellow Pleated Pillow- Target
Faux Fur Pillow- Target
Galvanized Metal Flower- Pier 1 Imports
Storage Baskets- (handles removed) The Container Store
Mural Painting- Journey Home Made

Kitchen
Magnetic spice tins- The Container Store
Metal Feather Hook- Target
Stove Burner- Amazon

Seating
Comfy Chair- IKEA
Faux Fur throw on chair- IKEA

Entry
Cooler- Amazon
Carpet- Lowe’s Home Improvement

Bathroom
Towels- IKEA and IKEA
Magnifying mirror- IKEA
Hanging Storage- (cut in half) The Container Store
Artwork- Journey Home Made

Art Studio
Knit Storage Baskets – IKEA, no longer available

Throughout Bus
Embossed Wallpaper On Ceiling- Amazon
Solar Power- Goal Zero
Solar Fairy Lights- Amazon
Old Doors Used As Walls – Ohmega Salvage

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