Couple Transforms a Vintage Bus into a Seaside Dream Home

Santa Barbara is a beautiful beach town located on the California coast north of Los Angeles and nestled in the wondrous Santa Ynez Mountains. Ryan and Katie Lovelace loved living in this seaside paradise.

Ryan and Katie Lovelace in their bus
Source: YouTube

They lived in an affordable, modest home by the beach where they lived comfortably. But to truly thrive in this heaven, they felt they needed a van to change their life. The couple no longer wanted to live in a home and were ready for a drastic change.

Ryan Lovelace’s Surf Shack

Ryan loves to surf, but his true passion is creating surfboards. He grew up constantly building things. If he wanted a bike or a go-kart, he built it. One day, he was hanging out with a friend who mentioned he had built a surfboard.

An image from the vintage bus.
Source: Pinterest

At this, Ryan’s ears perked up. He wanted to build a surfboard. So his buddy explained how he did it, and Ryan went to pick out his materials. His first board took seven days to make, but by the second one, he was a pro.

Turning Passion into Profit

Creating and building his own board was how Ryan Lovelace discovered his passion. He quickly realized he wanted to do this for others and make a living. So when he put the board up on Craigslist for $400, he turned that passion into a business.

A photo of Ryan holding a surfboard.
Source: Instagram /@ryanlovelace

The listing read “Custom Surfboards, $400,” and that’s how he got his first customer, who is still a good friend to this day. His growing business was what ultimately led to the idea of turning a van into a home. How else do you transport surfboards?

Hand-Shaped with Love

One of the reasons Ryan’s boards are so well-loved by so many is because he personally hand-shapes the boards. So many people who create and sell surfboards shape them with machines. That might create a finer board with better lines, but it is not the same as a hand-crafted and hand-shaped board.

A detailed photo of one of Ryan’s surfboards.
Source: Instagram /@ryanlovelace

Ryan is deeply connected to his craft and feels like he is rekindling a relationship with an old friend every time he steps back into the shaping room to create a new custom board. I think his customers feel this connection too.

Inlaid with Vintage Fabric

Ryan is best known for his mid-length boards. He not only creates these amazing boards, but he prefers to ride them too. Another thing that makes Ryan’s boards so unique is his use of vintage fabrics.

A photo of Ryan’s boards.
Source: Instagram /@ryanlovelace

He sources the coolest vintage fabrics he can find and then brings them back to the shaping room to incorporate them into a board. He loves the idea of taking something that has already been created and using it to enhance a design. His customers value this unique feature, and it continues to attract more and more people.

She Has Her Own Brand

Katie Lovelace is not one to work the average nine-to-five. Like her partner, Ryan, she runs her own business. The two are a very hands-on, creative couple who have made a living being their own bosses.

Katie takes a picture of herself.
Source: Instagram /@katielovelace_

Katie has a passion for illustration and design. Living in Santa Barbara, she was always drawn to activewear and swimwear, so she started her own brand, Psychedelic Honey. She designs her own products and illustrates all the patterns herself. When Ryan brought up the idea for a van, she simply couldn’t say no.

Swimwear and Activewear for a Cause

Psychedelic Honey is not just a brand that makes swimwear and activewear. It is a brand that makes biodegradable swimwear and activewear. Katie did not just make a clothing brand. She made sure that her clothing was completely environmentally friendly and sustainable.

A photo from a photoshoot from the brand.
Source: Instagram /@katielovelace_

Psychedelic Honey is all about fostering creativity, wellness, and adventure. Katie believes in self-love and empowering women while also caring for the planet and Mother Nature. Her hand-drawn prints are very beautiful and unique, and there is something for everyone. Psychedelic Honey is a wholesome brand with an even more wholesome message.

Artists with Two Different Visions

There is no doubt that Katie and Ryan Lovelace are a very artsy couple. They both run their own businesses that include natural art and design, so when the idea came to flip a van into their dream home, they were both over the moon. However, they quickly ran into a bit of a problem—their differences in artistic opinion.

A picture of Ryan holding Katie in his arms on their wedding day.
Source: Instagram /@katielovelace_

Katie planned out all her designs and pulled inspiration from her collection of books and her own personal designs. Ryan was blurting out spontaneous ideas with no preplanning. This project would test their creative philosophies.

Say Hello to the Cosmic Collider

Ryan and Katie were traveling in Australia when Ryan found the perfect vehicle on Craigslist for their new dream home—a 1948 Chevy bus. As soon as he saw the listing, he knew it was perfect. It would be transformed into something the average person would consider a freak of nature.

An image from the Chevy bus.
Source: Pinterest

It would be a Frankenstein-like creation that resembled a run-down bus with select parts from a Volkswagen and an addition that looked like a chicken coop. When they bought it, the bus was bulky, huge, and a horrific pee-yellow color. But Ryan was sold on it and asked the Craigslist seller to hold it until he returned from his trip.

The 1948 Chevy Bus

The bus was something you would rarely see at car shows, and for the average car enthusiast, it was a generally unremarkable vehicle. In terms of automobile history, the 1948 Chevy bus didn’t really shock the market or add anything new.

An external photo of the bus.
Source: Pinterest

It did not have any new features or a revolutionary model. It was essentially a hunk of metal that many found unexciting. Despite all that, Ryan and Katie found a whole lot of charm in the old rust bucket and were set on transforming it into a home.

Renovations Are Set to Begin

When Ryan and Katie returned from Down Under, it was time to get cracking on the bus remodeling. They reached out to the Craigslist seller, bought the bus, and brought it home. Now it was time to get remodeling, or so they thought. After looking at the bus, the project started to seem far more difficult than they initially imagined.

A photo of Ryan and Katie sitting on the back of the bus.
Source: YouTube

The bus had been out in the California sun for years, and the couple who previously owned it barely used it, resulting in a sun-damaged, beat-up old bus. Nevertheless, Katie and Ryan were determined to make this work, and they began the first round of renovations.

The Color That Just Won’t Budge

The first thing they and anyone else who laid eyes on the thing noticed about it was the awful paint job. The bus was an interesting, faded beige turned pee-yellow color, and that paint simply had to be removed. They could not begin their life in a dream home the color of a used toilet bowl.

An image of Ryan working on the bus.
Source: YouTube

So, the first task was to repaint. No amount of paint colors in a kaleidoscope of shades stuck to the exterior. The outside of the bus was coated in rust that just wouldn’t budge, and paint wouldn’t stick to it. So, they decided to sand off the rust.

A Unique Addition to the Roof

After the couple used a grinder to sand off every inch of paint and rust on the exterior, they were left with a bare metal frame and a clean slate. To add a bit more pizzazz and practicality to the bus, Ryan and Katie put an addition on the roof.

An interior shot of the bus.
Source: Instagram /@modernbuilds

This little box with holes looked more like a chicken coop, but it was meant to serve as their bedroom. It was a crate supported by two beams with questionable safety, but it gave the bus a unique shape from the outside, and the couple loved it.

A Surf Bus Meant for Living

The bus was initially bought to house Ryan’s growing surfboard company, but it was also a place to live. This dream home had to have room for them and both their businesses. They put a lot of time and effort into their surf bus turned mobile home.

A photo of Ryan working on the bus.
Source: rlovelace

It was important to both of them that the bus was a place where they liked to spend time. They wanted it to be their own private slice of paradise where they could enjoy each other. It not only had to be artistic but also practical.

Breaking Down the Plan

To begin remodeling the inside, they would need to touch up or redo the ceiling, floor, and walls. They had already managed to get the old paint and rust off the outside and bolted a bedroom onto the roof, but the interior needed the most work and the most remodeling.

An interior shot of the bus filled with plants.
Photo by Will Adler

They had to turn your average bus into a livable space. They decided to touch up the ceiling and walls with beautiful redwood, covering up any cracks and holes. Then they completely ripped out the floor and replaced it with the same redwood.

Creating the Perfect Plan

After Katie and Ryan finished the redwood floor, the bus was really starting to come together. The redwood had a unique groovy pattern that was complete with waves and circles in varying shades of red. It added the perfect funky touch to the bus.

An exterior shot of the bus parked.
Source: Instagram /@katielovelace_

Then they put in a small kitchen in the back of the bus, along with a desk and a closet. Both Ryan and Katie needed a desk where they could work, and it also functioned as a table for eating when work was over. All this may sound like a lot, but it was just the beginning.

Adding a Van to a Bus

To further add to the Frankenstein effect already created on the 1948 Chevy bus, the couple decided to add parts of a van to the top. Generally, buses are pretty tall, and there was enough ceiling height to walk but not enough to comfortably stand up.

A picture of Ryan and Katie inside the bus.
Source: YouTube

So, the couple took the top half of a Volkswagen van and welded it to the top of the bus. Then they cut out the space in the ceiling of the bus to create a taller ceiling and make more room to stand up. Voilà!

The Bedroom from the Inside

The couple worked long and hard on the bus. They started fixing up the sleeping area from the inside so it looked less like a chicken coop and more like a bedroom. The makeshift bedroom could fit a queen-sized mattress. When looking at it from inside the bus, there was a large hole in the ceiling with a ladder that led to the bedroom.

An image of Ryan sitting inside the bus.
Photo by Will Adler

When it was time for bed, the couple climbed the ladder into their little bedroom box and enjoyed a restful sleep on their queen-sized mattress. The décor made it feel less like a welding hazard and more like a home.

The Charming Surf Bus

The interior of the bus was now completely finished. There was the sleeping area up top and a kitchen, closet, and desk below. The couple made sure to deck out the bus with all the things they liked to call home.

An interior shot of a sofa inside the bus.
Photo by Will Adler

The kitchen had a little coal fireplace that could serve as an oven with two burners on top. They also had a sink and lots of kitchen cabinets for storage. They kept kitchen utensils and many ceramic mugs and art pieces on those shelves and in the cabinets.

The Plant-Filled Living Room

The front of the bus had a little seating area that was perfect for the couple and their dog. It featured a little couch covered in soft white cushions and colorful pillows. Across from the couch was a little coal fireplace with a chimney that stuck out through the ceiling.

An image from the bus filled with plants on the inside.
Photo by Will Adler

With all the windows, the bus was filled with natural light. The couple refused to cover any of the windows at the front of the bus, including the windshield. The space also had a lot of plants of all shapes and sizes.

The Chevy Gets a Name

Once the renovations were complete, this new home became a cornerstone in the couple’s social circle. The vintage bus quickly became a coveted hangout for Ryan, Katie, and all their friends. And they named their bus Ophelia.

An image of Ryan stepping outside of the bus.
Photo by Will Adler

To their close friends, the bus was called Ophelia, but as the bus started to gain a reputation in the surfing community, many people referred to it as the Cosmic Collider. The name became so popular that the couple painted the name across the side of the bus in thick, black paint and in a groovy font.

A Few Years Later

About eight years after Katie and Ryan flipped the bus, mechanical issues began to pile up. The interior was looking worn, and in fact, it looked torn and destroyed. Don’t worry, it wasn’t from a raging surf party, they didn’t get robbed, and it wasn’t the result of an earthquake. It was just time for a remodel.

An image of the bus during renovation.
Source: YouTube

Ryan and Katie came up with a new plan for the bus that they felt was better. They had enjoyed the lovely company of the bus for eight years and had made many good memories, but now it was time for something new. The 1948 Chevy bus needed a new home.

Finding a New Owner

Ophelia the 1948 Chevy bus was no longer usable. She had lived a long and prosperous life with Ryan and Katie Lovelace, but it was time she found new owners. Reluctantly, Ryan returned to the same place he had found the Cosmic Collider—Craigslist.

A sketch of the bus before renovation.
Source: Pinterest

The couple listed their creation for $18,200 or best offer. The listing read, “I will be doing some serious vetting before I can make time to show it to anyone.” Ryan was serious about finding the perfect owner for his beloved bus, and he was not going to pick just anyone.

Did They Find the Perfect Buyer?

The first buyer that impressed Ryan and Katie was an herb company called Old Pal. The owners of the company saw the listing on Craigslist and were extremely interested in the Cosmic Collider. They had a representative from their company reach out to Ryan and Katie to set up a meeting and hopefully purchase the bus.

A photo of the potential buyers standing outside their van.
Source: YouTube

They wanted to appear professional and prove themselves worthy of Ophelia because they were serious about buying her. It was going to be hard for Ryan and Katie to let the bus go, so they proposed an interesting offer.

From Buyers to Borrowers

Yes, there was a listing on Craigslist that read “for sale,” but there was a huge issue with that. Ryan and Katie were extremely attached to Ophelia. She represented a huge chunk of their life together, and they couldn’t let her go.

A photo of Katie making a carpet during the renovation of the bus.
Source: rlovelace

So, when Old Pal approached the couple and was serious about buying Ophelia, the Lovelaces decided to make a different offer. Ryan suggested that the company borrow the Cosmic Collider. They couldn’t give her up forever, but at least this way Old Pal could make use of the bus in ways that Ryan and Katie couldn’t.

The Deal That Led to Reno #2

Old Pal was looking to turn the bus into a pop-up mobile shop. They wanted to take the Cosmic Collider and drive her from music festival to music festival to sell their products and merchandise. The first upcoming music festival was the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and they had three days to flip the bus into their dream space, but there was one caveat.

An interior shot of the bus during the indoors’ renovation process.
Source: YouTube

Ryan insisted that regardless of what they did to the bus, they had to keep the original vintage feel. Changing the vintage look of the Cosmic Collider was non-negotiable, but the company had free reign over the layout.

Hiring a Team of Professionals

With the approaching deadline of Coachella, the Old Pal team decided to hire some professionals to complete the renovations. They reached out to Jessie and Mike who were professionals at renovating buses and other vehicles. From tiny homes to pop-up shops, Jessie and Mike had done it all.

Professionals work on the inside of the bus.
Source: YouTube

They were pros, and they appreciated the challenge of a three-day deadline while preserving the vintage look. They were ready to maintain the lovely spirit held within the walls of the Cosmic Collider and all the memories that were encased in the old bus.

From Surfer Heaven to Pop-Up Shop

With just three days to complete the renovation, Jessie and Mike had a lot to do. Ophelia was originally built as a mobile home for a creative surfer couple looking to drive up and down the shore in search of the best waves.

An exterior shot of the bus during renovation.
Source: YouTube

It was a place for them to live, work on their brands, and experience the world. So as you can imagine, that was a very different setup than an herb company’s pop-up shop. Old Pal needed something totally different, but it was imperative that the pop-up kept the Ophelia twang.

Switching Up the Interior

Jessie and Mike charged into the project, ripping out the interior. They no longer needed the kitchen, stove, or fireplace. All these things were necessary for a home but not for a pop-up shop. What they did need was lots of seating and lots of shelving, and they wanted a photo booth.

An interior shot of the bus.
Source: YouTube

Since the bus had been lived in for eight years, Jessie and Mike had to make sure it was clean and safe for people to enter and lounge around in. All that sounds ambitious, but these pros were determined to create the perfect pop-up for Old Pal to proudly drive across the desert to Coachella.

Taking Out the Old and Bringing in the New

Jessie and Mike removed everything that was inside the bus. They took out the ladder that led to the bedroom, the cabinets used for excess storage, the kitchen, and the seating area.

An interior shot of the bus from a different angle with a view of the driver’s seat.
Source: YouTube

After they cleaned the floor, it was time to fix up anything that was damaged by water or was just simply old. Jessie and Mike really wanted to entirely rip out the wood floor, but they knew that the bus had to keep the same vintage feel, so they kept the floor and fixed any areas that were damaged.

Remodeling the Space for Function

After they fixed the floor, Jessie and Mike were ready to build some new furniture. Jessie started by creating a wooden bench that could also serve as a display shelf, depending on what the company needed. He also built a few other shelving units for storage and showcasing Old Pal’s products.

An exterior shot of the bus before an event.
Source: YouTube

He made sure to scour his scrap material for wood scraps in varying shades. He wanted to create everything new in various shades of wood to match the original look of the bus and the vintage feel of the original redwood.

Bringing Back the Plants

Jessie and Mike loved how Ryan and Katie had originally installed metal rain gutters to hold lots of plants. When Ophelia was their home, they made sure to keep the metal rain gutters filled with a plethora of plants in all shapes and sizes.

Ryan speaks during an interview.
Source: YouTube

It gave the home a fresh feel and a touch of nature. On top of the rain gutters was a series of windows that came from the attached van on top. The windows were not only good for plants but provided an amazing amount of natural light.

Fixing the Rain Gutters

Jessie and Mike wanted to keep the rain gutters and fill them with plants. But when Mike started adding LED lights to the rain gutters, he found they were unstable and shaky from all the use. So, he decided to make structural reinforcements out of scrap steel to keep the gutters in place.

An interior shot of the bus.
Source: YouTube

He fit the reinforcements to the rain gutters, drilled them in, and continued with the decorating. He finished the LED lights and filled the rain gutters with a bunch of plants because plants truly made everything look better.

Turning the Bumper into a Photo Booth

There was an extended area connected to the bus’s bumper that had been used to install support rods for the bedroom chamber. On Ophelia, the back area was only used to support the bedroom. Mike and Jessie thought it would be super cool to build out that area and convert it into a deck for a photo booth.

An interior shot for the bus during the planning for the renovation.
Source: YouTube

They measured the open area and filled it with planks of wood, making sure to cut out holes for the bedroom support poles. Then they added a cool vintage print blanket as a backdrop and created a photo booth.

A Deck That Offers Support

Not only was the deck used as a photo booth, but it also served as further support for the bedroom area. The safety of the added bedchamber seemed to be a cause for concern for everyone except Ryan and Katie who had slept carefree in the little box.

An interior shot of the bus after starting the renovation.
Source: Imgur

The bedroom was essentially just a metal cage welded on top of the bus and supported by two beams connected to the bumper. That doesn’t sound so secure because it wasn’t, and the Old Pal team did not want any problems. So Mike and Jessie made sure to reinforce the bedroom poles by building the wooden deck.

Patching Up the Interior

There were many weird and unsafe transitions between the bus and where parts were later added on. After all, Ryan and Katie were nowhere near professional contractors or renovators, so some botched remodeling wasn’t surprising.

An image of Mike sitting on the bus ceiling while fixing it.
Source: Imgur

Jessie and Mike needed to patch up those areas to make them safe, but they didn’t want them to look too new. So they found matching pieces of canvas and glued them to the unsafe areas, creating a vintage patchwork effect. They were able to cover the damage and keep the theme.

Finishing Up the Space

After they added the wooden deck and reinforced the bedroom, they had a few more things to do, and the three days were almost up. They had to reinforce a huge hole in the ceiling that used to hold the stovepipe because Old Pal didn’t need the stove.

An interior shot of the new fridge and wooden cabinets in the bus.
Source: Imgur

They patched up the hole and replaced it with a beautiful, copper, vintage Moroccan lamp laced with solar-powered LED lights. Then, they restored the couch and replaced all the cushions. The final touch was a few vintage posters, and the Cosmic Collider was ready for Coachella.

Take a Look Inside

Jessie and Mike had finished the second remodel of the Cosmic Collider in three days, and they took a moment to admire their hard work as they sat in the spacious seating area that used to be the living room.

An interior shot of the bus after finishing the renovation.
Source: Imgur

They made sure there was enough seating for multiple shoppers. The new display shelves now held all the Old Pal merchandise. Jessie and Mike had made the bus feel new and vintage all at the same time—the perfect combo!

The Amazing California Sun

Jessie and Mike also appreciated the bus’s skylight that let the amazing California sun flood into the bus. The natural light and the gutters filled with plants gave the bus an ethereal feel.

A removable roof rug is added to the ceiling of the bus.
Source: Imgur

The Cosmic Collider was not quite ready for takeoff. The original agreement was that Jessie and Mike would preserve Katie and Ryan’s funky bedroom. They retained the bedroom and replaced the mattress. Looks like Ophelia was not lost after all, and even in a pop-up, someone would have a place to lay their head.

On to Bigger Things

The Cosmic Collider made its grand entrance at Coachella, and it was a hit. The bus-turned-pop-up was loved by the music festival attendees, and Old Pal did great. They sold a lot of merchandise, a lot of products, and had a whole lot of fun.

An exterior shot of the new bus painted green.
Source: Imgur

Since the acclaimed California music festival, Ophelia has been driven across many deserts on many highways to visit music festivals. Though no longer a home, Ophelia has a special place in many people’s hearts, and she served Ryan and Katie Lovelace well. What began as a spontaneous project ended as an iconic memory.