Living Large In Small Spaces - Rolling Cottage by the Bay

Welcome to the eighty-first post in the series
"Living Large in Small Spaces".

For almost two years I've been featuring small homes in various styles and locations in this series. My absolute favorite features are those that are written by the homeowner's themselves. Something special happens when we hear firsthand from the people that actually live in small homes. And not just live in small spaces. . .but thrive in them. Our eyes and hearts are opened up to new possibilities of what it means to "live the dream."

When I discovered Jeremy and Mira Thompson's darling 330 sq ft cottage created from a retired school bus I thought the chances of getting them to come and share their story as my guests was pretty remote. After all, their home has been featured on Tiny House Nation, Canada's The Marilyn Dennis Show, and published in major periodicals like the San Francisco Globe. Surely they wouldn't be interested in writing a guest post for my tiny blog. Still, my mother always taught me it never hurts to ask, so ask I did, and I couldn't have been more wrong about how my invitation would be received. Mira and Jeremy showed immediate interest and after our initial phone call (very fun, I might add), Mira got to work gathering photos and writing this piece. She's an amazing communicator, with a great eye for design, and Jeremy is a true craftsman. Together they've created a storybook cottage for themselves and their adorable daughter, Carys. 

Here's their tale. Enjoy!


One thing that Jeremy and I have come to realize, is that our lives together have had one  consistent aspect . . .Change.

For the  first eight years together we lived a garden variety, fast-paced western lifestyle. I was a full-time massage therapist and injury rehab specialist, while Jeremy was a master auto body technician. It was pretty good, we had no real complaints.  We owned a simple home built in 1915 which we completely rescued. . .restored and remodeled.

We had two cats, we camped and hiked. . . took great week long vacations to tropical locations.  We even dabbled in everything from body building to swing dancing and martial arts to half marathons.  Then we started to realize. . .wow, this is exhausting.  Is this really sustainable?
So, after eight years together, we did what people were starting to wonder if we would ever do. . .we got married.

Then what no one was expecting, we rented out our house and hit the road in a tiny school bus we bought on auction and converted ourselves. 

The idea of living simply and intentionally sounded so exciting, and we figured that if we didn't try it now, we may never do it.  

So we went from spending an average of a couple hours together in the evenings, sharing a 1200 square foot house, to spending 24 hours together in an 86 square foot school bus. . .and we loved it!

We had wanted more time to set aside for each other, family and to live in the moment.  Things that we had no time for when we were juggling our overcrowded lives became possible.  It was so refreshing.

So we spent the next couple of years traveling the west and east coasts of the US and Canada with a few months in Southeast Asia and some time spent working on organic farms. At that time we didn't know what our long term goals were, but we had fallen in love with our new found freedom and we knew we just couldn't go back. 
The most valuable thing about that time of our lives, is that it made me realize that we had been going through the motions of what we had learned we were supposed to do.  The cultural norms we all learn through witnessing the way "things are done", but this new awareness of the option of Living Intentionally was starting to break through. 

By "living intentionally" I don't  mean living in a commune off the grid and growing all our own food.  We were not quite that ambitious I suppose.  For me, it  meant consciously and intentionally choosing my values, beliefs and passions while working towards creating a life that embraced the things most important to me.  

--- Knowing that we were moving forward and not going back to the way things had been.

We knew a few things.  We wanted a home base in the Northwest that was close to our families.  But allowed us the financial freedom to pursue our  work with more creativity.

Well, we had time on our hands, a shed full of tools. . .and a little money.  So the next phase of our journey began. 

Even though we wanted a stable home base, we didn't want to commit to building another place that we would likely leave as we found our dream property.  So we decided to build something we could move when the time came.  

We acquired this beauty at the same government surplus auction that we got our first one. 

Although we were building our new home from a retired school bus, I wanted it to be far from the cliche' 60's travel bus.  I was ready to live in a home again, not a bus. . . so we split the difference.  While the vessel is still a fully functioning vehicle, the space we have created is every bit a home.  This became even more important, because halfway through the building process we discovered that we were about to be a family of three.  

The cedar siding with a staggered pattern helped break up the long straight lines of the bus, and a simulated sagging roof helps distract from the fact that the home is a long rectangle.  I can't wait until all the siding has gone silver.  I love the look of a sun bleached cedar cottage. 

Jeremy custom built this round window casing and ordered the glass.  The first thing you feel when entering our home is a surprising sense of open space.  Our bookshelf space is ever-evolving.  It started out holding my treasures and books and has become a toy shelf for our kiddo's most beloved toys. 

Our kitchen has a pretty big footprint in our small space, but it was important we had the comforts of a traditional kitchen.  A full sink, decent counter space, and an apartment gas range.  My favorite piece is our 1951 Frigidaire refrigerator.  Jeremy rebuilt the components and I restored the finish from a heavily rusted white finish into a morning sunshine yellow. 

We acquired some kitchen cabinet doors and Jeremy built our custom set of cabinets around them.  A combination of open cabinets and shelving allows me to see my favorite treasures while hiding away my more functional gear.  I have more space than I need in the kitchen, so our daughter even gets her own drawer for her kitchen things  and chalkboard in our pots and pans cupboard. 

The only thing I miss in this place is a bathtub,  but I will happily settle with a sizable shower, endless hot water and a standard toilet.  Carys found the bathtub loophole pretty early on.  

We rescued this beautiful antique Vermont Castings fireplace from a garden.  It was long forgotten with weeds growing out of it.  We decided to build the hearth over the existing wheel well, allowing us to use this awkward space within the bus very functionally.  We were surprised to discover our first winter that we were able to damper it down far enough that we could keep the place a very comfortable temperature. 

When I was a little girl, I loved secret cozy spaces, and would often make a space of my own in a closet or quiet corner of the house.  This love inspired our bedroom nook space.  Jeremy never ceases to amaze me with his building skills. Especially his ability to take my inspiration and make it like I never could.  

This loft space above the bedroom nook has had a couple of incarnations. . .it started out as more of a reading room and music space, with a rug, instruments and all my favorite books.

Now we have made use of it as a loft bedroom to allow our little one a space of her own down below.  

I like to stick to a pretty neutral palette for my walls and bedding.  This allows me to bring all the colorful additions I love so much.  While I admire the beauty and simplicity of white on white, I could never pull it off.  I find myself wanting to be surrounded by fully saturated colors.  

The blanket at the foot of my bed is the epitome of color saturation.  My mother makes these gorgeous blankets from rescued cashmere sweaters.  

For a few years I couldn't pass up a wooden crate when I saw one, and I finally put them to some good use.  

I hated the idea of hiding all of my beautiful pottery behind a cabinet door, so Jeremy designed a gorgeous open cabinet for me. 

A large portion of the materials we used to build our home are recycled or reclaimed. 

I found our front door at a reclaim store.  It needed a bit of work, so we sanded heavily and re stained the interior, and decided to go for a patina copper blue on the exterior to set off the cedar shakes.

The skeleton key lock set was a treasure we just couldn't pass up. 

Jeremy built my window boxes from cedar fence boards and some scrap copper he had on hand.  I almost hate to obscure them with flowers!. . .almost. 

A beautiful April afternoon from our doorway. 

Now that the days of this painstaking build are but pleasant memories. . .it gives us the time to concentrate on what we are most passionate about.  Living joyfully and creatively.  Our next project is currently underway. Jeremy is building a fantastically quirky woodshop from a shipping container to continue on with his passion of having a cottage-industry creative woodworking business from home. 

See what's new on our Facebook page:

or to see video tours of our place or projects, take a peek at:


Thanks so much, Mira and Jeremy (and Carys, too!) for sharing your fabulous cottage and the joyful story behind it.

The Thompsons are caretaking a family vacation property in that gorgeous waterfront location. I urge all of you to take a few minutes to hop over to their video tour link. You'll enjoy seeing the excellent tours of the cottage in more detail (such as the bathroom and all the unique storage they've created). And you can see Jeremy's current project, as well as their RV school bus. So neat! 

Join me next Saturday for another post in the special series

 Living Large in Small Spaces

See more home tours and small living ideas in the 
Living Large In Small Spaces Series here.


  1. I KNEW I was going to like this one from the very first photo!

  2. !!!!!!BEST ONE YET!!!!!
    Great story and a brilliant job on the, C OOL BUS!

  3. Amazing . . . Loved the Little Bus House . . .
    Workmanship, dedication, perserverence . . .
    I have great respect for his skill, design, vision . . .
    I watched three or more of the videos . . .had me mesmerized . . .
    The Thompsons are a wonderful team . . .
    Loved hearing their daughter sing, "The wheels on the bus " song . . .
    They make it all seem possible, comfortable, joyful!
    Kudos . . . a favorite for sure!

  4. Nancy, this is like a wee fairy house come to life. I loved so many of the cute things. I think the couple are so brave and clever. Blessings to you for a lovely mother's day. xoxo, Susie

  5. Wow! They are quite the talented couple! I've seen several buses that people live in, but this is definitely the best!!! Incredible things that they have done to open up the home, make it feel bigger. I love the loft/bedroom area they created. They are certainly living life large in a small space!!!!

  6. This was so much fun! I loved Mira's story and they are obviously creative as can be. I applaud them for choosing this lifestyle and spreading their wings. Hurrah for them!

  7. Oh Nancy I absolutely love this little school bus house. How creative and fun. So unique. What an amazing re love of this school bus into a comfy fun home. Love this!

  8. GOod morning dearest Nancy! What an inspiring article and video! It's amazing how much useful space has been created in this tiny house. It shows how much space really is NOT needed in order to be happy. Creativity abounds in this couple's lifestyle, coming up with ways to make a cozy and yes, UNUSUAL way to live. But I LOVE IT! That darling loft and bed encased in a cozy, secret box with that arched door....SWOON! The shingles and that door; so smartly done adding aged and vintage elements. THIS IS A WINNER!

  9. This was fantastic! I have been reading about and watching tiny home stories for years now.

    They did a wonderful job and I look forward to seeing the quirky workshop.
    This whole post was one where I sat here with a huge smile on my face.

    Thank you for sharing their delightful story. Living life is not about having the biggest and best, or acquiring more and more, it is about 'living' life to the fullest and being grateful for what we have.

    Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

  10. What a lovely story about this happy little family and how their charming home came to be!

  11. I think this is the most resourceful couple around. What a delightful story!

  12. I LOVE this one. The video tour is such fun.

  13. This is seriously cool! Love everything about the finishes. Too adorable for words!

  14. This is seriously cool! Love everything about the finishes. Too adorable for words!

  15. Just incredible. I only wish I had such creative abilities. Love it. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Now this is living large in small places! How unique and creative this sweet house is. It looks like a doll house from the outside. Wouldn't it be fun to see it driving on the highway to it's next destination?!

  17. Nancy, I am in awe . . . These two creative people have transformed this bus into an unbelievable home. I'm speechless . . . and that's something that doesn't happen often,LOL.

  18. This is amazing, Nancy. And so different. How wonderful to have a yellow fridge in a yellow bus.

  19. Now THAT is really, really cool! I love their philosophy and their style. What fun...

  20. I can't believe it, my lovely Nancy, it's so incredible and so very cozy, thank you for sharing it with us !
    Needless to say that it's always such a delight to me to be here, dearie, you always put a smile on my face and lift up my spirits, I'm so very grateful to you for this !

    Hope you had a wonderful Mother's Day, I wish you a most wonderful new week ahead, sending much love and blessings of Joy to you


  21. LOVE this! This couple has created an amazing space!

  22. Each part of this "cottage" is so well thought. The door is adorable!

  23. I love it! Im not saying I could live in that year round, but if I had one down at the lake, now that would be heaven!!!

  24. Wow! This is probably my favorite that you've featured. And you are so right about getting the loving perspective of the home's owners! Thanks so much for sharing this gem, Nancy!


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