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homebodies: emma bäcklund lives in a converted school bus


Meet Emma Bäcklund and her family. Emma lives with her partner Felix and son Hendrix in a converted school bus on the Great Ocean Road.

What do you do for a crust?
I run the Australian-made brand U&I Label, making sustainable, functional swimwear for ocean dwellers. I also freelance as a photographer and graphic designer and try to spend as much time as I can shooting fashion, products, landscapes and the ocean.

Tell us about the house itself. The Sandy Bus is a retired school bus from the Nullarbor. The living space is about 30 metres square – one ‘big’ open space where we’ve fit everything we need, plus more! We’ve got a kitchen with plenty of bench space because we love cooking, a little fireplace that keeps us toasty, and a bathroom with a shower (although we use our outdoor shower and bath 90 per cent of the time). We’re completely off the grid by using solar power, gas and a rainwater tank.

Where did the idea come from to create a house within a bus, and when did you realise it could be a reality? We’d been following the tiny house movement for a while and came across a few beautiful buses converted into tiny homes. It was really inspiring. We both love to build things, craft new furniture and renovate, so the idea of learning new building skills along the way appealed to us. We also loved the design challenge and the environmental aspect of using the bus as our canvas, so we just went with it. From idea to purchase was very spontaneous – Sandy was the first bus that came up on Gumtree. We looked at her that weekend and bought her straight away!

What was involved with converting and setting up the space? When we picked her up, Sandy had all her 56 seats, complete with chewing gum and scribbled statements of love, so they had to be removed. She was missing the back, though, which is why we wound up installing French doors. We did it all together with Felix’s very handy parents: everything from insulation to installing the herringbone floor, the fireplace, etc. For three years, we spent our weekends and any spare time we had doing her up.

Were there any disasters along the way? The main hiccup was when Sandy decided to break down in Meredith, a small town about halfway between Geelong and Ballarat. She ended up at the pub there for a bit over a month until we could figure out what was wrong!

How would you describe your decorating style? I didn’t set out with any particular styles in mind, but I have a Swedish background (I’m from the north of Sweden and have lived in Australia for the past nine years), so I think it’s come out a combo of a small Scandinavian apartment and an Australian surf shack.

What are some creative ways you’ve made the most of the small space? We’ve added a deck and an awning at the front of the bus, so we’ve got a whole other space to hang out where we’re protected from the elements. The French doors let beautiful afternoon light in, and I love sitting on the deck or rolling out a yoga mat there. There are little storage nooks we’ve installed throughout the bus, as well.

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