A School Bus Reno: Fern the Bus


Mande, Ben, and Sawyer Tucker live part time aboard their renovated school bus.

The Tucker family, made up of husband and wife team, Mande and Ben, and their son, Sawyer, enjoy traveling the North American continent in their renovated school bus turned home.

Meet Mande, Ben, and Sawyer Tucker

Husband and wife team Mande and Ben Tucker, cross-country nomads and bus renovator extraordinaires, have become experts at life on the road. While their small family of three has a comfortable stationary life, they find spending stints of time on the road helps them break out of mundane routines and habits and shift their momentum in new, unexplored directions. Enter Fern the Bus.

Fern the Bus is a robin’s egg blue fully renovated school bus that travels cross-country and doubles as a second home for the Tucker family.

The Tuckers hit the road in their fully-renovated school bus to shake up the day-to-day, experience new places, and meet new people.

Longing for Adventure

Several years prior to settling down with Mande, Ben renovated a bus with his friends to travel and volunteer across the US. Ever since, Ben longed to embark on a similar adventure with Mande. They sought a delicate balance of comfort and a sense of adventure and spontaneity. When they encountered not one, but two 24’ school buses for sale, the purchase was a no-brainer. The couple purchased both buses and immediately began renovations on their first project, fondly known as Fern.

The interior of the bus is light and airy, with soft gray bench seating, natural wood finishes, and a nook for a bed.

The interior of the bus is light and airy, with soft gray Sunbrella upholstered bench seating, natural wood finishes, a cozy kitchen, and a nook for a full-size bed.

Why Fern?

The name Fern was inspired by well-known children’s book, Charlotte’s Web. Mande, a second grade school teacher, found the name of the story’s sweet and nurturing main character to suit the bus perfectly. In fact, the name was so well suited for their project, that they could not fathom parting with it for their second bus, now aptly named Fern2.

The bus features a fully functional kitchen, cand ample Sunbrella upholstered seating for the family.

This sweet home away from home is complete with comfortable couches worthy of a home living room and a fully functional kitchen.

Lessons Learned

While renovating the original Fern, Mande and Ben learned as they went, and that sometimes meant learning the hard way. The first time Mande upholstered Fern’s seats, she used a standard cotton blend fabric. Within a short time, the fabrics became stained, worn, and faded from constant exposure to sunlight. After only a few months on the road, all of the upholstery needed to be replaced, and this time, Ben and Mande dove into researching fabrics that were built to last. When they came across Sunbrella and discovered the abundant benefits of using performance fabrics to create durable, functional living spaces, Ben and Mande were sold.

The bus has a surprisingly spacious interior with abundant natural light.

Canvas Granite from Sunbrella offers the perfect balance of comfort and performance. UV-stable pigments keep the fabrics looking like new, in spite of consistent exposure to sunlight pouring in through the windows.

Function meets Cozy Comfort

On top of UV protection, stain resistance, and bleach cleanability, they were thrilled to discover how comfortable Sunbrella fabrics were! “Comfort plays a huge role while we’re on the road,” says Mande. With limited space and needing to accommodate their young son, Sawyer, comfort and cleanability were major priorities for the main living areas. “It’s more than worth it for us to invest in quality and comfortable materials, so that we truly feel that we are at home on the road.” When it came time to upholster the seating in Fern2, the choice was simple. After falling in love with Sunbrella after reupholstering the seating in Fern1, they knew that they needed to equip Fern2 with the durability to withstand the challenges of life on the road. They opted for Sunbrella Canvas Granite for the bus’s bench seating, and Horizon Capriccio Toast, an engineered synthetic leather, for the captain’s chair.

Soft neutral Sunbrella fabrics accent a cozy interior.

From ultra-comfortable, soft seating to sweet accent decor, Fern the bus features all of the details that make it feel like home.

It’s All in the Details

In addition to a functional fabric choice, Ben and Mande were thorough to consider every inch of space on their traveling bus. They pride themselves on the details, reveling in their tiny storage nooks, which Mande notes are essential to staying organized, little decorations that make Fern feel like home, and their big comfy mattress that welcomes the tired travelers after a long day of exploring. They even went so far as to include a rooftop deck, where the couple enjoys lounging, taking in scenic views, and winding down with a good book.

Sawyer enjoys life in the bus with his parents and his toys.

Little Sawyer enjoys life on the road with his parents, while Sunbrella fabrics allow him to play worry-free during their travels!

What’s next on the list of destinations for this dynamic duo and their adorable toddler, Sawyer? “Our next trip will hopefully be to Lake Superior in Northern Michigan. We have traveled far and wide around the US and Canada and would love to spend a little time on our own state to show Sawyer what Michigan really has to offer! It truly is one of our favorite places!”

To follow Fern and the Tucker family on their adventures, and see Sunbrella fabrics in action, check out @fernthebus on Instagram! If you’re stationary but like the idea of a fun DIY reupholstering project, check out our blog: Ready to Reupholster Furniture? Tips, Trends & Trend-Setter Inspiration, and follow @Sunbrella on social media!

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