Having the right windows can transform a house into a home – but for one busy career woman it was the addition of Liniar windows that put the finishing touches to her ambitious conversion project, transforming a double decker bus into a luxury mobile residence.
The plan for the project was so bold and imaginative that Channel Four quickly jumped ‘on-board’ to feature the renovation on its popular show Amazing Spaces – airing on Thursday, February 1st.
Ellie Banner-Ball dreamed of escaping the rat race and living a life of freedom on the road – and that’s exactly what she set out to achieve when she changed her job – moving from the ‘big smoke’ to Devon and becoming a mindfulness teacher in October 2016.
Inspired by an Instagram post which suggested buying an old bus, removing the seats and converting it into a mobile home, Ellie ditched the hustle and bustle of the capital and bought herself a 1970s double decker called Betty.
However, Ellie wasn’t expecting the purchase to make her and Betty into TV stars – especially as she doesn’t actually own a television!
“I told a university friend about my plans and she contacted Amazing Spaces,” explained Ellie. “I’d never seen or heard of the show, but they were interested to find out more and sent someone along to interview me.”
The Channel Four show sees celebrity architect George Clarke investigate wonderful designs and meet the people with the imagination to transform a variety of spaces into grand creations, on small budgets.
“They were excited to feature the project, spending the next 12 months filming our progress and George, the presenter, paid me a couple of visits.”
However, things didn’t immediately go to plan for Ellie. The double decker bus, a Bristol VR model, was mechanically sound, but other areas needed some serious attention.
“The first six months of the project was spent completely restoring the bodywork and the interior was much worse that we first thought,” said Ellie.
“We hadn’t realised that Betty had suffered some vandalism. She’d been set on fire at some point and bits of the floor were missing!”
But six months later the restoration was practically complete and the next stage commenced – making Betty beautiful. One of the first steps to achieve this was to replace five unrepairable windows.
“The windows on the bus were single pane with very old handles that made them difficult to open,” explained Ellie. “So I thought it would be better to replace the faulty ones with modern, double glazed windows.”
Totnes-based installers Southfield Windows Ltd were given the task of providing and fitting these – which, despite more than 30 years of experience, proved to be a first for them.
“We thought it was a bit random,” said Roland Bell, Southfield’s Operations Manager. “It’s definitely the first time we’ve been asked to install windows on a bus!
“It threw up a couple of challenges. Firstly, we had to use an angle grinder to square off the round corners that the original windows were fitted into.
“Drilling and fixing into the thin steel of the aperture also proved difficult, but we used some add-ons to provide additional support.”
Once the five windows were installed it left Ellie with a serious quandary.
“I was so delighted with how the new windows looked and the difference they made that I immediately wanted the rest replacing – but unfortunately I didn’t have the budget for it.”
It was at this point that Ben Paul, the General Manager of Liniar fabricator Omega Trade Frames, came to the rescue.
“I got talking to Ben when he delivered the windows to be installed. When I explained that it was a shame that I couldn’t afford to replace the rest of the windows, he offered to supply them free of charge as it was such an unusual project – with the added attraction of being featured on the TV!”
“Then Roland at Southfield very kindly said that they’d survey and install them without charging.
“I really can’t thank them enough. Without their generosity it wouldn’t have been possible to have achieved the high standard of finish that I have.”
Formed in 1995 in Kingsteignton, Devon, Omega is one of the South West’s leading manufacturers of uPVC trade frames, operating from 10,000ft² purpose built premises with a capacity to produce 800 frames per week.
“We were delighted to be able to help Ellie,” said Ben. “Especially as the windows would be seen in the programme. We’re very proud of the products we manufacture and it’s great to see the difference they’ve made to the bus.”
“The windows used on the project were A-rated white flush sash casements, utilising the MACO Espag gearing locking system and Planitherm Total glazing with argon gas.
“Ellie then used a special uPVC paint on the exterior of the frames to match the blue bodywork of the bus for a fantastic finish.”
Now complete, the results of the conversion are truly stunning and Ellie plans to move in to the bus shortly. Consisting of two bedrooms, one of which is a king size, and a bathroom, the open-plan layout provides a spacious appearance.
“You don’t realise how large it actually is inside one of these vehicles until all the seats have been removed – it’s about the size of a studio flat,” commented Ellie.
“I’m very pleased with how it’s all turned out, but the windows really are the best element of the whole bus for me. Having them has turned Betty into a real home, making it warm and cosy and they look amazing.
“When George returned to see the finished article, he described it as a ‘palace’ and ‘one of the most beautiful conversions’ he’d seen on the show, so I’m extremely proud.”
So what does the future hold for Betty?
“I’ll be moving into the bus very soon and I’m planning on taking a tour of Cornwall. But I think once the novelty has worn off a little then I might hire her out to weddings and other events as a luxury glamping option and let other people enjoy her.”