Architecture and Planning
Developing the basic floorplan for Odyssey turned out to pose some interesting challenges. The large, curved-top windows, which we wanted to keep intact because of the fantastic view they afford, left very little wall space available for attachment of cabinets and fixtures. Also, the unusual design of the Neoplan's underbays would make it tricky to locate the toilet over the waste tank, essentially a requirement for conventional RV-type toilets. Lastly, there is a stepped-up area in the front, some "humps" at the rear, and a number of access holes in the floor, all of which needed to be worked around.
It is a sad reality of bus conversion design that the entire floor plan often revolves around where the toilet will go. We spent hours on this problem, making little headway. Any reasonable place we could put the waste tank had the toilet as far forward as the galley. We ultimately conceded defeat on this, and decided to solve the problem with cash and technology -- we are using a Microphor Microflush toilet, which sends the waste to the tank using compressed air. (I find it is best not to dwell on this image too long.) We really resisted going this route (or that of the competition, VacuFlush by SeaLand), because it relies on external power, in this case compressed air, rather than gravity. Since we hope to live on battery power alone as much as possible, anything that consumes power when it doesn't really have to reduces our "time-between-charges" unnecessarily.
That problem thus out of the way, we turned our attention to the main salon and the raised area in front, which we call the "penthouse." One of the things we learned in the first year was that we are always attracted to the large front window and the view it affords. The original floorplan had diminutive, uncomfortable seats and knee-bashing table in the penthouse:
Nevertheless, we found ourselves eating our meals and doing our work there, just to be by that window. We also found, in our brick-and-mortar home, that we spent most of our at-home time in a pair of easy chairs about four feet apart, reading or using our laptops, or just conversing over a glass of wine. It was absolutely natural, then, that the penthouse area would become the focal point of the bus, with a pair of comfortable swivel chairs that can be adjusted to face the large window, into the salon, or toward each other. We spend most of our "inside" time in these chairs, for which we selected the venerable Flexsteel 443 in Ultraleather.
Working from there back, we selected a small settee or loveseat, also from Flexsteel (alas, no longer made -- we got the last one by taking it off the floor at Custom RV Interiors) to go behind the swivel chairs, facing forward. This makes a nice "conversation area" for three or four people in the penthouse, and also simplifies the transition between the two different floor heights. The penthouse floor level is extended back to the rear of the settee, so that it is at the same height as the swivel chairs. There is enough room in this arrangement to place a small, free-standing table in the middle (not shown on plan), for snacks or light meals. The settee extends about half the width of the coach from the left side wall. The step up into the penthouse extends from the edge of the settee to the main staircase.
All well and good so far, but this arrangement does not allow for any place to locate even a small video screen for movies or (gasp) TV, and the settee is too small to even stretch out, never mind sleeping accommodations for any guests. Thus the last pair of elements in the main salon is the entertainment center along the right-side wall, complete with 30" LCD monitor and the usual array of DVD, VCR, Stereo, etc.. The LCD is enclosed by tambour doors to protect it and keep it out of sight when not in use, and the remaining space in the cabinetry is dedicated to books, CDs, and the like (as well as the main electrical panel). Across from this is another Flexsteel piece, a three-person sofa which can also make into a double bed to accommodate those pesky overnight guests. (The double-bed size, along with the fact that one person must sleep along the wall, assures that guests will not overstay their welcome!). All of this remains below the glass line, leaving a nice panoramic view out the large windows from anywhere in the salon.
Aft of the salon is the galley, which is appointed with a NovaKool RF7500 24-volt DC marine refrigerator (small, but adequate for our needs and easy on the batteries), a GE over-counter Advantium 120 oven, a round Blanco stainless steel kitchen sink, and a two-burner Princess LP marine cooktop. The cooktop is the only LP appliance in the coach -- I prefer to cook with gas, and running even the most efficient electric stove on the inverter is a poor use of the power budget. Nevertheless, we also have a (portable type) induction hob. This draws only 15 amps at 120VAC at its highest setting, and is the most efficient, safest, and most controllable type of electric cooktop, although it does require ferrous cookware. We have a dedicated outlet for this, so we can cook with electricity if it's readily available (or the LP runs out). A Fantastic vent fan provides the required outside ventilation when cooking (the Advantium also has a range hood, which is the recirculating type.)
Next back is the bathroom, which is rather unremarkable. We prefer to have the toilet in a separate compartment, but the door to this room can also be swung closed against the galley entrance to close off the whole bathroom area instead. The rest of the appointments are the 36" neo-angle shower (above which is a Fantastic vent) and a small vanity with china sink.
Beneath the vanity is a small access tunnel for our cats to enter their own bathroom, which is in a shallow bay below (and is emptied from outside the coach).
Also in the bathroom area is a large closet. This closet is the correct size and shape for a washer-dryer combination, for possible future expansion or a future owner. We will just have our laundry hampers and some large shelves in here. The door to this closet also does double duty, closing off the bedroom if necessary.
That leaves the master stateroom. Placing the head of the bed against the rear wall, as it was when we got it, would have been easier logistically. However, as our full time residence, we need plenty of storage. Moving the bed against the window on the left side allowed the entire rear wall (minus some humps for the engine room) to become a wardrobe, which should accommodate all our needs (even the tuxedo and the evening gowns).
The bed is on an 18" tall platform, with storage underneath, including a "cave" where the dog's kennel will go (she really wants to be in the same room with us when she sleeps). You can see the outline of the bed frame, complete with "cave," as a dotted line on the bed in the floor plan. The outline of the dog cave also corresponds to the access hatch to service items above the transmission.
A few last notes about the main level: Countertops throughout are Granite Lite, a structurally reinforced natural granite product. The cabinetry is all natural-finish maple. The headliner is marine vinyl, and wall covering (in the small handful of spaces not occupied by windows or cabinets) are a commercial-grade vinyl wallpaper. Lighting throughout is 24-volt halogen (we dislike the light provided by the more efficient fluorescent or LED fixtures).
Alert readers will have noticed by now that there is no dinette area in Odyssey. This was a conscious choice on our part. We expect to take most of our meals either outside on a picnic table, or in the captains chairs in the penthouse, admiring the view. We'll use either lap trays or snack tables in this latter arrangement -- whatever seems to work best. We're also planning on a small folding table that can go either in front of the sofa or in front of the settee for those times when we have guests aboard. The floor plan does not include it, because it's not bolted down!