Romantic-Style Decorating Turned a Schoolhouse into a Dreamy Home

A Kansas couple transformed an 1870s schoolhouse into a welcoming home, romancing its rooms with architectural salvage and vintage treasures.

twin bed with vintage wood headboard

Deserae and Derek Crafts have spent roughly 600 weekends of their 26 years of marriage gathering furniture, art, accessories, and 50 pieces of architectural salvage—including columns, pillars, capitals, and urns—to modernize yet preserve the charm of the 19th-century schoolhouse they call home in rural Kansas. This adds up to 13 years (and counting!) of renovation and thrifting.

As newlyweds with dreams larger than their budget, Deserae and Derek initially scoured yard sales and auctions for furnishings and salvage. Today the couple prefer to haunt their favorite antiques shops and shows—most less than an hour's drive from home—and online sources such as Craigslist, eBay, and One Kings Lane. Rustic pieces, including armoires, hutches, and tables (many painted and distressed by Deserae), mingle easily with flirty white-slipcovered furnishings, ornate mirrors, and seagrass rugs.

Long History

front of house with bike leaning against tree

Deserae and Derek knew it would take years of hard work to rescue the 1870s schoolhouse from its state of decline, but the couple aren't ones to walk away from a challenge. For its first 17 years the building served as a school, then as a meeting space on alternate Sundays for four church congregations, and as a gathering place for community events. In the 1890s it became a private residence for a family with 10 children, and in 1985 two couples restored the building and opened it as a bed-and-breakfast.

Classic Character

light brick home with front porch

A portico defines what was originally the front of the schoolhouse where a bell tower was located. The native stones on this side are larger and more prominent than elsewhere on the facade. Fresh white paint on the portico and window frames retains the vintage charm but gives the exterior a cleaned-up look.

Collector's Entry

front entry with basket of canes and large gold mirror

The home's front door is charmed by one of Deserae's first collections: vintage canes purchased for less than $20 each. Deserae bought the ornate mirror on clearance, then gilded it herself. Vintage hats collect on the sill above the door.

Light and Airy


The schoolhouse has high ceilings and tall windows, which make the rooms feel bigger than they are. Deserae capitalized on the loftiness with a soft palette. The living room is anchored by a coffee table built by Derek.

We found lots of inspiration for traditional living room decorating.

Treasure Display

cream sofa chair next to dark wood dining cabinet

Deserae scored the hutch in the living room on Craigslist. She collects clocks, antique tools, vintage baskets, ironstone, herbaria, antique antlers, wicker demijohns, cut crystal, blue transferware, European rosaries, and old schoolbooks, some of which are displayed on the shelves. An aged sidelight shutter panel makes for interesting wall art.

In the Details

white armoire in living room

A wash of paint on this armoire shows off meticulous carved details. Light-color furniture keeps the look airy. White paint brightens the wood trim. Shades of tan repeat throughout the room through the rug and wall art.

Fine Dining

round dining room table with four chairs

Deserae refinished the top of the dining room antique table, which was purchased on Craigslist for $75. The chairs wear dressed-up—and pet-friendly— slipcovers. The upholstery withstands visits from the Crafts' two dogs and their cat. A jute rug eases the transition from light walls to dark wood floors.

Country Kitchen

country kitchen with white cabinets and granite counters

The kitchen is proof of the couple's do-it-yourself skills. They partially gutted the room, reconfigured the layout, reworked plumbing and wiring, and installed drywall and a new tile backsplash. They also primed, painted, and added decorative pieces and trim to cabinets found on Craigslist. For a finishing touch, they hung a sparkling chandelier.

Vintage Scheme

mirror dresser with mirror above

A glam mirrored dresser pairs with a rustic mirror and accessories for a more casual look. Decorative brushed-metal sconces complement the gray walls. An upholstered chair with curved features adds to the vintage atmosphere.

Formal Vanity

white cabinet sink bathroom

Although new, the vanity in the upper-level hall bath is a convincing replica of a vintage dresser. To further the room's timeless appeal, Deserae paired the piece with a new but romanticized wall mirror found online. Wainscoting continues the traditional charm, and botanicals on the wall add a natural element.

Warm Palette

twin bed with vintage wood headboard

Derek fabricated the guest bedroom headboard from a pair of salvaged doors and their molding. A neutral buffalo plaid cloth on the skirted table matches an accent pillow on the bed. Layers of white linens give this guest bedroom cottage charm.

Powder Fresh

bathroom with light blue and white floral sink skirt

A powder bath features a skirted pedestal sink and high-rising wainscoting wall panels. The toile fabric skirt ties together gray-blue walls and tan tile floors. Brown tones run through storage baskets, a square vanity mirror, and a natural window shade.

Primary Comfort

bedroom with beige gingham headboard and bed skirt

The primary bedroom features light hues of gray and beige for a neutral getaway. Deserae ties the layered bedding to other linens in the house with the repetition of white-and-tan buffalo plaid. Wood furnishings with ornate details and rounded shapes tie together the room's elements.

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