Interiorssneak peeksweekly wrap up

An Old Catskill Schoolhouse Becomes a Beautiful Inn (+Best of Web)

by Maxwell Tielman



Image above: The enormous communal dining table at Hillside Schoolhouse. Proprietor Bronson Bigelow built it with wood he had custom-cut at our local sawmill and industrial cast-iron factory legs he found on eBay.

Two of my favorite things right now are repurposed schools and The Catskill Mountain region, so imagine my delight when we discovered Hillside Schoolhouse, a newly opened inn that combines both! Located in the quiet town of Barryville, NY, Hillside is the project of Bronson Bigelow, a New York City expat who traded a busy life as a lawyer for woodworking in the countryside. Originally built in 1893, the structure served as a one-room, 8-grade schoolhouse and later a gospel chapel in the 1950s. Although Hillside has undergone quite a transformation in its conversion to a weekend getaway for travelers, Bronson made sure to pay his respects to the building’s past. “We wanted to ensure the design celebrated that rich history,” he says. “We preserved the original slate chalkboards, the stained glass entryway, the cast-iron school bell, the hardwood floors and the original millwork. We love the Schoolhouse because it’s so utterly unique.” Check out more photos of this stunning building and its new accommodations after the jump! Have a wonderful weekend! —Max



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Image above: This is the Belfry – one of our two guest suites. When we restored the Schoolhouse, we enclosed the bell tower in glass to preserve the original cast-iron bell, which is suspended above this room. Bronson created the accent wall with aged pine. The lights are these raw, really industrial metal fixtures that we were able to salvage during the renovation. The paint is Benjamin Moore in whale grey.


Image above: This is the powder room on the main floor; it was originally one of the Schoolhouse’s two coat rooms. We found the print in the Schoolhouse when we purchased it; in the mid-50s the school was turned into a gospel chapel. We discovered the mirror on eBay and felt its shape was a great nod to the Schoolhouse’s days as a church.


Image above: This is Room 1893 – our other guest suite, named after the year the Schoolhouse was built. The guest suites are both located in what was the unfinished attic. We cut a skylight so guests can see the stars in bed. The design in this room – and throughout the property – is a mix of high / low. Here we have a Restoration Hardware Academie bed with a cowhide rug from Ikea. The paint is Benjamin Moore in whale grey.


Image above: All of our guests enjoy the 1,400-square-foot shared space on the main floor. These are the original hard wood floors and you can see some of the original slate chalk boards. Bronson made the coffee tables from wood salvaged during the restoration. The industrial metal credenza is from DWR and is stocked with records, books and board games for our guests. We found the flag at a vintage shop on a trip to Austin. Stretching out on the oversized pin-cushion couches is the best way to unwind …


Image above: A Kartell Bourgie lamp sits next to the original ladder to the bell tower.


Image above: A vintage globe found on etsy pays homage to school days.


Image above: An antique Steinway piano we bought on Craigslist on a whim because it was so beautiful. Next to it is an antique dry sink that Bronson converted into a bar. The animal skull is of a Greater Kudu that we bought to remember our honeymoon in Kenya.


Image above: Each bedroom has a private ensuite bath. This one has “jackalope” wallpaper that we sourced from spoonflower.com.


Image above: We turned the second coat room into a kitchen and used chalkboard for the backsplash. The butcher block counter top, stainless steel shelves, apron-front sink and cabinets are all Ikea. 


Image above: An antique school clock found on eBay.

Suggested For You


  • Wow the “Whale Grey” color is so cool and nautical looking, just a perfect color. Some people may find it too dark, but I think with the natural woods and rustic setting, it is a match.

  • Lovely and comfortable-looking, which is what one wants in an inn. I’d love to know where the toilet and sink in the jackalope bathroom were sourced.

  • My pottery studio/gallery is a converted 100-year-old schoolhouse in Cambria, Ca. These old buildings are wonderful! Visitors often talk about the special feeling of the place and appreciate that it’s being used and enjoyed… and then I invite them to pull the rope to ring the school bell. Such fun!