This One-of-a-Kind Home & Photo Studio Is Housed in a Former School Building

published May 11, 2018

This One-of-a-Kind Home & Photo Studio Is Housed in a Former School Building

published May 11, 2018
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Name: Jonnie Andersen and dogs Alice Cooper, Winston Churchill, and the Dude
Location: Superior, Nebraska
Size: 2,500 square feet
Years lived in: 3 years, owned

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This is the best kind of home: Deeply personal, DIY, and steeped in history. Jonnie Andersen is a photographer living in Superior, Nebraska, and she took on the monumental task of reviving this former school plus old church and turning it into a home for herself and her business. (And yes, you first saw a sneak peek of her home in her house call last year.)

Jonnie writes: “My home/studio is the original Beaverville School (1900) and had been moved several times. Following its last move, a church was relocated to the site and added to the building, and another building was added for the kitchen and dining room by the new owners. After 35 years the home had fallen into disrepair and several people asked me to save the building by buying it and renovating it into a photography studio—it would have been demolished and turned back into farm ground if I hadn’t bought it.

Armed with a tiny amount of woodworking/carpentry knowledge, I took advantage of learning from friends, family, and of course YouTube! By the time I finished the remodel three years later, I have more skills than I ever thought I would. All of the tools that once scared me, fixing and changing electrical, are now part of my skill set, and I truly love this work. I hand-built everything— from the barn doors to the chevron pattern on wood walls—just through trial and error. Renovating is akin to childbearing—frustrating, heartbreaking and heartwarming, insane and incredible.

I use the main area as a photography studio, and hundreds of children have played here—I think of it as a place alive with good energy. Armed with cotton snowballs for snowball fights, whoopee cushions, a bed for jumping on, and some imaginative/dress up play, I try to make portraits of kids having a real experience, to capture that joy that comes with being little, for my amusement and theirs. Before living here, and doing this, I did an especially difficult and heartbreaking project photographing people in destitute situations, poverty and addiction in Nevada. Photographing and participating in child joy then, became this incredibly healing thing for me.”

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Eclectic cowboy!

Inspiration: I grew up on a horse farm just a few miles from here, and love anything found or quirky, and turning junk into art.

Favorite Element: I love the enormous studio. The space is perfect for dancing— huge, wide open and bright. It’s infused with good energy after years of photographing children here. I challenged myself early to record real excitement, and used the ultimate tools of my trade— jumping on beds, woopee cushions and cotton snowball fights to get real smiles, and because I’m a large child, make myself laugh in the process.

Biggest Challenge: Overcoming a fear of electrical and using certain saws—that Johnny Cash movie really freaked me out!

Proudest DIY: I’m proudest of the chevron wood wall, and I can’t not love my four-foot tall pirate ship, a thrift stop find I painted and covered in rhinestones.

Biggest Indulgence: I installed solar panels. It doesn’t seem like an indulgence, but the truth was, I was just fascinated by it and wanted to understand it better.

Best Advice: In life, do the things that scare you the most. And do them first. Anything that will keep you up at night trying to figure out how you’ll do it, do THAT. It makes the most difference. It totally enriches your life.


Ace Hardware owes me BIG TIME. And I owe them. The local store sends me Christmas cards because I’m there buying paint so much. Eek! I shouldn’t admit that.

Reclaimed and new lumber
Used and “inherited” furniture

I made 90% of that out of reclaimed random stuff and garage sale finds. The cute kids are my nieces and nephew. The goat and chicken are Xerox prints I made from photographs from Etsy seller, LILAxLOLA

Antique cabinets and basic cabinets from Menards
Found wood for island
On the wall — Ikea shelf ends and holders

Used bedroom set from Craigslist, vintage letters found at an auction.

Reclaimed sink found in a friend’s garden, lath, texture and paint.

Thanks, Jonnie!

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