Magrit Stocker first laid eyes on the original Minnamurra school and residence in 1966.
She would then spend more than 25 years living in the Kiama municipality before work took her back to Sydney, but she didn't forget the old schoolhouse.
When she retired and returned to the South Coast in 1997, with partner Bill Cornue, the property was for sale.
"I keep saying it is a heart decision not a head decision," Ms Stocker said.
"It was one of those places I always loved."
At the time the property belonged to Andrew Arthur, who owned some of the terrace houses in Kiama.
"He rented the school and cottage as two separate dwellings and we made it into one home," Ms Stocker said.
"The old school building is like the family room because the house is very small."
The heritage-listed school house and residence opened in 1883. It was designed by the NSW Government architect, W.A. Kemp. At the time, the school had one teacher, assisted by two pupil teachers, a sewing teacher and up to 84 students.
It was originally known as The Peterborough School, but this name was changed in the mid-1880s to The Minnamurra School.
The schoolhouse is a Victorian Gothic building and the neighbouring residence is in a symmetrical Georgian style.
Both buildings are constructed of local bluestone - twin-wall rubble-filled, with sandstone used for corners and chimneys.
The school closed in 1907 due to falling enrolments.
The Department of Education actually called for tenders for demolition of the school in 1938.
"Luckily, no tenders were received," Ms Stocker said.
Previous owners began restorations in the 1970s.
Ms Stocker said living in a heritage-listed building did have challenges with maintenance - as did keeping up an impressive garden, which includes two large fig trees.
"It is busy ... I enjoy the physical exercise. I jokingly say this is my gym and I never have to pay gym membership.
"People ask me which building I live in. I say I live in all of them - it is my own retirement village.
"For my grandsons growing up it is a wonderful place and provides all those occasions where they can test themselves out in a relatively safe environment."
Ms Stocker said while Swamp Road was still a rural area, people who lived there could easily take advantage of the nearby facilities. "You have the best of both worlds ... the neighbourhood is wonderful.
"The best thing about living here is the ambience.
"I like living somewhere that is very unusual, and living somewhere that keeps me occupied."