Favourite Space | Sarah Zonneveld

Do you remember Carrie's walk-in-wardrobe in "Sex and the City"? It is still my dream wardrobe and what I'm hoping mine will look like one day soon (if we ever get our master bedroom extension off the ground). Our next 'favourite space' candidate took it one step further, she has a 'ward-room'! That's what happens when you are a serious vintage clothes shopper and your husband is a builder who is happy to convert a small bedroom into an entire walk-in wardrobe.

Sarah Zonneveld has lived in her Napier bungalow for 6 1/2 years with her husband, Norm, and two sons, Joel and Ethan. Surrounded by males (although she loves them all dearly), Sarah loves having something girly of her own; somewhere to retreat, and she confesses to sometimes getting stuck in there playing dress-ups and choosing her next outfit.

Not just her wardrobe, but most of her home is filled with beautiful vintage pieces that Sarah has lovingly searched for and collected. In fact even the extension at the back of their house is made, by Norm, from all recycled materials. Sarah had been looking for a beaded curtain for quite some time to hang on the entrance to her ward-room and found the perfect one on Trade Me recently.

She has such an extensive collection of clothes, jewellery and accessories, Sarah quite often has friends popping in to borrow something for an upcoming wedding or a school ball. She loves vintage fashion, but also pieces from different cultures. A 'creative gypsy' is what she calls herself, having taken on a lot of creative ventures, and a lot of travelling. She and Norm backpacked around Asia with the boys when they were younger, she also backpacked through Africa, and loved visiting India with her sister.

Norm built all the shelves and racks in the ward-room, and as Sarah's collection grows, he finds somewhere else to add a shelf, or a creative way to display items.

We asked Sarah a few questions, so she can tell you more about herself and her beautiful space...

What do you love most about this space - your ward-room?

It’s completely mine. It’s my girl zone in a house full of testosterone. I love being surrounded by my unique treasures and I can literally spend hours getting lost in my clothes and accessories. And I love that it’s my space to play dress-up every morning.

Can you tell us a bit about how long it took to create and how it has evolved?

I have the best hubby, he created this space for me because he knew I needed it, being the mad vintage collector that I am. I think he was scared I may take over his shed if he didn’t give me somewhere for my vast collection. I’ve been collecting vintage and op shopped treasures for well over 25 years.

My ward-room is constantly growing and being added to. I love to display things and I’m always asking Norm to hang something. We joke that there’s still plenty of wall space to put yet another shelf or hat rack, when in reality I’m fast running out of room!

What’s your favourite time of the day?

I don’t have a specific time that’s a favourite, but any time I’m op-shopping or working on a creative project is a good time of day.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m greatly inspired by other cultures and eras. I adore India, Egypt, Asia, anywhere exotic and unique. I’m drawn to the styles of other eras too, and will take pieces from the 70s and mix it with something that wouldn’t be out of place with Cleopatra or Queen Nefertiti.

What are your reading/listening to?

Reading – I always have my nose in a book but I’m currently devouring the latest issue of NZ Fashion Quarterly.

Music – Being a collector of everything, I also collect music and have an extensive playlist that’s constantly being added to. I love both old school and current music. My sons have introduced me to some incredible fresh talent that I would never have found on my own.

Sweet or savoury?

Savoury. Home grown or organic is how I like it.

Favourite drink?

My smoothie that I make every morning, I love to kick start my day with a good dose of greens.

Favourite thing you own?

A velvet ivy wreath that was worn by my Mum when she married my Dad. It was made by my grandmother who was a seamstress/dressmaker. I’m a sentimental soul so it’s an extra special treasure to me.

Top of your wish list for your ward-robe or home?

I’m on the hunt for a large rug for my lounge. No doubt I will come across the perfect one in an op shop!

As is usual with us when visiting these favourite spaces, we found one of our own. It's this gorgeous daybed nook at the bottom of Sarah's garden. Norm and Joel built it for Sarah 3 years ago as a birthday present. "We added the solar lights and the ivy is slowly growing up and over it," said Sarah. "I sometimes pull the screen down and fall asleep during the day, and the boys pull out the brazier and hang out there with friends. I love it, it brings me so much joy".

Thank you so much Sarah for inviting us into your home and world, you are truly a beautiful soul. Yours is the epitome of a house that's been turned into a home, and it's a true reflection of the people who live there - our favourite kind of house.

Working with Small Spaces

I have a soft spot for small spaces and I actually think it can be a great way to live as you're forced to eliminate clutter and have only what you need and love around you. If you've seen any of my "Nook of the Month" columns in Your Home & Garden magazine, you'll already have picked up some great decorating tips, but I've selected some of my favourite methods for working with small spaces...

Utilise as much vertical space as possible. Built-in bookshelves are fantastic for storage and display purposes, and take up very little floor space. Hooks and wall-mounted shelves are a clever storage tool also.

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Furniture that is off the ground and has light, elegant legs suits a smaller room. I would advise against solid, heavy pieces. If you can, knock out walls and have a larger open plan space, rather than two smaller rooms. Then use rugs to differentiate areas - they are the perfect zoning tool. A low hung light over a dining table also anchors the table in place.

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Take it one step further with your furniture by using Lucite or transparent pieces, they take up very little visual space. Mirrors are your best friend when it comes to decorating a small space. They reflect light and brighten a room and create an illusion of space.

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Furniture that is multi-functional is brilliant! Add a bench seat to your built-in bookshelf for a cosy reading nook; or add a chair and turn one shelf into a work space. Don't forget that space under your bench seat - maximise the space by using it for storage, either open or enclosed.

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Don't feel like you need to have small art in your small space. To the contrary... a large piece of art and a large rug will help fool the eye into thinking the room is bigger than it is.


I always like to have floor to ceiling curtains wherever possible. They look elegant and add height to a room. The more natural light you can have, the more spacious it will feel.


We Kiwis love our outdoor living, and by blurring the lines between outside and in will greatly increase the sense of space in your home.


So, don't you agree that living small has many benefits?! They're more economical to build and to maintain, and they encourage us keep (and acquire) possessions that really matter and really work. If you're having any trouble with your space, or would like help to maximise it's potential, please don't hesitate to get in touch.