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How a young family turned an ex-ballroom into a home

Plenty of pink, a dash of mint and a whole lot of imagination have transformed this old ballroom into a fully functioning, cute-as-a-button family home. Story by Debbie Harrison

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Meet & greet

Who lives here? Kaitlin Chapman, owner of kaitlinchapmanmakeup.com and Hello Darling Prop Hire, Jamie Robertson, mechanic, Stella, 3, chocolate Lab Chevie and Cavoodle Petal.


Once upon a time, Kaitlin Chapman’s cottage hosted men in penguin suits and women in their best finery in its role as a ballroom at Kaitlin’s parents’ home. Made of more practical stuff and with no use for such a thing, Kaitlin’s parents moved the ballroom to another spot on their Wainui farm (just north of Auckland) and used it as a home office. As a teen, Kaitlin would walk out to it every day and clean it monthly for pocket money, using the time to daydream about what she’d do with the space if she lived there. Two years ago, her dream came true when she, fiancé Jamie and their daughter, Stella, got the chance to move in and make it their own.


It needed some DIY straight away. The kitchen and bathroom were totally empty so the basics had to be installed and then Kaitlin and her mum painted, installed a vanity and added decorative touches. In the meantime, the family used the outdoor barbecue as a makeshift kitchen and bathed a then-1-year-old Stella in the paddling pool. Kaitlin spent many hours that summer armed with a sander and paintbrush. As well as a carport, her handy dad also built them a back deck, which not only gives them more storage (the biggest challenge of owning a small home) but acts as an outdoor room in summer, allowing the family to spread out.


While the cottage was plenty big enough to host a grand ball, it was a different story when it came to hosting a family of three and all the paraphernalia that comes with a toddler. It was just one large room with a bathroom and kitchen off it, so Kaitlin really had to be creative to make it work for them.

“At first, people wonder how we can live in it; from the road it looks tiny,” says Kaitlin. “But once they see inside they’re usually impressed at how we’ve separated the area into different spaces – Stella’s room sits behind a floating wall and curtain, while our ‘bedroom’, lounge and dining occupies the rest of the space.”

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To combat the lack of storage, Kaitlin thought outside the box. She made the most of the soaring ceilings, adding floating shelves up high for additional storage, and boxed up everything that didn’t need to be accessed in a hurry. She chose a high bed for Stella, which gave her a nifty space underneath to store items. But the storage pièce de résistance is definitely the outdoor playhouse she had designed for Stella.

Stella has her little Needle & Nail letterbox outside and the whole family write her letters. She’s definitely making memories in that playhouse

The playhouse

“As well as giving her somewhere to play, Stella’s playhouse was a big help with space because it gave us somewhere out of the house to store her toys in,” explains Kaitlin. Plus, of course, it gave Kaitlin the chance to build a house from scratch, albeit on a small scale. “It might be Stella’s house but it’s my favourite little getaway,” she laughs.

“I wanted an area for her to be able to create and make a mess in if she wanted to, and for me to be able to see into it from the house. I tried for months to find the right playhouse on Trade Me but they were all ridiculous prices and very small. I drew up a little plan of what I had in my head and ran it past my dad, who happened to have most of the materials in one
of his sheds!”

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The frame was up in a couple of weeks and then it was down to Kaitlin to do the rest. They put in an old window for light and doors that open all the way out for indoor-outdoor flow. She wanted the playhouse to match the cottage so she used board and batten for the exterior, painted in the same dark tone.

“I knew we were going to have a lot of colourful toys in it so I painted it all-white and made the floor a feature, which I absolutely adore,” says Kaitlin. “I chose pegboard for one of the walls since it’s so versatile and I made some hanging shelves which can be moved around and used to hold almost anything. Stella has her little Needle & Nail letterbox outside and the whole family write her letters. She’s definitely making memories in that playhouse,” says her proud mum.


It’s probably no surprise to anyone that make-up artist Kaitlin is a big fan of colour and enthusiastic about putting it to work in her home. “Colour makes me happy so I use it everywhere. I’ve stuck to a mainly pastel palette in the cottage – I like everything looking very fresh,” she enthuses.

A huge admirer of pink, Kaitlin has managed to sneak some into her and Jamie’s space, but there was no need for restraint in Stella’s corner – it’s a girly delight, with its bursts of pastel prettiness supplied by artwork, garlands, honeycomb-ball decorations, furniture and linen.

There are some benefits to living in a small space, Kaitlin says. Yes, it gets messy quickly, but it’s also super-quick to tidy. With no rooms to retreat to, it means the little family has no choice but to spend every second together – to Kaitlin’s delight. “It’s great for bonding. I also love having Stella nearby at night. It’s a small and cosy space, which really suits us as a really close family.” So it’s true, then: good things do come in small packages.

Words by: Debbie Harrison. Photography by: Helen Bankers.

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