- Location: Palm Beach, NSW
- Photographer: Hugh Stewart
- Featured In: InStyle, December 2011
- Written By: Rachel Lees
As featured in InStyle magazine, December 2011
BY: AMBER LEES
Her name calls to mind meticulous design and intricate embellishment, red-carpet glamour and exquisite bridal elegance. So discovering that Collette Dinnigan is a barefoot bohemian in her downtime comes as a surprise. But sitting inside her whitewashed, three-bedroom weekender in Sydney’s Palm Beach-just over an hour’s drive from her inner-city headquarters-the designer is, indeed, a world away from care. “This home has such a welcoming feel,” she says, “I love to just watch the tide come and go.” The interior of the home offers a stark contrast to her nine-to-five surrounds. “There’s not an inch of my office that isn’t covered with something-it’s packed with fabric, buttons and lace,” explains the 45-year-old designer. So, “at home, I like a more minimalist look.”
Awash with New England-style greys and whites, this light-filled two-storey beach pad reminds Dinnigan “of that Hamptons feel, which I love, “she says. “Everything weathered but of a certain quality, and a sense of freedom-so even if the weather’s bad and we have to batten down, it’s not too precious and fragile.” It’s the third property in Dinnigan’s portfolio-her working week is spent in eastern Sydney, and she owns another holiday house in Milton on the NSW South Coast “I’m always impulsive when I see something I like,” she admits.
The South African-born businesswoman moved into the Palm Beach home after recently marrying 34-year-old Canadian Bradley Cocks, founder of luxury-hotel website Kiwi Collection. “We found this place about two years ago; it was a long settlement We wanted a place on the beach, and it just seemed right” So too, their relationship-in July, the couple tied the knot in Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast “The mayor was marrying us,” Dinnigan explains. “He said, ‘The man should partake in all the cooking and cleaning of the house, and share all the household duties’. Bradley was like, ‘What?”‘
The newlyweds, who escape to the beach twice monthly or so, say that most weekends are spent “eating and drinking”, with Dinnigan taking over the kitchen. “I cook a lot I make roast vegetable salad, chilli-and-basil prawn linguine, and we just got onto duck confit.” When they aren’t indulging in home cuisine, the active couple can be found climbing to the top of the local lighthouse, or spending time on the water with Dinnigan’s six-year-old daughter, Estella. “She’s a water baby, such a good swimmer,” Dinnigan says. And Estella’s already showing signs of following in her mum’s footsteps. “She’s creative, and love drawing. She ‘gets’ clothes but is distinctive in what she likes and doesn’t like. She’s more adventurous [than I am], and stubborn. I was always more diplomatic, never wanting to upset the apple cart. That Libran thing; you know what you want but don’t know if it’s right.”
Surely the one place Dinnigan is self assured, is in design. At the very least, she’s suitably dogmatic when it comes to her newest residence. “It’s not the beach house with the poly-cotton sheets, I couldn’t stand that!” she says without hesitation. “I have to have beautiful bed linen.” Choosing homewares can be a divisive activity for any couple, so does the new husband’s style stack up? “He understands luxury,” she says, however, “he leaves U1ings to me a lot more because he could never see the room coming together and everything working. I guess it would be scary if he didn’t respect my design acumen; it would be a bad mistake in the relationship!”
Every piece tells a story here: pictures bought in a Paris Aca market and curtains made of sacking fabrics found in Provence co-exist with artwork by Australia’s foremost pop arti t, Martin Sharp. “I like to collect art or pieces from my travels that arc real; I don’t like reproductions,” she says. “l have charts behind our bed that I love; they were meant to be framed but the guy laminated them! It’s my family’s journey, our voyage, when we sailed from South Africa to Australia. There’s history there, it’s not just decoration.”
It’s obvious Dinnigan is enjoying the sunshine in her life, something she has earned. “I think you really have to be honest and true to yourself,” she says. “I’ve learnt over the yea rs, never do what others want you to do because you’re never truly satisfied. If you can get U1at right, and get the balance in yourself right, you’ll be a better person at work, and a better person with your family. And the thing I always try to teach Estella is don’t ever be afraid to dream.” Without a doubt, Dinnigan is living hers.