- Location: Paddington, NSW
- Photographer: Felix Forest
- Featured in: Vogue Living, September 2014
- Written By: Nerida Piggin
As Featured in Vogue Living, September 2014
BY: NERIDA PIGGIN
On the crest of a hill, on a fashionable, tree-lined street in Sydney’s eastern suburbs is a circa 1840 sandstone house that is the home of fashion designer Collette Dinnigan.
It is fitting that Dinnigan feels settled in this space; she recently downsized her successful business to spend more time at home with her husband Bradley Cocks, IO-year-old daughter Estella and 18-month-old son Hunter. As she explains: ”When I saw this house I felt it was perfect for this new chapter in my life.”
On buying the house in 2009, Dinnigan immediately set about tailoring it to her exacting standards. She required four bedrooms and enough outdoor space for the children and for
entertaining. One of the earliest convict-built cottages in the area, it is thought to have begun as a farmhouse surrounded by acres of land, but today has only a small front garden and a courtyard
at the back, previously transformed into a pool and loggia. “The courtyard and pool area needed a face lift;’ says Dinnigan. “It was surrounded by bamboo and we pulled down an old carport to turn the area into an outdoor dining space with an overhead trellis for grapevine and bougainvillea. I also re-tiled the pool and covered the pool shed with French 19th-century shutters:’
A serendipitous discovery made at the start of the renovation appeared to confirm Dinnigan ‘s choice of home. “I was invited to go to a charity function for breast cancer;’ she explains. ”When I arrived home, my builder told me he had discovered an old piece of cardboard in one of the walls dating back to around 1920. Written on it: ‘Have they found a cure for cancer yet?’ I couldn’t believe it! The coincidence was so strange.”
Thanks to the sensitivity of previous owners, the family was allowed to make another interesting discovery. Not one of the sandstone bricks – right down to the flagstone floor of the front verandah -had been painted over. ‘We discovered that each of the bricks had a different engraved number so the convict who made it got paid;’ explains Dinnigan.
Renovations began at the back, where two rooms became a large kitchen with a wall of glass doors opening onto the pool area. The open-plan space is big enough for a side pantry and a laundry and a large island provides an informal dining area. The front rooms retain their original features, which are perfectly complemented by Dinnigan’s contemporary, eclectic art collection. On the sandstone walls of the hallway that divides them are her own framed illustrations and South Sea island paintings. The sitting room acts as a library and media room, while the guestroom opposite has a large ensuite. Dinnigan admits to a penchant for luxurious bathrooms and styled this one with a very early marble bathtub, its effect enhanced by the room’s original fireplace and glamorous fixtures. Dinnigan’s brother Seamus calls it the “royal suite”.
Leading off from the sitting room is the formal dining room, a favourite of the designer ‘s. “I enjoy having guests sitting around my Danish oak table – an old cheese-making table.” Her collection of glassware is housed in two early 19th-century French glass cabinets, also bought in Paris. “I bought a lot of furniture at the Marche aux Puces when I was showing my collections there.” The designer’s love of France is evident throughout, especially in the French provincial-style loft. Lavish blooms and foliage add to the romance, much of it arranged by Seamus – another creative Dinnigan. “I often drive to Flemington and get fresh flowers for the house;’ he says. “Her favourites are hydrangeas and wild roses:’
Among Dinnigan’s most cherished pieces in the house are the stainless steel candleholders her father made in the 1960s, proudly displayed in the dining room. The designer ‘s many personal touches help to create a sense of homeliness greatly appreciated by husband Bradley. Having recently set up a luxury online hotel booking business, Hotel Insider, he’s been especially busy overseas and enjoys corning back to a “real home”.
As one would expect from a fashion designer known for an ethereal aesthetic so elegant as to seduce the fastidious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, the interiors of Dinnigan’s house achieve a sense of romanticism within the perimeters of fine taste -a tribute to her ongoing creativity.