- Location: Milton, NSW
- Photographer: Felix Forest
- Article Featured in: Country Style Australia, June 2015
- Written By: Nerida Piggin
Article as featured in Country Style Australia:
When Collette Dinnigan stunned the fashion world in late 2013 by closing her high-end label and boutiques in Sydney, Melbourne and London, few realised that another design project was becoming more important in her life. Although Australia’s most famous couturier stressed that the change of direction was because she wanted to focus on her family, little mention was made in the news stories of her hideaway on the NSW south coast.
Nine years ago, when Collette was looking for a beach house, a friend mentioned a property at Milton, near the seaside towns of Mollymook and Ulladulla. “I fell in love when we drove up a long drive to this breathtaking rainforest setting,” Collette says. She bought the former dairy farm and settled into “the magic of Milton”.
Clearing the 12 hectares and planting 3000 trees was a challenge, which was exacerbated two years ago when she decided to acquire another four hectares. “Our life was pretty full-on once we bought the land next door; lots more mess to clean up!” Collette says. “Pulling out rusty old engines from the creek and plastic tubing lying around everywhere …”
But gradually the property took shape, and time was even found to convert the old barn on the second parcel of land into accommodation for guests. “Now, when friends come to stay, they have their own house. And it can be used for special occasions, like a birthday or a wedding.”
Whenever possible, Collette and husband Bradley Cocks, daughter Estella, 10, and two-year-old son Hunter head south from Sydney, reach Milton then turn off the road to the driveway that’s a cathedral of trees. A creek runs through the property just near the house, a timber and stone building from the 1920s. There’s a trough of corrugated iron in the kitchen, a pizza oven in the dining room that ‘s filled with old leather chairs and unusual tables – and everywhere lots of white paint.
One of her favourite parts of the house is the bar, which looks over the stream and forest. Collette has kept it simple, but her eye for detail is revealed in little adroit touches, from the placement of flowers from the garden to the shell chandeliers from Bali in the bedroom .
Collette has created an organic vegetable garden and planted citrus trees, and her favourite flowers -white hydrangeas and white magnolia .
“We always had fresh eggs when I was growing up,” says Collette, recalling her childhood in South Africa and New Zealand. “So now we have lots of hens and enjoy our eggs for breakfast .” Beehives are a recent addition and the prospect of honey to come has impressed the children.
The outdoor life is so good for the young family, their mother enthuses. Estella rides Kenny, her retired racehorse, around the paddocks, which are home to six horses and a herd of alpacas.
“The children love it here, they’re so happy with so many things to do,” Collette says. “We put up the badminton nets and play as we watch the sun go down.” Evenings are also when the large bird population makes its presence known, an orchestra of black cockatoos, native pigeons, wrens and more.
“Milton itself is quite special,” Collette says. “It’s not one of those sleepy little towns – it has a really vibrant, productive community. I enjoy visiting a shop called Revival, where I’ve bought some old rugs and tables.” Another attraction is the number of good restaurants in the area, led by UK celebrity chef Rick Stein’s Australian outpost, Rick Stein At Bannister’s. Ulladulla, seven kilometres to the south, has the largest commercial fishing fleet on the south coast, so the catch of the day is always worth checking out, as are the local produce markets.
Collette enjoys the quiet and privacy, especially after a week working in Sydney. “We try to get to Milton as often as we can,” she says. “We spend summer holidays and Easter there, and usually one other school holiday as well. It normally takes three hours to get there – it took seven hours the first time we attempted it when Hunter was a newborn -so we don’t tend to go just for a weekend.
“It’s lovely to be so close to the sea. We spend most of our time in the garden or on the beach, just relaxing. The south coast beaches are so stunning – there are lots of gum trees and native bush where the land meets the sea, and there aren’t many houses right on the beach. I love going for long walks along the beach. In Milton it’s all about the simple things…”
Also featured in:
-You Magazine UK, May 2015
-Australian Traveller – #1 Top 100 amazing places you haven’t been to (yet), April/May 2015
– China Vogue, June 2015