Private House – Southern Highlands NSW

  • Key Information

  • Location: Avoca, Southern Highlands, NSW
  • Photographer: Felix Forest
  • Words: Susan Springate
  • Styling: Victoria Collison

Article as featured in Elle Decoration:

WITH ITS MISTY MORNINGS AND ROLLING HILLS, the setting of Collette Dinnigan’s countryside retreat feels more like the Lowlands of Scotland than the Highlands of Australia. Located in Avoca, New South Wales, her home is just a two-hour drive from Sydney, but has a totally different feel. ‘What we love is that there are four distinct seasons,’ says the designer. ‘Most people in Australia live on the coast, where it’s all about summer.’

It’s several years since the country’s best-known fashion designer took a step back from international couture to spend more time with her family – husband Bradley Cocks, daughter Estella, 14, and son Hunter, 5. During that time, she has been developing the interiors side of her business, which includes designing several residential projects, as well as suites at luxury hotel Bannisters by the Sea.

Last year, the family sold its grandiose Watsons Bay property in Sydney and Collette set about turning the more rustic Springfield Farm in Avoca into their main home. Life has been simpler since; the fresh perspective is reflected in the décor of this eight-hectare property, which comprises two barn-style buildings joined by a sandstone wing that houses the kitchen and main living room. ‘We changed a lot of the finishes and put in new floors and fireplaces, using salvaged doors and floorboards,’ says Collette. She has elevated her modern rustic aesthetic with flashes of bold colour – an aqua sculpture, a red curtain, a cluster of lemons growing on a miniature tree. ‘I wanted simplicity, but not minimalism,’ she explains.

The result is a light-filled and pared-back home. In the main living area high ceilings have been constructed using beams from the old jetty at Darling Harbour in Sydney. The elegant reclaimed doors were sourced from a property in Egypt, and the wide floorboards in the guest cottage were once used as shelving in a Dutch cheese factory – you can still see the marks left by the rounds of Gouda. ‘It’s amazing the impact new doors and windows can have,’ remarks Collette. ‘I replaced almost all of them with ones that have the patina of age.’ With all its space, this house lends itself to entertaining. ‘Once inside, guests always feel relaxed and comfortable,’ says Colette. ‘That is what life is about for me now: creating a home’.


A central sandstone structure, housing the kitchen and main living room, connects two large barn-style buildings to form this spacious home.

image:  Felix Forest     1/8

The antique sconce and chair were bought from local vintage furniture shop, Dirty Jane’s.

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Living room: The armchairs, covered in grey linen, are from a flea market. The coffee table is from Orient House and the rug was picked up on a trip to Morocco. A photograph by Felix Forest, bought at Becker Minty, hangs above the fireplace.

image:  Felix Forest     3/8

Living room: The mirror above this imposing fireplace is from local store Lydie Du Bray Antiques, while the Moroccan rug is by Altai. The upholstered chair is a vintage find and the grand metal chandelier came with the house.

image:  Felix Forest     4/8

Guest cottage: White linen sofas from local store Ondene and a wooden seagrass chair from Lunatiques are placed around coffee tables from MCM House, another nearby design store. The extra-wide floorboards are made of reclaimed shelving from a Dutch cheese factory.

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Library: ‘I have always colour coordinated my books,’ says Collette of the ordered collection in her office.

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Bedroom: Collette uses flashes of primary colour throughout her home. ‘In this room, it’s about getting the right shade of red,’ she says. The wrought iron bed is from a vintage shop and the linen curtains are made using fabric by Westbury Textiles. The side table is from Revival.

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Farmland: Almost every room in this home enjoys views of the farm’s eight hectares
of land and the surrounding hillsides.

image:  Felix Forest     8/8

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