Collette Dinnigan's oasis in the city

The A-list fashion designer has taken time away from the catwalk to create a cool and tranquil retreat in Australia’s cultural centre

By Fiona Mccarthy

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Collette takes a stroll around the pool

Collette strolls around her elegant pool

Australian fashion designer Collette Dinnigan’s Sydney home is cool and calm – a tropically inspired oasis. She has a passion for travel and exploring other cultures which is very much in evidence in her choice of décor and furniture. ‘I travel a lot and collect pieces along the way; things I wouldn’t see in Australia,’ she says. ‘Antique chairs from Rajasthan and Turkish kilims, or more quirky pieces such as shell chandeliers from Bali and humorous paintings of faces from Vietnam.’

Gumnut flowers adorn a long, weathered table from Indonesia. ‘Flowers are my life,’ says Collette. ‘They make me feel happy. And it makes such a difference when the garden has colour in it.’ Seashell chandeliers that Collette brought back from travels to Bali hang outside the guest cottage

Collette draws from her travels in everything she does, in her international fashion design business as well as her home. She exhibits her designs each season at Prêt-a-Porter in Paris – the only Australian designer to do so – and boasts a legion of A-list fans such as Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry and Elle Macpherson. The exquisite collections she sends down the Paris catwalk each season are a mix of the exotic and glamorous, but with a clean-lined simplicity.

Along with the demands of running her business, Collette also has to juggle the responsibility of raising her four-year-old  daughter Estella, but this has its advantages. ‘She’s taught me to be more relaxed and open,’ Collette says. ‘She keeps me young.’

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Enlarge   The first place friends and family (and Ginger the cat) gather is in the open-plan kitchen/living room where Collette, who¿s a keen cook, likes to entertain

The open-plan kitchen/living room is a favourite haunt of Ginger the cat

Attention to detail is at the core of Collette’s clothing range as well as her interior designs. It’s this trait that makes her home so immediately welcoming. ‘I was inspired by the Caribbean’s white weatherboard façades and indoor/outdoor spaces, its palm trees and laid-back reggae vibe,’ she says.

As a result, she designed the house to wrap around a central pool set in a lush tropical garden. It is an unexpected and uniquely private hideaway, right in the heart of the bustling Australian city.

Tilly the dog sits on a love seat from Rajasthan, below a photograph by Sally Bierman. Above a mirrored console is a framed collection of fabric rose petals, once used by couturiers for colour-matching, which Collette found at a Paris flea market.  You can buy a similar mirrored console from Graham & Green for £569, tel: 0845 130 6622, A vintage Danish table is teamed with antique chairs from Rajasthan. The French House has a range of reclaimed dining tables, tel: 020 7371 7573,

Originally, Collette lived in a small cottage at the back of the property she now inhabits. When she bought the main house a few years later she joined the two together. The cottage is now a place for guests to stay and Collette has opened up the main house to bring the glorious Sydney sunshine into the pool area, with french doors and balconies leading to principal rooms which feel light, bright and airy.

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Enlarge   collette

Collette commissioned a shipbuilder to make the bathroom washstand. ‘I spend a lot of time in here,’ she says. ‘It’s the perfect place to collect my thoughts.’ Fired Earth’s Kensington chrome-framed washstand is similar in style, £950, tel: 0845 366 0400, Expect to pay from £45 a square metre for Carrara marble

Using monochrome in her living space is in complete contrast to Collette’s trademark exotically hued, embellished clothes. ‘I’m such a simple girl when it comes to my home,’ she laughs. ‘I chose a cool colour palette and used textures such as wood, metal and marble for my interior designs. Work tends to be so cluttered with ribbons, beads and other embellishments, so home needed to be tranquil and uncluttered.’

Collette’s silver Moroccan slippers. One of Collette’s intricate pieces in feathers and beading,  from her current collection. On a mirrored wardrobe hangs a dress which Collette made for actress Nicole Kidman

Collette is very careful in her choices. ‘I only buy something when it really takes my fancy and feels unique,’ she says. ‘Over the years I’ve learned to let things go, to give them away, rather than hang on to them.’ It’s this down-to-earth approach that’s at the heart of Collette’s success. Her home is a haven for friends and family, when her work allows her to spend time back in the city; a place where they can drop by and relax over a meal and a glass of wine.

‘When I’m in Sydney, I tend not to go out so much, but I do entertain a lot at home,’ says Collette. ‘I love the energy of friends popping in spontaneously.

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Enlarge   collette

Collette's bed is a soothing mix of stone linen and pale velvet, dressed with antique French sheets and pillowcases. John Lewis has a similar table, Milano, £150, tel: 0845 604 9049,

‘My biggest regret is leaving the house every morning,’ she says. ‘But that just makes it even more of a treat to come home.’

  • Collette Dinnigan, 26 Cale Street, London SW3 3QU, tel: 020 7589 8897,


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