She has designed wedding dresses for Toni Collette, Miranda Kerr and Sarah Murdoch. For years, she has dominated the fashion scene from Sydney to Paris, New York and London.
Now the fashion designer turned interior designer, Collette Dinnigan, is making a foray into boutique, bespoke hospitality. She has turned her heritage farmhouse in the New South Wales Southern Highlands into a holiday getaway for housebound Aussies consumed by wanderlust.
“We were looking for a country property close to Bowral and fell in love with the barn, which was used as an artists’ studio and for wood storage,” Ms Dinnigan told Explore.
Over 18 months Black Barn Bowral has been meticulously restored into a delightful three-bedroom, two-bathroom farmhouse.
“I wanted it to be warm and charming. It’s rustic luxury, using many recycled and reclaimed materials from Danish cheeseboards used as floorboards to doors made from recycled wood from Egypt. We used old marble from Belgium, handmade lights [and] hand-crafted washbasins bought from old hotels.
“I love the top bedroom, with the outlook across the paddocks overlooking our neighbour’s donkeys. The surrounds feel very much like a European village,” added Ms Dinnigan.
You can now rent the property on Airbnb with prices starting at $700 per night, plus cleaning and service fees. The property is two hours’ drive north-west of Canberra, or three hours south of Newcastle.
But there’s more than holiday rentals from Dinnigan and her husband, Bradley Cocks. The couple have launched unique holiday experiences where they host small groups of eight to 12 guests for a staycation, and there are three upcoming curated getaways in Bowral and on the South Coast.
“It’s like entertaining guests at our home. The group is intimately small which sparks very interesting conversations. We talk about food, wine and sustainable producers. Our experiences are premium products and we bring together experts in their own fields so that we can learn from those who are at the top of their game,” said Ms Dinnigan.
Over two delightful days, immerse yourself in the world of the small screen at four television workshops, rubbing shoulders with some of the country’s most-renowned TV writers, producers and directors, such as writer-creator Fiona Seres and producer Darren Dale.
Celebrity chef Guillaume Brahimi will host a cooking lesson and also cook you a slap-up dinner paired with wine selections. And now the catch – the experience costs $5900 per person.
At that price you will also get one night’s accommodation at Berida Hotel in Bowral and two lunches. Airfares are extra – just ask your Travel Associates Advisor.
In November, there’s Ms Dinnigan’s three-day Art, Surf and Stables experience at Bawley Point, 30 kilometres south of Ulladulla. Here, 12 guests will learn first-hand how to prepare for campdrafting with bison, enjoy drinks and dressage under the arena lights at night, learn how to shuck oysters from oyster farmer Ewan McAsh and participate in a special Aboriginal cultural teaching on sustainability and food with Budawang Elder Noel Butler. You can also test your artistic skills at a rare still-life drawing class with artist Luke Sciberras.
With Ms Dinnigan and her husband as hosts, you will stay two nights at Willinga Park, an equine centre spread over 800 hectares. As you acquire the skills on how to shuck Clyde River oysters, you will learn how to pair them with selected champagne and caviar. How delightful is that?
On the second day, you will have an exclusive cooking lesson with Chef Brahimi who will also cook a hearty lunch.
The price? A mere $6500 per person.
In October, Ms Dinnigan will host the three-day Sustainable Seafood Experience. Just head down the South Coast towards
Milton and the Clyde River and stay two nights at Bannisters by the Sea, Mollymook.
You will learn about sustainable Clyde River oyster growing and harvesting with Mr McAsh. He will also teach you how to shuck oysters and taste them paired with selected champagne and caviar.
You will then don wetsuits and follow spearfishing champions Ian and Lara Puckeridge as they lead a “participate or observe” masterclass in sustainable snorkelling for lobster and abalone.
And what better way to enjoy your catch than to have Chef Brahimi prepare the seafood during a cooking lesson, followed by a lunch cooked by the chef himself.
On the last day, cheesemaker Rosie Cupitt, owner of Cupitt’s Estate, will hold a cheese-making masterclass, followed by lunch cooked by Cupitt’s Estate chef Jonathon Pryor at another of Ms Dinnigan’s properties, White House Milton.
Your stay includes daily breakfast and dinner at Rick Stein restaurant.
Price? From $7900 per person.
“Some people may say our prices are too expensive. But a business class ticket to London can easily cost $8000 per person and that’s just the price of the air ticket,” she said.
“Our experiences are intimate and relaxed – it’s very much like we are inviting people into our home and our world. For us, luxury travel is the ability to be part of nature, to work with sustainable producers and to meet people, artists and chefs who will share their craft and stories.”
But the pandemic has been tough with Black Barn Bowral experiencing cancellations because of the lockdowns. Dates for the television experience have also been postponed until later this year.
Despite the setbacks, Ms Dinnigan is pushing ahead with her plans to rebuild her holiday cottage in Rosedale, south of Batemans Bay, as a four-bedroom house by the sea. The rental property was destroyed by bushfire on New Year’s Eve in 2019.
In the making is probably a beachfront-holiday Airbnb to add to Ms Dinnigan’s burgeoning rental property empire.