Collette Dinnigan

You have travelled from a very young age – having spent the early years of your life sailing from South Africa to relocate in New Zealand with your family. What influences have the travels of your childhood had on how you live, and travel, today? 

I was about eight or nine years of age… I think travel is so good for children, my children…they learn different languages, different manners, even though it gives you a real sense of independence, it kind of also gives you a different discipline to learn, too. There are so many different things that go with the requirements of travel; you have to have that discipline that goes with it. I think that’s great and it also gives you a sense of independence and curiosity, which I think is so important.

Do you think that would be something you’d replicate with your own family?

Well, in a way we are because we’re in Italy. [My daughter] Estella’s going to school here [in Rome], it’s a whole new adventure for us all. It takes us all out of our comfort zones and we all learn different things – there’s good and bad with everything but so far it’s been a great experience.

What’s your favourite leisure travel destination and what do you love about it?

I’d have to say Italy. It’s the place we got married, we’ve had holidays on the Amalfi Coast and it’s always so relaxed. The Mediterranean is fantastic and [Italy’s] such a great country to come for a holiday. You’ve got everything you need – food at a trattoria at a reasonable price, or you can go to amazing restaurants. It always has been one of my favourites and that’s why we’ve come here to spend some time. We love it. 

Do you speak any Italian?

Oh, we’re learning a little bit! Hopefully we’ll be fluent in a few months. 

What has been your most luxurious travel experience to date?
You know, luxury is where there are few people and you get a lot of personal attention. Being able to go on a private plane rather than go through airports with all the paraphernalia that’s required. I think there have been a few times where I’ve been very well treated on boats and planes and things. I don’t think you can have a better luxury than that – not having to deal with all the tape of the airports and all the different transits. I think it’s probably the speed of getting to a place, and then having good quality produce and wine… with less people. It doesn’t really matter where you are.

Do you have a favourite hotel?

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in the South of France. I love that – it’s everything you think of as being that old movie star glamour, with all the palm trees, the architecture and the food… especially in summer – I think it’s real luxury.

Another hotel I really enjoy too, and think is quite luxurious, is Le Meurice in Paris. I used to stay there all the time when we did our shows. The service is just impeccable, the bar is fantastic and so is the decoration. For a hotel in the centre of the city, it’s one of the best and the concierge is amazing and never forgets.

What sparked your interest in interior design?

I’ve always loved renovating my own homes and workspaces and I think it’s something I naturally gravitate towards. I’ve always created my own prints and colour, texture and fabric is so important to me. I feel it’s just a natural extension of the fashion side. 

How did your collaboration with Bannisters by the Sea, transforming two of its penthouse suites, eventuate?

Peter Cosgrove who owns the hotel – I always used to say to him ‘you should do this and you should do that, nothing’s very feminine’ etcetera, etcetera, and he said ‘for goodness’ sake, I’m sick of hearing about it, please can you do them for me?’ and I said ‘of course I will’. I wanted to create something that was very relaxed and luxurious with a very coastal-lifestyle feel – and also something that wasn’t replicated everywhere else you went. It was very much about individuality and good quality. We used good materials like Carrara marble in the bathrooms and good Perrin & Rowe taps and floorboards and fabrics. As long as they’re treated properly they will last the test of time.

What was your favourite aspect of the Bannisters project? Were there any challenges?

Oh yes, lots of challenges as always. Working from the city to the country and, as I just worked with the draughtsman, it was planning the space and size myself – rather than just changing the walls it was changing the actual layout of the rooms. So I think that’s probably a bit beyond doing just interior design. 

Making sure – being on the coast – that everything would last a fair amount of time, so it was all brass and had proper finishes, because the seawater and wind destroy things very quickly if you don’t use good quality products and make sure that everything’s marine grade. Apart from that, I think interiors are always a challenge and I think it’s a lot harder to renovate than it is to rebuild because everything has to match and work in like a jigsaw puzzle. For me, I still loved bringing all the colours together and seeing what it looked like as it came along. But it ended up as I imagined it to be so that was quite good! [The suites are] very welcoming and laid out very well. They’re private [and] they’re intimate. 

Will we see more hotel interiors projects from you in the future? 

Yeah possibly, I hope so. I’m working on a [to be announced] luxury apartment project so that’s for 2017. It’s in [Sydney’s] Surry Hills so it’s exciting and I’ve been working on it for quite a few months. It hasn’t been released yet though so I can’t really talk about it.

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