Bradley Cocks and Collette Dinnigan’s Milton sanctuary

It’s a rainy Sunday in a rainy month and the squelching ground, half grass, half mud, is showing signs of the wettest period since the 1800’s. As the rain pelts down, the subtle shades of green – foliage, grasses, canopy and roof, merge with the white, cream, sandstone tones of the dwelling, a near perfect backdrop for this little sanctuary.

Nothing can damper the spirit of this country farm house property, as the weekend visitors leave and Ros McDonald, who jointly manages the property with her husband Malcolm, is starting her housekeeping makeover in preparation for the next lot who won’t be too far away.

Bradley Cocks and his partner Collete Dinnigan have owned the Milton Surf and Stables property for nearly four years, and the transformation has proved popular with near constant bookings all year around.

“We have close to 100% occupancy,” says Bradley Cocks. What started out as a creative project, in part to secure control over the adjoining property that shares their driveway, ended up becoming somewhere the extended family could stay, and a source of income, now bringing in an estimated $100 000 annually.

Naturally enough Collette was given creative licence and create she did, aiming for a warm environment, fresh and user friendly. Internally the house was a complete renovation, although the structure itself contained a lot of good recycled features. Outside the property needed a lot of work; pole and rail fencing to mark out paddocks for the horses and alpacas, clearing out the weeds around the creek, replanting around the house.

A small fresh water creek flows on the king tide, sitting aside remnant rainforest, a small clearing, perfect for picnics and camping, and perhaps parties and celebrations. The gardens are now flourishing with around 3,500 trees being planted throughout the gardens and long curved driveway; Cupressus pencil pines, lilly pilly, cherry blossom, Japanese Jasmine, roses, gardenia, an orchard of citrus, avocado, mango and guava.

Inside, Collette’s design flair runs rampant. Most noticeably in the main bedroom where the subtle red hues of an Egyptian rug and vintage crocheted blanket add a feminine touch, contrasting with the black and white Paris framed photographs, an oversized white French mirror lying lazily against the wall. Simple and fresh.

The upstairs bathroom, accessed from the bedroom or hallway, is unique and bold. Washed out caper green vertical weatherboards, against the white tiles and vintage vanity. The focal point, a large 100 year old re-enamelled white claw footed bath, and a white stable door shower door.  With the windows open and the green canopy of the rainforest beyond, it’s both elegant and airy.

Upstairs the loft style retreat is cathedral style, A-frame, bright and open. The lounge area is white with corrugated iron, the bedroom, white and lacy. Light streaming in through the enlarged windows, the subtle shades of variated greens of the canopy above, shadow over the vibrant grasses and ferns below. Kookaburras singing in the gums beyond the jacaranda tree.

Across the way from the house sits the barn, old stables, converted to an entertaining, party room, rustic and charming, yet feminine and elegant. Lime washing straight over the old wooden wall boards, polished concrete floors, time worn bricks, repurposed into a perfect pizza oven. Malcolm had never built one before, but borrowing a book from the library to learn how. A French chandelier, dangles above an oversized white table surrounded by vintage farm house chairs. Simple styling, open doors, country calling; a warm effect.

Bradley describes the design as “obsessive creative, it’s the ultimate beach house,” giving full credit to Collette for the shape the house has taken. Collette is obviously happy with the results “although we keep adding to it as we find more things we love! It’s a sanctuary, very close to nature, and I love the light it’s so enchanting — so is the bird life, it’s like an orchestra day and light.”