Forget mancaves, Australia’s richest men want luxury panic rooms

Award winning interior designer David Hicks has spent the last 15 years curating luxury residential homes for Melbourne's richest families and businessmen. From opulent mansions to retail elegance, he's made a name for himself as a leader in bespoke contemporary interiors with a penchant for quality vintage he sources from Europe and the USA.

The Melbourne based designer has just released his first book titled Intimate: A private world of interiors – a celebration of more than 38 projects from bespoke residential to commercial in a fabulous coffee table book that reveals his signature look.

According to Hicks, the goal is to create contemporary homes that won't date for the Melbourne society folk who are his clients.

Against the grain

Hicks signature style is to blend custom made furniture with rare vintage finds – there's no high street brands to be found in any of the homes he works on.

He won't chase a Pantone "colour of the year" palette either, preferring to stick with muted earthy tones, syrupy browns and classic black and white for a timeless contemporary celebration.

The demand for bespoke

If there's one thing that Hicks knows too well it's the outlandish requests that come with the residential briefs. He's careful not to share too much information about his clients, but admits they want something bespoke and money isn't a problem. They want their homes to be unique and an escape from the outside world.

Hicks says businessmen don't really want man caves these days – they're somewhat extinct  – instead preferring to curate a few rooms within a home that are strictly adults-only. Think 21st century dens that are ideal for switching off from the family rat race. It's a haven where they can recline in whisky dens, theatre rooms and libraries that shelve books on health, literature and spirituality.

What the customer wants

One client even requested a large flat-screen TV be built in his shower and of course, Hicks organised a custom designed TV that was fitted behind glass to ensure it was waterproof.

Another gentleman wanted a five-car underground garage for his Ferrari collection. Hicks in turn created a bespoke car turntable lined with LED strip lighting. It also featured bespoke two pack walls lined with glass in the Ferrari colours or red and mustard.


A panic room was also created behind a sliding wall in another family home. Hicks used reinforced steel plates and integrated security and surveillance in the fit-out and made it look like a study.

A house fit for a hotel

The book launch took place at a client's Toorak mansion – a $24 million dollar 1920s extravaganza with open spaces for entertaining, white washed walls and dressed in Hick's signature interiors – from comfy sofas, lush cushions and throws to modern chandeliers and large coffee tables aplenty.

The home comes with an opulent private library and study that houses the client's whisky collection. It's masculine to a tee – dark timber cabinets, dark leather furniture and a theatre projector sitting high atop a bookshelf with a central coffee table that features fashion and photography books for a visual feast.

"It's all about creating a luxurious hotel club style within," he says of the theme.

A custom-made long cabinet with mirrored doors that open sit in the room – it's here that the client's premium alcohol and whiskey collection can be found. It's Casino Royale meets Rat Pack cool.

Anything is possible

It's also proof that anything is possible for the 1 per cent of clients wanting extravagance.

No request is too ridiculous to Hicks who is the quiet achiever of the business and likened to the fairy godfather of interiors who weaves his magic to make dreams come true.

It took 10 tradesmen to carry a custom made coffee table into this Toorak home and Hicks says  it won't be going anywhere soon either.

"It might sound extravagant to others but to the clients this is the world they know. It's not out of the ordinary," he says.

No expense spared

In other instances, clients have travelled overseas to take photos of furniture they have seen and want Hicks to locate for their own homes while others have coughed by $200,000-plus for a custom made chandelier.

"Most of our clients travel a lot," says Hicks. "So they tend to see things overseas and take photos of something they really love.

"There are not many people who can afford to have their houses at this level," he says.

"That's the way they like it and what they want it to be – to them it's not extravagant."

Intimate: A private world of interiors will be available from December 19.