The interior designer behind the inner-city set's favourite restaurants and apartments - The Kirketon, Salt, L'otel and Republic 2 - is finally home.
After two hectic decades working and living in town, he's earned the change.
The 300 square metre, three-bed, three-bath home is built on a particularly steep, rocky site, which Halliday admits was not easy to design around. His solution focused on verticality - a soaring five-metre high ceiling that presides over most of the home's living spaces.
Equally tall French windows face out to uninterrupted views of the ocean. A mezzanine level houses two of the home's bedrooms and also capitalises on azure ocean views. With such a stunning backdrop, it was important to Halliday to maintain a clean-lined interior shell.
The floors are a cool, sandblasted limestone, and the walls are finished in a delicate, soft mauve-white tone.
"It's quite spartan," Halliday comments. "If you emptied the furniture out of it, it would be very classically modern."
Although his design firm is known for its modern interiors, Halliday was keen to veer from his signature style for his own living space. "I have evolved from being strictly modern to being somewhere more towards soft-modern, transitional. It really felt like I was being naughty the first time I bought antique furniture," he jokes.
But this eclectic melange of furnishings is truly what gives this beach home its heart and soul.
The overall look was inspired by homes along the coasts of European countries, which always seem to have a hint of classicism in a decidedly pared down setting. "When I originally designed this home, I was thinking of the Amalfi coast kind of aesthetic, where
Originally planned as a weekender, the new house he's designed at Whale Beach has morphed into a groovy full- time pad. it's his base forthe few hours a week he's not at the company. he co-directs, Burley Katon Halliday (BKH), the design firm with the winning minimalist streak. "As so many of my clients are based in Sydney's eastern suburbs, there's a blur between my private and professional life. This house is a way of escaping," says lain.
On a ledge of perpendicular rock, lain's home is a restrained multi-level eyrie. From the outside it's almost modest, but the fun starts when you swing open the brilliant red front door and come face-to-face with a pinktipped Warhol print of Mao. Below it is a 19th-century copy of a Louis XVI table dressed with several pieces of coral.
This is just one of many discreet 'galleries' where lain displays favourite objects. Another one is just outside the lift on the first floor, where a Louis XVI-style chair upholstered in Manuel Canovas fabric cosies up to an 1830s French fruitwood table.
The witty decor is partly the result of what lain refers to as "a collision of furniture". This tendency may come in part from his mother, Beth Halliday, who shares the beach house when she's in town and whose early career working with architects made a big impressionon her young son. "We were constantly looking at houses and furniture," lain recalls. "When 1 was 10, 1 had an elaborate plan for an extension on the family home and announced 1 was going to be an architect."
lain went on to study interior design at Sydney College of the Arts and began a degree course in architecture. However, he dropped out and now has the distinction of being one of the country's most celebrated designers never to win an award from The Royal Australian Institute of Architects.
His work speaks for itself. The Whale Beach property was inspired by houses dotting the cliffs along Italy's Amalft Coast, domiciles where Pucci playsuits, kitten heels and dry martinist are never out of place. Only in this case it's Dolce Vita meets the South Pacific.
"I like the aesthetic of Italian interiors," lain says. "Always hard floors ceramic or stone tiles - and antiques mixed with slip-covered furniture."
One Italian interior he adores is the Rome apartment of American abstract painter Cy Twombly, commissioned in the 17th century for a member of the notorious Borgia clan. A 1966 photograph of it appears in Horst.. Interiors, a glorious book lain owns.
"The apartment is very beautiful and very pale, with an enormous floor space and tots of old furniture strewn around," lain says. Indeed, his own heady mix of antiques and clean, uncluttered lines reveal his amazing capacity for interpreting 21st-century modern.
Anything superfluous is hidden. Even the lap pool is tucked under the first-floor balcony. This is a design for easy living or, in lain's case, working, especially on Sundays when he catches up on projects. "I haven't had time to ponder the house at all," he sighs.
And there's a lot to ponder, starting with the view, a breathtaking vista of floor-to-ceiling ocean framed by diaphanous pink curtains. Come Friday, lain unleashes his inner dag while unwinding on his 'La Chaise' by Charles Eames.
"Everyone is a dag to some degree," he laughs, painting a mental picture of himself sitting in it on Friday nights eating Chinese takeaway from Bliss in Narrabeen. "I don't enjoy restaurants much at the moment," he admits'. "A great weekend for me is a stockpile of airfreighted magazines."
Like most other days, on Saturdays lain is usually up early walking on the beach with his Scottish terriers, Ace and Daphne. Then it's back to Utopia for breakfast. Why anyone would leave such a location is a mystery, but lain sometimes heads south to a bookstore/ cafe called Bookoccino in Avalon.
The self-confessed shopaholic is also partial to stores such as Manly's Surfection, the interior of which he designed. This means he currently wears "more surf gear than Prada" and plans to learn to surf. "It's a very elegant sport," he says contentedly.