With its tree-lined streets, cafés and boutiques, Pott’s Point, Sydney feels a lot like New York’s West Village or St-Germain-des-Prés in Paris. That’s until you’re perched atop one of its ultra-modern apartment buildings marvelling at sweeping Sydney Harbour views. The interiors of this apartment aren’t lacking in the wow factor either, thanks to Australian architect and interior designer Iain Halliday. But as Iain will tell you, he had his work cut out when he took on this project. “The biggest challenge was to unify the two different levels of the apartment without a common footprint – one long and narrow with light at each end, the other also rectilinear but with only one exposure.”
Iain’s first order of business was to gut the apartment, removing one of three bedrooms and converting the lower level into two bedrooms with a library and sitting area in between. The master bedroom and en suite are linked by a mirrored dressing area. The living room, originally designed as an open-plan space, is on the top floor of the duplex and is divided into three separate spaces – living, dining and kitchen – by steel mullioned glass and mirrored screens that evoke 1930s’ architecture. Interior design-wise, Iain’s clients knew exactly what they were looking for, and used the monochrome palette and aesthetic of Chanel as a reference point. “They presented me with Chanel brochures and images of the Hôtel Costes in Paris,” he recalls. “The brief was to create something that combined the auras of a nightclub, an upmarket boutique and a luxurious hotel. It was also to be redolent of the best apartments of Paris and New York and had to be suitable for entertaining and to double as a gallery for the clients’ extensive art collection.”
The palette includes slick, lustrous materials all set in dramatic, dark hues. Limestone combines with black granite and Arabescato marble, and deep-toned Art silk carpets in indigo and aubergine add richness. Fabrics are silk and velvet, adding to this plush palette. Mirrors give sparkle and conjure the glamour of Rue Cambon. The stairwell is also lined in mirrors, much like that in the home of Mme Chanel.
Then there is the art collection, rivalled only by the apartment’s hand-picked or custom-designed furniture. There is an Andy Warhol screen print of Jackie Onassis overlooking the top of the stairs, while Tracey Moffatt’s Invocations #2 is set among the mirrors of the stairwell. The master bedroom is covered with prints and photos by the likes of Brett Whiteley, Lewis Morley, Paul Westlake, Norman Lindsay and Helmut Newton. The furniture selection combines the feel of a Paris boutique with a nightclub; there are two satin 1940s’ Hollywood-Regency chairs, custom-made silk velvet sofas, smoked-glass-topped tables and cushions in classic Prince of Wales check and dog-tooth. A handsome custom-designed bronze credenza sits in the living room, while an Arabescato marble-topped dinner table echoes the marble used on the island in the kitchen. With all the drama, glamour and of course art, this Sydney apartment shuns its generic high-rise 1980s’ hotel context and that’s what Iain loves most about it. “[I had] an almost ‘theatre set’ disregard for the contemporary high-rise DNA of the apartment. Layering elements such as glazed screens, bolection mouldings and sheer curtains tricks the eye and obscures the building’s fabric,” he says as we leave this lofty sanctuary and head back on to the bohemian streets of Pott’s Point.