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An interior designer’s all-white beach house in Whale Beach

For a family of expats, nothing recharges the batteries like returning to their stylish, beloved 'Whaleys' beach house.
all white whale beach holiday housePhotographer: Sue Stubbs

There’s a no-shoe policy at Nina and David’s holiday home. Shoes, mostly flip-flops, are left by the front door alongside an ever-growing pile of sand tracked back from daily trips to the beach. Enveloped by trees with a sweeping outlook across Whale Beach, their home nestled on a hillside in Sydney’s Northern Beaches is a true retreat for the Singapore-based expat couple and their two daughters, India, 16, and Poppy, 12. “As soon as we arrive we feel a sense of calm,” says Nina.

MAKING MEMORIES For expat family Nina, David and children India and Poppy, who spend most of the year in Singapore, the decision to buy a home in Whale Beach in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, more than a decade ago, has meant it’s their go-to holiday destination. “We all love coming here as often as we can,” enthuses Nina (pictured).

WHO LIVES HERE? Nina, an interior stylist and owner of Bungalow 55, her husband David, an investment banker, and their daughters India, 16, Poppy, 12, and David’s adult Australia-based kids, Georgia and Monty.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT IT? Nina: “Being by the ocean, here you forget about the stresses of work and city life.”

DESIGN PHILOSOPHY? “A home should reflect the people who live there and their interests.”

WEEKEND RITUAL? “We start the day with a two-hour walk and spend the morning at the beach. Then it’s a sausage sizzle or steak sandwich accompanied by a glass of rosé at the Whale Beach Surf Club. Simply heaven.”

Over the years, the pole house has been cleverly transformed with a series of renovations designed to maximise living and entertaining spaces and the incredible view. “The original deck was only one metre wide, so we extended the house by a metre and added a new four-metre deck,” explains Nina of the space, furnished with a custom timber outdoor setting, teamed with Sunbrella upholstery in Captain Navy and cushions from Saint-Tropez. Timber flooring painted in Dulux White on White flows inside where the view is equally panoramic.

For more than a decade the family have been returning to the picturesque coastal strip, since making a spontaneous decision to snap up the beach house. “We weren’t particularly looking to buy, but were back here visiting family and I went along to an open home just for a look” she recalls. “The location was amazing, it was incredibly private and it just ticked all the boxes.” The couple also realised it was the perfect place to lay down roots in Australia and create wonderful family memories. “We tend to think of it like we live in dual places – Singapore and Australia – and enjoy the best of both,” adds Nina.

KITCHEN The family loves hanging out together on the upper floor, where the kitchen and dining area seamlessly spill out onto the new deck.

As an interior stylist and founder of Bungalow 55, a beautiful homewares store in Singapore, Nina is known for her timeless, elegant interiors and over the years has transformed the house with a series of improvements. Initially it was repainted white throughout including the original pine floorboards. Several years later an outdoor barbecue area was added to make the most of David’s love of alfresco cooking, and in 2017 work began on a major whole-house renovation.

DINING AREA The ocean outlook provides an ever-changing view, which can be enjoyed from the comfort of the dining area where a treasured timber table the family has had for years was paired with custom chairs by Stuart Membery Home in Indonesia.

Walls and floors in Dulux White on White enhance the home’s airy, open plan feel.

DESIGNER TIP: Feature lighting

One of Nina’s favourite decorating elements is sourcing beautiful lighting. “I love the atmosphere layered lighting has,” she enthuses. “In the kitchen a pendant from Les Interieurs imbues texture, while a pair of custom pendants by Charlie Hinkfuss of MCM House adds a touch of formality above the dining table.

“The house has really grown with us, with staged renovations designed to meet our changing needs as the kids have gone from toddlers to teenagers,” explains Nina. In addition to updating the kitchen and bathrooms, the most significant change was extending the front of the house and replacing the meagre front deck with a generous outdoor living area.

LIVING AREA Although the home is light, bright and spacious, layering in the living area creates a more intimate feel. Original tongue-and-groove panelling was retained and replicated in bespoke joinery which hugs a new custom fireplace surrounded by a gallery wall. “I wanted to keep the feel of a beach house, so I made a feature of lots of photography surf prints,” says Nina, of the framed pieces from My Island Home. The occasional chair was originally a leather piece re-covered in classic stripes from Perennial Fabrics. Atop a Stuart Membery Home coffee table, a chinoiserie pot is one of many treasures from Singapore.

The space below the new deck was built in to create another living zone and bedroom, which functions as breakout areas for teens and adults, and the sloping block was also levelled for a new pool. “We’ve turned the shack into a place where we can entertain and accommodate more people, while still retaining a quintessential beach house feel, where it feels we’ve stepped away from our day-to-day lives,” says Nina.

DOWNSTAIRS LIVING AREA The newly extended lower level incorporates a second living area that doubled as an office space during lockdown. Engineered timber flooring was painted in Dulux White on White to create a neutral backdrop, which brings furniture and art to the fore. Just like upstairs, an old chaise lounge was reinvented in Perennial fabric, with the subtle nautical look reflected in a console teamed with coral and a lamp, both from Stuart Membery Home Collection. The replica Picasso prints were sourced in Singapore.

“I love to entertain but essentially home is a place where I spend quality time with my family,” says Nina.

The lower living area is furnished with a Stuart Membery Home Collection table, adorned with books and Ralph Lauren hurricane lamps


Originally a lock-up garage, the space below the house now offers diverse functionality with a casual dining/bar area and adjoining bunk room created with visitors, including David’s adult children, in mind. “The older children use this space when they stay and we love using it at cocktail hour to whip up a drink, while we play cards,” says Nina. Keeping the look consistent between levels, the same kitchen joinery style was used, yet paired with large mirrors to reflect the view. Below a Restoration Hardware pendant, an MCM marble-topped table and custom bamboo deckchairs exude casual luxe, as does a feature chair from Les Interieurs and oversized photography prints from My Island Home (unknown artist).

GIRLS’ ROOM Daughters India and Poppy share a room where a soaring skylight infuses the space with a sunny summery feel year round. Linen from The White Company and a Beachwood lamp with custom shade are in keeping with the coastal setting, as are vintage posters, from Pullman Editions in London – mementos from the family’s time in the UK.

OFFICE NOOK As the owner of an interiors store, Nina’s work follows her on holidays, so she’s created an idyllic place to fire up the laptop. “I find the sea very calming, so the ocean outlook helps to clear my head while I work and I end up being quite productive,” she says of her office set-up in the main bedroom. A desk from Temple & Webster echoes the translucence of floor-to-ceiling glass doors, while a pair of Stuart Cantor Photography prints continues the sea theme. The oversized lamp was picked up in Singapore.

The main bedroom enjoys great views and ocean breezes. The bedlinen is from The White Company, while ottomans from Stuart Membery Home Collection are perfect for plonking hats or clothes on.

“A white interior makes me feel calm as soon as I walk inthe door,” says Nina.

Effortlessly sophisticated bedlinen from The White Company in the main bedroom.

The home’s original clawfoot bath was kept yet given a new look with a white enamel coating and silver dipped legs.

DECK “As a teenager my summers were spent at the Northern Beaches, and now India (pictured left) and Poppy (right), are spending their holidays at ‘Whaleys’ enjoying surfing and bodyboarding,” reflects Nina. Each holiday the family continues to add touches to the home, the latest addition was the pergola over the front deck.

“Being here is such a lovely contrast to our city lives. It re-energises us” ~ Nina

Nina and stepson Monty enjoy a chat, while India and Poppy hang out by the pool.

The home’s exterior in Dulux Domino, is accented with Dulux White on White trims.

INTERIOR STYLING: Nina Beale, Bungalow 55, thebungalow55.com.

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