Right above Aerin Lauder’s bedside table hangs a golden frame with a handwritten letter from her grandmother, legendary beauty pioneer Estée Lauder. The letter states that upon her death, her house in Wainscott, on Long Island, New York, will belong to her granddaughter. Aerin Lauder, 47, was born and raised in New York City, and her attachment to Long Island’s East End is deeply rooted. Growing up, Lauder remembers walking over with her sister, Jane, to their grandmother’s house, a short distance from their parents, Ronald and Jo Carole. Decades later, Lauder’s sons walk that very same path to, in turn, visit their grandparents. The Lauder family has owned property in the Hamptons for many years, where they have spent countless weekends and vacations. The house, which has belonged to Lauder for 16 years, is ﬁlled with childhood memories, and Estée’s influence is palpable.
Upon entering, Estée’s straw-hat collection hangs dispersed on the walls of the powder room. “I tried to embrace what she had done,” says Lauder. “I used some of her pieces and scattered them around the house. For example, the chest in my bedroom used to be in hers; I wanted something of hers in my room.”
Built in the 1930s, the Greek revival two-story house immediately exudes a strong sense of history. The imposing white columns that grace the front porch and the majestic spiral staircase in the entryway are part of the classic aesthetics of this home.
“Estée always had a very distinct sense of style,” says Lauder. “She always loved white houses with pillars. Her house in Palm Beach had pillars. She used to have a home in Eaton Square in London, which was white. She always loved white. I think it had something to do with Gone With the Wind, which was her favorite movie.”
Aerin in her sunroom with her dog Biscuit Top and skirt, Michael Kors Collection; Pumps, Manolo Blahnik
Despite these elements of grandeur, there is no trace of pretention in this household. Disco, a long-haired dachshund, along with Biscuit and Shatzi, two Brittany spaniels, bark and run around the house. Shatzi, the youngest puppy, having returned from a plunge in the swimming pool, shakes water around the furniture. Lauder seems unfazed; this is part of being at home. Among her residences – which also include a house in Aspen, Colorado, and an apartment in Manhattan – her house in Wainscott is her favourite. She says,
She adds, “and I love the country; I love animals. To me, this is like paradise.”
It was also in the Hamptons that Lauder and her husband, 46-year-old private investor, Eric Zinterhofer, celebrated their wedding. Lauder and Zinterhofer met at the University of Pennsylvania when she was a senior and he a junior. They both moved back to New York after graduation, where they continued dating and married in June 1996 at Lauder’s parents’ home in Wainscott.
“He always loved coming out here,” says Lauder. “It made me happy to know that he loves it out here as much as I do.”
When Lauder and her husband moved into the house with their two sons, it was still a two-bedroom home. “For the ﬁrst few years, we did not make any changes. We lived here with two babies, both of them in a second bedroom. Estée just had another room that she used for family to stay. As the children grew older and we had more friends coming over with their children, we wanted to expand.”
The living room
They started with the kitchen, then added three bedrooms and expanded the living space, working with a company that specialised in restoring old homes, ensuring a seamless transition between the old and the new.
Lauder’s style, which she describes as “timeless elegance with a twist,” resonates within these walls: Her study, one of her favourite rooms, is painted entirely black and ingeniously brightened up with an eclectic mix of light ﬁxtures. Right across from that room is another favourite of Lauder’s, which used to be Estée’s living room, decorated with her original collection of blue and white porcelain – a favourite colour palette often used for the packaging of the cosmetic brand.
“I love the blue and white room,” says Lauder, “because Estée had this table with photographs of her with the Aga Khan, Princess Grace, Nancy Reagan. I have added to that photo collection with pictures of my sons, of special days, and you see how history continues. That room is very sentimental.”
Photography and a variety of artwork are displayed throughout the house, ranging from family photos and framed art projects from her sons to paintings that belonged to Estée and prints of Tina Barney, whose work also hangs at the Museum of Modern Art. “She took a picture of me with the two boys looking really tired,” says Lauder of Barney. “I’m handing them M&Ms, one of them with a diaper under his bathing suit. It’s not the best look, but she really captured that period of my life as a mother. It’s very real. Her work is oversized, which makes you feel like you’re in the space and part of that moment.”
Lauder’s appreciation for the arts certainly runs in the family. Her father, Ronald, who was appointed U.S. ambassador to Austria by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, co-founded the Neue Galerie, a museum of early 20th-century German and Austrian art in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and he serves as honorary chairman at the Museum of Modern Art. Recognised worldwide as an inﬂuential art collector, he set a record in 2006 when he purchased a Gustav Klimt portrait for $135 million, the highest price paid for a painting at the time.
“He is completely obsessed,” says Lauder of her father’s passion for art. “He has incredible ideas. When he comes to my house, he always tells me how we should change things around, and he buys me incredible art books. He is deﬁnitely a role model in the sense of art and visual cues.”
Another role model for Lauder was, of course, her grandmother. Recognised in her days as the wealthiest self-made woman in the world, she founded in 1946 the $30 billion empire that continues to lead the beauty industry. Estée Lauder – the brand – is in fact one of the most coveted cosmetics companies, with a portfolio including La Mer, Clinique, M.A.C and Jo Malone London, to list a few.
“It makes you realise how proud you should be and how incredible it was to do what she did; to have this passion and dream, and to create something out of nothing at a time when most women were not working. She never went to college. I think some people are given so much, like the best education, and they don’t do anything with it. And you think about people who have passion and drive, and how much they accomplish. I think she set the path.” Lauder, who was creative director of Estée Lauder for seven years, followed in her grandmother’s footsteps and ventured with a namesake brand of her own.
Tangier Vanille Body Cream and Tangier Vanille Eau de Parfum, Rose Balm, Rose Lip Conditioner, Pretty Bronze Illuminating Powder, Weekday Palette, picture frames, all AERIN
While still very much connected to the Estée Lauder brand, where she retains the title of style and image director, her 4-year-old lifestyle brand, Aerin, is expanding, with a new fabric and wallpaper collection, a handbag launch, new accessories and, of course, more beauty. Concepted to ﬁt the time-poor women of today, the brand presents a carefully edited selection of products in these various categories. She says,
She adds, “It’s very much about effortless style and edit. So when we launch a lipstick, there aren’t 20 lipsticks, there are 10. With accessories, the shoes will match the bag. It’s made to make style easy and fun.”
While the Aerin brand resides online and in department stores around the world, it also lives in a concept story in the Hamptons: “It’s exciting because it’s the ﬁrst place where the brand can live all together,” says Lauder. “It’s really where we can showcase the brand in an ideal situation.
Usually, beauty is featured with beauty, accessories with accessories, home with home, and it’s quite hard to see it all together. With Aerin, when you walk into the store and experience it, you realise the point of view and why it’s so fun.” Lauder plans to roll out this concept in other cities, while maintaining strategic placements at various retailers, another lesson she learned from her grandmother, who carefully cultivated relationships with stores around the world.
“She loved to go to stores and see counters – we used to go to Galeries Lafayette, we would go to Harrods. Even when she got older and could not necessarily walk the doors of the department stores anymore, she loved to get in the car and look at all the Christmas windows at Saks, Lord & Taylor. She thought by looking at the windows, she would feel like she was part of the store environment.” Heartfelt dedication to their projects is part of the Lauders’ success. Aerin Lauder lives by her grandmother’s words: “Whatever you do, do it well and do it with passion.” Passion and a strong work ethic, that is. For Lauder, the most important lesson is simply “to work your hardest. Not working hard but your hardest. It’s really important to always give 100 percent. That’s something that I have taught my children to do.”
And so the Lauder heritage lives on.
This article first appeared in the autumn 2016 issue of Harper's Bazaar Interiors
Words: Eléonore Marchand. Photographs by Christopher Sturman. Fashion Director: Kristen Ingersoll. Hair and Makeup: Alexa Rodulfo using Oribe Hair and Aerin Beauty. Hair Assistant: Jacqueline Menda