This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of ELLE DECOR. For more stories from our archive, subscribe to ELLE DECOR All Access.
The gardens that surround Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer’s Greek Revival home in East Hampton, New York, are in full bloom. “We plant white flowers...roses, peonies, hydrangeas,” she says. “It’s such a luxury to have fresh-cut flowers from the garden around the house.” Lauder’s weekend place, which she inherited a decade ago from her legendary grandmother Estée Lauder, founder of the beauty company where Aerin serves as senior vice president and creative director, features bouquets in several rooms, and many of those rooms remain exactly as her grandmother left them.
“Estée worked with Mark Hampton, and she always had amazing taste,” says Lauder, walking through a living room filled with her grandmother’s blue-and-white Chinese porcelain. That color combination appears again, vividly, in what was Estée’s bedroom and another guest room, in fabrics used for curtains, bedding, upholstery, and even on the walls. “My grandmother loved blue and white,” Lauder adds. “You can see it in everything, from the way she decorated to her Porthault linens to the packaging of her perfume and cosmetics.”
Lauder honors Estée’s style, but that doesn’t mean everything has stayed the same. She and her husband, Eric Zinterhofer, have expanded the house, where they spend most weekends and holidays, to better accommodate their active life with their two young sons. And not every tradition remains valid. She laughs as she reports, “Last year a friend decided to light up one of my grandfather’s cigars from the 1960s that we had kept around for sentimental reasons. He said, ‘This tastes funny,’ and I said, ‘Well, it should!’ ”
Lauder, who worked with Victoria Borus of B Five Studio to update several of the rooms, describes her style as “heritage with a twist.” Her take on blue and white is unexpected and modern, for which she credits in part the renowned colorist Donald Kaufman. The dining room is now a lively shade of china-blue edged in white trim; a crystal chandelier outfitted with azure candles repeats the motif. One son’s room is awash in navy, with a colorful artwork by Andy Warhol thrown in for good measure. Lauder chose pale-blue paint with white moldings, cabinetry, and counters for the massive sun-soaked kitchen. And she has used royal blue and white to package Jasmine White Moss, her third installment of the Private Collection fragrances she launched in 2007. The scent’s provenance is not unlike that of the East Hampton house; Lauder inherited an unfinished formula that Estée had begun in the ’80s, and, applying modern technology and her own intuition, she has completed the scent, which debuts in July.
Lauder’s Manhattan apartment is even more reflective of the tweaks on tradition that she enjoys. The entrance hall, library, and living and dining rooms were designed by French decorator Jacques Grange. These spaces, in neutral shades of beige and gold offset by deeper tones, reflect her love of French furniture from the ’30s through the ’50s and are studded with pieces by Armand-Albert Rateau, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Royère, and Jean-Michel Frank. Here the shots of color come in surprising forms. In the living room are monochrome canvases in blue and white by Yves Klein and Robert Ryman, but there’s a vivid green one by Lucio Fontana as well. When Lauder hosts dinners in the city, she does so beneath a light fixture by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, in a dining room painted dark, rich eggplant-purple. In the kitchen, designed by Borus, blue and white again predominate, but they appear in a boldly patterned fabric on Chinese Chippendale–style white chairs; the pale walls are punctuated by cheerful artworks by her sons.
When not entertaining guests, Lauder spends most of her time in the library, where the boys have already begun wearing through the fabric on the Jacques Grange sofa. The metal-and-glass ceiling fixture, once owned by couturière Jeanne Lanvin, is by Baguès, and the large photograph is by Andreas Gursky, but the real treasures in the room are the large red leather-bound photo albums that are filled with evidence of Lauder’s active family life.
And that life, much like her grandmother’s, is integrally entwined with her work. A discreet buzz of her BlackBerry confirms it: Photos have just been sent to her of the Estée Lauder counter she is designing for Selfridge’s department store in London. (In addition to her other roles, Lauder oversees the company’s presence in retail locations around the world.) Her eyes light up as she describes the space, which was inspired by her grandmother’s love of delicate hand-painted wallpaper panels by Gracie, similar to those that appear in her Manhattan jewel-box dressing room in—what else?—shades of pale blue and white. “Selfridge’s challenged me to create something for them that had never been seen before,” she explains. “Well, never been seen outside of my home, of course.”