D esigner, tastemaker and founder of luxury lifestyle brand AERIN, Aerin Lauder is a modern style icon with a passion for creating beautiful, welcoming interiors and an effortlessly chic aesthetic. A recent project of hers is a stunning collaboration with Assouline, who have also partnered with the Sotheby's East Hampton gallery. Lauder's book with Assouline, Palm Beach, explores the history, elegance, glamour and culture of the iconic Florida coast destination. Now, Sotheby's has opened a gallery in Palm Beach itself, the source of her inspiration.
Here, she talks about why Palm Beach is so special to her, inheriting her famous grandmother's love of entertaining and escaping to her Hamptons home for peace and inspiration.
Your book with Assouline, Palm Beach, is an homage to the historic and modern legacy of the South Florida beach town. What elements would you say best sum up this iconic destination?
"Palm Beach is all about the history, the memories, the elegance and most of all, the beauty. Even on a rainy day, there is still something so beautiful when you look at the ocean, the beach and all of the incredible homes on South Ocean Boulevard."
How has Palm Beach changed since you were a child?
"Palm Beach has little changed since my childhood, which I think is what makes it so special. The biggest difference is the addition of stores and restaurants that are newer and more modern, which sit alongside the classics that have stood the test of time. I love how Palm Beach has the perfect mix of old and new. At the same time though, that sense of tradition and elegance has never changed; there is a feeling of family time and tropical ease."
You have your own Palm Beach home - how does it compare to that of your grandparents?
"We really played with the idea of indoor and outdoor with the colors; everything is light and airy. We were also very sentimental about my grandmother’s style, so we tried to preserve that. Our courtyard is filled with white iron furniture that always reminds me of my grandmother and of course, Estée’s Palm Beach room, which is filled with furniture and objects that were originally in Estée’s home next door. We are more minimal in our decorating, but we kept Estée’s memory alive with a little less formality."
What would your ideal weekend in Palm Beach look like?
"A perfect Palm Beach weekend would be spent enjoying the sunshine with my family. The best days include waking up, having a coffee by the ocean and going for a long walk on the bike path. Then, lunch with family and Worth Avenue in the afternoon to visit our AERIN store and some of my favorite stores."
What do you always pack in your suitcase for a trip to Palm Beach?
"Palm Beach style is very feminine, elegant and colorful, with an ease to it. I love to wear a long Pucci dress and casual, festive earrings. I think Palm Beach is somewhere you can have fun with jewelry – it is the tropics; you're on holiday! I'm also always carrying a little straw clutch."
Your brand is all about the idea that “living beautifully should be effortless”. How can we all incorporate this philosophy in our lives, especially during the recent difficult times the world has been facing?
"Attention to detail is so important. In these recent months, I have realized more than ever the importance of the small details that make my home feel comfortable and warm, with a sense of easy elegance. Whether it’s family photographs, candles or fresh flowers, I have these things in every room throughout my home. AERIN has the most beautiful candles, picture frames and vases that always make a room feel lived in and complete. Each season we develop pieces in beauty, fashion and home that can stand alone or be combined in a way that feels very natural because they were designed with the same timeless, modern point of view."
What did you learn from your grandmother Estée when it comes to making a space beautiful?
"Estée always used to say that everything can be beautiful if you take the time. This concept has not only inspired the way I live day-to-day, but it shaped the philosophy behind the AERIN brand. From the vase or lamp you have next to your bed, to a picture frame and make-up bag, all of these elements should work together to make your life more beautiful."
How does the decor of your Hamptons home differ to Palm Beach? Does the location inform how you design the interiors?
"In Palm Beach, our home definitely has a more tropical vibe to it. We played with fun colors and took a much more minimal approach while decorating. In Long Island, our home was passed down to me from my grandmother, so you will find a lot more of Estée’s traditional style throughout. I tried to preserve the heritage and the memories in honor of my grandparents, while modernizing other features to make the home more suitable for my family. No matter the location, my decorating style typically remains the same. I like to incorporate natural elements that bring the outdoors in. I love making a room come alive with different colors, textures and patterns. Most importantly though, every room should be warm, inviting, useful and serve a purpose."
Do you have any prized possessions that have been handed down in your family, and how do you display them?
"My grandmother loved to entertain, often times with over-the-top glamorous dinner parties. Many of her beautiful tabletop pieces that she would use have now been passed down to me. I always think that I owe my love of hosting and entertaining to Estée, so it’s very special for me to have these family heirlooms. I love being able to use them mixed with new items from the AERIN brand when I welcome people to my home."
What is your approach to buying art? How have you curated your own collection?
"My approach to buying art is to collect what you love. It can be anything from vintage ceramic pieces of jewelry to a beautiful print or drawing. Art is about reaction and emotion. I especially love to collect current artists whose work reminds me of something or someplace. Clifford Ross does beautiful photos of waves from Long Island."
Are there any artists you’re particularly excited about at the moment?
"Some artists that I love include Brice Marden, Clifford Ross, Rothko and Richard DuPont."
You often collaborate with other designers and brands – how do you choose who to work with and do you have a dream collaborator?
"We always try to work with partners that share similar values, which makes working together very easy. Like-minded brands are the perfect partners for us because we are able to collaborate, share ideas, work together and learn from one another towards a single goal."
People often talk about the lure of the Hamptons and the pace of life away from the city. What is it about this place that keeps you coming back, time and again?
"Our home in Long Island has always been a peaceful escape from New York City. I love spending time outdoors and being surrounded by such beautiful nature. I have many memories of spending time in Long Island ever since I was child, so to this day it’s very much about heritage, nostalgia and family."
What are your must-see places and haunts on Long Island that no visit would be complete without?
"To me, there is nothing better than spending time at the beach in Long Island. I also love walking through the towns and visiting some of my favorite stores such as The Monogram Shop, Tenet, Wyeth, Joey Wolffer and AERIN. I also like to eat at restaurants that are casual and easy. Duryea’s Lobster Deck in Montauk is my favorite during sunset. I also love Crow’s Nest, The Palm and Carissa’s for the best iced tea and baked goods."
There is a long legacy of cultural icons escaping to the Hamptons to recharge or to work on a project – Warhol, Mick Jagger, Truman Capote and Jackson Pollock to name a few. Does it still retain that inspirational charm?
"I am constantly inspired whenever I am in Long Island. There is something so calming and eye-opening about being here. Especially during these last few months, I have had the opportunity to approach my work with a fresh perspective. There is a certain ease that you feel from being out here, that you don’t necessarily experience in New York City. The upcoming projects from the AERIN brand were definitely created with that mindset."
What role does art and design play in your life?
"I have always found art to be very inspiring; I love how it reflects such pure emotion. I never miss an opportunity to visit a museum or exhibition in New York City or during my travels."
If you could only bring piece of jewelry or a watch to take with you from the city to the beach, what would you choose?
"When it comes to jewelry, I always think that less is more. I love timeless and pretty pieces. My grandmother taught me that gold is a neutral, which I still believe to be true. If I could only wear one thing, it would probably be my gold Cartier Tank watch. I got it many, many years ago and I still wear it every day."
What is the thing you most like to collect?
"I absolutely love collecting tabletop pieces. Whether they’re vintage or new, I always like to mix and match these pieces on the table. I also use different items depending on the occasion and the season. It keeps setting the table fun and interesting."