Aerin Lauder first saw Paris as a five-year-old, with her grandmother, the cosmetics legend Estée Lauder, in 1975. “We stayed at the Plaza Athénée hotel, went to the Relais Bar restaurant, and had the most amazing roasted chicken and French fries,” Lauder recalls, sitting on the Jean Royère sofa of her family’s Left Bank pied-à-terre on a bright summer morning. “I was so excited to be here. I was excited by all the beauty.”
She still is. Several times a year, Lauder jets to Paris for her beauty, home-decor, and fashion company, Aerin, or for a holiday with her family. But no Plaza Athénée suite is needed. In the early 1990s, her parents, Ronald and Jo Carole Lauder, purchased a three-bedroom apartment across from Les Invalides. “They fell in love with the view”—of the Eiffel Tower, the ornate gold dome of Les Invalides, the sunsets—“and the location,” right smack in the center of the city.
To renovate it, they hired Antoine Stinco, the French architect who had recently redone the Jeu de Paume galleries in the Tuileries Garden. Stinco erased the flat’s Frenchness, refitting it with a sycamore interior that makes it feel “as if you’re on a boat, with a lot of built-in headboards and night tables,” Lauder says. “It really has this wonderful, peaceful feeling in the midst of this lively city.”
Stinco’s minimalist base perfectly sets off the family’s exceptional collection of modernist gems, like the Royère sofa, the Georges Jouve ceramics, Yves Klein’s Victory of Samothrace sculpture on the glass-topped Carlo Mollino table, and rare furnishings by Jean Prouvé. (Stinco studied in the studio of Édouard Albert, Paul Herbé, and Prouvé at Paris’s École des Beaux-Arts.)
Now that Lauder’s father has semi-retired from the family firm—“He still sits on the board,” she notes—her parents spend a good deal more time at the Paris apartment. “It’s their absolute paradise,” she says.
Above all, it is a family home—“cozy,” as Lauder describes it, filled as much with memorabilia as it is with gallery and auction finds. In the hallway, for example, is a modern print of Sunday New York Times—Tina Barney’s famous 1982 large-scale photograph of a family reading the paper at the breakfast table. Next to that image is an equally massive photograph, also by Barney, of the Lauder tribe in the kitchen of Estée’s estate in Wainscott, New York, in 1995—the same house where Lauder married investment banker Eric Zinterhofer a year later. (Eventually, Estée gave the house to Aerin.)
“Tina is a very good friend of my mother’s, and she actually shot our wedding,” Lauder says. “She just captures a moment. It’s not always the perfect moment, but it’s so real and so interesting.”
Mixed in among the Barneys, the William Wegman dog portraits, and the master bedroom’s huge Thomas Struth image of the Art Institute of Chicago are scads of candids by Jo Carole of Lauder’s two now-college-age sons as children, riding the merry-go-round in the Champ de Mars and sitting under the living room’s Prouvé Presidential desk, coloring. “My mother’s got a great eye,” she says. “The apartment really is full of wonderful memories.”
Lauder has had her share of chic Parisienne experiences over the years, thanks to grandmother Estée. “I went to the Chanel shows many, many years with her—back when Claudia Schiffer was the bride—and to Givenchy shows,” Lauder recalls. “She loved going to boutiques and department stores—we’d walk through the beauty department” to check on how her products were being sold.
Lauder does the same. Since founding Aerin in 2012, she has introduced 22 scents, which, with home and fashion accessories, are available at her boutiques in East Hampton, Southampton, and Palm Beach, as well as at department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, pop-ups, and online.
In Paris, her beauty line is available at Printemps Haussmann and Le Bon Marché, and this month it will debut at the new Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. “Estée used to say, ‘You wouldn’t wear the same dress to dinner as you would to play tennis. Why would you wear the same fragrance?’” she recalls. “That concept is so relevant, because it is really about experience and discovery.”
As is Lauder’s life: While in Paris, she visits museums (“The Picasso is my favorite, with all the Giacometti details”), dines at Le Duc and Caviar Kaspia (“so Paris”), drops by decor havens Talmaris and Casa Lopez, and picks up flowers at Moulié. “I love to just walk the streets—seeing what people are wearing,” she says. “I’m always inspired."
She looks out the open window that faces west toward the Eiffel Tower and sighs.
“I’ve always loved Paris.”
This story appears in the September 2019 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE
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