Aerin Lauder’s Floating Guesthouse is a ‘Jewelry Box in the Dunes’

Aerin Lauder’s Floating Guesthouse is a ‘Jewelry Box in the Dunes’

In 2012, a small cabin in the Hamptons owned by the Lauder family — descendants of pioneering cosmetics entrepreneur Estée — was tragically destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. It certainly left a void, but it also presented an opportunity to build something entirely new. They have now built a modest factory along a charming stretch of beach that lies between the ocean and a saltwater pool.

“It is truly a magical indoor-outdoor beach pavilion,” says Aerin Lauder, design and creative director of Estée Lauder and founder of luxury lifestyle brand Aerin, speaking on behalf of the family. “It’s a jewelry box,” she adds with a dreamy touch. “A jewel box in the dunes.”

Large open room with glass wall overlooking the sea, dining table and chairs, sofa, double chair, cocktail table, wooden slatted wall with built-in shelves, kitchen island with sink and cabinets, wooden ceiling and floor

A Valentine Schlegel puzzle table is surrounded by Charlotte Perriand Bauche chairs in the great room. The kitchen island is by Buffy, the bowl is by Erin, and the image is by Tina Barney.

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The replacement is elegantly restrained, a 1,300-square-foot, low-rise, one-story modern structure. The facade consists of smooth glass and vertically placed slats of Sapele mahogany, which also serve as a rain screen. Despite the simplicity of form, there is a quiet splendor and romantic appeal to the finished property, thanks in large part to the way it embraces and incorporates the untamed beauty of its natural surroundings. “It is arguably one of the most beautiful sites on eastern Long Island,” says architect Michael Lomont of Steel Lomont Rouhani, who designed the project with the family. “she’s amazing.”

Le Monte adds that it was impossible to contest this opinion. So he didn’t. In fact, some logistical requirements encouraged him to make the most of those contemplative views, such as updated flood codes that called for all livable spaces to be built at elevation, resulting in perfect sightlines to the main living floor, which features 10-foot-tall windows extending from Floor to ceiling.

Wooden deck and wire railing overlooking the grassy dunes and sea, table with plates and flowers, printed tablecloth, bench with seat cushion

The south deck overlooks the dunes and surf. The J. Edlin tablecloth is from a Décors Barbares fabric, the custom seat is from Inscape Design, the flatware is from Aerin, and the plates and pitcher are from Cabana.

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This also means that the house is located at the level of the dune, cantilevered on a plinth that serves as an entrance staircase and storeroom, with the main living space at the top, exposed to the north and south. This way, once inside, one feels completely surrounded by creamy sand hills and rolling waves. The cherry on top, quite literally, is a deck surrounded by glass panels, offering incredible 360-degree views.

For the Lauder family, the house serves as a guest house and family headquarters for informal gatherings — a luxurious cabana for a snack or a break from beach activities (basement storage is perfect for surfboards and other water sports gear). As such, the layout is very simple: just one bedroom and a bathroom, plus a kitchen, all centered around a welcoming, well-appointed bedroom and decks at the front and back. “We were inspired by the elements around us,” says Loder. “Seaweed, flowers that grow on the sand dunes.”

“We were inspired by the elements around us: seaweed, flowers growing on the sand dunes.”

The palette was chosen to evoke driftwood and the linen beige of sand. If there’s a lighter touch here than other Lauder homes, like the nearby Greek Revival that was passed down from her grandmother Estee or her homes in Aspen and Palm Beach, it’s intentional. “It’s a different experience,” she says. “The idea is that you live on this beach.”

Inside, LeMonte sheathed the wall anchoring the living room with the same mahogany slats as the exterior for visual continuity and added sliding panels for variety. Now the entertainment center can be hidden from view with the movement of a hand, revealing a pair of recessed shelves instead. He loves adding “surprises” to his projects, and here it’s all about the view. First there is the lower entrance hall. “It’s quite a monastic city, with these Venetian plaster walls,” he says. “You don’t quite know where you are.”

However, as you approach the top of the stairs, a glass column suddenly appears, extending across the roof and highlighting the view. “It’s like framed art, with the sky and the clouds above you,” says the architect. “It really transports you into the space and changes the context of your site.” Plus, he loves the alcove in the quiet bathroom, which he likens to a James Turrell piece.

For the interiors, Lauder worked with Daniel Romualdez, a friend and collaborator for the better part of two decades. (He charmed her at a dinner hosted by Anna Wintour when he reminded Lauder that they were in the same aerobics class.) Romualdez is no stranger to Hamptons design, having worked with the likes of Tory Burch and Ina Garten as well as most recently on Lauder’s Aspen residence.

Bed with upholstered headboard and frame, white bedding, night tables with lamps with coral-like bases, natural rug, bedside basket, wooden ceiling and floor, glass doors to the terrace above the sand dunes

The master bedroom walls are plastered Tadelakt plaster. The bed linens are by E. Braun & Co., the lamps are by Barracuda Comporta, and the rug is by Patterson Flynn.

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“The nice thing about design is that when you have limitations, it forces you to work harder to be thoughtful,” Romualdez says of this particular project. For example, a lot of energy goes into thinking about bringing in texture, or the way certain colors will look in very glamorous light when reflected off water. “Often, constraints make the design better,” he adds.

Together, Lauder and Romualdez worked to bring an organic, inviting feel to the space that emphasizes comfort and warmth, which contrasts with LeMont’s striking aerodynamic architecture. In many cases, Lauder points out, she was able to pull pieces from archives of objects collected over the years, like the earthen ceramic vases in the living room that she likes to fill with beach grass.

Corner of a room with a small desk and chair, a lamp, a vase, books above the desk, interior plaster walls, and two glass walls overlooking the grassy dunes and other houses.

The antique desk and chair in the master bedroom are designed by Jean Royère. The landscape was designed by James C. Grimes.

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There are references to the seascape in every corner of the guest house, whether on the old lamps in the bedroom that resemble coral, the pieces of driftwood that Loder found on the beach and then placed on the bookshelves, or the pillows reminiscent of fishermen’s nets that were placed on the sofas. Made of white linen. “We really wanted to achieve this kind of natural, easy-going, very relaxing environment,” she says.

But, as all participants noted, when Mother Nature blesses you with a panoramic view like this, the job is to get out of her way. “When the view is good, you just have to have the humility to temper it,” Romualdez says.

Aerin Lauder Elle Decor

This story originally appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of ELLE DECOR. Participate

(Tags for translation)Erin Lauder

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