Aerin Lauder's interior design book Beauty at Home by Aerin Lauder peeks out from the corner of her hotel suite. With pages depicting chic living spaces, the patina of grandeur and old money is displayed in shades of blue and white in a book filled with grand interiors.
For those in Hong Kong living in small apartments, the book is like a staycation for the senses, a journey into large rooms swathed in Montrose linen, where gold-dipped seashells decorate tabletops with an elegance normally found in biopics about Jackie O.
"I haven't been to anyone's private residence yet. But I'd love to sneak a peek at homes here. I like what I've seen of Hong Kong and China, and I've been here several times," says Lauder, 43.
"I'm interested in the sense of tradition and family values, the adherence to heritage, which is a counterpoint to the city that's constantly growing.
"That sense of tradition meshes beautifully with the refined modernity found here. My design philosophy is 'heritage with a twist' and I can see permutations of that all around Hong Kong.
"From a design perspective, I love certain shades of jade and gold. There's an other-worldly elegance to them that fascinates me. The porcelain white with exquisite ink-blue artwork in fine china is a motif that crops up in my homes," she says.
Homes. Plural. The meticulously appointed residences in Manhattan, the Hamptons and Aspen are peppered with exquisite artefacts and all the accoutrements that define good taste.
Large, well-appointed living spaces face on to verdant pastures, with airy halls dotted with mahogany furniture designed by Karl Springer, sideboards by André Arbus with finishing in gold leaf, paintings by Helen Frankenthaler bought from Art Basel in Miami, in addition to chairs handed down from her famed grandmother.
Billionaire Lauder's own brand, which channels this world of erudite sophistication and is available at Lane Crawford, offers attainable luxury. Lauder's curated collection of beauty, fashion accessories and home decor was unveiled among Hong Kong's high society, who came en masse to meet her. The grand dame of beauty, Estée Lauder opened an office in Hong Kong in the 1960s, because she was fascinated with the East. She was also intent on expanding her brand.
It's no surprise that her granddaughter is following in her footsteps.
"Well, beauty is my heritage," she says. "And we have a family style; the importance of family. My home is my passion. I'm always happy to go straight home after work, so comfort and aesthetics are key at home and in the office for me. Wherever you spend most of your time should be your sanctuary."
Grand visuals are the order of the day in the catalogue and her book; rooms where gold-painted Edgewood console tables are flanked with Ming vases, Chatham coffee tables are lacquered to perfection, trimmed in gold and decked with vintage portraits.
"A quick way to transform a cold and clinical room is to add warm lighting," she says. Edgemere and Bedford floor lamps, and Hampton wall lights that vary from minimalist chic to opulent gold, crop up throughout the catalogue.
"The olfactory sense can trigger so many memories. When I walk into my home, it isn't just the visual stimuli that affect me. I'm embraced by the warm aromas of a lived-in residence, of family, food and flowers. An aroma is so important," she says.
Family is a theme that she often returns to. "My father [Ronald Lauder] was once a diplomat, so when we were young, we saw the world, and that has informed my sense of aesthetics."
With sojourns in Europe and vacations around the globe, Lauder picked up knick-knacks and ideas that coloured her global view, bringing the world at large into her own private abode.
"Travel is a huge part of my life, and that of the modern, working woman. We travel to Europe often, especially Belgium and France. I pick up ideas from Palm Beach or the Hamptons as much as I would in Morocco or Japan."
Though it has been a globe-trotting life, the aesthetic is somehow all-American; it's very feminine and it has an effortless ease and elegance that has found fans around the globe. We volley back and forth regarding the good ("plush pillows can instantly warm a room"), the bad ("when I see a short curtain, I literally have to stop myself from going down on my knees to hem it and make it longer with some trim"), and the ugly side of furnishings.
"Well, I don't know about ugly," she says. "One woman's trash might be another's treasure, so I look at things differently. Things aren't wonderful or horrendous, they're just different. I'd hate to see every single home look like every other. Your personal artefacts should dot your home. I've framed the paintings my sons did when they were very young, and I'd value them as much as someone else might a Matisse."
Are the children banned from jumping on expensive objects like the Thompson chaise? "Absolutely not," she says. "Rooms should be livable. Every space in a home should be used. There is no area in the house that is cordoned off from my sons. A truly elegant home is supposed to be lived in, not just looked at in a magazine."