Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Lauders’ Palm Beach Mansion: A Snapshot in Time

This classic 1930's Neoclassical Palm Beach home, poised along the magnificent curve of Ocean Boulevard, provides an elegant and historic glimpse into Palm Beach society and the decor of its glamorous inhabitants throughout the years.

Originally built in 1938, socialite Mrs. Francis Shaughnessy, aka Jessie Hood Bassett Shaughnessy Swenson filled the mansion with exquisite 18th Century American antiques, many which stayed in place when Estée Lauder and her husband, Joseph, purchased the residence in 1964.

Image circa 1970 from New YorkSocial Diary

Most recently renovated by the late Evelyn Lauder and her husband Leonard, the couple made every effort to respect the history of the landmark home. Enter AD100 interior designer Thad Hayes, who demonstrated his expert ability to mix design eras, playing homage to old Florida style.

Evelyn Lauder, Harper’sBazaar July 14, 2011

“... every surface was scraped, replastered and repainted,” said Hayes to Architectural Digest. “The objective was restoration. We wanted it to look pretty much the same as it did in the beginning.”
However the goal was not to create a “period-movie set.” They wanted a home appropriate for 21st Century occupants. While everyone involved agreed that the building’s construction date would dictate the décor, the Lauders’ decades of accumulated antiques also had to be taken into consideration.

Hayes, spent the better part of two years, with his project manager, Donald Blender, updating the home in collaboration with architect Jeffery W. Smith and landscape designer Mario Nievera. The renovation was so successful it received a Ballinger Award, presented by the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.
A few examples of the renovation can be seen below…
The team conducted an in-depth review of the work of 1930s – 1940s designers such as T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, Pierre Chareau, Jean-Michel Frank, André Groult and others, masters of strong, clean silhouettes and simple luxury. Drapery fabric by Clarence House.

Whimsies abound including these spherical Venetian glass chandeliers from the 1940s, installed in halls near the entrance of the house, where they dangle, Hayes said, “like big drop earrings.”

Evelyn Lauder became a devotee to Chinoiserie artifacts in the late fifties, when the couple went to San Francisco on their honeymoon. 

Entrance hall, 1940. Photo: Library of Congress.

A full assessment of the home’s furnishings was conducted – including those Estée had bought at an auction of the original owner’s belongings – to determine what to keep and what to replace.

“The Oriental elements in the living room bridge the gap between the Art Deco furniture and the neo-Georgian architecture,” said Evelyn Lauder. Schumacher sofa fabric. Stool calfskin, Edelman Leather. Pillow fringe from Coraggio. Patterson, Flynn & Martin rug.

Although the crowning finial went missing years ago, Estée Lauder’s burlwood Georgian secretary still stands between the front windows.
“The family liked the spirit of the old kitchen, the solidity of the appliances, so they asked that everything be saved,” recalls Hayes. “We refurbished the refrigerator and stove; the countertops are new.”
"The dining room is very Neoclassical, very strong, very English," said Lauder. "Yet the mirror is Art Deco style, as are the chandelier and the chairs. The table is antique; it belonged to my mother-in-law, Estée." Hayes had the original 1930s Gracie wallpaper reproduced. 
Evelyn Lauder, Harper’sBazaar July 14, 2011

Estée Lauder, Town & Country March 1974

Image via Thad Hayes

Original dining room, 1940. Photo: Library of Congress.

“We removed the old finish on the cypress paneling in the library to bring it back to what it had been in 1938,” said Hayes. “The wood had darkened with age.” Manuel Canovas fabric covers the T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings armchairs. Sofa fabric, Lee Jofa. Beauvais sisal carpet.

The Library in 1940, via Library of Congress. 

A relaxed and tropical living room harkens back to the 1930s & 1940s.

Image via Thad Hayes
The Florida Room, 1940, via Library of Congress.

Serious art was ruled out in favor of less precious creations such as Leonard Lauder’s vintage travel posters, which decorate the screening room.

“Muslin mock-ups in the botanical bedroom helped us get the proportions of the draperies just right,” said Hayes. “We then had them made in cotton.” The circa 1940 desk and chair are by Jacques Quinet. Jim Thompson armchair and ottoman fabric. Schumacher bed skirt fabric.

Art Déco bath fixtures were meticulously restored and set off with 1930s – 1950s wallpapers boasting printed with caladiums and cut-leaf philodendrons.

Leafy wallpaper combined with a mirrored vanity and lucite chair create pure tropical glamour. Image via Thad Hayes.

“Previously, alfresco dining and relaxation at the house took place in the courtyard, with no interaction with or view of the sea,” said the designer. “We’ve reoriented the house toward the water.” The oceanfront terrace is used for breakfast and evening entertaining.

The Lauder Family in Palm Beach. Aerin fourth from right.  Date and source unknown.

Outdoors, Mario Nievera loosened up the starchy landscape with frothy, foaming masses of tropical and subtropical plants. “It’s less in-your-face now,” said Evelyn Lauder, referring to the façade’s stark-white severity.  Evelyn Lauder pictured in Harper’s Bazaar July 14, 2011.

Image via Thad Hayes

Pavilion, 1940, via Library of Congress.

Evelyn Lauder lounging on the back lawn in an Oscar de la Renta gown.


  1. I passed right by this house last week. I wish now that I had included it in my post! Oh well. There are just too many great spots in Palm Beach to get them all. Great Site!
    -The Keeper of the Little Red Diary

  2. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again...

    carpet cleaning palm beach gardens


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