Ballinger Award

SU1115_AD_Aerin_PB_Ext_08%20-%20Copy.jpg2023 Robert I. Ballinger Awarded to Aerin Lauder

On January 19th, Aerin Lauder and husband Eric Zinterhofer were presented with the 2023 Robert I. Ballinger Award for their exceptional restoration of the landmarked home at 124 Via Bethesda. Originally designed by architect Howard Major in 1930, the house boasts Cuban coral limestone and French Provençal–inspired architecture. During her acceptance speech, Lauder expressed deep honor in receiving the award, having admired the house since childhood.

The Ballinger Award commemorates a restoration that best exemplifies the traditions of Palm Beach’s original houses and the architects who designed them. First presented by the Preservation Foundation in 1988, the award was founded in honor of the late Robert I. Ballinger Jr., former chairman of the Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission. Mr. Ballinger worked tirelessly for many years to instill pride in the island’s architectural heritage and completed one of the first restorations of a Mizner estate. 

This year marks a new milestone in the history of the award as it is the first time that a member from the same family as a previous recipient was honored.  In 1999 Aerin Lauder’s father, Ronald Lauder, and uncle, Leonard Lauder, received the award for their respective restorations of two Marion Sims Wyeth–designed estates. The occasion speaks to a legacy of stewardship and the passing of a commitment to the preservation of Palm Beach’s architectural heritage from one generation to the next. 

The restoration, overseen by Lauder, focused on maintaining the original design while addressing structural issues, installing new insulation, and replacing the roof. The project, led by architect Jeffery Smith, interior designer Stephen Sills, and landscape architect Mario Nievera, successfully preserved key elements, including black-and-white marble-tile floors and antique paneling.

Noteworthy changes included the addition of impact-resistant windows and French doors, updates to bathrooms, and a new-and-expanded kitchen. The restoration team paid meticulous attention to the preservation of the distinctive hermanitas stone on the exteriors,  maintaining the house’s patina and character. President & CEO Amanda Skier stated, “The owner and design team’s restrained approach to the restoration of 124 Via Bethesda is especially noteworthy in a community where original details are often replaced rather than repaired in accordance with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.”

The Ballinger Award presentation featured a panel discussion with Aerin Lauder and her restoration team, architect Sophia Bacon, and interior designer Stephen Sills. Lauder emphasized the importance of drawing inspiration from the past while participating in the panel discussion, stating, “To understand the future, you have to understand the heritage.”