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Cosmetic Splurgery

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Photograph by Luigi CiuffetelliIt’s not easy having a conversation with Cristi Miller. It’s not that she isn’t loquacious. Glitzy phrases like “Laura Mercier,” “European-themed apothecary” and “Stephen Dweck jewelry” fall loosely from her effervescent tongue.

The thing is, she’s got other things to worry about, like her people—her makeup people.

“The best thing about all of this is interacting with my customers,” she says, between praising the adooorable dress as one of her faithful swishes in, then commenting on how fabulous a job one of her makeup artists is doing on a client at her Houppette in Greenville. “The cosmetics industry is such a happy industry.”

Obnoxious? Try exceedingly refreshing.

“I’ve always wanted to have my own boutique. That environment of personal service and a unique selection of products have always been special to me,” Miller says. “Whenever I shopped at high-end department stores, of course, the things are beautiful, but where’s the individualized style? That’s what I liked.”

She traded in flasks and test tubes for Bloomingdale’s cosmetics department when, at 19, she ended her pursuit of a chemistry degree and moved to the Big Apple.

Her self-confessed “product junkie” persona—even as a child—readied her for a gig giving makeovers at Bloomie’s on 59th.

“I was one of those girls who only cared about Barbie’s head, doing her makeup and hair,” she says with a laugh. “I loved my first experience in this dynamic, exciting world.”

Miller stayed in New York a year and a half, then made her way to Delaware and a job at Ellie before heading back to school, this time to the Fashion Institute of Technology, an institution tailor-made for her interests. One fashion merchandising-cosmetic marketing degree later and, hello, Houppette.

“I really loved Greenville,” she says. “I looked at it as a department store and asked, ‘What’s missing?’ It had a great place for shoes, great linen and china at Enchanted Owl, great clothing at Ellie—everything except cosmetics.”

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And it’s not just the exclusive cosmetic lines like La Bella Donna or skin-care lines like Darphin that draw her clients. It’s her passion for product.

“Everything I sell has to pass my muster,” she says. “I really have to love it. I’m not a natural sales person, so I rely on my love for something, which goes through to the customer.”

Her top-five musts for every handbag are Laura Mercier Lipgloss in opal glace—“It looks great on everyone”—a light bronzing powder “tailored to your skin tone, of course,” Instantly Radiant Moisture Stick for Eyes “to minimize fine lines and wrinkles as well as brighten with light reflectors,” something with sun protection (“SPF, SPF, SPF every day”) and Rosebud Salve. “It’s good for everything—eye makeup, cuticles, you name it.”

Truly a lover of all the extras that make a look sing, she confesses to a regular rotation of basic clothes that she jazzes up with jewelry and an evolving makeup style.

“I really go for big, chunky, artistic pieces of jewelry,” she says. “I have a recent John Hardy addiction. I found a great piece at A.R. Morris, but I think I need a new living room window first.”

Stephen Dweck is a favorite, and Peter Kay—anything but classic.

“I’m not dissing anyone who wears a tennis bracelet,” she insists. “That’s just not me. Once my husband gave me the most beautiful pearl necklace from Tiffany. I’m sure he thought every woman wants pearls and diamond studs, but he was relieved to learn I preferred turquoise and amber,” she says with a laugh.

Presiding over her legions of candy-colored lip glosses, perfectly chic accessories, decadent creams, lotions and potions, Miller is right where she should be.

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