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Paige Rense and ‘Architectural Digest’ made a perfect pair

Posted on November 04 2016

By Carleton Varney

Special to the Daily News

Perhaps you saw the recent big news in the home-and-garden world: Paige Rense is retiring from the helm of Architectural Digest.

As editor-in-chief, Paige has done a super job over the last few decades — supervising the style of Architectural Digest, which has always been the leader in the shelter-magazine field. She saw the demise here of House & Garden a few years ago, moving what some felt was Paige’s only real competition off the newsstands.

I have known Paige for many years, starting way back in the late 1960s and early ’70s, when I was at the beginning of my career at Dorothy Draper & Co. Inc. I first met Paige in San Francisco at a design show where our office presented a vignette in the “library style,” with leather-covered, tufted-back Chesterfield sofas and lots of walls covered with shelved books. The windows were treated with tortoiseshell roller blinds and had draperies of a green-white-and-cream Chinese print hung below matching Pagoda-shaped valances. The Dorothy Draper room was directly across the aisle from a design setting created by the late English decorator of note, David Hicks.

After some sprightly conversation, Paige, who was then employed by Knapp Communications in Los Angeles, and I lunched together atop the Westbury Hotel at Powell and Sutter streets, a hotel the Draper office had recently completed. Paige was eager to learn all about Dorothy Draper, and I was eager to tell Paige everything about our company. Mrs. Draper was still living but not actively involved in the company at that time.

Over the years, Paige and I enjoyed many trips and visits together — some in my office, some in hers, some at the Greenbrier Hotel at White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., some aboard private aircraft that had a hard time finding a place to land because of bad weather.

But back to where we started from: My wife, Suzanne, and I hosted Paige in New York on more than one occasion. When I was the designer at the St. Regis in New York, I gave — with the blessing of the Sheraton Corp., owner of the hotel — a private luncheon for her in the Salvador Dali Suite, where Paige first met some of the decorators then on the New York scene, so to speak, including the late Mark Hampton.

Paige was very eager to learn the industry and its players, and I greatly admire the contribution she has made to it. I am also grateful to her for the magazine cover stories she has given to my work and the many, many stories (some 50 features) that she has presented of interiors designed by Dorothy Draper & Co. Inc.

I have always said that Paige Rense has the perfect eye for examining a project that might possibly appear in her Architectural Digest. And I do call the magazine “her” publication, for it is she who has selected, approved and published the most interesting and diversified interiors in the world. Special theme issues — exotic homes, American country, Hollywood, architecture, islands — are always inspiring, and American and European designers beg for the honor of being included in her pages, to say nothing about the homeowners who so want to have their residences presented within the pages.

I’ve been told by some that a feature in Architectural Digest will increase the sales value of any residence, although Paige has always been very careful not to publish any homes that she knows are soon to be on the market.

She has always had her antennae in full readiness and has even been known to pull a story off the presses, if alerted that the feature is not exclusive to the magazine. Paige has run an exclusive club at Architectural Digest for many years and she is to be credited, on her retirement, with having a discerning eye for the best in interior design.

In my new book, now in the working-manuscript form, I am writing a chapter titled “Architectural Digest and Me,” in which I shall tell many stories about Paige and me, some involving meetings and cocktails with personalities such as Joan Crawford and Ethel Merman. There will be pictures of Paige with me in Ireland, as well as at book signings.

Paige loves Palm Beach and has enjoyed her home “across the bridge.” I am most grateful to her for including me in her Design Giants issue, featuring the 30 deans of interior design. I also gratefully acknowledge her for including me in all of her “AD 100” issues of top designers — save one. I wish her only the happiest of futures, which she richly deserves.

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