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Remembering Paige Rense Noland

Posted on January 08 2021

By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News

Without question during my decorating career, Architectural Digest earned a reputation as the most important interior design magazine in America — and one woman can be credited for its preeminence.

She was the late Paige Rense Noland, who died Jan. 1 at 91 at her home near South Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach.

I met Paige in the early 1970s, when she had taken over the stewardship of the Los Angeles-based magazine, which was published by Knapp. Paige was a determined presence, and despite not having been trained as an editor or possessing academic credentials as a journalist, she was aware of who was who in the world of style and decorating. And she set off on a journey to get to know everyone of note in the interior design world.

She loved the glamorous design spirit of the late Angelo Donghia and the traditional rooms created of the late Mario Buatta. And designer Sally Sirkin Lewis was also on the top of her list.

Our firm always aimed at earning its spot among Paige’s chosen few, and some 30-odd projects of Dorothy Draper & Co. graced the pages of the magazine she transformed into the decorating bible.

I was so pleased when Paige asked if we would create the Green Room backstage at the 80th Academy Awards, which took place in 2008 at the former Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. The project captured the feeling of Old Hollywood, with a back-and-white checkerboard floor, black walls, bright white crown molding, and red and green furnishings.

Paige’s reach was expansive. She served as editor-in-chief of GEO, a competitor of National Geographic, and enjoyed creating features focusing on subjects that might have included the Incas in Peru or the grand ballerinas of the day.

Paige had a trait possessed by all top-tier editors — a deep curiosity that led her to investigate every culture and every profession. Although some may not realize it, Paige also was editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit. Food, recipes and restaurants were a side dish that under Paige’s focus turned into a main course.

Paige had a determination to discover and showcase the best of the best of everything during her tenure at Architectural Digest, which spanned almost 40 years. She hired the best photographers, including Harry Benson (who famously photographed Nancy and Ronald Reagan in the White House). She selected Jaime Ardiles-Arce, who photographed interiors all over the world. And she prized the work of longtime contributor John Loring, who brought sparkling magic to his articles, whatever the subject

Paige demanded loyalty from her decorators, her writers, her photographers and her friends. Those in the design field who earned her favor learned to never let another publication publish their work. Everyone in the industry knew that being dumped by Paige was a harsh punishment indeed.

Paige was known in Los Angeles and New York, but was also a frequent face in Palm Beach. In 2014, four years after she left Architectural Digest, she and private art dealer Ken Mitchell opened Private View Gallery on Brazilian Avenue, which exhibited and sold art by her late husband, the abstract artist Kenneth Noland. The gallery was open for several seasons.

Paige had an unerring eye for glamour, but she also was a realist who understood the power of celebrity. Once upon a time, I recall, Architectural Digest featured an article about the home of the actress Joan Crawford. As I was Joan’s designer, Paige told me she would have photographed Miss Crawford’s home even if the movie star had slept on a fold-up bed.

Every issue of Architectural Digest under her control showcased beautiful rooms, but also was known for offering the unexpected. The magazine, like the woman who ran it for so many years, understood that glamour is seldom achieved without hard work, even if the final result appears effortless.

1 comment

  • Roberta Lyon: February 01, 2021

    There will never be another Paige Rense. During her rein AD was my bible. I learned so much about architecture, interior design, etc., these lessons are with me today.
    Sadly AD Is not what it was-obviously the lack of ads and thin issues are a testament to the poor direction they are going to.

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