Published: January 12, 2021
Paige Rense died Friday, January 1, at her West Palm Beach, Fla., home at the age of 91. The cause of death was reported by her business manager, Victoria K. Woodhull, to be a heart-related issue. She was best known as the editor of Architectural Digest, the international interior design publication she worked at for 40 years.
Rense was born in Des Moines, Iowa, on May 4, 1929, the daughter of a Danish woman who gave her up for adoption when Rense was a year old. She was adopted by Lloyd R. Pashong and his wife, Margaret May Smith; they named her Patricia Louis Pashong. In the 1940s, the family moved to Los Angeles and she dropped out of school and ran away from home in 1944 after her father became abusive. It was then when she changed her name to Paige.
Her first marriage to advertising executive, Richard Gardner ended in divorce, as did her second marriage to David Thomas.
In the mid 1950s, she began her editorial career at Water World, a skin-diving magazine where Arthur Rense was the managing editor. She and Rense would marry, divorce and remarry; he died in 1990. In 1994, Rense married Kenneth Noland, an artist; they were married until his death in 2010.
When Rense joined Architectural Digest in 1970, it was a local trade publication owned by Cleon T. Knapp. Part of a small staff, she gradually assumed increasingly important duties, writing in the preface to her 2018 book, Architectural Digest: Autobiography of a Magazine 1920-2010, “In those early years, I wrote every issue myself.”
She was named executive editor in 1971 after Bradley Little, the magazine’s editor, was murdered in a parking lot shooting that went unsolved. Cleon Knapp named her editor-in-chief in 1975 when she was tasked with remaking the magazine.
In 1993, Condé Nast acquired Architectural Digest; one of the terms of the deal with chairman S.I. Newhouse was that Rense remain as editor. She finally stepped down in 2010.
Despite no formal design training, Rense won several design awards and took what had been a small regional publication into a glossy globally internationally distributed publication that focused on architects and interior designers and highlighting the homes of the rich and famous. In 1990, Architectural Digest was dubbed by the New York Times Magazine as “the National Geographic of interior design, art and antiques.” An expansive network of well-known writers and photographers as well as international correspondents boosted the magazine’s prominence and reputation. Relocating the magazine to New York City and starting editions in a few foreign countries were among some of Rense’s achievements during her tenure. It was considered a mark of honor for professionals to be named to her annual list of the world’s 100-top designers.
Rense is survived by seven stepchildren: William, Samuel, Cady and Lyn Noland, and Kirk, Jeff and Rip Rense.
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