Architectural Digest Editor Crosses One of Her Own

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

What's going on inside Paige's house? Paige Rense, editrix of Architectural Digest (another beleaguered jewel in the Condé Nast collection), has been the doyenne of architecture and design for decades. She's also been a fierce — some might say prickly — protector of her turf. A dozen years ago, when James Truman took over as editorial director of Condé Nast at age 35, she famously threatened to "spank" him if he came near her magazine. When Condé Nast relaunched House and Garden in 1995, Rense joked, "I killed it once and I'll kill it again."

Recently her irritation landed closer to home. Jeffrey Nemeroff is her art director and has been associated with the magazine for a couple of decades. He's also a painter who had an April 30 opening at the Neuhoff Gallery, his New York debut. Though the opening's invitation did not mention Architectural Digest, Rense was apparently miffed — given Nemeroff's relatively high profile at the magazine, she felt that the event was perceived as an Architectural Digest event. And so she picked up the phone: "Paige told a number of the decorators not to come to the opening or the dinner after," says one person who got a call. A personal appeal such as this, coming from the editor of AD, is not inconsequential. "To be in the magazine is a very big deal for someone's career," as one person in the field put it. Best not to cross Rense, then?

We spoke to Rense about her rationale in picking up the phone. As Rense tells it, her concern began when a couple of designers called her unsolicited to discuss Nemeroff's opening. "They told me, 'We can't buy a painting now.' I said, 'You don't have to. You don't even have to go.'" Concerned that the opening was being inappropriately connected to the magazine, she picked up the phone to clarify the situation with certain designers. "It's Jeff. He hadn't told me about it ... I was blindsided," she explained.

Nemeroff didn't return our call, but gallery owner Neuhoff defended him. "I don't quite understand why Paige did this. She gave her blessings to the show several months ago. It's stunning and rather disappointing. He is extremely hurt and puzzled by this, as am I."

But the drama didn't end with the phone calls. At the opening, word spread of Rense's outreach, and the parlor game began: Who had bucked Rense and attended? Some notable decorators were absent, like Stephen Shadley. "He was definitely called," says a source. (Shadley did not return our call.) But famed decorator Mario Buatta — "I didn't get called," he says — attended, as did John Loring, one of Rense's contributing writers. But others at the opening were miffed for another reason: Why hadn't they been uninvited by Rense? Weren't they important enough? (One conflicted invitee who'd been called by Paige immediately phoned her shrink. There were mother issues to resolve.) And then there was another fraught question: Who at the opening was actually Rense's spy?