Paige Rense Noland, who transformed Architectural Digest from a niche publication to the leading luxury shelter magazine, is retiring this August after 40 years with the title.
In an unusual move, the announcement of Rense Noland’s retirement came from S.I. “Si” Newhouse Jr., chairman of AD parent Condé Nast.
“Paige’s devotion to Architectural Digest is extraordinary,” Mr. Newhouse said in a statement. “For years she has led her readers into a world of the finest architecture and design, inspiring both professions and pastimes. She has created a legendary magazine, and I am personally proud of the standards she has set.”
Rense Noland began working at AD in 1970, when it was owned by Knapp Communications. Condé Nast bought Knapp in 1993. Under her leadership, the magazine, with a focus on decorating, architects and their clients, grew its circulation from 50,000 to more than 850,000.
Over the years, she featured high-profile homes in the magazine, including the Ronald Reagan White House and those of Gore Vidal and Robert Redford. She has edited a dozen books related to AD and collected a number of awards.
The change at the top isn’t unexpected. Arch Digest’s sumptuous photo spreads, mostly devoid of people, showcase a world that’s unattainable to most. But the character of the shelter magazine category it inhabits has changed in recent years, with the rise of books like Country Living and Dwell that focus on the middle-market and everyday living.
Meanwhile, the collapse of the housing market and associated advertising has put enormous pressure on the category, leading to the folding of several titles and sharp ad-page drops at titles like Arch Digest that depend on luxury advertising. AD led the category in 2009 with 1,574 ad pages, but its pages dropped nearly 50 percent.
In 2007, in an effort to help jumpstart the magazine’s ad pages, Condé Nast installed Giulio Capua, then at sibling magazine Gourmet, as vp, publisher. But AD, with its continued focus on the high end of the market, has led to some industry speculation that a change in editorial leadership wasn’t far off.
The company said it is beginning its search for a new editor and that Rense Noland would stay on the masthead as editor emeritus.