Carol Prisant, an elegant design writer who was the New York editor of the idiosyncratic British magazine The World of Interiors, died April 9 at a hospital in Manhattan. She was 82.
Her son, Barden Prisant, said the cause was lung cancer.
Prisant was a former antiques dealer with no editorial experience in 1989 when she wrote to Min Hogg, the autocratic editor of The World of Interiors, a magazine she revered, inquiring about a position there as an antiques editor. It took her a week to craft the letter, with just the right tone: deferential but charming. There was no such position, but Hogg, famously spontaneous, wrote her back anyway, and offered her a job as a writer. Prisant was 51.
On her first assignment, she forgot to bring batteries for her tape recorder. Her third assignment was to write about Bill Blass. He told her she looked like Claudette Colbert. She remarked on his very “doggy” upholstery. (It was a compliment; she liked dogs.) She would go to write about the wealthy and the eccentric, and those who helped them nest.
But she never got the memo, as the longtime American magazine editor Stephen Drucker put it, that you weren’t supposed to write what you really felt in a decorating magazine.
“She told the truth, but always with subtlety and lashings of wit,” Rupert Thomas, Hogg’s successor at the magazine, said by phone, “and managed to be clever and learned without taking herself — or her interviewees — too seriously. She extracted humanity from the grandest collector and the most self-regarding decorator. And she made it look effortless.
“People think writing about interiors is easy and possibly rather pointless,” he continued. “It’s neither. She did it brilliantly.”
In her final article for the magazine, published in the November 2020 issue, she wrote about the Manhattan apartment of designer and artist Nan Swid and noted how Swid’s designer, Kazem Naderi, kept futzing with the place: “He’s impatient with the obvious and stale in the relationships between furniture and art and carpet and floors, and the ultimate effect of his aesthetic process is something like Turner dropping in on a gallery where his latest seascape is already hanging and, with a small brush, confidently adding a scarlet buoy to the waves.”
Prisant could always spot the scarlet buoy in the waves.
Drucker recalled reading an early Prisant piece in The World of Interiors and cold-calling her. “I thought, ‘Who is this woman?’ I was working at Travel & Leisure, and I said, ‘I will send you anywhere you want and pay you really well and give you a big expense account.’ And she said, ‘No thank you. I hate to travel.’ ”
Prisant was terrified of flying. She was indifferent to food. She loved pale pink — declaring, Diana Vreeland-like, that the hue was a neutral — and she wore touches of it always (pink cashmere hoodies, pink glasses.)
Her homes were as singular and precise as her writing. With her husband, Millard Prisant, she restored a decrepit fairy-tale Victorian Gothic house in Roslyn Harbor, New York, on Long Island, that she painted a “bitter gray,” as she put it. It was so fanciful that birdhouses had been designed from its plans.
Carol Ann Lincoff was born July 28, 1938, in Pittsburgh. Her father, Escher, owned a jewelry store in suburban Braddock, Pennsylvania; her mother, Jeanne (Katzive) Lincoff, was a travel agent.
In addition to her son, Prisant is survived by a brother, Richard Lincoff, and a granddaughter.