Designer Crush: James Magni

1. What is your favorite place in the world and why?

That’s difficult to answer as traveling is my favorite thing to do in life. My answer to this has always been Italy, as I have a dual American-Italian passport. I’m currently looking for an apartment in Rome to recharge and get inspired. I also love the San Pietro Hotel is Positano...I've been going there for 25 years. This Thanksgiving, I went to Bora Bora and it changed everything for me. If you are a visual person, Bora Bora is paradise on Earth.

2. Who is your dream celebrity client and why?

Oprah Winfrey. I work a lot on my spiritual self and Oprah has brought many spiritual leaders to television that people can utilize to improve their lives. This is very different than organized religion. Oprah, as usual, brings greatness to the masses before anyone else does. She’s one of the most respected people I’ve been made aware of in life.

3. What’s your favorite space you've created and why?

I designed a large home in Beverly Hills over 22 years ago. We still get inquires from prospective clients because of that project including from the Lee family in Korea, the owners of Samsung. It’s a highly modern piece of architecture and the interiors were curated with modern, Art Deco, 18th and 19th century continental and Asian pieces along with a very important contemporary art collection. This project is featured in my book “Magni Modernism” and spearheaded a look for MAGNI that would become our signature style. The owners were on the board of MOCA and are still dream clients to this day.

4. If you hadn't become a designer, which career would you have pursued?

I was a sculpture major before I received my degree in architecture. Designing furniture for Magni Home Collection allows me to fulfill that need. I believe I would have pursued a career as strictly an artist/sculptor.

5. Where do you find your favorite pieces? Any shopping tips?

My favorite place to shop is either the Parma, Italy furniture fair or Paris' Marche, especially for Art Deco. If a person is interested in contemporary furniture, the Milan furniture fair is a must. Just go and don’t be intimidated by its size or the parties. Just go and learn.
6. Ever had an epic DIY disaster? What project would you never dream of taking on yourself again?

I was hired to do a set for a small movie. I’m a huge believer in being a specialist or expert in one area, so against my better judgment, I accepted this assignment to create the sets and it was a disaster for me and my team; leave it to the set designers.
7. What new design trends are you excited to integrate into your work?

Mostly anything handmade. For the Magni Home Collection, I’m sculpting pieces in clay that will then be cast in bronze, stainless steel, or glass. I’m working with woven leathers and hand patina metals. This fulfills that sculptural need and provides the MHC line with fresh, new pieces that one doesn’t find anywhere else. Because of this, we are doing more limited edition pieces which clients love.
8. Where do you gain inspiration from for your design process?

Two areas:

1. Traveling to the most exotic or beautiful places in the world: Bali, Bora Bora, Marrakesh, and then always back to Italy to view everything I do through an Italian filter. Perhaps I’m ethnocentric, but I believe the Italians historically have the greatest design and artist sense on the planet. Having dual citizenship allows me this great connection to my people.

2. A daily spiritual connection. That can be meditation, prayer, watching an inspirational video, reading one of my hundreds of spiritual books ranging from everything from Buddhism to quantum physics. I love reading and learning and absolutely require some sort of grounding/spiritual connection daily to allow creativity to flow.
Lightning round!
9. Beach or mountains?

10. Twitter/Facebook/Instagram?

None of the above. Sorry, I still like talking to people.
11. Should you spend money on an eye-catching piece of furniture or high-quality lighting?

They are equal in my mind. Although I still have furniture I bought 30 years ago from the Paris flea markets.
12. Would you rather shop new or vintage?

13. Great view or perfect pool?


14. SF or LA?


15. What's one tip you wish someone had told you when first starting out in the design world?

To know that your career WILL be successful.  Enjoy the journey, but realize it’s a difficult, highly personal business. Business-savvy clients hire us to do business (design their homes for them). However, we are sensitive, artistic souls trying to fit into their world. It’s bound for conflict—I always try to respect my clients, but avoid compromising my design expertise. That’s why they hired us and I say at the office daily, “Control equals responsibility.” If the client wants to control the process, then they also take the responsibility for the outcome. Otherwise client, move aside while we create a beautiful, meaningful, home.