Furniture and Design through the Magni-fying Glass
In a city that’s constantly moving, designer James Magni strives to stay fresh
There is a faction of fashionable Angelenos out there who can proudly say they’ve had their homes “Magni-fied”. Behind this wave of “Magni-fica- tion” is none other than interior designer extraordinaire, James Magni.
Born and raised by Italian parents in the Midwest, Magni attended the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Though his initial plan was to study sculpture, the ambition quickly went by the wayside when a professor told him early on that he didn’t have what it took to be a professional sculptor. He changed gears and began to study architecture, at the time thinking that it would be the most logical second choice.
Despite having some self-proclaimed difficulties with the math, he graduated, quickly got out of the Midwest, and went to work for HMBH in Dallas,Texas. It was there that he quickly developed a love for interior design. He did a few homes and began developing elaborate client personality profiles and questionnaires as long as twenty pages in order to really, as he puts it, “get into their heads.” He wanted to learn everything about his clients—how they lived, what their hobbies were, even how they stored their underwear. “You have to know every single thing about a human being right away to be effective as an interior designer,” he says.
“I guess I always wanted to be a psychologist,” he adds with a generous laugh. “And I realized once I got into interior design that furniture design is really just a form of sculpture, so I kind of went full circle. And the furniture is what initially drove a lot of clients—they would see the furniture and hire me on as an interior designer.”
He found some investors in Frito-Lay and the Hunt Family and in 1990 set up shop in the City of Angels. Since then, he’s been bringing his furniture and own brand of sensual interior design to Southern California and beyond.“I think sensuality is super important, the way things touch and feel and smell is very important.You know, when you’ve been in a space—a restaurant, or a club, or a home—that’s just special. That’s what we’re shooting for—that feeling.”
These days though, Magni says it is becoming increasingly more difficult to stay ahead of the curve.“HGTV and all these magazines have changed the game,” he explains.“People now have this wealth of knowledge so we have to stay ahead of them to create new and unusual ways of living and dining.”
To do this, Magni strives to keep abreast of all young artists, musicians, writers and painters; he contends that they have a fresh, continually inspirational perspective on life. “I’m fifty years old, so I spend a lot of time around people who are twenty-five, to see how they think of life,” he reveals. “Because that’s really all design really is. It’s sort of a stage that we play our life out on.”
And as for what’s next for this spirited designer? Well, there’s still plenty of L.A. left to “Magni-fy”.
Pictured: The Metropolitan. Barstool featuring high- gloss, French polish Macassar ebony appointed by stainless steel footrest and sabots. Available with or without back.