A Chat With James Magni

Author of Magni Modernism

Magni Modernism is featured on the cover of the ABRAMS Spring 2013 catalog.


James Magni is an award-winning architect and designer based in Hollywood, California. His work has been featured in magazines such as Architectural Digest, the New York Times, and Robb Report. His furnishing line is available in major cities across the United States. See the first in a series of videos about James Magni and his work at  magnidesign.com.



How did you initially connect with your editor, Andrea Danese, and ABRAMS?

In the midst of the deep recession, the quintessential book agent Jill Cohen not only landed me a book deal, but it was with ABRAMS. In my opinion they’re the best. Jill introduced me to Andrea and I bonded with her when she came to LA and visited a few of the houses that appear in the book.



What were the criteria for selecting the projects to be featured in the book? Did the photography already exist, or were the houses shot specially for the book?

The selection was really based on my decision to show work that best represents my philosophy of global modernism. There were existing photos of a few of the houses, and others were photographed specifically for the book and have never been published anywhere.



Please tell us about the behind-the-scenes of putting Magni Moderism together.

If an author could have their dream team, I certainly did. It was a beautiful collaboration with Andrea Danese from ABRAMS, coupled with Marc Kristal, a writer who is a magician with words—Marc can write a paragraph allowing you to feel as though you have walked through these homes, whether they be in Moscow, Aspen, or Mexico City—and lastly, Miko McGinty, the brilliant graphic designer who labored over compositions of the pages, always with Marc, Andrea, and myself at one another’s sides, collaborating and adjusting.



Of the projects featured, do you have a favorite or two? Why does it stand out for you?

A project I did some twenty years ago, which is the basis of creating this book. It’s the second house in the book, in the chapter titled “Global Modernism,” which I developed as a style we refer to as global modernism. The client gave me complete creative freedom and had explicit trust in me, which generated not only a unique style, but a project that is still classic and modern over twenty years later. We continually get new client calls based on that project today.



Which architects and designers would you say have had the most influence on your work? 

Mies van der Rohe, Carlo Scarpa, and Corbusier.



What do you hope readers will gain from the book, and/or who will most benefit from the book?

I hope that readers will gain insight into how contemporary design can be interpreted into many geographical locations, architectural styles, and clients’ wishes, while maintaining a cohesive philosophy born in modernism. Architects will benefit by seeing how an interior designer can successfully adhere to their architectural creations while enhancing the beauty of the design. Interior design students will benefit by seeing how various elements can come together to create a cohesive concept. Homeowners will be interested in seeing the varying locales—Moscow, Mexico City, Aspen, Beverly Hills—and the universality of how people live, regardless of their geographical residences. All readers will see how designers can create a physical structure for them to live in and that global modernism is all about inclusivism, never exclusivism. Architecture may react to the city it is set in, and yes it is our job to react to the style of architecture, but the Joneses are very different, and how they interpret their lives is very different, and I think that’s interesting to people.



At the end of the day, these are not only physical structures, but they are peoples’ personal residences, which are sacred spaces. And what we hope that this book translates is that with the development of us being interconnected more and more, global modernism connects us even further to varying cultures and makes a statement that there is no reason these different aspects can’t work together. When you walk into your home, it is your sacred space, and at the end of the day, it is still your sacred space. The client is worth designing spaces for—around geography; around an architect; around a client’s program, philosophy, or lifestyle—and the net result of all that is we are hoping to create truly sacred spaces that react appropriately to all of the above. I think what occurs too often in coffee-table books is ego, ideas forced upon people, and if it doesn’t react properly, it looks out of place. So the goal of this book is to always make things feel very appropriate. And really it’s not about us, it’s about fulfilling the purpose of whoever lives in the houses shown.

Magni Modernism by James Magni (Abrams Books, 2013) will be available wherever books are sold this April.


Michelle Montague is Executive Director for Adult Marketing & Publicity at ABRAMS.



on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
in Featured Book
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