James Magni Enhances a Modern House in an Exclusive Moscow Neighborhood

  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    Understated Louis XVI–style side chairs from Thomas W. Morgan, of Los Angeles, serve as a foil to the long, custom marble dining table and the canvas by the American artist David Salle. The Hans buffet from the Magni Home Collection separates the dining area from the great room. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    A wooden dacha for guests is nestled in an idyllic woodland setting to the rear of the main residence. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    Magni designed a Chrysler Building–inspired silk-and-wool Mansour rug to unify this sitting area, where Barcelona chairs juxtapose with the designer’s Classic sofa, upholstered in Jim Thompson silk, and Promemoria’s chic bronze Gong chaise longue. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    In the lofty great room, a bush-hammered limestone wall is a backdrop for a custom, 16-arm Murano chandelier by the Venetian company Barovier & Toso, a pair of circa-1928 bergères from Bernd Goeckler Antiques in New York City, and a limited-edition Colette table by Magni Home. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    Macassar ebony embellishments, as well as a Murano chandelier from Barovier & Toso, enrich the Boffi kitchen, and Eero Saarinen’s timeless Tulip table and chairs accommodate casual dining. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    An example of Moscow architect Anton Mossine’s striking modernist design is the floating limestone staircase linking the home’s two main floors. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    The homeowners spend significant time in the library and music room, says Magni. Both areas occupy the broad gallery overlooking the great room and the linear foyer. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    A detail of the structure’s side facade reveals a wooden-faced niche with a loggia for each floor. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    For the master bedroom, Magni designed the silver-leafed Deneuve bed and a pair of white-gold-leafed armoires with cutouts that display the wife’s collection of Lalique glass. The Imperiale chandelier from La Murrina floats above the contemporary Boulder loveseat by the Australian designer Charles Wilson and the Sinus lounge armchair and ottoman, designed in 1976 by Reinhold Adolf & Hans-Jürgen Schröpfer. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    Architect Anton Mossine clad the house with opaque white glass that picks up the color of the sky. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    The ground drops away to the rear of the property, revealing the indoor pool and spa situated beneath the living areas. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    The ground drops away to the rear of the property, revealing the indoor pool and spa situated beneath the living areas. Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
    Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Photo by Alexey Naroditskiy
  • Michael Webb

Originally published in the September/October 2015 issue of Robb Report Home & Style as “To Russia with Art

Italian American, James Magni grew up in Omaha, Neb., never imagining that he would become an acclaimed interior designer in Los Angeles and be summoned to Moscow to design the house of a Russian tycoon. 

From age 5, his ambition was to become an artist, and he nurtured his talents in a progressive high school, taking classes in painting, sculpture, and varied crafts. At the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, he hoped to become a sculptor but switched to architecture when prompted by a friend. He went to work for a commercial firm in Dallas and there found his true calling: At age 25, he gave a presentation for an office interior that so impressed the client, the client urged Magni to head west to Los Angeles. So first, Magni started his own company in that Texas metropolis and eight years later made the move to L.A. Those early days of establishing his namesake design studio saw many late nights. He and his one associate worked 12-hour days for three years, honing their skills and winning commissions. 

Thirty years later, Magni Design has completed some 300 high-end residential interiors and a scatter of other jobs—each bearing his tailored modernist credo. “When you do residential design, you are working in someone’s sacred space,” he explains. “It’s not just decorating—putting objects and artworks in rooms. Our job is to create environments that are meaningful to people, that speak very intimately to who they are and where their spirit can come to life.”

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