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A Modern Home with Color and Character Deep in the Heart of Texas

Designer Nina Magon shows us how it’s done.

Interior design is a blend of craft cut with theater that relies heavily on good instincts. With crisp white arches and contrasting black balconies, this home in Houston’s Bellaire neighborhood alludes to that idea, and designer Nina Magon makes good on the promise.

Not entirely traditional, the architecture is a clean update on a Renaissance villa, with classic Italian molding and courtyard views. For all of its curb appeal, the exterior is an effective cover. Inside, Magon pumped in pattern, color, and art that break with conventional dolce-vita codes.  “The owners wanted a house that was forward-thinking in design but also warm and inviting,” says Magon. “This house ended up being the perfect mix of modern mixed with traditional friendliness, yet has a feeling of intense luxury.”

Magon runs Contour Design, which has offices in Houston and Miami, and her studio works with clients around the country. She is used to high-stakes creativity. As a semi-finalist on NBC’s American Dream Builders, Magon survived a televised design gauntlet that most professionals endure privately with their teams.

For the Houston home, she opted for a sleek start by outfitting the 7,000-square-foot space with gray porcelain flooring with a gloss finish for her clients—a medical engineer and fashion student. But the subtlety ends early on. In the living area, Magon’s favorite space, a bold geometric Kyle Bunting cowhide rug plays well with two Ligne Roset sofas that have Christian Lacroix pillows (not for the faint of heart) and an abstract painting by Houston-based artist Rene Garza.  She also created a lighting installation that descends from the top floor and can be viewed from the living room, upstairs office, and walkway. Modernists will recognize the group of five Random pendant lights from Dutch brand Moooi. When this fixture burst onto the scene in 2002, it earned the company instant street cred. Seen here, it demonstrates Dutch design’s enduring talent for giving us all a better-looking home life.

The open-concept layout meant Magon had to make visual connections across rooms. She chose furnishings from contemporary brands like Roche Bobois and Poliform, whose chic kitchen is a feature in Carlos Ott’s desirable Echo Brickell penthouse in Miami (and those that could handle bigger design moments). In the lounge, her own custom-designed swivel chairs are properly upstaged by a pair of oversized gray and white lamps.

 But cool furniture alone doesn’t make a home. Magon’s design concept involved custom work throughout the space, most notably a custom fireplace wall—separating the living from dining areas—that features a soaring onyx slab that illuminates and changes color. “It is stunning in person,” she says. “I loved the fact that it revealed a different color with the light on versus off, portraying versatile art in the dining room and family room since it was dual-sided.”

The media room is a stylistic departure from the typically low-key spaces that live to serve high-tech fare. This room has more in common with a hotel suite or lobby. Magon created a custom silk installation with a geometric pattern that serves aesthetic and practical purposes. “When I first walked into this room, I noticed that it had an echo. So some sort of soundproofing material would be necessary,” she says. “By covering the walls with a custom, gray silk modular wall, we were able to not only create a soundproof room for this utilitarian space but also were able to create a point of interest with the design.”

The master bedroom didn’t become the calm-but-bland oasis frequently in rotation. “The clients wanted an edgy, fashion-forward master bedroom,” says Magon. “We did this by adding Vibia sconces, dramatic wallpaper, and three-dimensional tile to the fireplace.” The couple had different wishes for the room—one asked for pops of color, while the other sought the calm of black and white. Magon resolved the debate with the wallpaper (the design was inspired by splattered paint) and a carpet that offered just enough visual interest to repel any threats of neutrality.

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