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L.A. designer James Magni turns a page in Modernism books

April 02, 2013

Designers once had to land an HGTV television gig to emerge beyond the world of coffee-table books and shelter magazines. James Magni, however, may have created another channel for getting his design message to the masses: video.

Like many other designers, Magni has come out with a book -- a monograph, as some like to say -- called "Magni Modernism" (Abrams, $60), released Tuesday. With a witty introduction by Mayer Rus, the book chronicles the L.A.-based designer’s 25-year career -- 240 pages of Magni-fied homes, some local (Beverly Hills, Balboa Island) and some not (an ultra contemporary dacha in Moscow, a penthouse in Mexico City).

The connection among all of them is the designer’s minimalist approach. Pattern and personal collections are played down — way down — and streamlined, striking furniture and materials are used in dramatic, less-is-more ways. Consider it eye candy for those who dream of clutter-free counters, chairs that do not suffer the company of throw pillows and windows that are not asked to compete with curtains.

But Magni has taken the unusual step of also creating a series of videos to accompany the book. Starring himself and others such as artist April Gornik, Museum of Contemporary Art chairman emeritus Clifford Einstein and Details magazine editor in chief Dan Peres, the videos highlight the designer’s focus on art, light and sensuality. Interviews are accompanied by images of Magni’s interiors and other, less intuitive clips of people walking down stairs, cars moving along freeways and bread being braided. The promotional videos are being posted to YouTube -- the ones on design and art are live -- but readers might be more satisfied simply looking at Magni's work.

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