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Houston’s “It Girl” in Interior Design: Nina Magon

Remember when Oprah Winfrey turned then-unknown (on a national stage, anyway) interior designer Nate Berkus into a household name with his first visit to her show? In 2013, Berkus paid it forward with award-winning Houston-based interior designer Nina Magon, handpicking her to be one of the 12 competitors on the 2014 NBC hit reality show “American Dream Builders.”


Photo by Laurie Perez Photography

Magon spent nine episodes showcasing her modern-glam aesthetic and passion for high design before being eliminated in the semifinals, but the news was out: Magon was “The Design Industry’s Next It Girl,” as anointed by POPSUGAR.

Those who deserve the attention reality television brings make the most of it, and Magon has proven it’s well deserved. Post-show, she has expanded her company Contour Interior Design into new markets like Miami, widened her scope of work, and, in 2016, was selected by Housing Works and Elle Décor as one of the 25 participants of Design on a Dime Miami, a three-day, star-studded benefit whose goal is to end the AIDS epidemic by 2025.

Magon’s newest project: the widely acclaimed 51fifteen Cuisine & Cocktails in Houston’s new Saks Fifth Avenue, which she calls “definitely the most challenging design I’ve ever done.” An extremely rigid timeline that required her team to “reselect and redo the design several times to meet design constraints and an impossible timeline” didn’t lessen the impact of the finished product. The “drop-dead-chic space,” as PaperCity calls it, is not only a worthy companion to The Galleria’s ultra-high-end shops (Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Jimmy Choo), it’s become a destination unto itself, not to mention a social media star. It attracts diners equally interested in grabbing a from-scratch culinary delight as they are a photo in front of the immense, light-embedded, floral art wall in the private lounge, beside the 3-D octagons in stained walnut, marble, brass and stone that run up the wall and across the ceiling of the main dining room, or under the Chihuly-like installation of acrylic blossom lights that grace the entrance.


Photo by Julie Soefer Photography

We talked to Magon about the impact her TV appearances have had on her career, her ever-growing business, what’s hot in design today and what’s coming next.

Previews Inside Out What led you to become an interior designer and open Contour Interior Design?

Nina Magon I have a degree in economics and finance from Southern Methodist University. While obtaining my bachelor’s, I knew I wanted to be in the creative field of design but was originally interested in becoming a fashion designer. With this idea in mind, I opened my own store at the age of 22 in The Galleria in Houston and quickly realized that I was more passionate about and intrigued with the design of my store than the clothing it sold. I decided it was time for me to move forward into a creative field that combined my passions for both real estate and fashion. I began reading about the icons of interior design, and it was then that I confirmed the belief that in order to follow the path of my mentors, I would need to start my own firm.

Previews Inside Out On your website, you refer to your style as “exceptionally high-level modern design.” How do you translate that to an interior?

Nina Magon When I say “exceptionally high-level modern design,” it means our design process is unmatched. We understand the ins and outs of what makes design great. From bringing creative ideas to the table to project management and all things in between, we understand the needs of each of our clients and are always working toward exceeding their expectations.

As a team, we are a forward-thinking group of individuals who specialize in creativity and unique living solutions. Not only do we house the best talent in Texas, but we understand budgetary requirements, and time and project management as well. We provide our clients with a design aesthetic that is distinctive from that of other designers in Texas. We have an abundant amount of resources from which we spec and try to never use the same selections twice.

Previews Inside Out To what would you attribute the popularity of the modern design aesthetic that’s so prevalent today?

Nina Magon I think it can be mostly attributed to people living more simplistic and environmentally conscious lifestyles. Modern design is also the future of architecture and design and is becoming more prevalent with time. For some, the familiarity of traditional design aesthetics is common, but with the rise of social media and mobile apps, we are able to gain knowledge of various design styles at a faster pace today. Gone are the days when you had to pick up a copy of a shelter publication for design inspiration and ideas. It is now as easy as opening an app on your phone or performing a few searches on the web.

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Photo by Laurie Perez Photography

Previews Inside Out Where do you think design is headed in the next few years? What’s the next big thing?

Nina Magon I think in the next few years, interior design will be completely technology driven. From how you access your front door or watch television, to how you cook and use your kitchen, technology will be further used to simplify physical activity around the home. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an iHouse in the next 10 years!

Previews Inside Out A recent tweet from you said, “When trends are involved, I don’t mind embracing them as long as they are used sparingly.” Can you expound on that?

Nina Magon Trends come and go, so you don’t want your home to begin to look aged over a short period of time. When approaching design, you always want to create a space that is going to be timeless and represent your lifestyle and personality. To execute this, I like to incorporate a combination of classic modern pieces with a few trendy touches that my clients are loving so if the trends fade, they can simply be removed. Balance in design is key.

Previews Inside Out What would you say is the most challenging aspect of breaking into the business as a young designer? How have you overcome that challenge to achieve your success?

Nina Magon Creating a brand to which your ideal client can relate. I have absolutely achieved that by staying consistent and true to what my company’s design style and goals are.

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“America Dream Builders,” photo by Jana Bishop

Previews Inside Out What impact have “American Dream Builders” and other TV projects had on your career?

Nina Magon “American Dream Builders” was a national competition in which 12 of the best designers in the United States competed against each other. I was a semifinalist and because of the finishing position and the exposure, my company was propelled to new heights at a very quick pace. Any exposure is always helpful to bring awareness to a company or brand.

Previews Inside Out How did you choose Houston and Miami for your offices? Is there any further expansion on the horizon?

Nina Magon I currently live in Houston, so that was an easy option, and my husband and I love Miami. After much research, we both decided that Miami was a perfect market for my design aesthetic, and we both want to spend more time in the city. We have expanded into the Dallas market and will now also be expanding into the Austin market.

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Photo by Laurie Perez Photography

Previews Inside Out How do you express your design expertise in different markets, or is there a common thread?

Nina Magon We are overall modern, eclectic, glamorous and forward-thinking designers. Just as clients select us, we select our clients and make sure that we are the right fit for them and can deliver the particular aesthetic they are looking for.

Previews Inside Out Are there any particularly unique challenges or designs you’re especially proud of?

Nina Magon Each project comes with a set of unique challenges. However, one of our most unique designs to date was for the new 51fifteen restaurant, located inside the new Saks Fifth Avenue in Houston. Regardless of the challenges of the timeline, the design is remarkable!

The response has been incredible. Customers are obsessing over the design and cannot stop snapping pics from inside the restaurant. Check out the hashtag #51fifteen to see all the pictures people are sharing about the new design. Everyone has said they are blown away by how spectacular and unique the design is, and they love the white, black, brass and navy color palette used throughout the space.


Photo by Laurie Perez Photography

Previews Inside Out Do you have an update on your furniture line?

Nina Magon Yes! We are currently putting the final touches on the line, and it will be available through our website this fall.

Previews Inside Out What’s your next project?

Nina Magon After completing our very first restaurant/hospitality project, I have come to the realization that I love this type of design. I would love to be known as a designer who is revolutionizing interior design in both the high-end residential and hospitality arenas. We are currently working on another great project, the lobby inside the Marlowe in Houston. It’s going to be nothing short of incredible!


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Houston’s “It Girl” in Interior Design: Nina Magon

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