For 10 years, Nina Magon has been on a Beyoncé-style “Upgrade U” mission to elevate interior design in Houston, trading Texas-loved Tuscan-style vignettes for more modern, contemporary aesthetics.
She started her business, Contour Interior Design, in the midst of the recession in 2008—a risky move for the designer, who originally studied finance and economics, but one that ultimately paid off: Today, with locations in Houston and Miami, Magon’s firm has earned industry acclaim and a portfolio of high-profile projects, including work in Saks Fifth Avenue and the Med Center.
A native Canadian, Magon moved to Houston at 14 and only left for undergrad at Southern Methodist University. Later, she pursued architecture and design at the Art Institute of Houston, her solution to merge a family background in real estate with a personal penchant for fashion.
It stuck, and Magon’s lavish interiors thrust her into the spotlight in 2013 when she was chosen by Oprah Winfrey’s interior designer, Nate Berkus, to compete in NBC’s American Dream Builders. A semi-finalist, Magon went on in 2016 to participate in Design on a Dime Miami, an exclusive annual competition she’s now working to bring to Houston in her latest effort to push the design envelope here.
On the state of design in Houston:
“Since I started my company, I’ve been going against the grain. … I’m really trying to push this forward-thinking design style and bring these different organizations [like Design on a Dime] to Houston, because right now we don’t have anything like that here. We’re not on the map for anything … how is that possible when we’re right behind New York and Los Angeles [in population]? I am really, really, really trying to push Houston to make its mark on design, and one of the first ways to do that is to educate our clients that there are other design styles available–it’s not just that traditional look that you’ll see here … there are so many unique interpretations of design. What we view design as or what we think is beautiful is not necessarily beautiful universally.”
On her aesthetic:
“A forward-thinking design style where we’re taking education from history and applying that to today’s time for the modern couple or modern family.”
On becoming a designer:
“I just had this love or affinity for beautiful things–I didn’t even know that interior design was a career path I could take. … It’s invigorating, it’s exciting, you get to change people’s lives on a daily basis. There were just so many reasons for me to stay in this field. I’ve never turned back. It’s become a little bit of an obsession.”
On current projects:
“We’re doing a [10,000 square-foot house in Memorial] right now that I’m really, really, really excited about … we’re really pushing the envelope for design in that house because our client is willing to explore, and they have an affinity for designer names. We have Louis Vuitton in that house, we have Fendi in that house, we have Minotti … it’s not done in a cheesy way, it’s done very subtly. Mixing all these different brands from all over the world will really showcase in this house very nicely.”
“I can walk into any restaurant or go into the mall or go into any public place and hear multiple languages being spoken in the same location. That is my favorite thing about this city, because at that point I realize that I’m in a melting pot, and I’m surrounded and I’m enriched by so many different people on a daily basis.”
“Travel, definitely travel … even in my office–I have a very international office, we have people from all over the world working in our office, and I’ve hired purposely like that. … There’s no such thing as American design, but there is such a thing as a collective design. Whether that’s modern or traditional or whatever it is, you get inspired from other people and other cultures all the time.”
On balancing motherhood:
“It’s very hard. I have a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old, and they’re in every activity under the sun. It’s so important that I don’t take away from their passion and their dreams, but at the same time, I also have a dream, so there’s this pull all the time. … As a mom, I always have that guilty feeling, ‘I should be spending more time with my kids.’ One thing that we as mothers have to realize—especially if we have a daughter, which I do—is that the lessons I’m teaching her being a working mom are invaluable. She’s driven; she feels that she can do anything, just like her mom.”