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As Siren Design expands, AD PRO checks in with the new U.S. partner

It’s often in times of hardship that unforeseen paths reveal themselves. Take, for example, interior architect Christina Magrans, who has 20 years of industry experience with projects for global luxury brands Tiffany & CoDolce & Gabbana, and Longchamp to her credit. After spending a decade building her career at CallisonRTKL, assembling a talented team of designers and mentoring younger staff as a corporate office vice president and regional lead of retail, her position was eliminated during a massive company downsizing late this past summer. Magrans found herself at a crossroads. And that’s when Mia Feasey, founder and CEO of Siren Design, a female-led Australasian design firm based in Sydney with offices in Melbourne and Singapore, hired her to launch Siren Design USA as a partner and New York managing director.

Feasey and Magrans met at a dinner in January 2016 and became fast friends. “We sat down and immediately started talking about the design world, what drives us, and our passions,” Magrans recalls. “Since then, we’ve continued to always talk about best practices, pain points, and struggles that we each were having. We’ve been each other’s support throughout the years in this industry.”

Siren Design

Siren Design’s Melbourne, Australia, office design for business consultancy firm Maximus. Cheyne Toomey

At a time when many design firms are struggling and downsizing, Feasey decided to seize the moment and expand Siren to the U.S. market. “Now’s the time to do things differently. One of the positives of 2020 is that it has given us time to reflect and to reframe things,” Feasey offers. “I realize it seems counterintuitive; however, COVID-19 and the travel restrictions actually made things simpler, not harder. We were already so comfortable with working remotely and collaborating across time zones that it was a natural progression. It’s been quite seamless.”

Inspired by her immigrant father, who moved to the U.S. from Cuba at age 14, Magrans felt extremely motivated to start a business, and agrees that it’s an optimal time for the Siren Design USA launch. “I don’t need an office, so there’s no overhead. And because, unfortunately, I had to let so many people go [from my team at CallisonRTKL], there are really great people available for freelance work. So they’re all going to be my contract employees,” Magrans explains. “I can be very nimble—thus, in theory, I could be successful because of this moment.”

Siren Design

Inside Siren Design’s Cambooya project, the office of an Australian philanthropic organization. Nicole England

Because of COVID, she sees extreme growth potential within the health and wellness sector, which is where she’s concentrating her focus, in addition to enhancing the firm’s retail portfolio. Through weekly strategy meetings among managing directors, the leadership team has been discussing how to collaborate across offices because, Magrans says, “We have such talented staff that I would love to leverage—especially the designers in the workplace sector—so that I can provide that same level of creativity and design here in the U.S. for similar workplace clients, like Facebook and Google. And when it comes to retail projects, then I’ll be using my own network.”

But Magrans stresses that she wants to remain a smaller-scale, boutique firm. “Ideal size would be a 15-person firm, and I would like to be working within all 50 states,” she says of when she starts hiring full-time employees next year. In the meantime, she looks forward to hosting strategy meetings at the big dining room table in her SoHo apartment and having off-sites, like taking her eventual team to Tulum for a few days. “I want to create experiences unlike anything anybody has had yet in the industry. I want it to be very special and really be about the people,” she says, echoing the Siren ethos set forth by Feasey. “Everything about Mia’s vision goes back to her mission of enabling people to thrive. She just brings you into the Siren family so fast. It’s like a warm embrace.”

Siren Design

The Commons, a coworking space designed by Siren Design. Skyline Creative

In 2019, in response to the wildfires that ravaged Australia, Feasey redefined her company’s mission to include a focus on sustainability: “Our purpose is to use our creativity to inspire businesses to care for the planet,” she says, adding that she and Magrans share a belief in the importance of creative thinking and the idea that “good design and a creative approach can help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.”

Energized by working with such an immensely accomplished, dynamic group of women—Siren’s global staff of 75 is 85 percent female—Magrans says she plans to continue to pay it forward. “I want to make sure that women are a big part of my New York team, and I humbly aspire to be a role model to other women in our industry,” she says. “Thinking longer-term, I plan to allocate a portion of our firm’s time for pro bono work for female-led and minority-led companies. Being able to inspire, impact, and support others are core values of mine, and seeking out companies and brands that align with our values are at the center of our vision.”


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