International family makes inspiring stop in Hendersonville

By Hollie Deese

Photography by Reeves Smith

Designer Joana Magalhães and her husband, Pedro, both grew up in Porto, Portugal, but never met until they were both in Italy for school — she was studying architecture while he finished his engineering degree. They ended up renting rooms in the same house, and she says it was a true Italian love story.

“Our friends used to say it was ‘il destino,’ which means it was destiny. We were meant to find each other.”

After Italy they returned to Porto. Then a few years later, in 2003, she and Pedro decided to experience another adventure, this time in Madrid. There, her specialty was designing high-end homes before moving into interior design, working on homes on the magnificent mile of Madrid.

“I worked in this super-cool studio that was supervising a big spa in the Pyraneese called Anticos, working with Rafael Moneo and other Pritzker Prize architects,” she says. “I got exposed to lots of different cultures, different people.”

Pedro’s job next took them to California. At that point they had two children and were interested in experiencing a totally different culture with their kids. They spent six years on the West Coast, and that is where Joana started her own design business, MixeDesigns Interiors. It’s also where they had their third child.

“Suddenly, I started working with furniture companies and consulting for a big local interior design firm, where I got to work with many famous names on several million-dollar houses,” she says.

One of those companies was CB2, and once she began collaborating with them, the opportunity arose to move to Tennessee. They thought, “Why not?”

“We had surfed the Californian waves,” she says. “Now we were ready to experience Southern hospitality,” she says.

That’s when they landed in Hendersonville.

“It was very different. The art is amazing. People are super-friendly, super-welcoming. Life is slower-paced but really rich and enriching.”

Joana says working and being creative at home is a path that she was fortunate enough to grow slowly, and it has worked through all of their many moves. Plus, it gives her the flexibility to work on furniture design, interiors and a home accessories line with the California company Be Home.

“It’s great because I get to do many different things,” she says. “It’s almost like you feel everything is possible.”

She also gets to show off her family’s love of adventure through their own home’s design — a wall of maps, a wall-hung scooter — including the pieces they have picked up right here in Middle Tennessee.

The table where she looks at fabrics and samples is from Wonders on Woodland, a piece that she says she will always remember from this phase in their lives. Same with the Hatch Show Print on the wall, and the framed Johnny Cash lyrics in the bathroom.

“I love Johnny Cash,” she says. “He has that dark side. It’s really in the roots of what Nashville is. That part I will take in my heart, for sure. We have had a wonderful three-year period.”

She says “had” because the family is on the move again. They recently packed up their home in the city by the lake and moved back to Madrid — with no house lined up but open to any and all possibilities.

“We will cross that bridge when we arrive,” she says of finding their next home. “It’s insane, but at the same time it’s exciting. We feel that our life is a path, and these changes, I think, are enriching. For us, sure, but also we want to transmit that same feeling for our kids. It all came together, and we said, ‘Do we jump, or do we not?’ We jumped.”

But first they made a pit stop in Barcelona so Pedro could represent the USA in the field hockey over-40 division Men’s Masters World Cup. All of these experiences add up to what they hope is a rich life for them and their children.

“Now that they are older, I think they feel this path as their own as well,” she says. “They know that there will be the adaptation period, but they see all the good stuff that can bring. They see us as a cell. We see us as a cell. If we move together, we are okay.”