Designer Spotlight

Francophile Melissa Morgan Infuses Texas Interiors with Parisian Glamour

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan portrait M Interiors

Melissa Morgan launched her San Antonio studio, M Interiors, after working as a corporate lawyer (portrait by Liliana Story Photography). Top: In the living room of a 1940s Spanish Colonial Revival house in San Antonio, antique Louis XVI–style bergères from Antiques on Old Plank Road flank an Anglo-Indian side table near an 18th-century Italian commode from Olivier Fleury, Inc. A sputnik chandelier hangs above. All photos by Stephen Karlisch unless otherwise noted

Melissa Morgan would likely agree with Honoré de Balzac’s proclamation: “Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.” Like many designers around the world, she is a frequent visitor to the city’s Marché aux Puces and the antique shops and museums of its seventh arrondissement. But her Francophilia extends beyond the French capital. She has lived and traveled in France during various periods of her life, and she still vacations each summer in the South of France with her political consultant husband, Kelton Morgan, and their Gallic-named teenage daughters, Marguerite and Sophie.

“I love the lines of certain periods of French furniture,” she says. “My favorite eras are Louis XVI, Directoire and French Restoration. I really appreciate the quality of the craftsmanship, which is almost impossible to do today, at least to that extent.”

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors San Antonio entry foyer dining room

In the home’s foyer (right), an Empire chandelier hangs over an antique carved-wood Chinese table standing on a zebra rug. The space opens to the dining room (left), in which Dessin Fournir chairs surround a dining table under a Murano glass chandelier. The rock crystal obelisks on the table are from 1stdibs. 

A French thread weaves through the work of Morgan’s San Antonio–based firm, M Interiors. Of course, French decor is hardly an anomaly in the Lone Star State, where the studio does the majority of its projects. But many Texan designers favor more ornate, gilded periods, such as Baroque and Rococo. And they may mix these pieces with antiqued Venetian mirrors and highly polished wood surfaces or sprinkle them liberally among modern furnishings in materials like Lucite. This approach achieves a certain glamour, Morgan admits: “It looks great on Instagram. It’s light and bright. But it can also be a bit formulaic to me. There aren’t enough antiques there for my own taste. What separates our interiors is the kind of layering we do with pieces.”

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors San Antonio bedrooms

Left: The master suite features a custom bed upholstered in Holland & Sherry fabric set against paneling of cerused white oak; the rock crystal lamp on the bedside table is by Vaughn. Right: Morgan decided to wrap two walls in the bedroom of the clients’ teenage daughter in a Muriel Brandolini fabric to create what she calls “a super cozy and chic hideaway.” The ceiling fixture is vintage, as is the French chair. 

The emphasis on less embellished, more neoclassical genres of French design imparts a certain substantiality and groundedness to Morgan’s interiors; they feel real and accessible. Antiques of these periods, she believes, “are like workhorses. They always work, always look beautiful. Those pieces help places remain classic. And they pair well with modern sensibilities because they’re comfortable. Louis XVI bergères and fauteuils are comfortable because they’re human scale. They don’t take up a lot of space on a floor plan.”

Francophile Melissa Morgan Infuses Texas Interiors with Parisian Glamour
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Francophile Melissa Morgan Infuses Texas Interiors with Parisian Glamour
Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Medina dining room

In the dining room of a house in Medina, Texas, San Antonio–based designer Melissa Morgan surrounded an antique Louis Philippe dining table with Maison Jansen chairs covered in an Old World Weavers fabric. Photo by Dror Baldinger Photography

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Medina girls' bunk bedroom

This kid-friendly space is big enough that Morgan didn’t have to create a bunk room to accommodate four sleeping little ones. The lamps are by Visual Comfort. Photo by Dror Baldinger Photography

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Medina master bathroom

In the master bathroom, a crystal chandelier from the clients’ collection hangs over a reupholstered antique French settee. Photo by Dror Baldinger Photography

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Medina living room staircase

Against a set of stairs, Morgan placed an antique Spanish table topped by a pair of mid-century-modern gilt lamps and a Native American woven bowl, among other pieces. Under the table is an antique Swedish painted-wood box. The painting over the stairs is by Harris Shelton. Photo by Dror Baldinger Photography

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Medina master bedroom seating area

Morgan had an antique French daybed reupholstered in purple mohair for the master bedroom, whose drapes are a Clarence House fabric. In the foreground are a pair of antique bergères and a Maison Baguès gilt-bronze coffee table. Photo by Dror Baldinger Photography

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Medina living room

An artwork by Jan Heaton holds pride of place in the living room, where the pair of wing chairs are antiques and the rest of the upholstered pieces, as well as the coffee table, are new. Photo by Dror Baldinger Photography

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Fredericksburg guesthouse kitchen

In the joint dining and kitchen area of a guesthouse in Fredericksburg, Texas, Morgan placed Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs at a table made of antique planks of white oak under a trio of lights from Urban Electric Company. The kitchen island’s countertop is made of Texas mesquite wood. 

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Fredericksburg guesthouse living area

On the other side of the dining area from the kitchen is the guesthouse’s living room, which features a 19th-century Italian chandelier from Cote Jardin Antiques, Casamidy armchairs and an antique English oak side table. 

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Fredericksburg guesthouse bedrooms

In both the master (right) and an additional bedroom, images by Charles Beckendorf are arranged in grids over the headboards; each also contains one of a pair of pendant lamps Morgan bought from an antiques dealer in Nice. In the master, the daybed is from a French antiques market. 

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors Fredericksburg guesthouse bedroom

Atop the 19th-century English dresser beside the bed in the children’s room are a Mexican antique pottery bowl, a green-glazed ceramic lamp and Staffordshire sewer tile dogs. The sconce is from the Urban Electric Company. 

This is readily apparent in a 1940s Spanish Colonial Revival house in San Antonio, where the client, says Morgan, requested “a clean and modern look given some classic foundation with beautiful antiques that would make it feel elegant and luxe.” She deployed bergères from several Louis periods throughout: In an otherwise modern, masculine-feeling bedroom, she paired a Louis XIV one with a tailored, grid-tufted headboard, and, in a more feminine bedroom, she juxtaposed a Louis XVI example with contemporary nesting tables that feature a graphic black-and-white pinwheel pattern. In a sunroom, a pair of green-velvet-upholstered bergères sit within sight of a round table whose base is faux bois, a material mimicking wood that was developed in France during the 1860s (hence its French name). Morgan appointed the dining room, which she enveloped in a silk chinoiserie wallcovering, with two consoles by the mid-century Parisian designer Pierre Vandel.

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors San Antonio condo living area

In the open-plan central living space of an apartment in a high-rise in San Antonio, Morgan hung a Murano glass chandelier from Jean Marc Fray above the dining table in the back of the room. The blue Florence Knoll chairs in the foreground, purchased on 1stdibs, flank a glass and leather coffee table by Jacques Adnet. Between the two spaces is a curved mid-century-modern sectional, also from 1stdibs. 

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors San Antonio condo credenza

A vintage red-and-white Chinese porcelain lamp sits on an Italian credenza from 1stdibs. To the right is an antique Maison Jansen side chair covered in a Forsyth fabric. The artworks above are by Robert Mangold

Morgan’s talent for mixing traditional French antiques with more modern pieces is evident as well in a stone ranch in the hill country of Medina, Texas. Here, she furnished the children’s dormitory-style bunk room with a row of white-painted French-style beds, placed a Louis XVI settee in a window niche of the master bath and formed a seating area in the master bedroom from a violet velvet chaise and champagne-hued armchairs with upholstered French frames.

For a condo in a San Antonio high-rise, Morgan created a design with a dual personality — one part Gallic, one part multicultural with French accents. The front, mostly comprising the homeowners’ personal spaces arranged enfilade, is classically français: A Jules Leleu credenza lives in the master bedroom and a French bergère in the master bath; an oak-paneled library showcases the elegant marquetry of a Louis XVI desk with discreet bronze-doré ornamentation.

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors San Antonio condo cat room

The apartment includes a room designed specifically for the clients’ cats. Morgan swathed it entirely in a Brunschwig et Fils pattern and hung one wall with a grid of images from Andy Warhol‘s “A Cat Named Sam” series. The other artwork is by Susan Rothenberg.

The rear of the apartment — which caters more to gatherings of extended family, including younger children — is modern. The furnishings, an amalgam of genres, include mid-century Murano glass light fixtures, a Maison Arbus–like credenza and a 1970s marble-topped coffee table embraced by a crescent-shaped contemporary sofa. The Gallic influence is less marked here, expressed subtly in such elements as the sofa, which “is like something Eileen Gray might have done at Villa E-1027, in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin,” points out Morgan, referring to the house that Gray designed according to Le Corbusier’s “Five Points of a New Architecture” and where she famously deployed her rounded-back Bibendum chair. Visiting the villa was a seminal experience for Morgan. And although it is the creation of an Irish-born designer, its spirit is quintessentially French.

Morgan’s path to interior design was far from direct. She was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eldest of three children. Her father was in real estate; her mother was a painter. The family moved to San Antonio when she was 10, for her dad’s work and because they had family in Texas.

Although Morgan liked design, she never seriously considered it as a career. At Southern Methodist University, she declared a double major in political science and French (her Francophilia clearly already established), with a minor in art history. After earning her bachelor’s degree, in 1991, she enrolled in law school at St. Mary’s University, graduating in 1995 and taking a job at a Dallas-based law firm.

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors San Antonio condo library study home office

In the white-oak-paneled study, an antique chandelier from the clients’ collection hangs from the ceiling, helping to illuminate a 19th-century Louis XVI–style crescent-shaped tulipwood desk with marquetry, leather and bronze-doré details. Morgan purchased it from Loveday.

For 10 years she practiced corporate securities law. But, she recalls, “when I had my girls, I wanted a career that allowed more flexibility. So, I stopped.”

Morgan began doing small-scale design projects for friends and, in 2004, created M Interiors. “I didn’t know anything, but I didn’t want to apply for a job somewhere,” she says. “I was fortunate to have friends who worked for big design firms in New York who answered all my questions — from sourcing to invoicing.”

Morgan now employs two other designers. She has no grand expansion plans. “I want to take on only projects I want,” she explains. “The interview process goes both ways for me. These relationships last a very long time, so you really have to make sure you get along.”

Nor does Morgan want to be pigeonholed as a “French” designer. There are certain projects, she observes, for which the style is simply not appropriate. For instance, at a guest house she designed in Fredericksburg, Texas — which was founded by German émigrés in the mid-19th century — “French would look too weird and forced,” she says. “Even a simple French country chair would look too fancy.”

Texas interior design Melissa Morgan M Interiors San Antonio condo master suite bedroom bathroom

Left: In the master bedroom, Gabriel Godard’s Femmes au jardin hangs over an Art Deco credenza by Jules LeLeu from Loretta Antiques; to the left is a Carl Malmsten daybed, also from 1stdibs. Right: A Maison Jansen armchair sits in a window in the master bathroom, where John Richard Fox‘s Abstraction in Blue adorns the wall above a tub encased in a slab of Calacatta marble.

Instead, she furnished it with bedsteads constructed of dark-stained saplings and made generous use of subtle plaids (“Plaid reads a little country, but not with a K, if you know what I mean,” she quips). “We are definitely not the decorator for everyone,” she notes. 

 

Melissa Morgan’s Quick Picks

Boucheron Hans the hedgehog bangle, 2019, offered by Fraleoni Shop Now
Boucheron Hans the hedgehog bangle, 2019, offered by Fraleoni

“This is exactly what I love in fine jewelry — exquisite work along with a sense of whimsy. Just perfection”

Eileen Gray Transat chairs, 20th century, offered by Splendid Antiques Shop Now
Eileen Gray Transat chairs, 20th century, offered by Splendid Antiques

“These chairs are the epitome of grace and function. They were designed for Gray’s game-changing house in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and they remind me of that magical place each time I see them.”

Jean-Jacques Kirschenbach <i>bureau plat</i>, 18th century, offered by Parc Monceau Antiques, Ltd. Shop Now
Jean-Jacques Kirschenbach bureau plat, 18th century, offered by Parc Monceau Antiques, Ltd.

“Why not work on something lovely and chic, such as this desk? Its classic simple lines function in any sort of interior — modern to extremely traditional.”

Maison Charles lamp, 1960s, offered by Galerie Glustin Luminaires Shop Now
Maison Charles lamp, 1960s, offered by Galerie Glustin Luminaires

“Love this lamp and its sense of sculpture. Also, the brass shade is so charming.”

<i>Chestnut Tree</i>, ca. 1914, by Ferdinand Hodler & R. Piper & Co., offered by Galerie Fledermaus Shop Now
Chestnut Tree, ca. 1914, by Ferdinand Hodler & R. Piper & Co., offered by Galerie Fledermaus

“The simple lines of this chestnut tree are very powerful. The execution is flawless.”

Hermès gold Chaîne d'ancre, late 20th century, offered by Botier Inc Shop Now
Hermès gold Chaîne d'ancre, late 20th century, offered by Botier Inc

“This is a wonderful necklace, the type of classic design you could wear every day. Hermès does it best.”

<i>West Texas: Fort Davis plain from Davis Mountains</i>, 2012, by Peter Brown, offered by PDNB Gallery Shop Now
West Texas: Fort Davis plain from Davis Mountains, 2012, by Peter Brown, offered by PDNB Gallery

“I’m always struck by the beauty of clouds. This photograph reminds me of the blue Texas sky, which I love so much.”

<i>Garden Lily Pond Painting</i>, 1960, Frederick Jessup, offered by Erin Lane Estate Shop Now
Garden Lily Pond Painting, 1960, Frederick Jessup, offered by Erin Lane Estate

“The style and colors of this painting are sublime. The various shades of green, the birds, the waterlilies and the flowers are striking.”

Baguès sconces, 1890, offered by Avery & Dash Collections Shop Now
Baguès sconces, 1890, offered by Avery & Dash Collections

“A wonderful example of a classic Baguès sconce. The rock crystal flowers and leaves, along with the silver-gilt finish, are so chic.”

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