It’s worth the extra effort to transform a temporary house into a stylish home, says designer Megan Rice Yager, who moved into an Italianate-style rental in San Antonio’s Monte Vista Historic District when her husband accepted a new job. The couple plan to buy a house but required a local launching pad to begin the search. “The challenge was to get this house to a point where it worked for me, my husband, and our three kids without spending a ton of money or buying things specific to this house,” explains Yager.
With a confident, deliberate eye, Yager artfully tailored the space to fit her family’s needs. She stuck with her long-loved furnishings that were shipped from a previous address in Sun Valley, Idaho. Think pairs of bergères, Fortuny pillows, collections of vintage monogrammed linens, and Blue Willow china.
An impressive eight-foot-long sofa, re-covered in green linen velvet, has followed the family through many moves. “The sofa has lasted a million years and has fit every situation,” explains Yager. “There’s a reason that the traditional seating arrangement—a sofa, a pair of armchairs, and a coffee table—is still popular. It works.”
The peach-colored walls in the living room were much paler than Yager’s favorite colors (assertive blues and greens), but the no-paint rule didn’t crush her vision. “Peach is my kryptonite,” laughs the designer, who tackled the problem with deep coral curtains that ignite the room. By adding another color in the same family, the coral curtains created an “envelope of color” she can live with. She painted the overscaled abstract painting above the mantel to tie it all together.
With loads of creative vision and barely a new purchase, Yager dressed up her digs in style. There’s space for entertaining, well-lit reading nooks, and room to show off her vintage handbag collection. She has a knack for arrangements, whether setting the table with hand-painted fish dishes (found in a consignment shop) or turning a side table into a chic bar cart (with sparkling bottles corralled on a black lacquer tray). Landscape paintings by her father, artist Richard Rice, remind her of places she once called home. “He paints window views of places where we lived,” explains Yager.
Yager created a chic bar console with an “extra high” antique Chinese campaign table.
When the bedroom didn’t provide enough windowless wall space to accommodate a queen-size bed, Yager covered the windows with a six-panel chinoiserie screen that once belonged to a friend. “I love it and will use it when we buy a house,” says Yager, who has re-covered the silk velvet headboard three times.
Yager is pleased with the style in her temporary digs. “We didn’t want to rush into buying something just because we were unhappy in our rental,” she says. “Now we can take our time.”
What traditional means to Megan Rice Yager
- I love iconic objects—comfortable bergères, dhurries, and Fortuny fabric.
- I’m a fool for Blue Willow dishes.
- I collect monogrammed dinner napkins and other vintage linens.
- I’m not afraid to cover a stool from the flea market with Fortuny fabric. The cushion costs ten times more than the chair. I think it looks great!
- I seek out hardback books and throw away the dust jackets. I love the books to be all faded.
- I’m into architectural salvage and antiques, but I don’t care about provenance for myself. I’ll buy in a junk shop if I like it!
Photography: Colleen Duffley