"A Child of New Orleans" Honors Her Southern Family with a Bohemian Creole Cottage

"A Child of New Orleans" Honors Her Southern Family with a Bohemian Creole Cottage

Jacqueline Marque
Jun 18, 2018

Name: Dee Speed
Location: Marigny — New Orleans, Louisiana
Size: 1,465 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, owned

Dee Speed leads a double life. In Silicon Valley, the Design Director for YouTube lives in a 1950s California mid-century-style bungalow with her husband Nathan and five-year-old son, Cruz. There you will find Danish credenzas, mid-century arm chairs rescued from thrift stores, Brasilia side tables, and pieces from her extensive collection of mid-century glass (which she sells as a side-business). In New Orleans, she lives among rich velvety jewel-toned furnishings, ostrich feathers, gilded lamps and candelabras dripping with crystals, and an altar that serves as a shrine to her ancestors. And, believe it or not, when she isn't busy with her demanding tech career, she also works as an interior designer.

Speed was born in New Orleans. Her father was a jazz trumpeter who was determined to instill a strong appreciation of music in his children. Monday through Friday, the family listened to Jazz records; Saturdays were for R&B; and Sundays were dedicated to classical. "I don't know a life without music," says Speed. As a Design Director for YouTube Music and YouTube Red, music continues to play a central role in her life.

When Speed was in junior high, her father's work as a busy studio man led them to New York City, but New Orleans remained imprinted on her soul. She returned to visit family at every opportunity. As she was building a successful career on the West Coast, she was always dreaming of finding a way back to New Orleans, even collecting European antiques that remained in storage, along with beloved furnishings she inherited, for when the time would finally come.

Two years ago, those pieces finally found a home in an 1840s Creole Cottage located in the same neighborhood where her grandparents once lived. "This house is a tribute to my Southern family. So much of this house is filled with items I grew up around or with as a kid—my grandmother's cabinet, her chandelier, the cast iron skillets we cooked with in our kitchen… This house is the purest representation of me that is not Silicon Valley or the West Coast. This is how I grew up," she says.

Speed's home includes a sitting room with an altar that serves as a shrine to her family ancestors. If you stand to the right of it, you can see their photographs reflected in a large gilded French Rococo mirror surrounded by family mementos like her father's trumpet, voodoo dolls that belonged to her grandmother, and a Madonna that belonged to her husband's grandmother. She recalls the rustic altars covered with candles and old family portraits in her grandmother and great-grandmother's homes.

"There is a definite connection to voodoo here, both African and Catholic origins as taught to me by my foremothers," Speed explains. "My son's background is as mixed ethnically as my own, and since he will inherit this place one day, I also represent many of the Mexican Catholic symbols he is coming to learn about from his father's side. The Madonna inset in the fireplace came from his great grandmother from their family altar when he was born. Life and death and family are cyclical for us and we find our own ways to balance both here. That room is a place to reflect and talk to those people and spirits."

While she still spends most of her time in California, Speed considers New Orleans home and returns whenever she can get a break from her busy work life. Nate and Cruz join her during school breaks. "I get homesick to the point of tears fairly often because there's a closeness that I have with the people of this city and this place I don't have anywhere else," she explains. "This city and these people raised me. A lot of my family left after Katrina, but I knew I'd always come home. We've all been through a lot, anyone that was born and raised here. It's a weird kindred spirit we all recognize in each other—the way we all say hello or greet each other with a 'Hey, baby.' No matter how old I get, I feel like I'm still a child of New Orleans. There's a rhythm here and peace I cannot find anywhere else in the world. And trust me, I've looked. People think of this town as one crazy party, but to me, it's my calm in the storm that is my life on the West Coast."

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: I would describe my style as French eclectic Bohemian. It has a layered style with rich textures like velvet and florals, and feathers mixed with pops of rich jewel tone colors you'd find in our city's Mardi Gras culture of gold, green, and purple. I've combined antiques from Europe and America along with contemporary traditional styled pieces.

Inspiration: My childhood, the grand homes uptown along St. Charles, my international travels, and my career as a professional graphic and interior designer all have gone into this place, but honestly this house is a tribute to my Southern family. So much of this house is filled with items I grew up around or with as a kid… my grandmother's cabinet, her chandelier, the cast iron skillets we cooked with in our kitchen, a lamp I spotted in an antique store in Italy. This house is the purest representation of me that is not Silicon Valley or the West Coast. This is how I grew up.

Favorite Element: The location of this home in the Faubourg Marigny is my favorite element. Very walkable, great neighbors, great restaurant cafes, bars, and working families. You're close enough to the Quarter if that's your vibe but you have easy access to the rest of the Marigny and the Bywater.

Biggest Challenge: Repairing a lot of damage from neglect and retaining as much of the original architecture and finishes where we could. Previous owners cut a lot of corners and didn't show the house the respect it deserved by keeping up with repairs, so my contractor appreciated my desire to keep this beauty around for another hundred years.

What Friends Say: My friends say it definitely looks like the house of a designer and it should be in magazines.

Biggest Embarrassment: The fridge is always empty because we like to visit our local restaurants and support local businesses so entertaining can be challenging if you don't plan for it.

Proudest DIY: The entire house is my vision as a designer with pieces I've collected from my family and from around the world.

Biggest Indulgence: Late 1800s French crystal champagne coupes on the bar. Scandalous indulgence. I love servingware as this is a home meant for entertaining and relaxation. From the gold cutlery to the china, it's all a bit of an indulgence that fits with this notion of decadence and decay in New Orleans.

Best Advice: Spoke to a local historian and some members on the preservation board and they encouraged me to keep the chimney stack and shore it up despite it leaning so as not to change the roof line. Removing it would have taken a bit of the soul out of the house.

Dream Sources: Anthropologie, Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas, any and all Antique stores in UK or France.


Exterior paint: Valspar
Blue — Betsy Ross House Blue 5002-8A
Shutters — Fall Leaf 2009-5
Trim + Fence — Ultra White 7006-24

Chandelier — Inherited from my grandmother
Framed Print of Creole in a Red Turban, painted by Jacques Aman in 1840
Dominick Wing Chair — Massoud
Antique French Rococo Gilt Mirror — Purchased at auction London
Brass Trumpet - My father's
Tufted Slipper Chair — Pottery Barn
Remmy Velvet Slate Club Chair — Home Decorators Collectio

The mantel in the sitting room contains family mementos, heirlooms, gris gris and offerings to my family ancestors in a shrine. Aside from the most obvious piece which is my father's trumpet, there are two voodoo dolls that belonged to my grandmother that were passed down to me. You'll also find a Nail Fetish Nkisi Figure from Africa for protection that was gifted from my uncle when I was little with various amulets, and rosaries. My grandmother's altar from memory was similar to mine but more rustic. I remember bottles of dark liquids, candles, and hundreds of old family portraits that had cracked and curled at the edges. There were bones, some animal bones I couldn't recognize, and bowls of powders and herbs and oils.

Green Velvet Chesterfield Sofa — Tov Furniture: Hanny Sofa in Green
Pied-A-Terre Sofa — Anthropologie
Judarn Mural — Anthropologie
Portrait of my mother — Mia Bergeron
Ostrich Feather Lamp — A Modern Grand Tour: Coral
Antique Tall Chest — My own antique
Cane Woven Leather Pillow — Williams Sonoma
Antique Wooden Trunk — My own inherited from grandmother
Green Farmhouse Cabinet — Family antique made by my grandfather inherited from my grandmother
Oak Leather Italian Settee — Bellacor
Moroccan Rugs — Semikah Textiles
Antique Floral Italian Tole Floor Lamp — Purchased in NYC
French Bronze and Porcelain Sconces — Purchased in Paris
Mid-century Cane Backed Chairs — Thrift store find
Gordon Grey Velvet Tufted Chair — Home Decorators Collection
Banana leaf French Louis XVI Upholstered Armchair — My own reupholstered
Pink Round Tufted Velvet Pillow — FULYAK
Shelly Round Velvet Pillows — Urban Outfitters
Henzler Mirror Glass Coffee Table — Matthew Williams
Audrey Crystal Spray Console Lamps — Lamps Plus
Palm Tree Gold Taper Candle Holder — CB2
Antique French Empire Brass and Enamel Candelabra — Purchased in Paris
Antique Silver Champagne Buckets, French Silver Ice Bucket, Vintage Silver Salt & Pepper Shakers, Victorian Silver and Gold Flatware — Inherited from my grandmother
Antique Crystal Champagne Coupes — Saint Louis Crystal Company
Antique Gilt Gold Cocktail Double Old Fashion Glasses
Antique Pink Rosaline Champagne Flutes and Coupes — Arcoroc France
Oak Wood Rectangle Dining Table — Christopher Knight Home
Green Florist Cabinet — Gershwin and Gertie
Bitter Susan cocktail bottles — Reclamation Etchworks
Mirrored Bar Cart — My own antique

Currently under renovation

Bed — Giselle Antique Graceful Dark Bronze Victorian Iron Bed from Overstock
Mattress — Tuft & Needle
Fairhope Table Lamps — Wayfair
Chair — Victorian chair refinished by a friend
Mirror — French antique shipped from antique store outside of Paris from a business trip; you can find similar on Chairish
Textile artwork — Chris Roberts-Antieau
Quilt —My grandmother made each of her 30 grandkids a quilt by hand when we were all born.

Beds — Catalina white twin beds from Overstock
Mattresses — Tuft & Needle
Oversized Geometric Pillow — Target
Artwork — Northwood Supply Original Art Panels - Etsy
Lamps — IKEA RENARP Reading Clamp lights

Soaking Clawfoot Tub — Wayfair
Ghost Chair — Amazon
Little Chandelier — Bowsden 4 light white chandelier from Wayfair
Mirrors —The small white mirrors were old thrift store trays I upcycled, put mirror glass in, and painted white. The main mirror over the sink is from Painted Fox Home.

Thanks, Dee!

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