Each time Susan and Mauricio Prieto were in New Orleans to visit his brother Carlos Miguel, the conductor of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, they wondered out loud "Why aren't we living here? This place is amazing." And they'd lived in some pretty amazing places — 15 years in Barcelona and six in San Francisco. With one daughter, Sofia, soon off to college and the younger, Carolina, in high school and up for an adventure, the timing just felt right and they decided to make it happen. As Susan explains, "New Orleans has everything we value: we love the openness and warmth of the people, the superb food, the beautiful outdoors, and the architecture. It mixes so many facets of what we love about Spanish and French culture. There's such joie de vivre."
In 2019, they purchased a spacious Eastlake Queen Anne home on a leafy Uptown avenue. The house had been impeccably renovated by Hamilton Bros. "It felt like home almost immediately. When we first saw the house, it felt so open, bright and airy — very happy. I looked at Mauricio and the girls and they were all smiles." She found local interior design firm Logan Killen on Instagram and hired Jensen Killen that November, only months before the pandemic hit. "Their challenge was not being able to see my home in California in person. I sent them a hodgepodge of photos of furniture, rugs, and art that we were bringing with us and they pulled in everything else. When we arrived mid-July, they had all the wallpaper, window treatments, and furniture in place. It was a successful virtual design project managed in the middle of a pandemic."
For the dining room, Susan requested wallpaper that would "feel like New Orleans" and that would create an immediate sense of place. Jensen nailed it and I'm enamored. The botanical patterned paper, Bananier by Pierre Frey, delivers the wow factor. It's seductive and lush — evocative of our tropical, swampy city — and with candles lit and the Lambert et Fils Atomium chandelier dimmed, you can almost feel the humidity. It tells me that Susan really gets New Orleans, and the rest of the design scheme is off and running.
The sun-soaked living room looks out onto the pool and backyard. The ceiling was painted Farrow and Ball Teresa's Green — a luscious aqua with soft green undertones — and sky blue Kravet stripes dress the floor to ceiling windows. It's a soothing, calm room with lots of comfortable seating — a Restoration Hardware sectional, leather poufs from Serena & Lily, and low-slung armchairs from West Elm. A lacquered coffee table from Room & Board, accent pillows from San Francisco designer Serena Dugan, and a custom side table from Logan Killen keep everything light and bright. The kitchen is just as family friendly. As Susan explains, "We love cooking and entertaining, and this house lends itself to that. It's convenient to entertain in the backyard, kitchen, and dining room, although until now it's been mostly in the backyard due to Covid. Mauricio, originally from Mexico, is an amazing cook and has brought some of what he loves about Spanish food and embraced Nola flavors."
The sitting room in the front of the house is vibrant and lively, like a box of fabulous crayons mixed with just squeezed sunny fresh citrus. I love the saturated color in the teal velvet sofa from West Elm and zesty Manuel Canovas slubby linen drapes. And the iconic red Eames and Driade Clover side chairs, both purchased in Barcelona, are personality-plus silhouettes that celebrate form and function. Sentimental treasures like the lego artwork over the mantle that Carolina made as a child, the Carlo Moretti Murano glass chandelier that the couple bought on a trip to Venice, and art depicting traditional folk dress of Veracruz and Michoacán, a gift from Susan's mother-in-law, are all rooted in their family history.
Both Susan and Mauricio were working from home even prior to the pandemic, so home offices are not a change for them. Her space, drenched in natural light, is downstairs in the center of the house. "It feels a bit like a command and control center. I can work while having my pulse on what's going on with the rest of the family and house." On the other hand, Mauricio's workspace is tucked away upstairs, coated in Farrow and Ball Inchyra, a deep man-cave kind of dark greyblue. She's got a sleek desk from Restoration Hardware and uber-comfortable white leather armchairs from Conform, while he's got a cozy Eames Lounge Chair from Design Within Reach and a wall of meaningful mementos and photographs.
"This was such a fun project to work on," says Jensen. "Susan has such a unique style and so many great existing pieces — it was like a puzzle trying to figure out exactly what went together and where. The process was very collaborative and the result is an eclectic and fun space that's distinctively suited to this family." I couldn't agree more. From the charming dining room chairs (one a replica of Gaudi's Calvet chair, and the other a family heirloom from Austria containing a music box in the seat) to the graceful photograph, Swan Dive by T.S. Harris, in the master bath (a nod to the family's passion for swimming — they successfully crossed the "Mexican English Channel" in December), the home is filled with joyful furnishings gathered over time. Exuberant bursts of color, such as Carolina's Jonathan Adler lamp and the starfruit grasscloth in the butler's pantry, and handmade accessories, like the ceramic hive sculpture on the sitting room coffee table by local artist Kristina Larson, are all confident choices. With a keen appreciation of many cultures and a love for artistry and craft, the design plan has an authentic voice that illustrates my long standing belief: when you collect what you personally love, everything "goes together" in the greatest of style.
This article appeared in the March 2021 Issue of Adore Magazine.