International Coffee Day

International coffee day
Coffee makes the world go round.

Today we celebrate International Coffee Day, but isn’t every day a celebration of coffee? Having been a tea-only gal for years, coffee has grown on me, thanks to our three years of living in Colorado.

These days our favorite at-home method is Cafe Bustelo cold brew. How do you drink your coffee? Does it vary throughout the day?

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Big swig of caffeine at The Southern C Summit in Charleston.

Actually, the orange Illy espresso machine was our first love, and still is for a satisfying espresso or special cappuccino with steamed milk. It still holds a place of honor in our kitchen as you can see in this photo. Next time you visit our design office or Steve’s art studio, let’s sit down and enjoy an espresso together.

Atlanta magazine HOME
Pops of orange in the McKenzie kitchen. Photo credit: Anthony Masterson

International Coffee Day takes into account all methods from drip brew, espresso, instant, iced and cold brew, our favorite method. If there are several coffee lovers at home, you may want to try making a batch of this smooth-tasting liquid black gold. Here’s the link to our inspiration from the Pioneer Woman blog. Be prepared as it does take some time (overnight) to brew and some time to strain it into your pitchers. But it’s so worth it! Mix with your milk of choice, add ice and maybe a swig of vanilla syrup for a special treat.

International Coffee Day
Deliciously rich aroma fills the kitchen as the cold brew steeps.
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For sure! Photo credit Kalyn Johnson of Effie’s Papers

And as our talented friend, Kalyn Johnson says, Ok but first coffee. Now, go out there and slay the day!

Soothing Bedroom Retreat

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Steve McKenzie designs a soothing bed for Peacock Alley

Atlanta interior designer, Steve McKenzie had the wonderful opportunity to design the bedroom of his dreams in Peacock Alley’s Designer Bed Series, a soothing retreat. Drawing from his experience in channeling clients’ needs and wants and his own, he created a calm cocoon, a get-away from the daily grind.

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Cozy cocoon from the daily grind

Using his iconic loop fabric in a custom warm cafe au lait color, Steve created a cozy headboard to frame the setting. His fabrics are digitally printed, so easily customizable to work in any decor. The addition of framed artwork elevates the space and makes it personal. Remember it’s easy to change out seasonally too.

Peacock Alley
Steve created a soothing oasis for a restful sleep. Original art by Steve McKenzie

Peacock Alley offers so many choices of luxurious bedding styles, colors and fabrics. Steve had so much fun with their vast repertoire of sheets, blankets, duvets and more. White pique shams grounded the warm tones of the pillow shams, duvet cover and dust ruffle. As a special touch, a regal single monogram was added to the outside corner of the Grand Euro pique shams.

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Steve created the outer corner monogram for the Grand Euro shams.
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Steve and his signature monogram
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A layered bed with a mix of comfort, calm and sophistication

Many thanks to Peacock Alley (our go-to for quality bedding) for the Designer Bed Series collaboration. Give it some thought. What’s the bed of your dreams?

Friday | What We’re Loving

Delightful dahlias

On Fridays, we review the highs and lows of the week, pause to ponder, and then plan for the next few weeks.

This Friday, we are loving the buildup of excitement for the upcoming Fall Design Events at AmericasMart and ADAC, the Southeast’s most comprehensive dual-venue design resource, and Steve was tapped to highlight the collaboration between these two trade shopping destinations. Over the past month, he thoughtfully created luxurious curated vignettes at each location which will be open to the trade. AmericasMart is open from Sept. 23-25 and Discover ADAC is set for Sept. 24-26 – hope to see you there!

We love dahlias…that’s our September obsession, as you can tell from Steve’s instagram account. Thanks to the sustainably-grown flower and fruit farm, 3 Porch Farm, dahlias have graced our table for two weeks. Maybe we’ll see you at the Freedom Farmers Market on Saturday. While you’re there, pick up some fabulous heirloom tomatoes too, and then make Southern Living’s Tomato Pie recipe, a real showstopper.

Finally as we pause and look ahead, the holidays (can you say Hallmark movies) will be here before you know it. We have company coming this year and thankfully we are ready for guests anytime with our beautiful American Leather Sleeper Sofa. It really is superb because there are no bars, no springs, stylish and comfy. Find out more at Verde Home, and remember to #shoplocal.

American Leather
American Leather Comfort Sleeper Sofa at Verde Home

National Dog Day + Our Favorite Dog

Today is National Dog Day. Another made-up holiday? Perhaps, but let’s take minute to love on our furry friends, and our family favorite dogs is the English Springer Spaniel, a cheerful, intelligent, attentive dog. Read on about our three ESS loves…

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Oreo, guardian of the youngest or the oldest person in the room

When we moved from the Chicago area to Atlanta in 1990, we added our first Springer, Oreo to the family, and soon thereafter our son, Carter. That sweet dog let Carter and then baby sister, Mimi learn to walk by holding onto her fur and toddling along with them. When Oreo was done, she gave them a lick, making them squeal with giggles and let go, and then tucked herself into her kennel, her safe place. I can’t say enough about our Atlanta award-winning breeder, Karen Foster. She interviewed us, giving us the pup best suited for our lifestyle, and she was spot on with Oreo. Tip – Ask you breeder lots of questions about their processes as it could save you lots of time and heartache.

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Guard dogs? Not quite, but they sure were sweet shop dogs.

As Oreo aged, we got another puppy to bridge the gap, Biscotti or Bisi. And was she every busy! She could find a tennis ball in anyone’s yard. This cute girl was a star in our Traditional Home story too. See her peeking in the front door?

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Bisi looking for her kids Photo credit: Sarah Dorio

After Oreo’s passing, it was just Bisi and our three kids. So… 8th grade daughter, Mimi, sat Steve and I down for a powerpoint presentation on why we should adopt another English Springer Spaniel from Springer Rescue America. Guess what the answer was? You guessed it. Duke joined us one month later.

English Springer Rescue America has chapters all over the United States.
Bisi hanging out in Traditional Home spread. Photo credit: Sarah Dorio
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Bisi + Duke hanging out upstairs. Photo credit: Sarah Dorio
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Adventure Duke at Atlanta Memorial Park

Why do we love our dogs? They comfort us just by being there. We look forward to coming home to that wagging tail. My dog teaches me to be more patient. My dog teaches me to find joy in the little things. Dogs lift our spirits, they are natural mood elevators. They keep us socially connected at the dog park, running into a neighbor on a walk around the block. Whether you take your dog to a “yappy” hour at a local dog-friendly spot, or just give your pooch some extra love, celebrate time with your furry friend!

Artist in Residency Recap

A month in Italy to create art – a dreamy opportunity! How did this come about, you may ask. Here’s a quick art recap of how Steve’s Artist in Residence at La Fortezza came about and the fabulous results.

You may remember last fall, Steve taught a painting workshop at Annette Joseph’s 9th century villa, La Fortezza. It was full of creativity, laughs and exploration. That lead to this offer from Annette, be the first Artist in Residence, creating work inspired by the region. And he said YES! So, this past July, he did just that, creating a body of work that reflects the history, geography and beauty of the Lunigiana region. Truly a gift to focus on art for a full month.

If you haven’t been to this part of Italy, add it to your travel bucket list. Lunigiana is a historic region between Tuscany and Liguria, drenched in history, unique foods and breathtaking views.

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Being familiar with the town and nearby art store, Steve knew what supplies he needed to take and what he could purchase there. So, with brushes and paint in hand, he spread out in the spacious studio, working on many canvases and paper pieces at once, as the inspiration moved him.

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Soldata Romano II

One of the benefits of being in one place for a longer period of time is you make friends with the locals. This was especially helpful as Steve wanted to make copies of historic rare books and ephemera at the local rare books archives, to incorporate into his paintings. With some patience and help with translating, he got more than he needed, including the Roman soldier seen above, an atlas of the region from 1785, and a lawyer’s goat skin bound book of contracts from 1635, all incorporated into various works of art.

It wasn’t all painting, there was cooking to be done, in Annette’s fabulous kitchen, plus visiting local museums, sites and an artists’ co-op. Check out Annette’s many workshops here.

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A new favorite, Mutti tomatoes mixed with simple garden produce were the base for many suppers.

One of the artists shared some scrap chunks of Carrara marble with Steve. What an amazing new conduit for his art, another blessing from travels and learning from new friends.

Sculpture by Steve McKenzie – Carrara marble

How does one end such a wonderful month of painting? With a show of course! A downpour didn’t dampen our spirits either. The food truck brought the food inside the studio where our friends, local and from afar, ate, drank and danced into the night.

The next day, we packed up the art, said ciao to La Fortezza, and headed to the iconic beach town, Forte Dei Marmi, the perfect way to cap off a jubilant July.

Easy Icing for Steve’s Cake

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Steve McKenzie topping off the Sour Cream Cake with this easy icing!

We’re tickled at all the requests for this easy recipe, and happy to share. It will become part of your baking repertoire for sure. If you missed the Sour Cream Cake recipe, jump back to this blog post.

Add a special flavor with Jackson Morgan Southern Cream Salted Caramel

Good old Food Network and Alton Brown came to the rescue for a simple royal icing and here’s the recipe. Always looking to change things up, Steve decided to incorporate the delicious Jackson Morgan Southern Cream in Salted Caramel.

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Add a special ingredient to this versatile icing
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A couple of bowls, your trusty hand mixer, and fresh mint
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Perfect for sharing with friends

Just add a few colorful touches like the Creative Candles votives, pretty Mottahadeh plates, and these darling monogrammed napkins from The Preppy Stitch, and you have a dessert party.

Let us know if you make this cake and icing, and if you use a special ingredient in the icing. Tag and follow us on Instagram and/or Facebook. Happy baking!

Easy Sour Cream Cake

As promised, here is Steve’s family recipe for this easy sour cream cake. It’s a family recipe from his Aunt Judy, awarded with the coveted placement in several church cookbooks. Beloved for its versatility too, Steve added this drizzle Jackson Morgan Salted Caramel icing, or you can take advantage of fresh fruit like strawberries and peaches, finished off with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Sour Cream Cake

3 cups cake flour (we really did sift the flour per the instructions)
3 cups sugar
1 c. sour cream
1 c. butter, softened
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
6 eggs, separated (You will beat the egg whites into stiff peaks)

Sift flour; add soda and sift again. Cream butter and sugar thoroughly, and add egg yolks, one at a time. Add flour and sour cream alternately. Add stiffly beaten egg whites. Bake in a greased and well-floured angel food cake pan or bundt pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for 1.5 hours.
Let cool 10 minutes, then flip on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
sour cream cake
Finished product!

When Paige Minear suggested this delicious collaboration, Steve knew exactly what cake he wanted to pair with the Jackson Morgan Southern Cream Salted Caramel deliciousness. So he called Aunt Judy in Kentucky, she texted the recipe, and now we get to share it with you. We baked it in a bundt pan like this one. Individual bundt cakes would be a fun at everyone’s place setting for a special celebration, or just because it’s Monday. Then you could set out separate toppings (think sprinkles, fruit, chocolate chips) and let everyone dress their own cake.

With a little planning, you can whip up this simple cake first thing in the morning, before the kitchen gets too hot, and then you’re done. Voilà you have dessert and you’re a hero!

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Yes, please!

How do you showcase your desserts? I love to bring out one of our cake stands, either my grandmother’s pressed glass cake stand or a colorful Deruta Italian cake stand, a souvenir from our travels. As they say in show business, it’s all about the presentation.

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Summer Dessert table

If you do bake this Sour Cream Cake, please share a photo of your cake with us on Facebook or Instagram, using the hashtag #InspiredTailoredAuthentic #stevemckenzies. Happy baking!


Did Someone Say Dessert?

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Dessert Soiree with Paige Minear

Happy Summer! What better way to kick off summer entertaining than a simple dessert soiree? Paige Minear of The Pink Clutch Blog joined us for a homemade Sour Cream Cake, complemented with some of her favorite things, including her gorgeous collection from Creative Candles, Mottahadeh china and classic monogrammed cocktail napkins from The Preppy Stitch.

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Whipping up a simple icing with Jackson Morgan Southern Cream

Everyone enjoys a little dessert. For a simple icing, Steve whipped up confectioners sugar, vanilla, fresh mint and added Jackson Morgan Southern Cream in Salted Caramel for a little something special. Perfect!

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Steve adding the final touch to his cake
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Paige making ice cream with Jackson Morgan Whipped Orange Cream
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Refreshing dessert
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Ice cream all dressed up
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Easy entertaining with a twist, and aren’t those candles perfect with the flowers?

Wait until you try Creative candles! Honestly, we’ve used their Paris Gray candles for every occasion for years. After seeing these in person, we may change to Paige’s summer collection as it’s so cool, soothing yet vibrant.

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Paige lighting the candles, such a lovely touch~
dessert china Steve McKenzie
Sour Cream Cake with Jackson Morgan Salted Caramel icing, served on Mottahadeh plates
dessert Steve McKenzie
Summer Dessert table

Keep cool in the kitchen and enjoy a summer dessert with your family and friends. We’re happy to share our recipes and tips with you. Just send us a message!

Southeastern Showhouse – Explore Design

If you haven’t visited the Southeastern Showhouse yet, make plans to do so right now! Your senses will be delighted with design, inside and out. I had the privilege to tour the Southeastern Showhouse, thanks to Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles, and will share some highlights. There is so much to take in, you need to take the time and visit for yourself, relish in these design details.

Built by Southern Gentry Homes, this 6 bedroom, 7 bath, 12,000 square foot home flows effortlessly on this scenic property.

The kitchen and keeping area took my breath away. Yvonne McFadden is a master of natural materials, yet balances the mood with a sophisticated tone. Definitely a fan of the open shelving design!

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Yvonne McFadden is a master with natural materials.

Then you move outside to this cool, sexy space by Tish Mills Kirk –

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Tish Mills Kirk creates an outdoor oasis.
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Robert Brown Interior Design masterfully mixes patterns, textures and art.

The design community gives us such richly layered rooms, so many details to absorb and enjoy. As a designer, it’s a privilege and responsibility to bring out the best of a space and experiment a bit, like Steve did in the Macon Showhouse in 2017.

Here are some glimpses into the masterful bedrooms, beginning with the master bedroom designed by Huff-Dewberry.

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Huff-Dewberry updates the classic wall of blue and white china.
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Off the master bedroom, Huff Harrington creates a restful outdoor retreat.

Now we’ll move upstairs for sunsets, canopies, and more…

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Holly Phillips and her ode to a Moroccan sunset.
Honey Collins Interiors came home to Atlanta to design this special bedroom.
Ashley Gilbreath showed up with all the textures, metal details and more.

There’s no better way to ignite your creative spirit than by visiting special hubs of design, like this one. Where does your eye go first? What does your eye linger upon? Whether you incorporate these details now or later, remember how they make you feel.

Mother’s Day + Magnolia

Happy May! That means Mother’s Day is soon, and we have a beautiful way to celebrate with Mom – a magnolia wreath class with Erin Weston of Weston Farms.

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Make this evergreen magnolia wreath!

On Saturday, May 11th, join us for the morning class and make your very own lush, full circle magnolia wreath. A light lunch is included, so bring a friend or Mom to make it a memorable time together. Class starts at 10am and tickets are $150 with limited space. Click here to get your tickets.

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Parris Magnolia Bowtie is the afternoon class

In the afternoon class, from 2pm – 3:30pm, you’ll make the famous Parris magnolia Bowtie swag. Perfect for the table, above a piece of art, or as a gift to mom on Mother’s Day. Tickets are $50 and available here.

Mother's Day magnolia

Did you know these magnolia pieces will last for up to a year, sometimes longer?! That means you will enjoy them for all the seasons. Maybe you’ll tuck some fresh seasonal flowers in amongst those velvety leaves, or a bit of sparkly ribbon for Halloween and Christmas. The possibilities are endless!

It feels good to make something with your hands, and as a mom, a hand-made gift is so much more special. We hope to see you at one of these fun-filled classes!

And when you visit the Southeastern Designer Showhouse & Gardens, snap a photo in front of Weston Farms magnificent magnolia wall! Get details on this ever-popular spring showhouse here .

Happy Spring!