Tastemaker Tuesday – Eric & Ruthann Ross

We were lucky enough to have been introduced to the memorable duo of Eric and Ruthann Ross through our friend Suzanne Cooper, from Traditional Home, at the Design Bloggers Conference back in early 2015. As soon as we heard they were also a southern minded husband/wife team in the interior design business, we knew our introduction was kismet – we were destined to meet!

Eric and Ruthann Ross

Much like Steve and Jill’s partnership, Eric is the designer, while Ruthann is his undying supporter and team member in both work and life. Eric’s immense talent for design is put to work through Eric Ross Interiors, based out of Franklin, Tennessee, but their clients span the Southeast and beyond. Ross’ interiors are luxurious, while still being livable and portraying their client’s unique personalities. Eric Ross Interiors’ traditional aesthetic is anything but stuffy, and the spaces created are as warm and welcoming as this sweet couple… We think you’ll enjoy getting to know them as this month’s Tastemaker team:

1. Three words that describe your aesthetic?

Ruthann: Welcoming, Classic and Cheerful – I am always s so thankful when people tell us our home is warm and comfortable.  We want people to have that special, cherished feeling when they enter.

Eric: Lush, layered, relaxed…Can you use those words together?  People always tell me how beautiful my rooms are, but that they are so comfortable to be in.  That’s what I try to achieve with each project.


2. Would you please share a little about your favorite space/project to date?

R: Since Eric is the designer, I always say that I’m just lucky I get to live in his showroom. Not may girls get that luxury. My favorite room in our home is the front porch – it’s where all our best times with friends take place! 

E: It’s funny you ask that, because we are about to launch our new website, ericrossinteriors.com, and I’ve been reviewing all the photos and videos, so I’m attuned to my current body of work.  I would say the stairwell I did for the 2014 Traditional Home O’More Show House is my favorite project to date.  If you’ve followed my work at all, you’ll know I’m obsessed with blue and white and I was able to incorporate it into this space.  I used a lot of my go-to decorating “tricks,” if you will.  Upholstered doors, colored trim, chinoiserie, brass fixtures and accessories… All of these elements are so on trend AND they are my personal favorites, so to get to employ all of them into one space was fun and visually stimulating.


3. What’s the source(s) of your inspiration?

R: I’m inspired by flowers, and the beauty of God’s creation.  We love to spend time in the North Carolina mountains. I always feel like the waterfalls, mountain creeks, mossy green rocks, and the lush rhododendron just feed my soul.

E: I’m always inspired by color.  You know, a few years ago EVERYTHING was beige and brown.  Today, color is having a moment.  But, I have always gravitated toward colorful interiors.  So today, with all of the fabric houses coming out with color filled collections, it’s just fun to decorate.

4. Name three people (alive or dead) you’d invite to your dream dinner party…

E: These questions make me crazy… I don’t want any dead person at my parties! Seriously, I would only have close friends, no one you would know, I’m sure. I’m really not a stalker of celebrities of any kind. My wife and I have a close group of friends we have cocktails with about every other week who I love to laugh with. We always know we’ve had a good time when the next morning we have the strangest google searches on our phones.

R: I agree with Eric… My dream guests are my dearest friends


5. A piece of/type of furniture you couldn’t live without?

E: Without a doubt, I wouldn’t live without my sofa. It’s unbelievably comfortable. It’s from Wesley Hall out of Hickory, North Carolina. They make the most comfortable pieces and they are all bench made. Every piece has several signatures on it of the craftspeople who made it. I place them in all my projects because I know I won’t have a comfort issue with the client. And, they are beautiful, so it’s a win-win.

R: Well, since Eric always hogs the sofa, I’d have to say… my porch swing. I love to take naps on a Sunday afternoon.


6. Do you follow a particular set of rules when mixing textures, finishes, etc. – how do they work for you?

E: Of course there are no hard and fast rules. Interesting rooms come from breaking rules. But, for me, I do have a formula. Drapes are almost always a print and that’s where I start. Why spend the money on drapery that doesn’t say something beautiful? So, after the print is a chenille or velvet. I like chenille sofas with a velvet welt or pillow, usually the texture of mohair – this is lovely to lay your head on. I always think of comfort and how the upholstery will be lived in, not just looked at. Geometrics of some sort are in the mix, as well as a beautiful Persian rug, if the budget allows.

R: I mix textures by mixing dishes and serving pieces with pretty linens, candles and flowers. Setting a beautiful table or bountiful buffet is my palette and I think an abundance is best! It entertains your guests and allows you to see the special elements. They know you’ve worked hard to make it special just for them.

7. Trending… What is something you are currently “into” and something you are “over?”

E: I’m into “pretty” rooms and have been my whole career.  The trend now is toward these “pretty” rooms which are currently defined as traditional decor of florals as a lead and color on the walls.  I was never into industrial or re-purposed.  I’m glad it is waning.  I heard one of my design heroes, Mario Buatta, say in a talk once that he saw a lot of schizophrenic decorating.  I think he was talking about this “eclectic” wave we saw a couple of years ago with a lot of collage walls and dragging everything you ever found at a road side flea market into rooms and calling them collected.  It isn’t collected, it’s desperate.

R: I am over mason jars, burlap and chalkboard… It was fun for a while, but I’m done!

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8. How does artwork fit into your designs?

E: Ok, I get this question a lot from my clients. Artwork is so personal and expensive, the client really had to select pieces they love. When I create spaces, I always select and install affordable art, either giclees, prints or canvas transfers. This way, the client gets a completed room. If they really want a special piece to to be able to collect art over time, they don’t have a terrible amount of money invested in what I call “decorator” pieces and they can replace them as they find the perfect pieces for them.

R: My favorite piece of art is the painting that hangs in our bedroom. It’s a nature scene with the sweetest little birds tucked in the branches and grass. I just love it and requested it hang facing our bed so I could see it from my pillow.

9. What would be the one thing you would have if you were stranded on a deserted island?

E: Air-conditioning… it’s a must!

R:  Ice cream…Nothing better to drown your sorrows and chase away the blues.

10. Please share a piece of advice you’d offer to someone looking to break into the interior design industry.

E: I really think you learn a lot from working in retail. The public will throw every terrible trait of a difficult client at you in a short amount of time. You learn how to read people quickly and come up with a solution to their problem, which is really what this job is about – listening and resolving dilemmas.

R: Be prepared for HARD work. My husband has to sweat, haul trash and lug loads of stuff.   It is NOT all glamorous – if you are a diva, you’ll never make it!  You can’t be too good to do the grunt work.

Those are two excellent bits of advice – especially the bit about grunt work from Ruthann. That’s for sure! And we’d love to see Jill and Ruthann pair up to create a tablescape or buffet spread – can you imagine?! It’d be out of this world!

A BIG thank you to both Eric and Ruthann for taking time out of their busy schedules for this interview. We’re always especially excited to share the inner workings of other husband/wife design teams out there!

Design Bloggers Conference 2015 Recap

We’re just getting back to the swing of things here after enjoying a solid three days full of everything Design Bloggers Conference (DBC). Although we’re so fortunate the conference takes place right in our own backyard (Buckhead, to be exact), it feels as if we were a world away, totally swept up in the digital world of design and a fantastic conference filled with even more fantastic people!


Our time at DBC started off with Digital Day at ADAC – a day full of inspiration for developing your brand in the world of online media. We’re big fans and supporters of ADAC and were thrilled to experience this day, with presentations by Madcap Cottage (John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon) and Liza Graves, co-founder of StyleBlueprint. Due to winter weather here in Atlanta, our day sadly ended short, but after a fun luncheon at the Duralee showroom – one of our favorites (thanks guys!).

The New Bjork Studio's Focal Wall
The New Bjork Studio’s Focal Wall

After letting the worst of the weather pass us by, we ventured back out to attend the Sunbrella and Traditional Home after party at the new Bjork Studio. We’re so glad we braved the cold, because this was a fantastic party! The signature cocktail, the vignettes from Perspective New York, and their focal wall were all absolutely amazing!

Jill grabbing a quick pic with THE Nate Berkus before DBC began.
Jill grabbing a quick pic with THE Nate Berkus before DBC began.

Day one of DBC, officially, started off with a keynote by Nate Berkus – yes, THE Nate you’re thinking of… Oprah’s designer, designer for Target, etc., etc. – we could go on and on. Nate’s keynote was absolutely inspirational, and chock full of motivational tidbits and humor.


What other kid spends their childhood sleepovers moving furniture and redecorating any room they could get their hands on?!? Nate is a natural. Obviously.

Another speaker that first day we really enjoyed was Beth Le Manach, the maven behind YouTube’s #1 lifestyle community, “Entertaining with Beth.” She’s an absolute inspiration when it comes to creating video content for your brand. And we enjoyed many takeaways from her presentation.


Next up was the traditional wine tasting of DBC, thanks to Adam Jackimo, and his wine industry contacts. This has become a highlight of each DBC – I mean it’s a wine tasting, before lunch! What could be better?!? This year, we enjoyed two reds, a cabernet and a lighter pinot noir, both delicious.


Next on the agenda was an item we’d been anxiously awaiting… The Design Bloggers Hall of Fame awards, presented by Traditional Home and Ethan Allen. As you may know, we were up for the award of Best New Blog. And boy oh boy, were we in some fantastic company with the other contenders! Although we didn’t take home the award this year, there are other awards we can strive to earn, and we were thrilled to be included in such a notable group.


We were lucky enough to enjoy a second keynote on the first day of the conference, this one by the incomparable Bunny Williams. She is such a lovely example of elegance and sophistication. The spaces she’s designed are simply stunning and every image she shared throughout her presentation was flawless.

One of the last presentations of the day was by our friends at Dwell with Dignity, an amazing organization that helps people escape poverty and homelessness one design at a time. What they’re able to accomplish through their mission is truly astounding and something that really hits home for us. They showed the video above during their presentation and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house… We’re so happy to have had an opportunity to work with this group and look forward to supporting them further through future projects.


Day one came to a close for us with a Design Blogger Hall of Fame awards dinner that was just wonderful – the company, the food, it was an excellent night – a big thanks to Traditional Home and Ethan Allen for pulling this all together.


Day two started off with a keynote unlike any other, thanks to Brian Patrick Flynn. Somehow he managed to be fun (cat memes, anyone?), inspirational, educational, and more all at the same time – that guy has some talent. From his TV producer days, to his time at HGTV and Flynnside Out productions, he had some gems to share!

Another DBC day two highlight was a photography presentation on Stacy Kunstel of Dunes and Dutchess. Her before and after photo styling images were absolutely jaw-dropping, and we’re thrilled to be able to call Stacy a friend. It was such a joy to experience her presentation and get to know her better throughout the conference.

DBC closed on a real high for us with a “Community Building in Beta Brooklyn” presentation by two industry outsiders, Kika Gilbert and Bekka Palmer. It was fresh, unexpected and totally awe inspiring. Every woman should have an opportunity to experience a presentation like this. These two successful (and young!) digital professionals really opened our minds to what’s possible with a new perspective and the limitless opportunities available to us, thanks to the internet.

Stunning floral, which was a part of Curry & Co.'s stage design.
Stunning floral, which was a part of Curry & Co.’s stage design.

Phew! Well, that’s a wrap and quite a successful few days, if we do say so ourselves. Thanks to all the folks at Design Bloggers Conference for making this all possible and giving us an opportunity to experience the industry on a whole new level, right here in Atlanta!

steve mckenzie’s & Design Bloggers Conference 2014 – Part 2

Thank you all so much for the positive feedback on part one of our 2014 DBC recap post! We’re so glad you enjoyed our little synopsis. We certainly had quite the experience and are excited to share our part two post, highlighting day two of the 2014 Design Bloggers Conference…

Day two started off with a BANG, thanks to the gal who needs no introduction in our book, Candice Olson!

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It was such a treat to hear Candice speak, and her “Before & Afters” were truly show stoppers! Her Keynote address shared some brilliant tidbits, including how to help clients understand the balance between the investment in an interior designer and the return on their investment. Candice also focused a good portion of her presentation on the importance of contrast in design – something we’re fans of here at steve mckenzie’s. Contrast is key, and her discussion on natural vs man-made contrast, contrast in color, textures, and styles couldn’t be beat!

One of our favorite quotes of the day also came from Candice’s Keynote: “Thank goodness for the 80’s – it supplied a lot of work for us!”

We really had a ball during the next presentation on “The Role of Social Media & Building a Luxury Brand,” thanks to the energetic Toma Clark Haines!

Toma - The Antiques Diva
Jill McKenzie & Toma Clark Haines

Her candid discussion had us dreaming of antique scouting trips to Eurpoe and champagne lunches… In addition to all of the invaluable information she shared – including, her key piece of advice to us bloggers on creating a niche for your blog. Something we’re certainly in the process of working toward.  We’re really taking her advice to heart and are looking forward to sharing what we learned from Toma (and the other 2014 DBC presenters) here on the blog for steve mckenzie’s.

Robert Neu‘s presentation on “Building a Blog Google will Love” was up next, and was absolutely fantastic. Robert is a great presenter with even better advice on a topic that has many of us miffed – finding and implementing the perfect Search Engine Optimization (SEO) formula for your blog. Utilizing SEO is so important, but many of us don’t know how to make it work in the best interest of our blog, clientele, readers, etc. We’re excited to begin implementing much of what Robert taught us, and hopefully making our blog readily searchable for all who may be interested!

The Dwell with Dignity presentation came up next – we touched on this phenomenal event in part one of this series here – and had us all practically in tears… Seeing their video of their Atlanta project was a show-stopping moment for us at DBC, and we can’t wait to work with them in the future, to continue supporting their campaign to create beautiful spaces for more deserving families! Check out the touching video they debuted with us at DBC here:

Speaking of a memorable video, the next time slot was devoted to “Growing Your Brand with Creative Videos;” presented by Stacey Bewkes and Susanna Salk</a the dynamic duo behind some of our favorite (and most inspired!) videos, from Quintessence.

For us, another big, day two, highlight of DBC was hearing HGTV’s Alison Victoria speak about using “Digital Tools and the Design Profession.” Our own Jill McKenzie was lucky enough to be invited to a dinner with Alison on the Monday night of DBC, thanks to the folks at HomeAdvisor – it was an evening to remember, for sure, and Alison was such a joy to dine with!

Alison Victoria
Alison Victoria & Jill McKenzie

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Alison touched on partnering with technology to work together, and to help work with clients in a more effective way. Now that people have greater access to technology and the internet, it’s important we embrace it and make it work FOR us, and not against us. Great advice!

The final presentation of DBC 2014 was, so appropriately, on “The Future of Blogging;” as shared by Tobi Fairley and Jennifer Boles. Their advice is truly worth heeding, and something we’ll be reflecting on as we continue to grow our own blog. Both Tobi and Jennifer have unique blog perspectives, and the respect they’ve earned through the growth of their own brands is something we greatly appreciate. Maintaining a successful blog now, and in the future, is a job, but one we look forward to. And, thanks to this presentation, something we have a better understanding of.

All in all, a fabulous conference indeed! We’re simply filled with a renewed energy and new-found passion for blogging… So, please continue checking back for fun and informative content with a steve mckenzie’s twist.

Cheers to the 2014 Design Bloggers Conference all of the wonderful people we were lucky enough to experience it with!

steve mckenzie’s & Design Bloggers Conference 2014 – Part 1

We’re just getting back into a regular routine post Design Bloggers Conference 2014 (DBC) – and after this whirlwind conference, regular may never be again. It was a motivating and an inspiring few days, for sure! Filled with fun, fabulous advice, and friends new and old. Attending this exciting conference cemented our commitment to the blog for steve mckenzie’s and we’re thrilled to begin implementing some of what we’ve learned and what’s inspired us here with you!

dbc logo

We’re sharing all about our DBC 2014 experience with you in a two-part blog series so even if you weren’t able to attend, maybe you’ll feel as if you were there, even if it was just for a bit. Or, if you were lucky enough to go, hopefully you’ll enjoy hearing about it from our perspective…

For the steve mckenzie’s team, our DBC 2014 experience begun Sunday afternoon, at the party celebrating Dwell with Dignity’s first Atlanta makeover, featuring our friends Kerry Howard (yes, the same “Tastemaker” we shared recently!) and Brian Patrick Flynn, who worked on the design of the space, and a fantastic group of DIY experts and volunteers. We were thrilled to help this great cause, and look forward to doing more in the future! On our way out, we did have a little fun at the photo booth:


After the party, we were ready to get the DBC 2014 party started… literally, with the conference’s opening event at Atlantic Station hosted by Sunbrella and Traditional Home. It was a great time, and we met many new faces. The loft space Sunbrella had designed was just fantastic, and had us dreaming of in-town living!

DBC 2014 officially kicked off in a big way Monday morning with a Keynote address by Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Designer,” Jeffery Alan Marks! We loved learning how he adds one thing in every space that’s an accident. What a smart way to keep things interesting!

In addition to Jeffery’s keynote address, we, like the rest of the DBC 2014 attendees, were greatly inspired by the floral on stage, including two of these amazing Ranunculus and Rose arrangements…

Stage floral at DBC

After ogling the floral, and absorbing all Jeffery Alan Marks had to share, we were ready to get to the “Business of Blogging,” an amazingly informative talk, which featured one of our all-time favorite bloggers, Palamoa Contreras of La Dolce Vita (celebrity moment!). We also met blogger, and landscaper extrodinaire, Jan Bills, of Two Women and a Hoe. Jan is a laugh and a half, not to mention brilliant. We have another blogger crush!

La Dolce Vita blog - Design Bloggers Conference
The lovely Paloma, educating the DBC audience.
La Dolce Vita - Design Bloggers Conference - steve mckenzie's
Paloma Contreras and Jill McKenzie after day one of DBC 2014.

After another informative session on “Digital Content Marketing,” the 2014 Design Blogger Hall of Fame awards were announced. And, the big winner for “Best Overall Design Blog” went to none other than La Dolce Vita! Congrats to our friend Paloma on this much-deserved win!

The next session on “Building your Brand” was uuber popular. Our friend, and editor, Amy Flurry was one of the speakers and shared some secrets from her fabulous book, “Recipe for Press.” This was a session not to miss!

Celebrity designer, Timothy Corrigan offered up the next Keynote Address, and spoke to an enthralled audience on “Designing your Brand.” He spoke from such a unique perspective, sharing how he took his experiences from working in advertising to build his brand as a designer. He also doesn’t believe a room is well designed if it’s not comfortable – right on!

Day one of DBC 2014 ended with a wine tasting – yes, a wine tasting! And a fantastic talk on how to turn any topic into a lively and shareable story by Jeremy Parzen, who authors the wildly popular blog Do Bianchi, where he talks about wine and so much more!

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Each of the three wines we tasted represented a different time in Jeremy’s life, the story he told us, and how he made it shareable. Not only were the wines wonderful, so was his speech!

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Phew! That was quite a day… And to think, that was only day one. Day two was just as fantastic, if not more so. Like we shared earlier, DBC 2014 was quite an experience! We hope you’ll join us for our re-cap of day two, which we’ll be sharing here very soon!

If you attended DBC 2014, please let us know what you thought about the conference and who your favorite speakers were…