Wanderlust Wednesday: Serenbe

Earlier this year, the Steve McKenzie Design Team, along with KMH Interiors, completed two new artist cottages at Serenbe, slated for use in conjunction with their Artist In Residence (AIR) program.

As a thank you for designing these artist cottages, Steve and Jill, with Kerry Howard, of KMH Interiors, were invited to enjoy a weekend in the Art Cottages. The group took Serenbe up on this generous offer this past weekend… It was such a lovely time, we thought it would make for an excellent “Wanderlust Wednesday” blog post!

View of Serenbe's Art Cottages
View of Serenbe’s Art Cottages
Here are a few photos from the weekend. We hope they inspire you to plan a visit to Serenbe – the Inn at Serenbe offers fantastic accommodations and give visitors the opportunity to be totally immersed in this idyllic community.


Beautiful wild flowers Kerry plucked from the grounds at Serenbe for the group’s Saturday evening cocktail table.

Above is a view of the counter at The Blue Eyed Daisy – a fantastic spot to enjoy breakfast and/or lunch while visiting Serenbe. Be sure to plan a dinner at The Farmhouse as well.


While visiting Serenbe, plan on attending a performance at the Serenbe Playhouse. This past weekend, the show Carousel was taking place, and they actually hosted an actual fair for which the actors to perform amongst! For an upcoming production of Miss Saigon, they’ll bring in a real helicopter!

Ahhhh… Serenbe dreams. Such a wonderful place to be! We hope you all will be able to plan a visit to enjoy this gem, just south of Atlanta.

Designers supporting artists, thanks to Serenbe’s Artist in Residence Program!

In partnership with our friends at KMH Interiors, McKenzie Design is excited to participate in Serenbe’s Artist In Residence (AIR) program by donating their time to design and install the interiors of the first two artist residence cottages. These cottages will serve as home base for two talented artists – one being designed with an eye toward painterly arts and the other with a focus on writing/composition.

AIR Serenbe 3

Steve and Marie Nygren (founders of Serenbe) have believed from the beginning art was important to the kind of sustainable community they wanted to create. Recently, a large 40+ parcel of land was acquired adjacent to Serenbe to found the Serenbe Art Farm. The Art Farm and the AIR program, conceived 7 years ago to bring artists to work and share their process and vision and work with the Serenbe community, are non-profit organizations. It is their vision to have a place where artists can live/work and find affordable housing. They have raised money via the showhouse, private donations and the art auction Steve McKenzie participated in, in conjunction with ASID, to fund the building of the first two artists cottages, with a goal of building them on a budget of only $20,000!

View of the picturesque site where the two initial artist cottages will sit.
View of the picturesque site where the two initial artist cottages will sit.

The Nygrens have joined forces with the The Rural Studio of  the University of Alabama to design the first two cottages. The Art Farm at Serenbe is the site for the first wave of 20K Houses built in collaboration with Auburn University’s award winning Rural Studio program, to be used as live-work artist cottages.

The relationship between The Art Farm at Serenbe and Auburn University’s Rural Studio is multifaceted. Serenbe’s institute for arts and culture, The Serenbe Institute, is limited in the number of artists it can bring and house each year and the collaboration with Rural Studio responds to this need. The Art Farm will be built out to house multiple artists and nurture the arts in the Atlanta region.

serenbe AIR cottage groundbreaking 2
Actual Ground Breaking at the site. Pictured from left to right: Rusty Smith, Associate Chair of the Auburn University Program of Architecture and Rural Studio Associate Director, Simon Shell, contractor who is building first cottage at Serenbe and Serenbe founder Steve Nygren.

Rural Studio is very excited about this program because these cottages will be the first two structures they have had built commercially, and not from within the program. The two cottages will serve as a place where artists can come and stay during their time in the AIR program to live and work for a period of time.

KMH Interiors and McKenzie Design are currently working to procure donations from vendors for the furnishings, as they work up their plans for the cottage interiors.

serenbe AIR cottage groundbreaking
Steve Nygren, founder of Serenbe, addresses the crowd at the groundbreaking.

Steve shares that he is “really passionate about this project because as an artist I know how important programs like this are to push your creativity and let you get away from the day to day and focus on your art. As a designer it is thrilling to create a space I know will be used by other artists.”

Original log cabin on the Serenbe AIR property.
Original log cabin on the Serenbe AIR property.

We’re excited for Steve, Kerry Howard, of KMH Interiors, The Rural Studio of  the University of Alabama program, and the Serenbe/AIR teams, to see this wonderful project come to fruition!

Please keep an eye out for future posts, here on the blog for steve mckenzie’s, detailing how these projects are progressing and hopefully, by the end of the year, what the finished cottages look like.

steve mckenzie’s Featured at The Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles 2014 Designer Showhouse at Serenbe!

Earlier this week, we gave you a head’s up about the first ever Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Designer Showhouse at Serenbe – and hopefully enticed you to visit. Well, if you haven’t set the date yet, hopefully you will after seeing some of the steve mckenzie’s items featured throughout the home!

As Steve shares, “The Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Decorator Showhome at Serenbe is unique to most showhouses, as it’s design’s cohesiveness is so obvious. The home flows seamlessly through each space; it’s as if a family really lives there.”

The team here at steve mckenzie’s was thrilled to either loan or provide products, which are highlighted throughout this spectacular home, not the least of which, a fabulous custom charcoal pinstripe textile, used as the drapery fabric in Yvonne McFadden’s, of Y. McFadden LLC Interiors, master bedroom space.

Y. McFadden LLC Interiors’ Master Bedroom at the AH&L Serenbe Designer Showhouse

It was actually these paintings, on showcase in the home’s master bedroom closet, also designed by Yvonne, that inspired this unique fabric.

Paintings by Steve McKenzie, which inspired the charcoal pinstripe fabric featured in the AH&L Serenbe Showhouse master bedroom.

This stunning vignette in Yvonne’s master bedroom space offers a more detailed look at this custom fabric…


Moving to the other side of the bedroom, a reading nook welcomes weary visitors with just about anything they’d require for a peaceful moment. Steve’s ready to move in right now!


On another wall in the master bedroom space hangs a collection of antique frames Yvonne discovered throughout her trips to Europe. Collections like these, found over time and with a passion, are what make a space something truly special!


Although we hate to tear ourselves away from this enveloping master bedroom space – thank you Yvonne – we had to give you a glimpse at some of our other favorite spaces in the home.

We are truly in awe of the home’s chic, modern office space, designed by Julie Witzel of J. Witzel Interior Design.

Yes, you spy a steve mckenzie’s exclusive thick leather satchel, gracing the side of the desk in the showhome’s stunning gentleman’s office.

In addition to the leather satchel accessory, other key elements in this space include the overall art selection and custom light fixture by Sarah Atkinson of Grey Furniture – wowzas!


Oh, and we cannot forget about the handbags on show in the office bookcase – they’re handmade in Bali and just fantastic – visit the steve mckenzie’s showroom today and see them for yourself!


Oh, and on the way to our next space, why don’t we take a glimpse into the powder room…


Wow – the wallpaper in James Wheeler’s, of J. Wheeler Designs, is seriously such a showstopper! We love it so much, we had to ask James about it, so we could share the details with you. It’s de Gournay ‘Fishes’ Blue Pearl design colors on realsilver gilded paper with De’sargenter Pearlescent antique finish and hand painted fish motif. Now, who wouldn’t want to powder their nose with these fishes???

If you visit the showhouse, one area you’re sure not to miss is Kerry Howard’s, of KMH Interiors, stairwell, where you’ll see this funky grouping of art pieces by Rebecca Wood, who’s currently on show in the steve mckenzie’s showroom.


The view from the top of Kerry’s beautifully designed stairwell…


And these Mitchell Black pieces, also available at steve mckenzie’s, are on display in the Serenbe showhome’s stairwell:


The last space we’ll share with you is the terrace level artist retreat designed by Niki Papadopoulos of Mark Williams Design Associates. This is where it got especially real for Steve. It was almost as if this room was designed around him…. If only we needed to be closer to Serenbe.


This would make a phenomenal artist’s escape – take it from Steve. From the small accent pieces, to the gallery wall grouping, this room is perfection. Niki even utilized art books and brushes from her father’s collection to emphasize the room’s unique personality.


Doesn’t it look as if some great artist just stepped away from their workspace for a moment?!?

Phew! If you’ve made it all the way to the end of the post with us – thank you. Now, get to that showhouse and see it for yourself!

If you require even more convincing, you’ll be happy to know that proceeds from the showhouse go to support Serenbe’s Art Farm, which is a collaborative project between Serenbe and Auburn University’s Rural Studio, whose goal is to raise the funds to create affordable artists’ housing on-site at Serenbe. Now your visit will not only provide you with unlimited visual inspiration, you’ll also be giving back to the Serenbe community.

Not To Be Missed – Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Designer Showhouse at Serenbe

The steve mckenzie’s team is so happy to be a part of the first ever Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Designer Showhouse at Serenbe! The showhouse opened it’s doors last week to visitors of the picturesque Serenbe community, located just south of Atlanta, and will offer tours through the 28th of this month.

A rendering of the inaugural Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Designer Showhouse at Serenbe

At the Showhouse Preview Party Friday, September 12, Steve and Jill were able to glimpse the spectacular spaces making up this amazing designer showhouse – they assure us it’s worth the short drive for the inspiration and eye candy alone!

steve mckenzie’s is proud to have been able to either loan or provide products to these fantastic showhouse designers: KMH Interiors, J. Hirsch Interiors, j witzel interior design and Y. McFadden LLC Interiors. But, we’ll have more to share about this in another blog post coming up soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

serenbe party
Jerry & Yvonne McFadden (of Y. McFadden LLC Interiors) with Steve and Jill at the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles 2014 Designer Showhouse Kickoff Party

As longtime fans of Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles magazine, we’re not surprised at the surefire popularity of this fabulous designer showhouse – and the partnership between the magazine and Serenbe community comes as a natural pairing.

If you’ve never visited Serenbe before, take this opportunity to experience some amazing designer spaces and enjoy the community while there. It’s an easy place to make a weekend vacation out of – or at least a wonderful visit and meal at one of Serenbe’s restaurants, which feature fresh, local ingredients. A treat for all of your senses indeed!

If you’re able to make it out to the showhouse (or, if you’re lucky enough to have already visited), please share what your favorite spaces are – we’d love to hear from you!

And, if you’re interested in taking your home from nothing special to showhouse spectacular, consider contacting the McKenzie Interior Design team today!

Support a great cause through shopping – seriously! A Thrifting with Tyler field trip fundraiser for Dwell with Dignity…

Our team is so excited to have steve mckenzie’s selected as the launch pad for a fantastic Thrifting with Tyler field trip fundraiser for Dwell with Dignity this Saturday, May 3rd!

Tyler Lynch, local thrifting guru, will take this lucky group on a field trip to some of his most closely guarded “secret” thrifting locations in the N. GA mountains, all while sharing some of his expertise on getting in an our of a thrift store quickly, while ensuring you don’t miss anything and how to look for rare finds. In addition, our friend, and Atlanta interior designer, Kerry Howard, will offer advice on how to transform thrifted finds into real treasures.

Thrifting with Tyler

There are only a handful of tickets left (click the link for details) for this fabulous day of fun filled with amazing finds, friends, and time with some local experts while you thrift the day away… All while supporting Dwell with Dignity, an amazing organization which supports poverty-stricken families one beautiful design at a time.

Dwell with Dignity

In fact, we’re such fans of Dwell with Dignity and all they do, we reached out to Kim Turner, VP & Director of Dwell with Dignity, for a little Q&A to learn a bit more about this great organization and how events, like the Thrifting with Tyler field trip, go to support it…

Dwell with Dignity VP & Director, Kim Turner
Dwell with Dignity VP & Director, Kim Turner
– In just a few words, for those who don’t know what Dwell with Dignity is, please share a basic description of this great organization.
Dwell with Dignity is a non-profit group of Interior Designers and volunteers dedicated to creating soothing, inspiring homes for families struggling with homelessness and poverty. We provide and install home interiors for families that include furnishings and art, bedding and kitchen supplies, and food in the pantry. 

– How do events, such as the Thrifting with Tyler field trip, go to support Dwell with Dignity?

As with all of our fundraisers, this will go towards helping us carry out our mission:
“Our mission is to help families escape poverty and homelessness through design; one household at a time.” 
We have chosen Atlanta to be the first city outside of Dallas with a Dwell with Dignity chapter.  We did our first project in late February-early March and hope to do another one later in the summer.  We provide absolutely everything a family needs and that takes money.  We are so fortunate to have so much support from the design community as well as the community at large.  So many of the things we use are donated, but there are still many things we need to purchase.

– How have you and the Dwell with Dignity team come to know Tyler Lynch and Kerry Howard?

We had the pleasure of meeting Kerry at a dinner arranged last May by Bethanne Matari, the “PR Maven” of the local Currey & Co.  She felt he would be a great person to get involved – and she was so right!  Kerry took the design lead on our first apartment designing the bedrooms and the bathroom.  We met Tyler through Kerry and this trip was his brainchild.  Once he and Kerry put their heads together, this fabulous day evolved.

– What will attendees get out of participating in the Thrifting with Tyler field trip fundraiser?

This is going to be such a fun trip that I am coming in from Dallas for it!  We will start the morning with coffee and mimosas at steve mckenzie‘s and board the bus for the day at 9:15.  Tyler Lynch is taking us along on a tour of his favorite “secret” vintage and antique shops in the GA mountains.  On the way there, he will give us tips on how to get in and get out of shops quickly while still finding the hidden treasures.  Also, he’ll explain the etiquette surrounding bargaining for deals and tell us what we should be looking for.  We will stop in Villa Rica to enjoy box lunches from The Hungry Peach, sponsored by the good people at ADAC.  When it’s time to return to Atlanta, Kerry Howard will give us tips on what to do with our finds while serving cocktails courtesy of Mark Williams and Associates.  Everyone on the bus will receive an amazing goodie bag and we will be raffling off all kinds of wonderful donations.  A good time will definitely be had by all!
Thank you to Kim for all of the info, it’s great to know what a wonderful organization we’re supporting – and a big shout out to Tyler Lynch and Kerry Howard for working to pull together a memorable day for all involved! We look forward to sending everyone off on such a special trip this Saturday. And, don’t forget to get your ticket now, numbers are dwindling…
Here’s to learning the art of thrifting and supporting a cause you believe in!

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!

photo 2 (3)

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!

photo 4 (2)

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…

Tastemaker Tuesday – Kerry Howard

We’re thrilled to feature another fabulous designer, and dear friend, Kerry Howard, of KMH Interiors, to continue our “Tastemaker Tuesday” blog series! We’ve been working with Kerry for years – in fact, he worked to curate our own home, which has since been featured in Traditional Home. In addition to being an all-around wonderful person, Kerry’s fresh perspective on design is second to none. Lucky for us, he agreed to participate in our Tastemaker Tuesday blog series, where he answered a number of questions we think you’ll be interested to learn his responses to. Here’s to Tastemaker, Kerry Howard:

Kerry Howard
Kerry Howard

A true Southern boy, raised in South Carolina, Kerry’s design style is clean, eccentric, and transitional. You may recognize Kerry from Bravo TV’s Top Design, season 2, where he was one of 14 hot designers selected to compete for the title of the nation’s Top Designer. Kerry believes the key to good design is to design a space around things you love; things that inspire you. He loves to shop at thrift stores where he can find old, ordinary pieces and transform them into works of art. Kerry is a master at combining high quality, timeless pieces with more trendy decorative items to create spaces that WOW! Learn more about Kerry here.

1. What are three words that describe your aesthetic?

My aesthetic can be described very simply.  Clean, Classic, and Casual.

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

I would have to say my condo, that I just sold In October, was my favorite project to date.  I know it’s my personal home, but it just felt so easy to design for myself.  I didn’t have involve anyone except me, myself and I.  It was the perfect definition of who I am as designer. A combination of old and new, that felt like home!

3. What’s the source of your inspiration?

I draw a lot of inspiration from lighting. When I walk into a room I envision what the lighting would be and design the room around that.  It’s like finding the perfect piece of jewelry to complement that beautiful gown.

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

If I were to throw my dream party I would want to be surrounded by my family and friends. I draw so much inspiration from them. After all they are the ones that have made me part of the man I am today.

5. What’s a piece of/type of furniture you couldn’t live without?

I have 3 very large over scaled church windows that I had mirrored years ago. They are my most prized possession. When I see them they are my past, present and my future. I’ve designed every home I’ve had around them.

Kerry Howard - mirrors

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

I don’t have  a particular set of rules when mixing textures, etc.  It’s visually something that just feels good to me when I put it all together.  I really go with my gut feeling when something doesn’t feel right, I change around until I get that perfect balance. It doesn’t mean I always get it right, but I always learn from my mistakes.

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

-Presently, I am “over” the lime washed and reclaimed look. Every big box store in town has a field day trying to knock each other off.
-I’ve never been really into anything floral, but my new obsession is a large over scaled floral prints in a very bright modern colors.
Kerry Howard - textiles
8. How does artwork fit into your designs?
I think artwork is really important and personnel to a design. Sometimes you get lucky and a client has a collection of amazing artwork, and on the extreme end you start a design from ground zero. This can also be beneficial in educating the client on the importance of the artwork completing the design of a space.  “There’s always a special place for artwork in a home”
9. Please share a piece of advice you’d offer to someone looking to break into the interior design industry…
For anyone wanting to break into the ID industry, I would suggest hiring a great accountant, bookkeeper, and learning as much on the business end of design.  I have learned from the school of hard knocks how to run a business, and wish I would have taken more business classes.
A BIG thank you to Kerry Howard for participating in our Tastemaker Tuesday series – we’re excited to see what the future holds for you!