2020 Southeastern Designer Showhouse

Happy Monday! You still have time to visit this beauty of a showhouse this week through Sunday, June 28th. Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles magazine along with developer Benecki Homes, Linda MacArthur Architect and honorary chair, Melanie Turner and their talented team including over 15 of the top interior designers in the southeast, have outdone themselves with this year’s Villa Flora. We know how challenging a showhouse can be, then throw in the COVID shut down, and it could have easily gone awry. But this stalwart team kept calm and designed on.

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Welcome to Villa Flora |Photo credit David Christensen
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Custom corner by Melanie Turner Interiors

Here’s a quick tour to whet your appetite for more…starting with the stately and welcoming exterior. You’re then quickly drawn to the back yard view of the six acre property. This family room by Melanie Turner Interiors provides cozy, custom luxurious seating, inspiring art and a view of the sparkling pool.

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Look closely for design details like this exquisitely simple trim in Phoebe Howard Decorator’s primary bedroom
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Ethereal triptych by the late Todd Murphy defines the main hallway
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Robert Brown Interior Design mixes lines and curves | Photo by David Christensen
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Brittany Cason Interior Design mixes styles masterfully.
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Luxurious canopy bedroom by Pickering House
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Dreamy canopy and bedroom by Jared Hughes Design

Which canopy bed is your favorite? Hint, there’s one more… Also the hand painted Gracie Studio wallpaper in Jared Hughes Design room is a stunner.

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A quiet oasis by The Design Atelier | Photo by David Christensen

We’ll close with this soothing indoor lap pool, original to the home, updated by Melanie Millner of The Design Atelier with these handmade hammocks. Click the link to see ticket information. What a terrific way to kick of your summer!

Celebrations Still Happen

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Celebrations still happen!

I may have mentioned that our son and his wife are expecting their first child in June, a little girl. Right away, my daughters and I started planning a ladies-only celebration baby shower for March to celebrate this blessed event. Well, we all know that life came to a screeching, shelter in place halt in early March. The invitations were mailed, personalized cups and napkins and dreamy candles ordered but off course we cancelled it, keeping everyone safe and at home.

As the baby shower date approached, we decided to go ahead and set the table, making it special for the new mama-to-be via photos. For a refresher, here’s a quick party planning breakdown of what we used and why. First Creative Candles Barely Blush votives were the building block for the color scheme and celebration.

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Barely Blush votive candles from Creative Candles – hand-dipped, dripless, smokeless, unscented
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Sequins and Lipstick personalized cups and napkins | Creative Candles votive and ball candles |Ikea votive holder | Blabla Kids Josephine the elephant |Wedgwood Edme dishes | Target bed cover as tablecloth

This soft pink and mossy green palette paired beautifully with our Wedgwood Edme dishes. This is pretty pink quilt made a perfect table cloth backdrop for the candle lit setting of sweet nibbles and drinks. Get creative next time you set the table. Is there a vibrant scarf or shawl you can use on the table? Fresh flowers always add to the table too.

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So many napkin colors available with Sequins and Lipstick!
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Virtual celebration with McKenzie Design and family

It’s not the same, we know. But we are making the best of these days at home, finding ways to celebrate the big, and the little, things. Let us know what you are celebrating via email, tag us on Instagram and we’ll see you soon.

All photos by McKenzie Design.

Grateful for Home

Our collection of over 40 vintage turkeys sets the mood for November

As November comes to a close, we’re grateful for being part of so many homes, near and far. Whether Steve has had the privilege of enhancing your home’s interior or exterior design, or perhaps you’ve added a piece of his art to your walls, or given a chair a facelift with his fabric, know we are truly grateful for your trust in us and our team at McKenzie Design.

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McKenzie Design is now taking clients for early 2020. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.
Photo credit: Gustav Wilde

Wherever you are, enjoy your time with family and friends this Thanksgiving.

International Coffee Day

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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 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.
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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~
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Sour Cream Cake with Jackson Morgan Salted Caramel icing, served on Mottahadeh plates
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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!

How to Follow Your Passion: Kristen Hard & Cacao

Following your dreams and making your passion your profession. It’s something we strive for throughout our lives. For some people, following their passion comes effortlessly and early on. Others may not realize what their passion even is until later in life, and then they work for it tirelessly.

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Kristen Hard

For Kristen Hard, the founder of and artisan behind Cacao, she knew early on her passion was in the confectionery arts – specifically chocolate. But, following her passion came as no easy task.

Kristen learned to cook early on, as a little girl, her mom allowed her to get very creative and almost everything she made involved sugar. Because Kristen’s mom didn’t allow sweets in the house – there were eight children total – she had to make her own.

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Her dream was always to open a cafe, but as she honed her skills and refined her passion, her dream of becoming a chocolatier blossomed. Kristen quickly learned there was much more to the world of crafting fine chocolates than pouring molten cocoa into molds. There was a whole world of cacao plant genetics and technology to learn about, and she knew if she wanted to become one of the world’s finest chocolatiers, she had to know her raw product inside and out.

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To create the world’s best chocolates, Kristen knew you had to have the best possible quality cacao bean, which comes from the perfect plant, grown in an ideal setting over time. Because cacao is considered a high-end, luxury commodity, sourcing the best product can be extremely difficult – Kristen likens it to diamonds. And, based on her somewhat scary and extreme, off-the-grid travel challenges she’s faced sourcing and now growing the ideal cacao plant, we have no room to argue. Kristen navigates the globe working with scientists, geneticists and farmers who all share her goal of creating the finest chocolate possible.

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For Kristen, her chocolate is her art and she believes in working with the best possible medium to create a successful end product. And she’s creating quite a name for herself – she’s the first female chocolatier in the US to work from the cacao bean to produce her goods. And she’s proud of her grass-roots beginnings, she’s a self-taught strong female, who’s also a single mother to a four year old daughter. And Kristen says she’s never going to stop perusing her passion and working tirelessly to shape and improve the industry she’s chosen to work in.

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Kristen’s hands on approach to the art of chocolate has garnered her many accolades thus far and she’s looking at greater success in the near future. Cacao currently boasts four brick and mortar boutique locations in the Atlanta area, as well as international sales that are showing exponential growth, especially in Japan where Kristen says the people have a true appreciation for her purpose – they understand perfection and want only the best.

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In addition, Kristen will be publishing a cookbook this spring, which will be the first book that follows chocolate from it’s original, cacao seed form to finished product and showing home chefs that creating the highest quality chocolate is possible, right under their own roofs.

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Kristen has created a triptych of chocolate levels under the Cacao umbrella – these include Twigg & Co., probably the closest to what we know of fine chocolate, Cacao Platinum and then Black Label, the finest quality chocolate Kristen can create. By offering chocolate in this way, Kristen feels she can best showcase the journey of fine chocolates and work to redefine what we think of as quality chocolate – her line is a prototype of what she believes the cacao industry should offer… Systematized, verified, certified, while being in control of the technology and science behind growing a top quality raw product.

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Thank you to our new friend Kristen, and artisan chocolatier, for inviting us to her cafe in Atlanta’s Highland neighborhood and for sharing her passion – and even a few chocolates! – with us. She’s a truly inspiring artist and we believe there are a few key takeaways here for any of us who are ever evolving and working to follow our passion:

  • It’s never to late (or early) to pursue your passion!
  • Educate yourself and learn your chosen industry/medium from the ground up, inside and out.img_8014
  • Experiment and make mistakes… Kristen holds vanilla tastings, dessert trials, and more with her staff (you could put your friends and family to the test if you don’t yet have your own professional crew) to ensure they’re using the best possible ingredients and crafting her chocolates and other sweet offerings to the best of their ability. They even dye their own sprinkles, which comes with plenty of trial and error!
  • Never stop. Kristen’s fighting personality and passion for bettering her industry as a whole is what most stood out to us during our visit. Become your own industry champion and support will follow.

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If you’re local here to the Atlanta area, find a Cacao location and stop by – you’ll be in heaven if you appreciate any type of sweet. And if you’re not local, check out Kristen’s online Cacao offerings. We can’t wait to hear what you think.

And remember to always follow your passion!!