Green Plants + Home

Anyone else adding green plants to their spaces these days? We’re fairly obsessed with house plants (a positive side effect of Covid). You know, propagating them, repotting them, trying to squeeze more of green into our condo. We’ve found lots of great information and plant ideas on Pinterest. Plants give us a sense of purpose, a sense of growth, something to care for, and add healthy benefits to our world.

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Mixing sculpture, framed art, and plants makes me happy.
Photo credit: Anthony Masterson Photography
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Lush green plants bring the outdoors in.
Duck Green
Farrow & Ball new Duck Green paint
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String of turtles stays on the small side.
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Creative Candle lit table for two with greenery and desert vibe baskets from Dear Keaton.

Now I need to find some cute pots for two special spider plant starts, babies from my grandmother’s plant.

Show us your plants on Instagram using the hashtag #stevemckenzies. Be well!

Is It Time to Remodel Your Kitchen?

We’re still home, a lot, all together. It looks like this will be the norm this summer. Let’s face it, if the kitchen isn’t working for you, not much else matters. Is it time to remodel your kitchen?

Finally fed up with the tiring work flow, dark cabinets and poor use of space, this owners of this 90s kitchen decided it was time to remodel, but without moving any walls, plumbing or electricity. Before and after photos tell this story, don’t they? You may want to take some notes…

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Large but oddly trapezoid shaped island looks like it would be great but…it wasn’t!
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The flow is pretty good on this side.
before after, 90s kitchen, dark kitchen, dark countertop, remodel
Opposite the island and there was a dance floor of empty space in-between!

Steve McKenzie came on board this project, assisting the homeowners and their contractor with the goal of maximizing and updating the spacious yet awkward kitchen. The family of six enjoyed cooking together and entertaining and knew there had to be a better way to use the space. It was also time to update colors, lighting and finishes with an eye toward resale. Steve started with reconfiguring the kitchen island and removing the high-low feature that so many of the kitchens had. Take a look at the after photo.

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Inviting and invigorated kitchen island |photo by Christina Wedge Photography

By squaring off the island footprint, it became a focal point of this new cool blue-gray kitchen. Updated tile combined with dark pewter hardware and modern clear glass pendants gave it a brighter outlook as the hub of the home. The vivid antique area rug gave it added warmth.

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Not only updated but added storage and warming drawer. Love that furniture leg detail! |
photo by Christina Wedge Photography
Fraser After, atlanta kitchen, large kitchen, modern kitchen
Eating area view of kitchen | photography by Christina Wedge Photography

Steve’s team refinished the existing Lazy Susan table and chairs, added new seat fabric and a bright modern light fixture to complete the update. The family was thrilled with Steve’s solutions to their problems. Updated with the perfect tile, paint and fixtures, improved function and work flow, all with minimal disruption, all boxes checked off.

Feel free to share this with a friend and know we appreciate your taking time to spend time with us. How can we help you and your home? We would love to hear from you at shop@stevemckenzies.com or @stevemckenzies on Instagram.

Why I’m Part of the Influencers of Midlife Conference

Steve and I recently reviewed our calendars, looking ahead to the balance of Q1 and the opportunities in Q2. My eyes lit up at the Influencers of Midlife Conference, marked with colorful stars and underlines. It’s happening March 26 – 29 at the Hotel at Avalon, headed up by my dear friend, interior designer, over 50 fashion maven, Robin LaMonte. Steve wondered aloud and asked me why all the happy symbols (literally, in my journal)?

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Grandparents, Steve and Jill enjoying the view at La Fortezza Italy

So I stopped to think, why am I excited about IOM? Here are my top reasons, and I think some of them may resonate with you too.

Renew, recharge and replenish!
  • Hanging out with like-minded women for a whole weekend! Women who are life-learners, hard workers, active, and eager to share, and know where I’m coming from. My kind of peeps…
  • Learning from these women, everything from wellness to fashion tips to business advice. Midlife is a pivotal transitional point in our lives, many of us experience a spiritual and emotional renaissance.
  • I see myself through a different lens with these ladies. So much potential!
  • Sharing in a spirit of growth, support and kindness to each other and ourselves.
Speakers from all over the US

Quick peek at some of the fabulous speakers ~ Mitzi Beach, Vicki Gladle Bolick, Rhoda Vickers, Janet Coon, Linda Holt, Tonya Parker, myself and more. I’m making a list of all the questions – You Tube, podcasts, blogs, influencers – being intentional about learning from this fabulous tribe.

Design Bloggers Conference
Jill McKenzie Robin Lamonte
Jill McKenzie with Influencer of Midlife Founder, Robin LaMonte at the Design Influencers Conference

We’re in charge of what we do the rest of our lives. Invest in yourself at the Influencers of Midlife Conference this March!

Click here for ticket information. Hope to see you there~

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.

cozy home warm inviting living room
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.

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.

Italy, art, Steve mckenzie's

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.

Italy, food, Mutti tomatoes
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.

icing Jackson Morgan
Add a special ingredient to this versatile icing
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A couple of bowls, your trusty hand mixer, and fresh mint
icing Steve McKenzie The Preppy Stitch
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!