Five Questions: Steve and Jill McKenzie, Style entrepreneurs
Five Questions: Steve & Jill McKenzie
John and I are excited to co-host a book signing and drawing class at the Steve McKenzie’s design boutique in Atlanta on November 18th from 10am until 3pm. Come meet and greet with us and purchase a signed copy of our brand-new book, “Prints Charming.” With the festivities afoot, we decided to get inside the boutique’s co-owners Jill and Steve McKenzie’s head to see what makes them tick.
First up, their bio… In their own words:
“An artist at heart and known for his bold use of color, Steve McKenzie has found his creative niche in the interior design community, as designer and namesake behind McKenzie Design LLC and Steve McKenzie’s, a home décor business, located in the heart of Atlanta’s Westside design district. Steve, along with his wife, Jill, officially opened the door to Steve McKenzie’s in September of 2012, after Steve’s 20+ year tenure with Berkshire-Hathaway owned Larson-Juhl, a custom frame manufacturer and distributor, where he served most recently as the company’s President and CEO.
Since that time, Steve McKenzie’s has become a destination for interior designers and design lovers alike with an unparalled and curated collection of home accessories, furnishings, and a line of textiles derived from Steve’s paintings, available in the Steve McKenzie’s showroom, as well as other design showrooms nationwide. A practicing artist for more than 25 years, Steve has developed a unique technique, painting with walnut ink and focusing on organic compositon. His fabulous new studio is located in the upper loft space of Steve McKenzie’s, where he is currently working on his latest art series, inspired by botanicals. In conjunction with the retail shop’s opening in 2012, McKenzie Design LLC was also launched as a full-service interior design business. Steve’s keen eye and lifelong appreciation for design, starting when he was just a boy, made this a natural progression for his career.
Since its inception, McKenzie Design LLC has completed projects throughout the Southeast and Midwest, has been published in Atlanta Homes and Lifestyle, and has been recognized by other national publications, including House Beautiful and Traditional Home for curation of the businesses’ showroom. The inception of the interior design and home décor business have parlayed into product line design, an upholstery collection, a line of rugs through Verde Home, fine art prints, and a trays and barware collection.
1. MADCAP COTTAGE: Tell us about your backgrounds and how you both came to open Steve McKenzie’s.
JILL AND STEVE MCKENZIE: Midwesterners transplanted to Atlanta over 25 years ago, we have always enjoyed entertaining family and friends, food, art, color, and community. We met at Butler University in Indianapolis (Jill’s hometown), married in 1983 and bought art instead of furniture. Wish we had decent photos of our first house! Steve was in the management program with Sherwin Williams with access to all the goodies, so we painted and wallpapered our little bungalow to bits. After a few more corporate building blocks, which included kitchen/bath design, flooring, holiday product design, and more, we landed at Larson-Juhl in Atlanta.
Steve thrived at Larson-Juhl, the picture frame molding company. He quickly went from marketing to product design to marketing VP to CEO, once the company was sold to Berkshire Hathaway. At that time, he was the youngest CEO in Berkshire history. This 20-year-long chapter of our lives included more art, lots of travel with our family, more product design, and many friends around the world. In January 2012, a leadership change was made, and we were free to contemplate and decide our next chapter.
It took Steve about a week to hone in on his art and expanding his designs into textiles and beyond. As we explored Atlanta with a “new eyes” focus, we didn’t see a showroom or shop that looked like us – curated, eclectic, and colorful. SO, we decided to open our home décor boutique to serve the retail client and the interior designer. We opened our doors in September 2012 and moved to our current spacious showroom in 2014. Let’s bring on 2018!
2. MC: Art has played and continues to play such an important role in your lives. From Larson-Juhl to today, tell us a bit about your adventures in the art world.
JSM: Art has always been a major part of our lives though not always obvious. Jill grew up with original art, which her parents rented from the Indianapolis Museum of Art and with very modern décor as her parents owned a Scandinavian import store for 20 years. She grew up retail, so it’s truly in her blood. We have a few pieces from her parents’ stores – the orange desk bell, shelving…
Steve has always been drawn to décor, fashion, and travel. He became an artist in earnest over 25 years ago, taking classes, creating an art studio in the home, and launching his first public art show in Santa Fe NM in 2008. Subsequently, he has shown in NYC at Gallerie Protégé and Indianapolis at Editions Limited.
If you ask our three adult children what usually happens on family vacations, the response is ‘Visit museums and old churches!’ True! We’ve been very lucky to visit many amazing countries, museums, old and new churches, and friends.
3. MC: What is the MO behind Steve McKenzie’s? The vision?
JSM: Love what you live with. Good design belongs to all. Buy art you love.
4. MC: Talk to us about service and the role that service plays at Steve McKenzie’s.
JSM: Hospitality and customer service are paramount at Steve McKenzie’s. In today’s increasingly online world, steve mckenzie’s believes in serving our clients (in the shop and online), building community – asking clients ‘how can we make your day better? May we gift-wrap your purchase? How about an espresso? Let’s talk about your options… Join us at one of our classes.’
5. MC: What is your goal with the retail outpost? Where would you like it to be in 5 years?
JSM: Top of everyone’s list when they visit Atlanta or make their shopping rounds – what’s new in home décor, experience new artists, find that perfect gift, and join in on a class.
Watch for more Steve McKenzie’s pop-ups in the greater Atlanta area and the southeast as we expand our offerings into journals, fine art prints, serving pieces, and more.
6. MC: Anything else?
JSM: Our interior design business has taken off! Everyone deserves a home with good design, personality, and comfort–from color-consultation to a new build to a new living room, and everything in between. Steve and I are deeply passionate about building lasting, meaningful relationships with our clients, vendors, friends, and fellow business owners. How can we be a blessing to others? That is our prayer every morning.