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Five Questions for… Steve and Jill McKenzie, Style Entrepreneurs

Steve and 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.

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Five Questions for Anthony Baratta, Design Legend

Tony Baratta, the master of color and dream worthy design.


John and I have long been passionate about the incredible design duo of Diamond Baratta, and we cherished the many, many magazine write-ups on their spectacular design projects over the years that often featured completely custom furnishings, rugs, and textile to glorious effect. The Diamond Baratta firm is no more, and, sadly, William Diamond is no longer with us either.

Happily, the wonderfully kind and engaging Tony Baratta has been cranking along on his own, and the results—from licensed products to bespoke interiors and a retail shop in the Hamptons—are as whimsical and wonderful as you might hope.

We were thrilled when Tony agreed to sit down with us for a few Madcap Cottage queries.

1. MADCAP COTTAGE: What does the Anthony Baratta brand stand for?

ANTHONY BARATTA: The Anthony Baratta brand is all about classic American luxury with soul. Always colorful. Always a clear narrative. Always a sense of humor or touch of whimsy. The brand is a direct reflection of myself and my interests… I enjoy beautiful things that have their own stories to tell.

A Southampton, New York home designed by Tony Baratta.

2. MCC: Tell us about your favorite design project and why?

AB: Two recent projects come to mind. One is a winter home in Deer Valley, Utah for its color palette and our use of American antiques. The project started with a very literal ski lodge theme in mind, and then we took it to the next level of design. It’s pretty spectacular! The other is a summer home in Southampton, New York. I was able to design every aspect from the ground up, including the architecture, furniture, textiles, and rugs. Each project is owned by long-term clients who I’ve designed multiple homes for. They support me 100%, and they let me be at my creative best by putting no limitations on me. I love working with clients who appreciate my design and understand my process.



3. MCC: We are crazy about your color-packed Westhampton Beach, New York shop. How did it come about, and what’s the vision?

AB: What I started as a hobby has become a design laboratory for myself and my talented team. We want the shops to be both a source of inspiration and a place to find those special pieces that make a home personal and unique. We also want the place to be a full-service decorating shop, and we always enjoy the challenge of creating new spaces or revamping existing ones.

A Tony Baratta-designed ski house in Utah, packed with plaid perfection.

4. MCC: You have a furniture line with Thomasville, rugs with Capel, bedding with Wildcat Territory… What’s next?

AB: We want to be able to offer our customers a curated collection under one roof, so we’re currently working with several partners on some new collections to bridge the gaps. Our goal is to continue to explore ways to bring the classic Anthony Baratta look across all of the home furnishings categories. We’re even extending out into the world of designing apparel. You’ll have to stay tuned and see for yourself.

5. MCC: What’s the next frontier in interior design?

AB: The world is changing rapidly, and the way people live is changing even faster. Homes are becoming much less formal as focuses shift with priorities of modern-day living. My observation is that as we’ve become more health-, family-, and environmentally-driven people are living completely different lifestyles than we were 20 or 30 years ago. Two people living in a huge 15,000+-square-foot, over-scaled property, with formal living spaces the size of the average American home, is just not necessary anymore. It’s out of whack. People are rethinking what’s essential for living comfortably. Our responsibility as designers is to realize this change of tides, rein it back in and adapt to the new way of living. Creating a world for simplifying lifestyles. #HealthIsTheNewWealth

6. MCC: And, OK, this is the sixth question, sorry, but how do you see the social media having changed the interior design landscape.

AB: First of all, I’m obsessed with all of the visuals available at my fingertips. I love seeing how people live and what inspires them. It’s fascinating to me that it all happened so quickly that it’s nearly impossible to track how influential it’s become. I get constant inspiration across all platforms. On the flipside, I find there to be a lot of Insta-gratification. Which is all well and good but, you have to understand it’s fantasy. The imagery can never replace real-world knowledge and experience. It’s not easy to make that fantasy you see come to life. It’s nice to look at but people see these static images and try to replicate them precisely. Not taking into consideration that they’re often removing or replacing things that they have a real connection to. Items with sentiment and history. Literally stripping away layers of their home’s character. The essence of what gives their space soul. #AllThatGlittersIsNotGold


How To: Refresh That Interior


The Madcap Cottage gents believe that good design should be available to all, whether you have access to an interior designer or not. Hence, the Demystifying Design blog is all about bringing good, accessible—and yet always-aspirational—design home and thinking outside of the box to craft interiors magic. If you want to look like your neighbors’ home, go read another blog. But if you want to create bespoke interiors that overflow with personality (not ours, but yours!) and pizzazz, then you’ve come to the right place.

Today, we are taking you down a short path to a few fun tweaks that can quickly and easily transform your home and take that “nice” and make it a knockout.

  1. Layer, layer, layer! Use antiques and vintage pieces to bring decorate with layeringyour home’s storyline to life. Rooms that feature all-new furnishings and accessories look like showrooms, and who wants that? In the former Madcap Cottage front hall in Brooklyn, an antique English hall tree mixes with vintage and contemporary art. The ottomans tucked under the faux bamboo table offered the perfect occasional seating at the frequent dinner parties.
  2. Add a game table. Why always sit in your dining room at dinner parties? And the kitchen can become such a mess withadd a game table cooking and whatnot, so you might want to always pull up to the kitchen island. Our suggestion is to find a vintage game table that you can place in a cozy corner of the living room where you can segue from cocktails to dinner, board games to more cocktails. Here, the Madcap gents’ House of Bedlam living room with a vintage chinoiserie game table that we painted to give it new life.

  3. Use wallpaper to hide a room’s architectural flaws. wallpaper in decoratingFor example, here’s a 1950s-era bathroom that the Madcaps are designing in Sarasota, Florida. We kept the original pink tile and added a fun tropical wallpaper not only to play up the tile—but also to mask the soffit that runs along the ceiling. The wallpaper tricks the eye into not noticing the soffit thanks to the profusion of traveler’s palm leaves.
  4. In the same Sarasota, Florida design project, we used a jauntydecorate with stripesgreen-and-white cabana stripe paper from York Wallcoverings to lend visual interest to a long hallway that had anything but pizzazz. Thanks to the paper, the hallway now has architectural élan and seems much larger than it truly is. Some artwork upon the walls, and the space will be complete.
  5. The Madcaps are huge fans of catalogues and big-box stores: Good design resides everywhere. Here, we took the Naples

    chair updateRattan Chair from Grandin Road and custom upholstered it in the Mill Reef pattern from the Madcap Cottage for Robert Allen @Home collection. A rich blue contrast welt adds the perfect punctuation mark to the seat. Lesson to be learned: Take the “store bought” and tweak it to make it your own.

living room

Ready, Set, Transformation: Accessorize It!


It’s spring, so why not take a tired room and give it new life. And we don’t mean start anew. Rather, refresh, refresh, refresh! Never clean house: Layer on details and accessories that will really make a space sing. Good design should take what you have and only make it better.

Turn This…

tan sofavanilla chair







Into This…

living room

In this living room feature that we produced a while back for Better Homes and Gardens magazine (this is actually our House of Bedlam living room stripped to its bare bones!), we took a vanilla chair and sofa and gave them a new lease on life with the Madcap Cottage for Robert Allen @Home fabrics and some delicious details.

Here’s How, Tricks of the Trade:

  • Of course, layer-in throw pillows… But why not switch out your decorative pillows every season to keep a sofa feeling ever fresh and inviting? And don’t forget contrast welting on your pillows to add a visual punctuation mark.
  • Add tape treatment to your window treatments. Here, Cove End in Palm from our Robert Allen @Home collection took blue-hued curtain panels and gave them extra oomph. Ask your tailor or seamstress to tackle this project.
  • Switch out the seat and back cushions on a chair for some sparkle and pizzazz. Any Calico outpost from coast to coast can do this for you. And don’t forget to ask for contrast welting! Here, the Windsor Park fabric from our Robert Allen @Home collection, Into the Garden, makes a dramatic pattern-rich statement on this Toulon chair from Ballard Designs.
  • Slipcover an ottoman such as this pair from Ikea. Ikea, really? Oh, yes. Good design resides everywhere. We love how these petite ottomans tuck under the metal coffee table from Ballard.
  • Change out your art for something fresh and new such as this oversized piece from our friends at Z Gallerie.
  • Mix in vintage and antique accessories that you have picked up in flea markets and upon your travels. It’s all about a wonderful storyline and provenance when bringing your personal brand vision to life. Pier 1 is nice and all, but what can you really say about the back story of the sundry accessories that you loaded into your cart there, n’est-ce pas?

Share your accessorized spaces with us on Instagram at @madcapcottage!

How To: Decorating With Lighting

How To: Decorating With Lighting

Gang, Let’s Get Lit!

There’s no better fix for a room that lacks punch and pizzazz than changing out the lighting scheme.

How To: Decorating With Lighting

The before: the House of Bedlam kitchen with its massive fluorescent fixture that was supposed to make it feel like sunshine spilling in. Eek.

And that doesn’t mean that you need hire an electrician tout de suite, but rather make sure that you have a terrific mix of a chandelier, table lamps, perhaps a sconce, and floor lamps.

And if you can afford to have a dimmer switch control installed for every overhead light in your home, pull the trigger and pronto. There’s nothing better in life than a dimmer switch, except, maybe, well, gin.

A few lighting tips:

  1. Don’t forget picture lighting for artwork, so if you have the electrician coming over to install dimmer switches, have him add a few outlets behind your artwork, too, to plug in that art lighting.
  2. Details, details! Beautiful lampshades can make all the difference in a room, so don’t overlook affordable,
    How To: Decorating With Lighting

    The after: a tip-to-toe overhaul that included the addition of vintage-style lanterns over the vintage island. Recessed lighting scattered about the Thibaut wallpapered ceiling offers additional directional lighting, and the mix of pendants and in-ceiling fixtures is spot on.

    web-centric sources such as Lamps Plus and Anthropologie. You can also go the custom route for your shades thanks to sources such as Elle Daniel and The Lampshade Lady. And don’t forget to layer-in trim.

  3. Mix vintage lamps with new to create a layered look in a space. Who wants a home that looks like a brand-new showroom, n’est-ce pas?
  4. Change out boring plastic cords on your table lamps for colorful fabric-wrapped cording, available online (Try the Color Cord Company). And find a local hardware store—or handyman—that can switch out your cords once you have selected stunning new color ways.
  5. Look to big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot for great lighting: We are especially partial to their outdoor lighting that we repurpose for indoor use.

Let’s take a look at some more of the Madcap gent’s favorite lighting moments in our far-flung projects:

How To: Decorating With Lighting

The dining room of our former Brooklyn home. A contemporary chandelier from our friends at Currey & Co. (topped with bespoke chandelier lampshades) paired with vintage table lamps and Deco-styled torchieres brought this colorful space to life.

How To: Decorating With Lighting

A vintage bamboo-styled table lamp pairs wonderfully with an oversized contemporary work of art. Note the black paper lampshade that helps ground the piece, i.e. Use black as a neutral in rooms with heaps of color.

How To: Decorating With Lighting

Purchased at a flea market in Miami, this pink-painted Hollywood Regency traveled with the Madcaps to various homes, including the dining room at our apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The custom chandelier shades are crafted from a favorite Sister Parish fabric pattern, Burma (Parish is a Madcap heroine).

How To: Decorating With Lighting

Looking into the Madcap Cottage gents’ House of Bedlam living room from the foyer. A pair of vintage floor lamps sits on either side of the sofa. We had a floor outlet installed under the living room’s vintage rug and had our rug installer make a cut-out in the rug to allow the floor lamp cords to be plugged in. If you are renovating a home, be sure to think about the placement of your outlets and whether you have enough. We hate arriving at a hotel and finding no outlets on either side of the bed, a real pet peeve. If I cannot charge my phone—aka, LaVerne—easily, all bets are off.

How To: Decorating With Lighting

The Madcaps’ former living room in Brooklyn, a favorite haunt of our pound-rescue Boston-Boxer mix, Jasper. The vintage chandelier hails from an antiques show that took place in the Hamptons, and we paired the chinoiserie fantasy with heaps of table lamps. We decided not to add recessed lighting in the ceiling to keep the room’s vibe very English country house, and the decision was absolutely correct. The space had plenty of light but was also decidedly moody. Perfection.

How to design a sunroom

How To: Designing a Knockout Sun Room!

How to design a sunroom

Sunroom Before

Gang, what does it take to pull a great sun room together?

  • Storyline
  • Vision
  • Plan of Attack
  • Details, Details, Details!

See how to design a sun room, and how the Madcaps pulled together the sun room at the House of Bedlam, our 1930s-era Regency-style home in High Point, North Carolina.

Here is the covered porch when we purchased the home. The space had great bones – a bluestone floor and lots of light looking into our wooded backyard – but it was decidedly vanilla and boring.

  1. Lesson: Craft A Storyline.
    • We are crazy about the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England, the onetime beachside escape of the Prince of Wales, and we wanted to bring some of this Indo-Moorish folly fantasy back to the House of Bedlam.
    • Tools to bring your vision to life:How to design a sunroom
      • Wallpaper: the true trick of the trade that can carry you to India or the islands without the need for a passport. Our favorite: York Wallcoverings.
      • Paint.
      • Fabric.
      • Vintage Furnishings.
      • Throw Rugs.
      • Pillows.
      • Our go-to sources for fabric, window treatments, and accessories: Calico, Smith & Noble, Ballard Designs, and World Market.
  2. Lesson: It’s good to mix disparate influences – have some fun!How to design a sunroom
    • The Royal Pavilion is fantastic, but why not layer-in other influences, too, such as this whimsical facade treatment spotted in Beverly Hills? The scalloped awning with tassels, the theatricality, and the travelers palms that flank the doorway, simply heaven.
    • Tools to bring your vision to life:
      • iPhone: you never know when you might spot that must-have moment!
      • Fabric and trim bring the storyline to the forefront.
  3. Lesson: Too much of a good thing is a good thing.
    • A little English country house finished off our vision. Relaxed chic with lots of color and a mix of vintage and new finds.
    • Tools to bring your vision to life:
      • Houseplants: these help turn any home into a hot house sanctuary.
      • Stone floor, to finish off the relaxed mud-room sensibility.
  4. Lesson: Map out your plan of attack.How to design a sunroom
    • If you can draw, sketch the room of your dreams.
    • If you aren’t an artist, outline the room of your dreams.

Room Details & Tips:

  • To create an eternal summer vibe, we used the Madcap Cottage for Robert Allen @ Home fabric Isleboro Eve in Daffodil to cover the sun room sofa.
  • For glorious window treatments, we used Madcap Cottage for Robert Allen @ Home Bermuda Bay fabric in Palm.
  • Measure, measure, measure!
  • To change up the look of a room, switch out your pillows often.

Here’s the finished sun room at the House of Bedlam. Stunning, no? Note how we incorporated details from the Royal Pavilion and the Beverly Hills facade with the tenting, scalloped window treatments, furnishings, and accessories. The space is elegant yet decidedly fun!

How to design a sunroom

Sunroom After

How to design a sunroom

John’s watercolor sketch that incorporated all of the far-flung influences that inspired us.

How to design a sunroom

A close-up of the window treatments that mix Cove End and Bermuda Bay fabrics. We love the whimsical pom-pom trim that finishes the look.


How to design a sunroom

A mix of decorative pillows upon the kicky Daffodil-hued sofa bring the green hue from the ceiling onto the furnishings.