When we published our Southern issue in November, there was an abundance of creative local food and fashion to cover, but where were innovative Southern furnishings? Atlantans may be experimenting with Brussels sprouts and pork bellies, but they are doing it around Pottery Barn tables made in Indonesia. So we were especially pleased to discover Steve and Jill McKenzie’s new Westside store, which opened just as our regional homage went to press. (Click here to see more and order a digital copy.)
“No one really celebrates modern Southern living on the home interiors–and–lifestyle side,” says Steve. “The South is so steeped in tradition: the furniture making, the cotton making, the textile making. We’re beginning to awaken to that history and to celebrate it. What Sid Mashburn and Billy Reid have done in fashion, on an international scale, can be done on the home furnishings side.”
The McKenzies’ lofty industrial space, an old Army railroad depot, features a dozen or so artisans with fresh interpretations of regional idioms. Carefully vetted craftspeople include two North Carolina furniture makers, the Old Wood Co. and 2nd Story Wood Co.; Blenko Glass (West Virginia); and R. Wood Studio (Athens, Georgia, pottery). Merchandise on display is often tweaked to Steve’s specifications. For example, he had the 2nd Story Wood Co. create one of its standard pine tables with a sturdy cobalt blue, powder-coated base. ColsenKeane’s leather goods come trimmed in orange stitching to echo the McKenzie logo.
At the heart of the store’s inventory are Steve’s own designs. A painter whose work is represented by Galerie Protégé in New York, he has created colorful fabrics ($139/yard) inspired by his abstract studies in walnut ink. Two more product launches are planned for later this year. A signature upholstery collection, with pieces christened after the most popular baby names of 1960, was inspired by clean-lined, midcentury shapes and scaling ($1,100 to $4,400). For example, the slim Robert love seat is shallow enough to double as a dining bench. In a deft understatement, the back of the Michael chair has a single square button at its center.
There are also a few larger vendors such as Niche Modern lighting, Libeco linens, and Grange furniture. Steve had many industry connections from his twenty years as chief designer and then CEO of international frame company Larson-Juhl. Jill’s family owned Scandinavian modern furniture stores in Indianapolis. (“I dated someone who lived in the Jetsons house,” jokes Steve.) When a corporate reorganization led to a career change, Jill says, “it took us about a week to figure out we wanted to open a store.” Adds Steve, “I don’t think we can stop. We’ve got more ideas.” 996 Huff Road, 678-641-4411, stevemckenzies.com
This article originally appeared in our January 2013 issue.