Designer Steve McKenzie artfully blends vintage, modern, and one-of-a-kind in this Tudor cottage

Cara Cimmino and Mitch Klasky went into the designer’s Westside shop looking for a table. Now, they have a home full of treasures.
Steve McKenzie cottage
Photograph by Anthony-Masterson
Steve McKenzie cottage
Cara and Mitch picked up the vibrant painting over the sofa (artist unknown) during Cara’s medical fellowship in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mitch, who works for a specialty foods company, built the coffee table after taking a woodworking class. An antique chest serves as a bar; the painting on top is by Steve, a gift to his clients.

Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

It started with a table. One late summer afternoon, Cara Cimmino and Mitch Klasky wandered into Steve McKenzie’s home furnishings store, shopping for their dining room. The couple had recently moved from Virginia into an empty Morningside house, and they were planning to host Thanksgiving for 15 people. “We liked a farmhouse table in Steve’s store, but it was sold, so we had him keep an eye out for another one,” says Cara, a urologist at Emory University Hospital.

The industrious proprietor found them a table—and over the next three years ended up curating an entire houseful of treasures. “People would often say to me, ‘I like your aesthetic,’ when they were shopping,” recalls Steve. “So doing design work was a natural progression.” The Westside store owned by Steve and his wife, Jill, showcases their love of locally sourced accessories and furniture.

Cara and Mitch’s 1920s Tudor cottage has the sort of architectural charm that designers crave as a backdrop: arched doorways, a cheerful sunroom, and large windows. A previous owner (herself an interior designer) had added teal grasscloth wallpaper in the dining room, which everybody agreed was a keeper.

Steve McKenzie cottage
Photograph by Anthony-Masterson

After the couple showed Steve an abstract painting they planned to hang in the living room, the designer—who is also an artist—decided to use its sunny turquoise, yellow, and salmon palette as a starting point. “That wasn’t a combination you see every day,” he says.

Next came the fabric selections, in this case an appliqued linen for living room draperies and a vivid yellow velvet for the sofa. Several of the upholstered pieces—the sofa, ottomans, and a leather chair in the sunroom—are from Steve’s own line.

In the living room, Steve designed a seven-foot-wide contemporary glass chandelier to balance the horizontal scale of the space and provide “an element of sculpture.” Salmon- and citron-colored rondelles can go from bright to moody, thanks to a dimmer switch.

Case goods add more character to the house. Cara’s favorite piece, a French circa-1890s desk with barley-twist legs, sits by a living room window. Steve picked up a daybed and chest from Anne Flaire Antiques to further ground the room. Mitch himself built the coffee table out of red and white oak.

The house appears cozy from the outside, but a finished basement and an attic turned master suite boost the living area to 3,500 square feet. That extra space is handy, since 14 months after moving in, the couple welcomed twin girls, now almost two. Playrooms and sizable closets provide the family with room to grow.

Steve appreciates enthusiastic clients like Cara and Mitch—among his first as an interior designer—who share the philosophies that define his work. “They love color and art,” he says, “and we are all about the juxtaposition of something modern and something old.”

This article originally appeared in our Summer 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.