Steve McKenzie Creates a Polished & Pretty Space

For an Atlanta home, interior designer Steve McKenzie dusts off a dated look while incorporating his client's cherished antiques.

Text: Alice Welsh Doyle
Stylist: Eleanor Roper
Photos: Emily Followill

When working on a makeover, a seasoned interior designer knows to carefully sift through the client’s existing pieces to see what can be reimagined with a new treatment or simply a new location. For a project in North Buckhead, the process was a snap for interior designer Steve McKenzie.

Polished & Pretty

Polished & Pretty

A pair of new leather sofas, (a favorite of the client) flank the reimagined fireplace joined by a custom ottoman with a stylized Greek key nailhead pattern designed by McKenzie.

Polished & Pretty


Polished & Pretty

“My clients have the most exquisite collection of antiques that I have ever been privileged to work with, and I was excited to give them a second act by placing them in a more updated environment,” says McKenzie.

While the kitchen needed some structural changes and updates, the rest of the makeover was cosmetic—fresh paint, fabrics, wallpapers, light fixtures, and select new furnishings. First and foremost was a palette refresh. “The house really reflected the decade my clients moved in,” says McKenzie. “It consisted of golds, reds, and browns, and it felt dark and dated, so the beautiful antiques were overshadowed by the heaviness of the surroundings.” Enter whites, off-whites, touches of light greens, and blues, instantly uplifting the good bones of the house. “I was ready for a lighter look,” says the homeowner. “I knew we had nice things, but they needed a new backdrop. I love working with color and putting it all together.”

In addition to changing the palette, McKenzie traded predictable light fixtures for more transitional ones in bold brass, replaced tired window treatments with fussy detailing for simple panels in solids and prints, and swapped out existing rugs for hand-knotted styles in softer colors from Moattar and Verde Home. With the backdrop chosen, the supporting players entered the scene. In the dining room, McKenzie sent the red walls packing, bringing in a hand-painted bird print wallpaper with a taupe-and-gray background and silver metallic accents that glow at night. “The dining room was the biggest transformation of all,” says the homeowner. “That wallpaper makes me so happy, and it is so variant throughout the day and evening.”

The gorgeous English breakfront and French buffet now take pride of place, standing out against the light walls instead of blending in. For the living room, new fabrics add abundant style to the client’s existing pieces. Schumacher animal print (a client favorite) graces antique chairs relocated from the dining room, while settees show off a rich brown velvet and two chinoiserie stools go bold with a cut velvet in a vivid emerald green. In the main bedroom, McKenzie took a bit of a risk that paid off—he plucked two existing chairs from the living room and had them lacquered in a bold blue and upholstered in an overscaled paisley print from Schumacher. “I absolutely love these chairs and the fabric,” says the homeowner. The powder room makeover included a bronze metallic textured Phillip Jeffries wallpaper and cornice board window treatment with a shape that mirrors the antique Venetian mirror over the vanity. “The English breakfront is possibly the only antique that did not move during the redesign,” says McKenzie. “It is ideal for holding my client’s collection of Herend figurines.”

“I’m so happy that I made wise purchases when buying antiques decades ago and that they are showcased and reworked in the design. This truly is our grown-up house,” says the homeowner. “All the changes made for a very livable, comfortable home, calm and fresh, which the whole family appreciates.”

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