Donald McKenzie

bio Photo Journey

The Lyceum

School of Architecture

First Project Out of School

First Millwork I Ever Drew. Memories…

8’ Wainscot Panels

JSU Entry

What I do now!

The Before

After! Dream it!

Another Before. Boring Builder Grade.

After

How lucky can I be to have found something that I wake up excited to do every day.  I remember my first step down this path.  I was a in the pre-med program at Ole Miss, and, with one year left, I decided to change course and told my parents that I wanted to become an architect.  You would likely see happier parents picking up their child from the county lockup! But I stayed the course, graduated with a degree in anthropology and minor in French, and enrolled in the architecture school at Mississippi State University.   Turns out there wasn’t much of a need for a French speaking Indiana Jones.

#dreamcrushers

Architecture school was much harder than I ever imagined, but I survived and landed my first job in Jackson, Mississippi.  By that time, my parents had moved to California.  To this day, I am not sure if their move was out of disappointment of my choice to not to become a doctor.

I worked as an intern architect for many years, which is the precursor to becoming a licensed architect.  When I moved to Arizona in 2008, I studied hard and passed the tests to get my architectural license. That was a huge milestone, and I felt the world was my oyster.  But by the end of 2008, the entire world went up in financial flames, and my mom was diagnosed with cancer (she is ok today, thankfully).  We all remember the Great Recession and the pain that it brought millions of people. For me, it brought unemployment and sadness. I could just hear my family and friends in my head telling me “you should have been a doctor. Job security!”

With architectural firms shutting down and work drying up, I was out of options.  But I was determined not to give up.  When a friend showed me, a job posting for a kitchen designer at a certain orange big box store, I begrudgingly applied.  I remember thinking how degrading it was for a licensed architect to be in this position, but I sucked it up and went back to work. It was the best decision of my adult life. 

The world of cabinetry and design opened my mind to entirely new ideas and experiences. I had cut my design teeth on interior architecture of huge institutional buildings: Alcorn State University Dining Facility, Jackson State University Engineering School, and Baylor University’s Baseball Stadium. These projects were years long, and you feel like a cog in a machine.  The kitchen design world is much faster paced, and the projects I get to work are more personal, meeting with homeowners and really getting to know everything about their home and project.

I eventually moved on to a kitchen showroom in Scottsdale and continued to learn and hone my craft.  I took a big leap by opening my own showroom in the Gainey Ranch area of Scottsdale in 2017. Residential construction was always an interest that was bouncing around in my head.  But now I get to be part of it through my design work with cabinetry, kitchen, and bath planning.  Since I was trained as architect, I approach things a bit differently than your average cabinet shop.  Laying out a kitchen and throwing boxes on a wall is not the level of design I allow to go out the door.  Even the simplest project presents challenges, but those are really just opportunities in capable hands. The best part though is making people happy. I still love that. It never gets old. You can never replace the joy of completing a project for happy client. 

Don’t worry, I am pretty sure my parents have forgiven me for the pre-med thing.  If you are looking for a cabinet person, I would love the opportunity to sit down and discuss your project.  My showroom/studio is always open to you.  Please, come experience the difference at McKenzie Architectural Kitchens!

Some Local Flavor and Perspective

Gulf Coast: Krewe of Nereids

My parents Mardi Gras Krewe during my youth. Yes, they did get to wear one of those ridiculously understated costumes. Nothing like seeing your dad spend months to grow a beard for his debut as a Duke, while wearing pantyhose in front of about two thousand people.

Ole Miss: Betty Davis BBQ

All freshmen got to know this place. The dirt road was always marked with an El Comino with a arrow sign in back.

I was surprised to see that Betty Davis BBQ is on Yelp.

Holly Springs: Graceland Too

A rite of passage at Ole Miss. This place is packed floor to rafter w/ Elvis memorabilia. You can show up any day and any time for a tour.

On my visit the owner asked for my help. High up on the left column, the house numbers were nailed up by yours truly. Now painted over.

Club Ebony: Indianola Heart of the Mississippi Delta

BB King started out playing here. Little known fact is that he would also would show up here after the Delta Blues Festival.

BB King at Club Ebony

This is how I got to see BB. Once in a life time experience. It was like seeing him play in your living room. The stage was about a foot tall.

Honey Island Swamp

One of my favorite places, and it captured my imagination as a child. A natural wonder. I grew up on the east bank of the Pearl River. Honey Island Swamp was the natural barrier between my small town and New Orleans.

Picayune Creole Cookbook

I am a collector of this wonderful cookbook. It is about hundred years old and I adore it. Happy to share a recipe or two. Personal favorite is Court Bouillon!