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Lady Johnson’s hilltop home is surrounded by natural beauty



Story by Gay Lyons | Photography by Ben Finch

You might say that Lady Johnson bought a view with house attached.

“I’ve been talking about buying a farm for 18 years,” she said. “I’d looked and didn’t see anything that thrilled me.”

She had resigned herself to staying in her 6200 square foot home in Farragut but agreed to look at one more piece of property, a former horse farm in Louisville. 

“When I drove up here, even before I got out of the car, I said ‘this is the one,’” she said. “I said, ‘This is the one I want.’ It’s the view.”

The home was built 26 years ago on top of a hill surrounded by 38 acres. Johnson downsized just a bit--down to 5200 square feet and set about making the space her own after purchasing it in 2017.

“It looks completely different,” she said. “It’s the same structurally, but I painted the exterior tan. I wanted it to be clean and neutral. I don’t like anything too busy. I kept the copper light fixtures [on the exterior]. I think they’re cool looking.”

The home is situated to take advantage of the views all around. Most rooms in the home have large windows which bring in natural light and make the most of the natural surroundings. The home also has numerous porches--perfect for taking in the landscape.

“It’s just gorgeous up here,” she said. “It’s magnificent in the spring with a carpet of lenten roses. I love to sit outside in the morning and drink coffee. I get a great view of fireworks from all over on the Fourth of July.”

“I don’t plan to move again,” she said. “”It was a hard move. I’m going to stay here as long as I can.”

After her mother passed away, Johnson was tasked with going through everything her mother had accumulated as well as her own possessions.

“When I moved here, I got rid of stuff,” she continued. “You wouldn’t believe. My mother didn’t get rid of anything.”

Johnson added beams to the interior and completely renovated several rooms.

“Remodeling has been such an endeavor,” she said. “I gutted the kitchen and totally renovated the master bathroom.”

The backsplash in the kitchen is made from handmade tiles which her friend and decorator, Victoria Daniel Cape helped her select.

“I’ve always believed in getting help,” Johnson said. “I asked for Victoria’s help with paint colors and fabrics.”

“I didn’t really buy any furniture for this house,” she continued. “You get attached to your things. I had a lot of pieces recovered and reupholstered.”

She was firm on one thing: everything in the great room needed to work with the rug she brought from her previous home.

“I initially called Victoria to help me with the paint colors,” she said. “One thing leads to another, but I said, ‘We’re going to work with that rug.’”

The result is a combination of patterns and colors that are bold but subdued. 

She installed the large chandelier from her previous home over the dining room table. 

“The swan [on the dining room table] is one of my favorite pieces,” she said. “It’s really a soup tureen. I bought it in the late ‘70s in Jamestown, New York at a furniture store in a huge old house. It had gorgeous, high end stuff.”

Johnson moved her piano onto a platform at one end of the great room that seems custom made for it.

“I love where the piano is,” she said. “It’s a beautiful window. We use the room a lot. I have a friend who’s a professional piano player. She plays, and we sing. It’s a great house for entertaining.”

Johnson kept most of her chickens, not the egg-laying variety, the decorative kind: there are prints of chickens and various ceramic chickens including a salt and pepper set.  

“I’ve had to tell my friends, ‘Don’t give me any more chickens,’” she said.

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