Preserving Classic Southern Architecture


Drawing inspiration from the past, M. Deane Johnson homes blends the best of today’s innovative style and up-to-date technology with the essence of all that is time-honored and esteemed.

The classic architecture of Atlanta’s post-Civil War era homes is alive and well today, thanks to those like M. Deane Johnson, who have made it their mission to preserve the legacy of these majestic Southern estates. True to the influence of early 20th century architects, Johnson has committed himself to not only building new homes that carry on classic architectural tradition, but restoring and renovating some of the Atlanta area’s finest older homes to their original glory.


Throughout Johnson’s personal home, built just 2 years ago, is a glimpse into this past. The home’s Louisiana French Federal design is a result of months of historical research into the Period and painstaking attention to authenticity throughout.

“Growing up amidst generations of realtors, homebuilders, and architects in my family provided me with an appreciation of Atlanta's older residences. When I built my own home, I wanted it to emulate the designs that I had studied.”

The informal dining area and “keeping room” adjoin the kitchen for an airy, open floor plan the whole family can enjoy. Upgrade your own living areas with our high-end bar stools, rugs, and interior furnishings.

The home’s grandeur begins far from the front door at the massive iron gates. The long vista approaching the home gives a historical perspective, and the gates and entry wall are reminiscent of those found on an old Southern Georgia home that Johnson’s great uncle researched for an architectural project at Georgia Tech School of Architecture. The seemingly never-ending driveway was carefully laid with authentic cobblestones reclaimed from the old streets of Underground Atlanta.

Research revealed the site to be the Riverbend Mansion, a 19th-century estate once home to Wisconsin governor Walter J. Kohler and a mansion listed as one of the 100 greatest in America. The couple immediately planned a trip to Wisconsin-not to join the country club, but to be inspired first-hand by the home in the postcard.

Commanding your attention at the end of the drive are the hand-selected aged Georgia granite exterior accents, the Spanish slate roof with copper flashings, and solid mahogany exterior doors. All the exterior shutters have been approved by the Charleston Historical Society and the entire exterior is a lightning-proof design modeled after a European copper perimeter system.

Breezy southern evenings can be enjoyed from any of the 1,500 sq. ft. of limestone porches, front and rear.

Undeniably the most striking feature as you enter the home is the replica of the Thomas Jefferson Arch that embellishes the spacious foyer and frames the period staircase. True to Jeffersonian style, this archway duplicates the one leading into the Library at Monticello.

The main level finds the library with its hand-planed cypress walls and authentic carved French limestone fireplace mantel. Family activities have their own venues, including a sitting room, family room, play room, media room, exercise room, and art room that could also serve as a wine cellar.

The kitchen is truly a chef’s dream, done in a rich, creamy off-white from end to end, and showcasing marble countertops, spacious walk-in pantry, Butler’s pantry, 2 dishwashers, built-in refrigerator and separate built-in freezer. The open floor plan of this area leads into a spacious informal dining space, and further opens to a “keeping room” with 2 computer nooks.

The master bedroom features a pyramid vaulted ceiling with segmented barrel arch and a sitting room for reflecting on the day’s events. Italian Calcutta marble in the master bath beckons with a heated floor, double vanity and separate tub and shower. Other bathrooms boast Israeli limestone

Johnson and his wife, Erika, say that the Frontgate furnishings and accessories strategically placed throughout the home’s interior and exterior are appropriate to the setting, and help to bring authenticity to the period look. Other finishing touches include 3″ wide wood blinds that give a plantation feel to all the interior windows, and poplar stained wood doors on the main level.

Simple, stylish, elegant, and functional, the kitchen features off-white décor, marble countertops, a walk-in pantry, 2 dishwashers, and spacious, functional work areas.

Relieving daily stress is easy in the master bath with Italian Calcutta marble and heated floor. Find a wide selection of bathroom accessories made of marble, teak, and more.

Large windows and the beautiful French doors allow sunlight to soak every square inch of the Master Suite during the day, while rich dark-grain floors and the beautiful vaulted ceiling set the scene for peaceful moments before bed.

“Many clients are choosing to restore, renovate, or upgrade their homes. I think we excel in this type of work largely because our ability to recreate the past authentically. Many of these homes were originally built in a classic period architectural style, and our research in historic, time-honored architecture enables us to literally reconstruct the past here in the present.”

Four Generations of Family History and a New Focus

Beginning in 1908 with his great-grandfather, Johnson’s family has been in the real estate and building business throughout the Atlanta area. He learned the essentials of custom homebuilding from his father who helped transform the look of ’50s and ’60s Atlanta architecture into the more traditional styles.

Since the 1980s, Johnson has taken the building business to a new level, becoming a major name in new home construction. In recent years, his focus has expanded to include a passion for recreating and reconstructing historic residences. His list of projects in this genre is impressive, and includes several high-profile Atlanta area homes.

Giving Back

Johnson views the building business as an opportunity to make a difference in the community. In 2007, Johnson undertook a massive 2-year renovation of a West Conway estate originally built as the Neiman Marcus Southern Accents Magazine “Holiday House for AID Atlanta”, and featured in a 1-hr. HGTV Christmas feature. In addition, many of his homes have been sold to raise funds for charities including the American Diabetes Association, Georgia Transplant Foundation, Heartline Ministries, and Child Kind. Deane has also been involved with an inner-city development group dedicated to training the homeless so they may become productive members of society.

Crafting enduring historic architecture for future generations is both a passion and a vocation for Deane Johnson. His creations, whether old or new, have become assets not only to the owners but also to Atlanta and the Southeast.


HOME SITE: 2.4 acres in Sandy Springs, Georgia

LIVING SPACE: 11,000 sq. ft. including 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 2 half baths, 5 massive fireplaces, and 1,500 sq. ft. of limestone porches on which to relax.

ARCHITECTURE: Harrison Design Associates

BUILDER: M. Deane Johnson Homes Visit Website