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Georgia Mountain Laurel Magazine

Kathy Ross-Johnson

Apr 03, 2018 10:31PM ● By Tracy McCoy

Born and raised in California, Kathy Ross-Johnson has lived in Memphis, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia, England, Clearwater/Tampa, Florida and now has settled in nicely in the Northeast Georgia Mountians. She and husband Ian Ross-Johnson, a REALTOR® at Harry Norman REALTORS® Luxury Lake & Mountains, are the owners of Dogwoods on Main Street in Clayton. The store has been a true asset to downtown Clayton. The home furnishings and accessories within its walls are a reflection of Kathy’s style. I imagined her home must have the same feel. Not sure how she so beautifully meshed the coast and the mountains but she has and it is beyond inviting. I wanted everything I laid my eyes on when I visited with Kathy to talk about her artwork. We found a comfortable spot at a dining table where we got to know each other and truly in an hours time I had made a new friend.

Kathy and Ian met on a blind date and have basically been together since that day. Their wedding story is as unique as they are but surely destiny was at work. They made their home in Florida where they started their family. The couple was blessed with a son Maxwell and two years later a set of twins, Garrett and Olivia. Today their children, now grown, are all in college in Florida. It is always interesting to find out how people find Clayton, Georgia. Ian had friends living in Highlands, North Carolina and he and Kathy had visited with them and were drawn to the area. Kathy was a partner in a home store similar to Dogwoods, only much larger in Tampa at the time. The couple had talked about retirement plans but that was far off. One of the women who worked in the store with Kathy had a home on Lake Burton and she invited the Ross-Johnsons to visit. Eventually they did and Clayton intrigued Kathy. She felt the magic that draws so many to come and want to stay. They returned to Florida and she went back to her life there but Clayton stayed in the back of her mind.

Kathy is a picker, she loves to find the unusual or old and broken and transform it, repair it, restore it and give it life again. She is a gifted interior decorator which is apparent when you walk into her store. She is a very comfortable, charming and pretty woman, yet very unassuming. She loves working with clients to make their home a reflection of their life, their memories, and travels. A retreat where they can unwind and relax. She believes that mountain living doesn’t have to be thick heavy dark wood. Her style is airy and light. The items she picks for her store are likely one of a kind, the quality is uncomprimising, each piece currated to soothe and enrich your home. She states that when she completes a design job for a client the home should look as if she was never there. Kathy’s ability to plan and design living space lends itself to her creative talent as an artist. One might think she has always been an artist, but that is not exactly the case.

She became an artist instantly, it flowed so easily but it was never part of her plan although she was curious about art. She had dabbled in art classes but life kept her so busy that she never pursued it. A decade or more ago she bought an art kit for her daughter, Olivia. The then pre-teen had no real interest in it and it sat unopened. One evening she removed the paints, tools and canvas and she fell in love. Kathy painted with a pallet knife and that is definitely her niche. It all came together in that moment. Painting became her reward at the end of a busy day. She painted in the night when Ian and the children were asleep. She claims she is the messiest painter in the world. She is passionate about the texture she creates with the knife utlizing a mixture of acrylic and oil paints. Kathy actually finds herself more comfortable with large canvases but paints all sizes. Her paintings are vintage, impressionistic masterpieces of the things she loves most. She paints flowers, barns, churches and old things like trucks. Her art is intense, as if her gentle spirit turns up the volume and dances around the canvas.

A desire to call the mountains home, to dial life’s stresses down and live simpler was overwhelming for Kathy and she looked in Ian’s eyes and said I want to move to Clayton. She came to visit her friend on the lake, she looked for a home to rent, looked for commercial space and returned to Florida to tie up loose ends. She moved and opened Dogwood in a smaller space down from the current location. As life would have it within a year, the larger space opened up and the stars aligned making it possible for the Ross-Johnsons to move and expand their store. Kathy is planning a studio in the back of the store which is home to her art. What are her future plans? This artist/designer plans to be herself, do her thing and be happy. What a great way to live.

Dogwoods is located at 41 North Main Street in Clayton, Georgia. They have a good social media presence with Facebook & Instagram. Their website is and they can be reached by phone at 706.960.9232. My suggestion is a visit to the store to meet Kathy and Ian, see her art and experience Dogwoods.

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