Style Icon: Whitney Johnson


Standing in Circa in front of a painting by local artist William McClure, Johnson wears a Donna Karan velvet bodysuit (the original iconic garment, stolen from her mom’s closet), an American Apparel tube dress worn as skirt, Zara faux-fur stole and Philip Lim shoes.

Standing in Circa in front of a painting by local artist William McClure, Johnson wears a Donna Karan velvet bodysuit (the original iconic garment, stolen from her mom’s closet), an American Apparel tube dress worn as skirt, Zara faux-fur stole and Philip Lim shoes.

Owner, Circa Interiors and Antiques

Written and styled by Tracy James

Photography by Chuck St. John

When you feel comfortable in your environment—both at home and at work—it shows. In the case of Whitney Johnson, the 41-year-old owner of Circa Interiors & Antiques in Mountain Brook Village says her personal style is reflected in her home and shop, and vice versa. Rich neutral colors, texture, easy elegance, and a seamless mix of both dressy and casual elements characterize the look.

This Charlotte, North Carolina native always knew she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother, who opened the original Circa in their hometown 35 years ago. “There was a need in Charlotte for a shop that carried everything from fine European antiques to edgy accessories and new upholstery,” Johnson says. When marriage brought Johnson to Birmingham, she saw a wonderful opportunity to develop lasting relationships with talented local designers. “There is so much style in Birmingham,” she says. “People take so much pride in their homes, their yards, their everyday appearances.” Pointing out that the Magic City has long been known for great restaurants, Johnson hopes that Circa raises the bar in the shopping department. “Hopefully people come to us looking for inspiration for a stylish way of living,” she adds.

Johnson gathers much of her own style inspiration from her travels while buying for the shop, especially in New York and Europe. (Side note: one of Johnson’s style pet peeves is pajamas at the airport. “Dress to travel!” she says.) She describes her vendors in France as “the ultimate” when it comes to style. While Johnson does most of her shopping on the road—successfully blending high-end items from the likes of Lanvin to more price-point friendly goods from Zara, her go-to for trendy items—she also enjoys shopping local. Jewelry and accessories boutique Etc. is her favorite; for her 40th birthday, she received a long-coveted vintage Hermes watch from there. As for her Christmas wish list, Johnson admits that her online shopping carts are full at all times. “I’m always dreaming. Right now, I’m dying for all things Isabel Marant,” she says.

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Alighted on an objet d’art from Johnson’s coffee table – an antique lead door knocker – is one of Johnson’s “favorite things”: a firefly broach she bought 12 years ago at Capitol boutique in Charlotte for her own rehearsal dinner, and still wears several times a week.

Not only does Johnson enjoy dressing herself, but the mother of three is a big believer of “dressing your babies while you can, lace and all,” noting that you only have so much time to control their appearances. More important to Johnson is that she teach Tipton, Polly, and Jack (5, 8, and 11, respectively) that it is perfectly acceptable to not look like everyone else in the class. And how do Johnson’s children look? “Like little French people,” she describes. “School is like their job, so they should be comfortable, but at the same time, dressed with respect.”

Johnson’s personal style has an unmistakable Francophile flair, as do her attitude and appreciation for beauty. “Everyday life should be pretty,” she says. “Use your silver every morning, light a candle at dinner every night with your family, dress your babies while you can.”

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