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Tour a Classic Southern Estate with a 21st-Century Sense of Fun

May 07, 2020

Designer James Farmer reimagined his friends’ historic eastern Alabama home to suit their modern needs and stay true to the property’s beautiful bones.

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Photo: Emily Followill. From: James Farmer.

An Historic Home

Georgia-based designer, author and lifestyle expert James Farmer leapt at the opportunity to update this home, one of the last working farms in the eastern Alabama community of Oak Bowery. The stately home and outbuildings retained many of the architectural features original to their 19th century construction, which offered Farmer the opportunity to peel back centuries of ill-advised cosmetic changes and reveal the property's authentic beauty.

Farmer was also eager to customize the home to suit its new owners — Brandy and Mitchell Martin (who happen to be his college friends) and their two children. He had his work cut out for him: now-necessary features like a garage, modern bathrooms and a functional kitchen and pantry weren't part of the original 1845 home's plan. In partnership with architect Norman Askins (a fellow Georgian), Farmer planned a contemporary comeback for this historic home.

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Photo: Emily Followill. From: James Farmer.

Rediscovered Beauty

When this handsome, kinda-Federal, kinda-Greek-Revival home was built, its brand-new community was undergoing a period of rapid growth a period that ended when a planned railroad route ended up swooping south. The pace of local life slowed, and the property remained somewhat preserved in time ... until Farmer's clients (and Farmer himself) came along.

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Photo: Emily Followill. From: James Farmer.

Highlighted Passages

Transom windows above exterior doors at the face and back of the house admit dazzling shafts of sunlight, while corresponding features above interior doors branching from the foyer offer architectural echoes of the intricate furnishings Farmer chose for the home.

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Photo: Emily Followill. From: James Farmer.

Eastern Assortment

Chinoiserie has traditional associations, but Farmer puts a fresh spin on classic motifs by combining tabletop patterns and offsetting his choices with bold accents (here, bowls of peaches and acid-green orchids). This moment in the hallway hints at the riot of colors and patterns to be found deeper in the home.

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