Tour Southern Designer James Farmer's Refined, Traditional Home

Designer, author and lifestyle expert James Farmer gives HGTV a tour of his classic Perry, Georgia, home.

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April 23, 2020

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

Photo By: Jeff Herr Photography

A Customized Cottage With Deep Ties to the Land

Farmdale is the main residence of designer, author and lifestyle expert James Farmer, whose latest book, Arriving Home, is now on pre-sale and shipping September 2020. Farmer built the four-bedroom, four-bath home on family land in Perry, Georgia, and has lived there since 2015. "I always knew I wanted to build there," Farmer says. He hired his friend Robert Norris as the architect. For inspiration and in keeping with his family roots, Farmer showed Norris a painting of where his grandfather grew up — an old general store and post office combo in Alabama, made from cedar and complete with a clipped hip gable and side steps. "Since I live in the middle of Georgia woodlands," he says, "I felt the elegance of a simple, Southern vernacular was apropos."

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Welcome Home

"I like to create what I call 'welcome home moments,'" Farmer says, like this one off the waller room, the name he bestowed on the downstairs master-turned-den. "It’s where I sit and 'waller' and watch TV. My Mimi called that wallering.'" Handcrafted copper lanterns by CopperSmith and brick painted in Benjamin Moore Linen White complete the welcome home look, creating the rustic vibe you'd hope to encounter in a Georgia country cabin.

Dramatic Focal Points

Farmer's living room conveniently opens to the kitchen so that he can relocate chairs from the kitchen table as needed for additional seating. Decor-wise, farm doors add a dramatic focal point. "Be sure to paint your interior doors in either a soft color or a darker brown that is almost black," Farmer advises. He chose Benjamin Moore's Otter Brown. (The home's exterior is painted with Dark Chocolate by Valspar.) "I also like to anchor a room with a sisal or jute rug and then layer it with a beautiful tribal runner for color and texture," he says.

A Combination That Works

In between the doors, Farmer contrasted glazed red pottery from Vicki Miller with antique blue and white vases against reclaimed brick and pecky cypress. His mother’s childhood friend gifted the painting.

Kitchen Organization

In the kitchen, Farmer likes to display household items on silver trays or butcher block boards to create vignettes. Another eye-catcher is the heart pine counter. Farmer notes that the heart pine used throughout the 2,500-square-foot house came from old barn and warehouse beams.

Farmer's Pantry

Over in the Farmer's Pantry, "because I don’t have a butler," he says, is where Farmer likes to show off his collection of serving pieces and cooking gadgets. He used Benjamin Moore Linen White paint throughout the interior too; here, the creamy white works well with the tableware.

Attractive Yet Functional

Whatever overflow doesn't fit in the Farmer's Pantry is stored in a blue-gray French buffet deux corps in the living room, making it easy for Farmer to grab dinnerware and linens. This corner is set off with a Low Country Lighting chandelier and Dash and Albert jute rug.

Southern Comfort

Wet pine bark inspired the home's exterior color, and interior choices, like this Taylor Burke Home sofa and throw pillows from Brunschwig & Fils, which are in keeping with nature. "Overall, the design is honest and authentically Southern," he says. "It's not the antebellum grandeur or Victorian style, but simplicity and proportion working with the land."

Creative Repurposing

Farmer has a penchant for repurposed lamps. Case in point? The dining room sideboard's two lamps actually started life as barley twist candlesticks. "If it sits still long enough, I’ll put a lamp on it!" he says. Also unexpected? The walls sport Thibaut woven grasscloth, which is repeated throughout the home. Providing a nice texture contrast, the antique French chairs retain their original tapestry and velvet.

Mixing Old and New

It should be clear by now that Farmer likes displaying collections. His dining room also includes an Irish pine cupboard for some of his favorites, such as Provvista Designs basketweave dinnerware, French Limoges fish art and family silver.

Contemporary Meets Classic

Farmer likes to incorporate a hint of contemporary elements into his classic cottage, like this Renee Bouchon triptych above a French canapé sofa. On the wall you'll notice an amethyst glass collection — the rack once hung in his grandparents’ garage. A Turkish tribal rug pulls the room together. "I love the mix of high and low, old and new, found and inherited, to give a room a collected and seasoned feel and aesthetic," he says.

Color and Texture

Just as Farmer likes to mix old and new, he also likes to put a twist on traditional color combinations. Instead of the expected yellow and blue, this Schumacher Citrus Garden pillow is turquoise and citrine and provides a pop of color on the canapé. Speaking of which, Farmer loves the couch's architecture and texture, and notes how it contains the original velvet and nail heads.

Unifying Color

"In a room that is contained unto itself, I love to paint out all the trim and doors," Farmer says, in this case using Brandon Beige by Benjamin Moore. He notes how the color is similar to the exterior shutter, having the effect of connecting the inside and outside. (Rosemary sprigs inspired the shutter color, Zeus by Sherwin Williams.) As seen elsewhere in the house, the reclaimed brick originally came from a church via Cherokee Brick.

Cohesive Themes

Blue and white pottery makes an appearance in this room as lamps, while the brown and cream color scheme continues as well. Farmer points out how the grasscloth, rush-top ottomans and painted woodwork all lend a natural aesthetic. Also of note is the turkey painting by his college friend Andrew Lee.

Display That TV

Instead of hiding a TV, Farmer recommends buying the flattest and thinnest one possible and hanging it above a console or piece of furniture like artwork. He also encourages displaying other artwork around it, as he's done here. The Thibaut grasscloth wallpaper can be fully appreciated in the background without competing for attention.

Repeating Elements

"When styling or decorating, a subtle theme creates a common thread," Farmer says. Here, he had blue and white jars made into lamps. He also repurposed a biscuit jar as a vase, while the fruit bowl is actually a pie plate. Farmer likes the contrast of bright green leaves and fruit against the warm brown vase and bowl.

Staircase Stunner

Farmer added personality to his staircase with a Chippendale railing; the honeycomb pattern is actually an air conditioner return vent. He points out how the horizontal and vertical paneling unifies the space while highlighting the photo bamboo chest and antique pier mirror. Heading upstairs, the frame grid displays ornithology prints taken from an old book.

Soothing Retreat

Again, warm browns and creamy whites continue in the bedroom for a soothing quality. The high-low theme repeats as well — the custom monogrammed bedding is from Ikea. Farmer also loves to incorporate quilted materials in bedrooms, like these Euro shams and matelassé bedding. "This creates cadence through a repeated pattern," he says. The room is rounded out with local art, Thibaut grasscloth and papier-mâché vases turned into lamps. "I wanted the house to tell a story," Farmer says. "Perhaps it started as a simple cottage and was added onto with the generations that live there."

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