Photo Credit: Jeff Herr Photography

James Farmer: Design steeped in tradition

In a recent sold-out speaking engagement, James Farmer postulates there’s a certain … ahem … eccentricity among Southern women that can be attributed to the frequent and liberal use of silver polish, a wry statement that was greeted with laughter and a few blushes of acknowledgement. 

With an intuitive sense of style that goes bone deep, James has always known interior design and landscaping would be his career. A best-selling author of multiple books, at 11 years old, James began offering his flower arrangements door-to-door in his hometown of Perry, Georgia, where he has built his business.  

His most profound influence was his maternal grandmother, who inherited beautiful pieces from an aunt, combining those decorative elements with her own in an effortless aplomb James wanted to emulate. It was ability to make gatherings special, no matter what the occasion, that made a strong impression on him during his formative years.

“I’ve always been a worker bee and entrepreneur,” James says.

Photo Credit: Emily Followill Photography

Photo Credit: Emily Followill Photography

I’m always going to steer clear of a trend or a fad,” James says. “I always think you can go to England and tour a beautiful old home and garden, and you're gonna see hardwood floors and an Aubusson rug or Oriental carpet or beautiful paintings. It may be more opulent than what you do, but it's the same formula. I just stick with tradition and it works.” He attributes that strong sensibility to the encouragement he received when he was young and expressing interest in design. 

“I was nurtured as a child,” James says. “I was not told not to draw or not to sketch or not to throw out ideas or work in the garden. I was more encouraged. And I think that took root.” 

While he’s firmly set on tradition, he’s equally determined to be flexible and keep an open eye and mind when considering design. “I don't do the same thing every time — I'm traditional, but rules can't be broken,” James says.  

He’s been known to break a few of those regulations in straying on to private property to humanely prune a hydrangea and use those blooms for the greater good. And his approach to a table setting is always seen with a fresh eye. 

Photo Credit: Emily Followill Photography