For bestselling author and designer James Farmer, it was finally time to build

“There’s a connection to Middle Georgia everywhere in the house,” says James, who lives in his native Perry.
James Farmer home
Photograph by Emily Followill

James Farmer says it made his day when the cable TV technician asked, “Has this house been in your family for years?” The abode in question was actually brand new but carefully designed to look vintage. In characteristic fashion, the perpetual storyteller recalls, “When I heard that, I wanted to give him a big ol’ hug.”

James Farmer home
James designed the kitchen so that his back is never to guests. The layout works well for filming too. Heart-pine shelves hold plenty of dishes for large parties; James hosted an event for more than 100 people within months of moving in.

Photograph by Emily Followill

This affable, 30-something designer who still lives in his native Perry, Georgia, is fast becoming the nation’s next lifestyle guru. His seven best­selling books—starting with A Time to Plant and leading up to the latest, A Time to Celebrate—chronicle the Auburn grad’s passion for gardening, cooking, interior design, and entertaining. Think Martha Stewart—but with a drawl and a plaid shirt.

All of his books, blog posts, and TV appearances reflect James’s love of venerable Southern traditions and family history. “I’m an old soul,” he admits. And from the beginning, he wanted to create a house that paid homage to the past.

James has fond memories of walking to a post office near his family farm with his great-grandmother Jeanie, who—perhaps not incidentally—inspired James’s love of cooking, decorating, and gardening. That modest structure (pictured above in a vintage watercolor by his cousin) inspired his new home, which James named Farmdale. “I just felt that’s what I wanted my house to look like,” he says. Architectural features such as a clipped hip roof and shed porches pay respect to the rural outpost. Building materials also have a provenance: bricks from an old church in Macon, wood floors from a cotton mill in Alabama, and pecky cypress from Bainbridge, Georgia. “There’s a connection to Middle Georgia everywhere in the house,” says James.

James Farmer home
Double front doors lead directly into a dining area with brick floors, giving the impression of a porch that was added after the house’s original construction. An antique Irish oval table (purchased at Peachtree Battle Antiques) anchors the dining area. James opted for a mix of chairs: blue velvet French side chairs and two tapestry versions on the ends.

Photograph by Emily Followill

Quite literally, James selected his architect while he was still in middle school, during a visit to the 1996 Olympics. On a tour of Southern Living’s Centennial Idea House, he thought: Someday I want to work with whoever designed this house. Almost 20 years later, James enlisted that same architect, Robert Norris of Spitzmiller & Norris, as his comrade in authenticity.

James Farmer home
Exposed rafters contribute a barn-like feeling to this room, which James calls “the waller room,” where he and his family wallow around and watch TV. Grasscloth walls and four armchairs covered in an antelope pattern reflect his love of the outdoors. A pair of matching duck lamps are male and female mallards. The little blue chair is for his three-year-old nephew.

Photograph by Emily Followill

Norris loved that James appreciated the work of A. Hays Town, a Louisiana architect who was fond of exposed brick and other classic Southern touches. Norris also accepted James’s challenge to make the interior more contemporary. “He wanted to use traditional elements and family pieces but still keep a youthful look,” says Norris.

For example, there’s no foyer inside the double front glass doors. Instead the doors open to a spacious sun porch filled with dining furniture, as if to get the party started right away. “That element of surprise is fun,” James explains. “And we used brick floors as an outdoor feature that was brought inside, almost like the room used to be a porch.”

Furnishings reflect James’s love of the past. (“I’m always braking for antiques stores,” he says. “I love to own things that were cherished.”) Yet he mixes in updated items, such as club chairs upholstered in a faux-antelope print and matching velvet Chesterfield sofas made by new ADAC showroom Taylor Burke Home.

“The materials and scale of this house are just so right,” says Norris. “It’s not trying to be something it’s not. It’s as genuine as James himself.”

Pro resources
Interior design James Farmer, Architect Robert Norris, Some accessories and furnishings: James Farmer Inc. (retail store), 936 Carroll Street, Perry, 478-988-9494. Dining room lantern: Low Country Originals, Living room sofas: Taylor-Burke Home, ADAC,

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.