Legendary designer, lifestyle and entertaining expert JAMES FARMER opens his home for sublime Southern holiday hospitality
James Farmer is one of America’s preeminent experts on gracious Southern living, and when he entertains for the holidays, it’s a feast for the senses. “Everything must be fresh, fun and festive,” says Farmer. From cocktails to dessert, from wreaths and garlands to table settings and linens—every detail is curated by Farmer to create an unforgettable experience.
Designed by Robert Norris of Spitzmiller & Norris, Farmdale is the designer’s personal home and just one of the many homes on his family’s land. Beamed ceilings made from reclaimed wood add patina while bricks made from Georgia red clay that were acquired when an old church was torn down in Macon are just two of the spectacular elements that make Farmdale feel as though it’s been there for generations.
Inside, holiday decorations layered throughout the house sparkle with joviality. Boughs of garland and abundant wreaths strewn across the front of the house greet visitors, including Farmer’s large family that enjoys a progressive feast of brunch and dinner on Christmas Day.
However, as much as Farmer loves to create holiday environments, he confesses, “I don’t want to rearrange the whole house for Christmas.” His signature method for holiday decorating involves using a basic foundation with details that change every year so that the colors, decorations and food are never the same.
Farmer is inspired by different places, periods, palettes and palates, but he always makes it relatable to his beloved South. He delights in Christmas coral as well as variations of the family recipe-made Christmas coconut cake, which for this year, is the cranberry version.
The details that matter most to Farmer are longevity and freshness. “I focus most on what is seasonal and what will last,” says Farmer. Pots of paperwhites, amaryllis, nandina, holly and large sugar pine cones are just a few of the wonderful winter options that endure for weeks. For pops of color, Farmer recommends a few fresh buds. “Satellite flowers are easy to change so I use small vases on the dining table, the Welsh cupboard and the sideboard in order to keep flowers fresh and colors bright,” he says.
Recognizing that many emotions accompany the holidays, the designer notes, “The holidays mean comfort and joy, but it can also be bittersweet.” Finding warmth with loved ones, cooking family recipes and dining at a table set with generations of family china, linens and silver are some of the ways Farmer melds the past with the present. “I’m unapologetic about my Southern style, and using things that have been forgotten and found captures that family connection for me,” he notes. Given Farmer’s boundless imagination for creating new entertaining ideas, the holidays will always be fabulous at Farmdale.