Design Dossier: James T. Farmer

Author, cook, garden expert, interior designerthese titles only scratch the surface of James T. Farmer’s many talents. The Kathleen, Georgia native recently stopped by Paula Deen’s kitchen on Food Network to celebrate the release of his latest book, A Time to Cook. This Thursday morning, he’ll be on the TODAY show to teach Kathie Lee and Hoda how to plant Charleston-style window boxes. In between speaking engagements and prepping for the opening his new shop in Perry, Georgia, he also serves as editor-at-large for Southern Living. It’s no surprise his peers nominated him as one of AH&L‘s top “10 under 40” tastemakers for 2013. He took a breather from his whirlwind schedule to talk to us about design, writing and his favorite farmers markets. Enjoy! 

My favorite design object of all time is… the lamp. I love lamps. If it sits still, I’m going to place a lampor twoon it! Lamps are functional and beautifulthe best combination. Make it a blue-and-white lamp and I’m weak in the knees!

My home reflects a love for… nature and heritage. Whether it is grasscloth or my great-aunt’s chandelier, my home, and those of my clients, reflects my passion for beauty, my craving for comfort and my desire to be surrounded by nostalgia.

What’s your favorite part about authoring a book? For me, the best part is the writing process. Writing is cathartic and I relish those days with a deadline, a pitcher of tea and a free-flowing stream of consciousness. But there is also something so magical about holding the first copy hot off the press before the book has hit the shelves.

What are some of your favorite farmers markets? I love Lucy’s in Buckhead, the State Farmers Market south of town (where else can you buy crates of pumpkins and a 20 foot tall fir?) and the Cashiers Farmers Market in Cashiers, North Carolina.

What three items are always in your pantry? Butter, salt and pepper. Before folks holler about their health, the aforementioned ingredients are perfect when used correctly. Butter is one of the best flavors on earth and simply complements the food. Salt brings out the natural flavors, while pepper highlights the faint flavors or subdues the stronger ones. Moderation and correct usage makes these three this Farmer’s holy trinity for the pantry.

And your spice rack? Now, my palate changes with the seasons, thus my herb and spice rack does too. Rosemary is my favorite herb and I adore it in sweet or savory recipes. It can revitalize cornbread or make tea come alive or give a new meaning to an apple pie’s delight!

Describe your fashion sense of style. Someone once described my style as “lumberjack chic,” to which I relish! I love classic plaids, ginghams and buffalo checks and, as a complete and total Anglophile, a bit of tweed, too! Onward Reserve in Athens is a favorite haunt hands down. In Atlanta proper, The London Trading Company and Sid Mashburn vie for paycheck all too often I’m afraid.

What are the essentials for a great dinner party? First and foremost, a confident and gracious host/hostess. If the roast burns and the soufflé falls, then the charming grace and effortless confidence simply orders pizza and laughs the night away. Of course, great food, flowers and friends (the three F’s every party needs) are apropos but in my opinion, a fantastic host makes the party. He or she shall be a ringleader of entertaining, a navigator of conversational flow and hopefully the most satisfied attendee there for having hosted such a fun time!

How can city dwellers introduce some nature into their lives? Pot or plot, whatever you got, you can garden. I know that’s grammatically incorrect but it rhymes! Herbs and tomatoes grow fabulously well in containers. The garden should enrich your life each and every daywhether it is a sprig of mint in your tea or an entire meal you’ve grown. Just grow something, and your life will be all the better for doing so!

What’s the best part about living in Georgia? For me, it is the security of home, the proximity to farms, fields, marshes, coasts, mountains and forests, and the instant credibility when traveling of being a truly gentile, genuine Southerner. Georgia evokes the charm of yesteryear but embraces modernity and change. Besides, what other state can boast such pearls as Savannah and Sea Island, The Masters, a mecca of food, fashion and fine living a la ATL or thousands of acres of the best peaches, pecans, poultry and peanuts that supply the world let alone our nation. But, I’m not biased…

James Farmer Designs decorated the son’s retreat in this year’s Decorators’ Show House & Gardens, closing May 12. James will be speaking at the showhouse on May 9 at 11:30 a.m.