Podcast, Ep. 203: designer James Farmer

Designer James Farmer

Photo: Jeff Herr Photography. Designer James Farmer

Our guest today is back for another episode. He’s a garden expert, interior designer, and author of 9 books, James Farmer. We talk about his love of traditional design elements, why the rooms he designs for his clients feel like a hug, and his new book Arriving Home.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • James’ shares about his early design influences and inspirations
  • Musings on lampshades
  • James’ signature three sofa combination and how to choose a patterned sofa
  • James discussing his gravitation towards pattern and texture on the walls
  • Decorating tips and furniture arrangements for your outdoor spaces
  • James’ go-to outdoor entertaining menu for hot summer days

Decorating Dilemma

Hello Brilliant People!!

I am pretty sure that my husband and sons think you are my actual friends. Every time I go missing in the house, they eventually find me hiding out in my sewing room and your voices coming out of the phone. I’m convinced that they don’t interrupt me because they think I’m in the middle of a conversation! So, THANK YOU for giving me a few extra minutes of solitude every once in a while!

My question is about my living room. I love most everything in it, except the large mirror over the sofa and matching photos and table flanking the cased opening at the far wall (those are all just fillers until I find the right thing). That room at the far end is a school room (YAY!).  It possibly will turn into some sort of a family room when we eventually do our kitchen renovation.  I love antiques and am happy with the items we’ve purchased – but it’s starting to feel OLD and GREY and BROWN.  I like old, but I want it to still feel fresh.  

I’ve set aside some funds to eventually have the walls paneled and painted. They are just too flat. I have always wanted to paint the whole thing a white (or some form of white), but most of it is under an east facing portico so it gets very little light except for early morning when we are never in it. There are also a lot of really tall trees that block the light. White is my first choice, but I’m worried it will never look the way I want it to because it’s so dark. If I don’t paint it white, I could choose something like a cadet blue or a color like THIS:

But if I paint it a blue, do I keep my window mullions white (the exterior of the house is a cramy limewash brick with creamy trim). What do I keep white and what do I keep blue? Also of note is that my husband’s office is across the front hall from this and is a deep navy, so perhaps this blue is a bad idea altogether?

We primarily use the room during the evenings and weekends to watch tv. We also use it as the main gathering spot when we have friends and family over. The room is about 15’ x 21’

My main question is what can I do to bring some light, life and color into this room? Would overhead lighting make sense or more lighting in other parts of the room? We would love to purchase a pair of recliners that don’t look like recliners. Any advice on those? Would you do something interesting to the ceiling? It’s hard to put all this into a question because I really just need good direction to finish this space. I’ve been working on it for years! Please tell me what to get rid of, tell me what to keep and what I need to purchase.  I’m all ears!

Thanks, again, for keeping us entertained and inspired throughout 2020 and beyond!


Hi Tiffany,

First off, consider taking off the shutters on the two windows and move the sofa to that wall. Then, you could do some type of shade or panels on either side of the windows for privacy, not light. If you move the ottoman closer to one of the sofas it will create lots more space for maybe a little bench or additional footrest. I would paint the ceiling a beautiful light blue or grey, keep the trim white but incorporate other shades of whites on the walls, giving you texture. Put your two prints over the sofa and replace their original spot with two mirrors. You could even have that wall be a statement wall with some kind of screen or patterned wallpaper like grass cloth or a striped pattern.

Good luck Tiffany!

Mentioned in This Episode:

  • Follow James on Instagram
  • Follow James Farmer Inc. on Instagram for events and updates.
  • Visit James’s website for a signed copy of any of his books.

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Happy Decorating!

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Abbey Nolte

Abbey is a homegrown Georgia peach who loves a fresh take on Southern design. When she’s not working behind the scenes of the How to Decorate blog and podcast, you can find her cheering on the Appalachian State Mountaineers and spending time with her wheaten terrier, Charlie.