Would you hire a “Farmer” to decorate your house?


When I was a little girl, P. Allen Smith had a five minute segment on the 6:30 am news every morning.  I would watch him talk about how to care for plants, how to set a fall table or how to preserve jams and jellies all before school.  Something about him was always comforting and down home. As an adult, I have been astounded that one person could have so much talent.  If you don’t follow Moss Mountain on Instagram you should. And better yet, you can even plan a trip to go visit Moss Mountain Farm. Moss Mountain Farm is P. Allen’s personal homeplace.  He has transformed an Arkansas mountainside into a manicured palace. It is a very popular venue for weddings. One look and you will see why. He has brick walled rose gardens, and in the fall, a pumpkin house.  Everything is picture perfect. And if you go at the right time, he will even cook you lunch.

The Good Lord gives more talent to some…

Well apparently the Good Lord blesses one person every generation with more talent than the rest of us have put together.  This century, that person is James T. Farmer. Farmer is a gardener extraordinaire, a decorator that works in the most exclusive homes, and has written seven, count them seven books.  And get this, while I can’t say conclusively, I am pretty sure he hasn’t even reached 40 yet. On top all of this, as if he doesn’t have enough going for him, he is just the most likeable person!  

You get to know the best people on Instagram

I discovered James T. through Instagram.  And while I was instantly a fan of his decorating, it really was his personality that drew me in.  Decorators are a dime a dozen on Instagram and beautiful images abound. But James does a lot of Instastorying and his easy manner, wide smile and Georgia accent are just too much to handle, in a good way.   I mean c’mon!!!

“So we loaded up the truck”

So recently when I heard he was going to be speaking at Houston, I literally dropped everything and asked Mr. Benton to take me.  To illustrate how bad I wanted to go, we were in the middle of painting our dining room and instead of finishing, we went and partied.  Being a type A personality, this is not something I would normally do.

I have to say this was the right decision.  We got to the event and they had what they call a “designers walk through.”  Now, I saw this option online but I didn’t purchase tickets because the description I found to be rather vague and it sounded like Farmer wouldn’t be doing the walk through, but rather just a local Houston designer.  Imagine my excitement when we got there, and there was James, leading a small group of around 20 around the antique show. I made Mr. Benton get out his wallet so fast!!! Thankfully, we were able to purchase tickets and join the group.

Now there is something you should know about me.  When I get really excited, I mean like really excited, I start crying.  Not ugly crying, but tears just start rolling down my cheeks. It happened at Versailles, it happened when I visited Downton Abbey and it happened when I got within 5 feet of James T. Farmer.  I know what you are thinking, you have got to be kidding me. And I know, he puts on his pants one leg at a time just like you and I do. However, people who are extraordinarily blessed are rare.  Most of us are just average. Not that we don’t have something to offer, but a lot of us out here realize that we aren’t special. God may love us, but He didn’t exactly dump the talent bucket on my head.  As l listened to James talk about antiques, about chinoiserie, about rugs, paintings and more, I realized that this guy is not just super talented— he’s also super smart. Still, I admit tearing up is kind of an odd reaction.  I guess I was just really happy that day.

So some designers are history buffs…

I really wasn’t expecting a history buff.  Again, I am only guessing, but I would say that this guy is well read.  You know Mr. Benton and I love to travel and we love to go around and hear guides talk about history and tell us the stories.  That doesn’t mean that either of us remember a lick of it. However, our son Jackson can sit in a history class and years later just about repeat everything the professor said word for word.  I get the idea that James Farmer is kind of like that. Even Mr. Benton commented, “This guy must be pretty smart.”

I am not exactly a calm fan

I’ll admit, when it came time for him to sign my books that I had bought, I fanned out a little bit.  Ok, ok, a lot a bit. So much some people were snickering if you can believe it. Of course that might have been because he said, “Hi I am James.”  And I replied, “Hi, I am Lady Benton.” But honestly I have a good reason. He was signing the three books I bought and i didn’t want them addressed to “Erin,”  I wanted them addressed to Lady Benton. But that might have been why people were snickering. Me standing there in my vintage hat, floral skirt and gingham blouse and declaring myself as Lady Benton.  I didn’t think it was strange but I can see how they might have. I also want to apologize in advance for cutting of James’s head in the second picture. Seriously, it’s not that way on my phone and I would fix it but I don’t know how. Why I ever thought a website for a non-techie like me was a good idea, I don’t know.

Best Husband Ever

Mr. Benton even said, “I think he was a little surprised how enamored you were with him.”  And then he said, “But I am glad it made you so happy.” And that’s why Mr. Benton takes home the Best Husband Ever award.  Of course as my friend Perez mentioned, “It’s not like you haven’t sat through enough basketball games.” She has a point. I should add that when I told him I wanted to go to the event and that we could take a break from painting the dining room he said, “Who is this guy?  That would be like me saying that I want to go see some woman give a talk at a concrete show in the middle of hunting season. You better believe I am suspicious.” I assured him that James wasn’t devastatingly handsome and that he was just super charming. Mr. Benton replied, “My dear, charm can be better than devastatingly handsome any day of the week.”  How right he is, and I love it when Mr. Benton gets his Rhett Butler on.

The Inside Scoop

And now for the good stuff.  After the designer walk, we attended a designer talk, where he got up and spoke for about an hour.  He served biscuits and jam, bacon on a stick and bloody marys. He talked about his design philosophy and shared his thoughts behind some of his projects.  He talked about his team and how he couldn’t do what he does without them. He talked about how he can see a room in his mind from the start. He talked about design being a service and that the best clients were those who gave him free reign.  He said when he built his own house and when it came time to pick a color for his shutters, he had 15 different options and he just couldn’t pin it down and how his painter was the one who ultimately led him to his choice. I of course, clung to this because I had just finished narrowing down my dining room color from 7 choices and the fact that James Farmer had trouble made me feel better.  

Grass Cloth is Timeless Y’all

The man loves him some grass cloth.  He said on one project he used it in every room.  The client was concerned that grass cloth was a trend and he questioned James on the choice.  He said, and this is a loose quote, (meaning the essence is here but these are not his exact words), “Grasscloth has been around since ancient Egypt.  They were hanging this stuff in the pyramids. This is the stuff they used in Moses’ nursery.”

Don’t Apologize for Your Roots

While all of that was fascinating to say the least, the most important thing he had to say didn’t deal with Schumacher, or Scalamandre or De Gournay.  It had to do with being unapologetic: unapologetically southern, unapologetic for using your family heirlooms. His goal is to turn houses into homes that reflect their owners.  He firmly believes that a house should reflect its surroundings. For instance, you wouldn’t build a southern plantation in the desert. Well some people would, but they would be wrong.  In his book, A Place to Call Home, he says, ““Great” doesn’t mean fine or expensive, but pleasing to the senses mind, body and soul and reverently used, placed and respected.” Charles Faudree once said, “This single most important ingredient in a home is that it must have a soul.”   I think James would agree.

Below are some of my favorite photos of James’s work as pictured in his book, A Place to Call Home, taken by his fabulous photographer, Emily Followill. I took these from the book with permission. I am not a fabulous photographer so please realize that these do not do justice to Emily’s work.  I am also going to link James’ website so you can order your own copies. I know you will want copies for your library. And if you order by December 1, 2018, through Jame’s website, he will autograph them.


Thank you for stopping by! And I would totally hire a “Farmer” to decorate my house!

Until next time,

Lady Benton


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