This past week I had the pleasure of attending a talk and floral design demonstration by James T. Farmer III. In addition to being an interior and floral designer and the author of several books, Mr. Farmer is a gifted storyteller. When you go to hear him speak, you will watch him effortlessly arrange flowers as he tells you tales about this and that, and his pace and his pitch are so perfect that before you know it the flowers and the pieces of his life are so beautifully arranged that you feel as if you just had lemonade or sweet tea on the porch with the perfect host and a new friend.
James Farmer hails from the small town of Perry, Georgia (that has bred some big names), and has stayed true to his roots. He is unapologetically Southern in his manners and his style (which are one and the same in the deep South).
Of course you cannot summarize a person, their life, and their work into bullet points, but here is the essence of his talk on arranging flowers (and perhaps his take on living life).
- Embrace tradition (your family silver, your aunt’s love of floating camellias in a bowl, your mother’s passion for coral) but give it a twist (allow it to live alongside a modern sensibility)
- It’s okay not to be understated (one would not describe his flower arrangements or his rooms as minimalist)
- Remember that you eat first with your eyes (says his grandmother) and that all five senses should be part of design and making a house a home
- When arranging flowers use the three Fs: flowers, foliage, and fruit.
- When possible go natural: find flowers and branches and berries from your garden or in their natural habitat for a personal and interesting touch.
Mr. Farmer told a story about his uninspired attempt at playing baseball as a child and how he was put out in left field where he says he has remained. In a good way. He’s just what we need for our Monday morning design inspiration.