Inside a Southern Style Home in Litchfield County

James Farmer III turns a weekend retreat into a permanent home.

Excerpt from Arriving Home: A Gracious Southern Welcome (Gibbs Smith, 2020) by James Farmer III.

For a young family in New York City, a country home in Connecticut became a weekend retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. Being from North Carolina originally, the wife and mother of this household fondly recalled her childhood home as inspiration for her new one. Her mother joined us at our initial meeting in Connecticut, and quickly this gaggle of displaced Southerners began making small-town connections and networking our even smaller southerly world.

I love witnessing Southerners in a city like New York or being part of a throng of us out of our native geography; we are swift to connect maiden names and down-the-line cousins, but the subject of houses, homes, gardens and familial silver effervescently bubbles to the top of the conversation.

Southern Style Living Room

Photography by Jeff Herr

The couple were keen on having the warmth and collected feel of a Southern home, set amid the gorgeous mountains and verdant landscape of Connecticut’s Litchfield County. The house has all the aspects of a rambling country home with just the right amount of polish. To me, this is the essence of Southern style: ramble and polish, mixing the high and the low, the new with the everyday. Notably, our quintessential style is hallmarked by our unapologetic combination of heirlooms with contemporary styles, creating layers of curated and collected pieces that tell a story. And next to our hospitality and homes, a good story is quite the trademark for us too.

Some of my favorite rooms in a home are not necessarily those that are grand or significant in scale, but ones that serve as hyphens, niches, connectors and links joining additions, wings or rooms. The niche in this home serves as vestibule between the foyer and living room but has architectural charm with great arches and windows.

With a wide gallery and foyer, this home opens up like a chapter of a great book. The dining room is an homage to country homes and English tradition. As a traditionalist, I usually follow the formula of table, chairs, serving pieces, etc., yet my creative side pushes the envelope to break the rules just a bit.

Southern Style Dining Room

Photography by Jeff Herr

I wished to take the “formal” aspect away from this dining space but allow proper furnishings to still hold their place. Gorgeous, classic and always in style, a mix of brown or wood furniture always has its place. This base allowed me to springboard into other finishes and styles, and mix genres, for a lovely effect. The walls are clad in a perfectly peach grasscloth, giving depth and texture to the walls in that British tradition of dining room colorways, while the ceiling is lacquered in a rich green—smooth and inky against the grasscloth for congruent complementing.

In formal living rooms, as with dining rooms, I love to adhere to the formality of appropriate, formulaic furniture placement yet bend that rule for how we live today. A favorite arrangement of mine is placing two small sofas perpendicular to the fireplace wall and a larger sofa anchoring an opposite wall and flanked by two chairs. This allows for gracious amounts of seating and traffic flow while also creating niches for conversation among a group of folks or intimate enough for a couple of guests.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: A Move to Connecticut.
Subscribe to C&G