Before and After

Resurrecting the Good Bones of a Historic Georgia Gem

An antebellum home with authenticity to spare

photo: Emily Followill


This week, Georgia designer James Farmer debuts his sixth book, A Place to Call Home, a collection of his work across the South that embodies a sense of regional authenticity. “The inspiration for the book came from years of poring over Southern architecture and design books from greats like Frank McCall and Jimmy Means, and wanting to share homes that have that sense of place but are also real,” says Farmer. “The houses in the book may be old or new, beach or farm, town or country, but all possess an unapologetic sense of Southern hospitality.” Here, Farmer shares the story behind one of his favorite projects, which also graces the book’s cover.

Before.

The History: Newnan, Georgia, was one of the few Southern towns spared from the ravages of the Civil War, since many Union officers based field offices there. This house, built in 1850, served as a war hospital.

photo: Emily Followill

After.

The Revival: The classic four-over-four, center hall structure was in relatively good shape, having escaped both the war and twentieth-century additions (there was no avocado green linoleum in sight, according to Farmer). The original heart-pine floors and windows were still intact. Farmer and architect Mitch Ginn turned their attention to opening up the space a bit and refreshing the home for modern living, which involved relining nine fireplaces, updating the HVAC and electrical systems, and connecting the detached kitchen structure to the main building.

They also debated whether to repair the existing cedar shake roof. “Many thought that the home wasn’t authentically Southern, since the material is commonly used on homes of the coastal Northeastern United States,” Farmer says. “But we have wonderful cedar trees down South, too, and they’re not just for kindling and closets! This particular allocation takes the grandness of the home down a notch as well, which I adore.”

Our Favorite Part: The well-preserved bones of the house. “Doors, floors, fireplaces, and windows are elements of seasoning and flavor,” Farmer says. “Before the first stick of furniture was brought in, the house felt as if it had woken from a nap refreshed and ready for the next century. The same floors and doors that hosted folks in 1850 were ready to keep going. That’s something that simply can’t be recreated.”


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