Designer Tobi Fairley shows how to push boundaries and span the spectrum while feathering her own nest in West Little Rock
Walking into the finished space is a feast for the eyes. A grounded, neutral base of creamy hues is punctuated with pops of kelly green, vivid oranges and burnt yellows. Graphic prints mix with florals; flea-market finds mingle with family heirlooms and edgy, modern pieces. It’s the product of a two-phase design—the first centered on the living spaces; the other tackled the tucked-away bedrooms. In less capable hands, the bold colors and patterns might have seem unbalanced, overdone. But Tobi’s technique—to strike a balance between “flow” and “match”—works.
“In most of my multi-room designs, I make sure that in any adjoining rooms, at least one color carries through to the next room,” she explains. “The color becomes a visual thread that helps make the transition smoother.”
Even smaller pops of color can add to the overall mood of the room, especially when they hold some personal significance. “Accessories should never be a random assortment of things picked up at your local home furnishings store,” says the designer. Instead, she opts for objects that are both meaningful—a collection of well-loved books, a vase overflowing with her favorite blooms, a cherished keepsake—as well as aesthetically appealing. “In my family room, the coffee table is stacked with my collection of design books, since that’s where I love to peruse them and glean inspiration,” says Tobi.
In the living room, a treasured vintage Hermès scarf bedecks a custom pillow, and a chest styled as a bar pulls double duty when the family entertains. “Using acessories like this is a great way to give the room a really personal feeling by connecting to the real ways in which you use a space,” she says.
Ultimately, what brings it all together—color, pattern, accessories, texture—is understanding scale and volume. Too many large patterns or too many contrasting colors will create “visual noise” and detract from the room’s mood, rather than add to it. “It’s like styling an outfit, or, as one of my friends has said, casting a television show,” says Tobi. “It really is an intuition you develop about what will and won’t play well together.”
Tobi’s Tips for Color:
1. Pop a color into a space that is grounded with neutrals, and the room will read colorful.
2. Wall color is chosen last, not first!
3. Freshen up a color palette that you lived with for awhile by adding a new accent color only in your accessories.
4. Live with color that expresses who you are. If you really and truly love burlap and sage green, go for it! Just don’t limit yourself because it seems less risky.
5. Don’t fear color, but also don’t underestimate the power of color to transform the mood in a room.