Family-friendly in the City

Styled By: 
Diane Carroll
Nancy Nolan
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At Home in Arkansas:

This house looks so chic, especially for a family of five with two young children. How did you manage to combine good looks with daily family living?


Designer Tobi Fairley:

Choosing the right pieces makes all the difference. You find out how a family lives and give some thought to making it work. Take the living room in this house—it’s one of the first rooms you enter, and it was unrealistic to think that the kids wouldn’t play here. We added an oversized ottoman covered in vinyl, so the kids can run into the room and plop onto it and there are no sharp edges. We used a sectional sofa to seat lots of people, kids included. And behind that sofa we added a console table with open shelves for stowing toys. Clever ways to store toys are critical, so you can pick up rooms quickly.


AHIA: You managed to make a room with a sectional sofa, ottoman and storage look elegant though. What’s your secret?


TF: Textiles, colors and the style of the furnishings we chose defined these rooms. We used tried-and-true pieces but gave them a little punch of color and pattern.


Our clients, Jennifer and Michael Green, had just moved into this house when we began working with them. They were melding two households—Michael and his son Paden’s things, plus Jennifer’s, and they were planning to add to their family. We had the traditional style of the house as a starting point, and some of their current furniture, which was fairly traditional as well. But our conversations with Jennifer, and the magazine photos she showed us of rooms she liked, conveyed a more current, fashion-forward kind of vibe. Our goal became to bring the traditional background to life with bold interiors.


AHIA: How did you select the colors you used to achieve that?


TF: Items that they already had in the house and the magazine images led us to these shades. I use a lot of color in my projects, and I’ve learned that the way to keep a home from looking too busy is to pick two or three colors that continue to show up from place to place. You may not be able to put your finger on it, but you notice that they relate.


Here, the palette became aqua blue, chocolate brown and coral red. The blue is soft, the brown is a rich neutral, and the coral is an accent color. In the kids’ rooms upstairs, the colors repeat, while still allowing for differences for each child. All three bedrooms have brown elements, Paden’s room is blue, Millie’s room mixes in pink and purple, and Sterling’s room adds yellow and some green. The den alongside them pulls in a mix of those accent colors.


AHIA: You mentioned pattern as another design tool you utilized. I notice geometrics from room to room rather than florals or prints.


TF: We intentionally juxtaposed modern patterns and colors with the more traditional pieces of furniture. Jennifer wanted each space to have a wow factor, an element that made each room feel special. The trick to that is choosing one or two unique or eye-catching elements. You have to show design restraint; everything can’t be a wow factor or you don’t know what to focus on in a room. Geometric patterns became part of our way to mix traditional with quirky, fun and unexpected.


AHIA: You’re a mom with a young daughter; has that influenced your ideas about what family-friendly means?


TF: I had recently finished designing my own nursery and one for my brother and sister-in-law when I started working with the Greens, and I was gaining personal perspective on what functions well in kids’ spaces. It reinforced the need to find out how a client really lives and to tailor the rooms to streamline their lives, things like adding a day bed in an upstairs nursery so a mom can sleep there if she doesn’t want to trek up and down the stairs during the night. That’s money spent wisely, since the daybed can become a child’s bed when the crib is outgrown. Also, the importance of storage solutions for baby and kid gear, choosing the types of pieces that they won’t quickly outgrow so that the room can transition with them through the years. Well-designed rooms should be able to grow and evolve with your family.


Design Resources

Interior design Tobi Fairley Interior Design, Little Rock

Carpet Carpet One, Fayetteville

Decorative furniture finishes Faux Nteriors by Nicole, Fayetteville

Draperies Mountjoy’s Custom Draperies, Mabelvale

Paint Sherwin-Williams, locations statewide

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