Date: May 20, 2008 | Story: Laura Keech Allen |
Order is a key concept in the Little Rock home that interior designer Tobi Fairley shares with her husband, Carter, and daughter, Ellison, who turns three this June. In fact, keeping her busy family centered and organized was a major influence on the home’s entire design, from its cohesive palette of neutral walls, colorful furnishings and green accents, to its structural background of open spaces and abundant storage. “My main goals in this home were for it to be relaxed and organized, and the two really go hand in hand,” Tobi says. “It’s hard to be relaxed amidst clutter.”
The owner of T. Lamarr Interiors and Fine Art, Tobi is an important force in the Arkansas design community, bridging the gap between creative talent and business savvy. As a child she was influenced by her mother’s innate sense of style and her aunt’s and cousin’s careers as designers in Fort Worth, but had completed a degree in accounting before changing paths and enrolling in the nationally accredited interior design program at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She continues to push herself professionally, obtaining her masters in business administration, certification by the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), and registration by the Arkansas State Board of Registered Interior Designers, to which Governor Mike Beebe has recently appointed her.
Creativity, however, is the lifeblood of Tobi’s career. “Interior design school does not teach you decorating and style,” she says. “That’s either a natural ability or something you learn outside the degree program.” She focuses her business on high-end design projects, because it’s where her passion lies. “I would rather be great at one thing than good at several,” she says.
This passion makes itself more than evident inside Tobi’s own home, a traditional 1970s home in the Pleasant Valley area. “Carter loves looking for real estate, and I knew the moment I saw this house that it had amazing potential,” she says. “The traffic flow and layout were great, and it had large open rooms on the main level that were perfect for entertaining.” After renovating the kitchen and master bathroom, she gave the home a neutral background, introducing color with the furnishings. “The entire color scheme is based on a green color story with a lot of black and white accents that I had used in our previous home,” she says. Shades of green are incorporated into nearly every space, giving the home a cohesive and relaxing flow. Original art from the artists Tobi represents at her gallery is displayed throughout, as well as pieces she and Carter have collected while traveling.
While the home exudes a refined glamour, it has definitely been designed as a welcoming space for a family with a small child. Light, natural fabrics keep things casual, along with functional touches like the vinyl on the breakfast area banquette. For Tobi, designing her own home is a treat without equal. “I get to put all the things I love together in one space,” she says, and she wants her family to be able to enjoy the home as much as she does. “We definitely don’t take it too seriously,” she says. “I teach Ellison to respect and take care of our nice things, but just last night she built a fort out of all the sofa and chair cushions in the family room.”
Organization is another component of the family’s harmony, which Tobi achieved by maximizing the home’s available storage with bins, boxes, hampers and other organizational systems, as well as carefully editing the tabletop accessories and even covering books on open shelving in white paper to allow visual “breathing room.” In the office off the kitchen, she created the home’s command center with spots for mail and business materials, as well as crafts and other projects she’s working on. “I am so much happier as a busy mom and business owner when I can come home to a clean and beautiful space,” she says.
Although landscaping projects and the design of Ellison’s playroom are on the horizon, Tobi is not the kind of person that likes to change things once she gets them right. “It’s wonderful to have it completed so I can enjoy it and move on to spending time with family and friends here,” she says. “I feel very, very blessed to be able to wake up each morning to such a relaxing and beautiful space.”