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Green Scheme

Designer Tobi Fairley creates eco-kind rooms for a Hot Springs showhouse.

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Nancy Nolan

    If you think earth-friendly design is earth-toned, you haven't seen interior designer Tobi Fairley in action. The Little Rock-based design dynamo lights up rooms with playful palettes that are eco-kind.

    After being named by readers at the Arkansas Times as the state's Best Interior Designer, Tobi was asked to design two rooms in an energy-efficient charity showhouse near Hot Springs.

    She enlivened the master bedroom and attached sunroom with a tangerine-and-turquoise color combo, using a mix of new and recycled furnishings, organic fabrics, and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints.

    "I started with color," says the designer, who chose an organic cotton in an ethereal aqua floral from Rubie Green for draperies and sofa. Vintage chairs were re-covered in vibrant orange linen for blasts of boldness.

    Salvaging discarded furniture and decorative items is an easy and creative way to be environmentally responsible, Tobi says, especially given today's ever-growing choices in natural- and recycled-fiber fabrics and low- and no-VOC paints.

    "The sky's the limit when it comes to color, especially with paint," Tobi says. "You don't necessarily have to buy new furnishings in the colors you want. You can create the look by painting items to fit your palette."

    The bases of two flea-market-find table lamps were painted orange and topped with new linen shades. A past-its-prime desk looks years younger with a coat of turquoise paint.

    A collection of mismatched, discarded frames was repaired, painted orange, and arranged on the wall. "Rather than being used to frame art, the frames are the art," Tobi says.

    More color and artistry are provided by circa-1930 mint-green jadeite plates arranged around a large new mirror.

    "People are looking for ways to take older things and make them fresh again. That's a lot of what drove my design for this space," Tobi says. Recycling makes for more interesting interiors, too, she adds. "Nobody else is going to have your grandmother's furniture painted chartreuse. That is going to add so much personality to a space."

    Not every item in the room is sustainable, she admits, but that's part of the message, too. "Green design doesn't have to be all or nothing. We want people to introduce sustainable products into their homes when they can but not feel guilty if everything they buy isn't green," she says. "It's OK to start small. Just introducing 10 or 20 percent sustainable product can make a difference to the environment."

    Happily, there are more eco-friendly interior design products introduced every day, Tobi says, including fabrics, wall coverings, furniture, and lighting.

    The bed headboard is upholstered in organic cotton, and most of the bed linens are also organic cotton.

    For the sunroom, Tobi chose a daybed made with sustainable lumber, covered in organic cotton, and softened with soy-based cushions. An aqua curio cabinet and sideboard are from Stanley Furniture, which sources nearly 75 percent of its raw materials within 500 miles of its Virginia and North Carolina manufacturing facilities. In Tobi's showhouse rooms, many of the light fixtures are fitted with energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs.

    "I feel it's our duty to be responsible stewards of the environment," Tobi says. "It's my job as a designer to bring information to clients and show them opportunities for using sustainable products in their homes."

    Photography: Nancy Nolan

    Interior design: Tobi Fairley, Tobi Fairley Interior Design, 5507 Ranch Drive, Suite 103, Little Rock, AR 72223; 501/868-9882,

  • Nancy Nolan

    The bed headboard is upholstered in an organic cotton fabric. The Pottery Barn ( bedskirt and Rubie Green floral pillow shams are also organic cotton.

    The vintage desk and chair are refreshed with low-VOC Sherwin-Williams Harmony paint in "Lark Green" on the desk and "Reclining Green" on the chair.

    Headboard fabric (organic cotton); floral pillow shams ("Patsy"/Blue): Rubie Green,
    Bed skirt ("Organic Supima"): Pottery Barn, 800/922-5507,
    Bed cover: Bed Bath & Beyond,
    Tray on bed: Dransfield & Ross, 212/741-7278,
    Turquoise desk: vintage.
    Paint color on desk ("Lark Green" #SW6745): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794.
    Desk chair: Fabulous Finds, 501/614-8181.
    Paint color on desk chair ("Reclining Green" #SW6744): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794.
    Fabric on desk chair seat ("Imperial Trellis II"/Ivory, Mandarin): Schumacher, 800/523-1200.
    Shell art over desk (giclée prints): Soicher-Marin, 941/308-7500,
    Desk lamp (#S302HAB-NP): Visual Comfort & Co., 713/686-5999,
    Magnifying glass: Global Views,
    Coral drawing: Natural Curiosities, 323/906-1083,
    Terrarium: Roost, 415/339-9500,
    Glass jars: vintage telephone wire insulators.
    Drapery ("Patsy"/Blue): Rubie Green,
    Beige table: vintage.
    Finish on vintage table ("Navajo White" #SW6126): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794.
    Celadon table lamp (#L-M/1001SMA): Festoni, 713/830-1077,
    Shell art above table (Albertus prints): Trowbridge Gallery, 404/816-8612,

  • Nancy Nolan

    Jadeite plates from the 1930s found at an antiques store enhance a new mirror. Walls are "Navajo White," one of the Sherwin-Williams Harmony low-VOC paints.

    The curio cabinet is from Stanley Furniture, one of the founders of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, which promotes environmentally responsible practices (our

    Organic cotton floral fabric from Rubie Green in a serene aqua accents the silhouette of a vintage sofa (

    Sofa: vintage.
    Sofa fabric ("Patsy"/Blue): Rubie Green,
    Turquoise pillow on sofa: Bed Bath & Beyond,
    Bench (#8910-88): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579,
    Bench fabric ("Imperial Trellis II"/Ivory, Mandarin): Schumacher, 800/523-1200,
    Orange chair: vintage.
    Chair fabric; orange pillow on sofa: Cynthia East Fabrics, 501/663-0460,
    Mirror behind sofa ("Lily Mirror"): Oly, 775/336-2100,
    Green plates (vintage, "Laurel" pattern by McKee Glassworks): Crystal Hill Antique Mall, 501/753-3777.
    Garden stool ("Lattice Garden Stool"): Emissary Home & Garden, 800/848-5997,
    Wall paint ("Navajo White" #SW6126): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794.
    China cabinet ("Continuum China Display Cabinet"/Ocean finish #816-31-11): Stanley Furniture,

  • Nancy Nolan

    Recycled frames and seashells make a bold focal point. Frames were unified with Sherwin-Williams Harmony "Rejuvenate," a low-VOC paint.

  • Nancy Nolan

    The floral draperies are in organic cotton from Rubie Green, a company founded by designer Michelle Adams to promote stylish and eco-kind products (

    Drapery ("Patsy"/Blue): Rubie Green,
    Beige table: vintage.
    Finish on vintage table ("Navajo White" #SW6126): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794.
    Celadon table lamp (#L-M/1001SMA): Festoni, 713/830-1077,
    Shell art above table (Albertus prints): Trowbridge Gallery, 404/816-8612,

  • Nancy Nolan

    In the adjoining sunroom, a twin daybed from NaturalLee has soy-based foam cushions, recycled fiber filling, a sustainable wood frame, and organic cotton upholstery (

    Hanging pendant (24-inch diameter paper lantern): Shoji Decor, 877/746-5437,
    Daybed (#34-30, by Lee Earth-Friendly Upholstery): Lee Industries, 800/892-7150,
    Daybed fabric (organic cotton): Rubie Green,
    Green embroidered pillows ("Popcorn-Border Pillow"): Ankasa, 212/575-1994,
    Garden stool ("Lattice Garden Stool"): Emissary Home & Garden, 800/848-5997.
    Art over daybed (Mixed Media Canvas): Festoni, 713/830-1077,
    Drapery (organic cotton): Rubie Green,
    Wall paint ("Navajo White" #SW6126); trim paint ("Dover White" #SW6385): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794.
    Bench by wall (#8910-88): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579,
    Bench fabric ("Imperial Trellis II"/Ivory, Mandarin #174410): Schumacher, 800/523-1200.
    Frames: vintage.
    Frame color ("Rejuvenate" #SW6620): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794.
    Shell art: shells mounted within the vintage frames.
    Carpet ("Alive and Well"/Rice Paper 08): Bliss by Beaulieu, 800/227-7211,

  • Nancy Nolan

    In the sunroom the sideboard from Stanley Furniture was built with sustainable materials and techniques ( Flea-market lamps are revitalized with new linen shades and Sherwin-Williams Harmony low-VOC paint (

    Drapery(organic cotton): Rubie Green,
    Wall paint ("Navajo White" #SW6126); trim paint ("Dover White" #SW6385): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794,
    Sideboard ("Coastal Living Seaside Inn Sideboard"/Morning Sky#829-J1-06): Stanley Furniture,
    Lamps on sideboard (vintage): Carrie's Antiques, Crafts & Collectibles, 501/562-8088.
    Lamp finish ("Rejuvenate" #SW6620): Sherwin-Williams, 800/474-3794.
    Embroidered pillow under desk (Kuk-May Hand Embroidery): through Christian Mosso & Assoc., 404/521-0799,
    Orange pillow under desk: Andrew Morgan Collection, 866/451-3371,
    Glass jars: designer's collection.