Interior designer: Tobi Fairley, Tobi Fairley Interior Design, 5507 Ranch Drive, Suite 103, Little Rock, AR 72223; 501/868-9882, tobifairley.com.
Text by Amy Elbert
Photographs by 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."