Tobi Fairley, Tobi Fairley Interior Design, 5507 Ranch Dr. Suite 103, Little Rock, AR 72223; 501/868-9882, tobifairley.com.
Written and produced by Candace Ord Manroe
Photographs by Werner Straube
When it comes to color muscle, Tobi Fairley is trained, toned, and unafraid to flex. In the Little Rock home the designer shares with attorney-husband Carter and 5-year-old daughter Ellison, Tobi parades a powerful palette with poise. Colors flow effortlessly from the black-and-white entry to the emerald-green living room to the adjoining family room, where green meets black to the applause of energetic orange accents. And that's before even crossing the center hallway, much less ascending the stairs.
"To live with me, you have to love color," Tobi says. "Ellison totally gets it. When she was just three years old, she got my mother on the phone and said, 'Bebe, you have to see my new draperies [lavender-and-gray toile trimmed in black fringe]. They're fabulous,' " recounts Tobi, accentuating the FAB. More than any other design element, it's color that stamps Tobi's signature on the 1976- vintage suburban home. "When we moved here four years ago, I wanted to make the house our own with a fresh color palette."
Creating that palette wasn't a simple matter of slapping on new paint and paper. The floor plan presented a challenge. "Carter and I were drawn to the house because of its interior traffic flow. We love to entertain, and all these rooms open up to each other. It's a wonderful floor plan for parties," Tobi notes. Yet the confluence of public spaces that aids in circulating guests can bog down color flow. With a combination of intuition and expertise, Tobi handled each transition with ease.
Black and white, long favored by the designer for graphic impact, was a given--and Tobi's opening gambit, decorating the entry. "But I hadn't used green before, and I was loving the wonderful variations that were popping up over the past three or four years."
She infused the living room with clear kelly green, taking it to the windows, chairs, and custom rug, then sprinkling it on accents. From a black-and-white entry to a green living room sounds like a leap, but the designer bridged the distance with ample amounts of white. She painted the living room's walls a neutral buff, covered the sofa in a white raw silk, and flanked it with two white consoles. One of the primary sources of green--the fabric on the draperies and club chairs--features a green pattern on an airy white ground. Ditto, the rug.
The most concentrated doses of green appear on a striped fabric on pillows and the geometric pattern on the pair of wing chairs. The perky green pattern isn't the only update for the chairs: "I love the great cabriole legs on these wing chairs," says Tobi. "They're so traditional but so clean."
In addition to the new bright greens, Tobi introduced a more traditional hunter green on the living room lamps. "I enjoy using colors that trends say are out. When people say teal or burgundy are done, I like to prove them wrong," confesses the designer.
A large, open doorway leads from the living room to the family room--and both spaces feed off the black-and-white entry hall. For continuity, Tobi brought the living room's green and the entry's black into the family room. Then, to give the room its individual character, she added zest with orange. "I hadn't planned on using orange in this house, but I like the infusion of citrus stories," she explains. "Then I found these orange lamps I love." An orange-lacquered bench followed, and her latest addition to the room is an orange-upholstered wing chair with white welting. To hold its own with the citric orange, green goes a little tart in this room. The designer painted the bookshelf wall between the family room and kitchen more of a true lime green than the richer green in the adjoining living room.
"We brought some black elements with us from our other house, so that was our jumping-off point for the family room." The room's black coffee table is a special piece built by Carter's grandfather.
"When we married, we got rid of almost every furnishing Carter owned, but we kept that," chuckles Tobi. "It's one of my favorite pieces. It's timeless and weighty, and I love the shape of the feet, which remind me of a Greek-key motif.
"I know green, orange, and black in one room sound kind of wild," she admits, "but it works. People come over and want to stay because they feel comfortable. The guys stay in the family room and watch TV, and the girls go in the living room and drink wine."
Ellison, meanwhile, is likely playing upstairs--in her fit-for-a-princess bedroom with its canopied daybed and toile French chair, or in the house's brightest space of all--her fuchsia-accented playroom.
Sources for living room:
Rug: New River Artisans, 336/841-7613, newriverartisans.com.
Coffee table (by Mariette Himes Gomez): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579, hickorychair.com.
Indian head on coffee table: Global Views, 214/956-0030, globalviews.com.
Vases: Oggetti, oggetti.com.
White cabinets: Worlds Away, 901/529-0844, worlds-away.com.
Art: Trowbridge Gallery, 404/816-8612, trowbridgegallery.com.
Sculpture of figures on white cabinet (by Rod Moorhead); rose painting (by Arden Boyce): Tobi Fairley Gallery, tobifairleygallery.com.
Sunburst mirror: Bungalow 5, 212/947-1500, bungalow5.com.
Green lamps: Christopher Spitzmiller, 212/563-1144, christopherspitzmiller.com.
Love seat ("Malibu"); love-seat fabric ("Weave Linen"/Oyster #29-28S); wing chairs ("Hyand"); wing-chair fabric ("Green-and-White Abstract" #69-31P): Barclay Butera, 212/207-8665, barclaybutera.com.
Throw pillows (by Jamie Drake): Schumacher, 800/523-1200, fschumacher.com.
Club chair: Lee Industries, 800/892-7150, leeindustries.com.
Drapery and club-chair fabric ("Oiseaux et Fleurs"/Peridot #173443): Schumacher, 800/523-1200, fschumacher.com.
Drapery fabrication: Mountjoy's Custom Draperies, 501/455-2216.
Drapery hardware: Stroheim, 800/763-0524, stroheim.com.
Wall paint ("Believable Buff" #SW-6120); trim paint ("Antique White" #SW-6119): SherwinWilliams, 800/474-3794, sherwinwilliams.com.