A family home gets an update from color maven Tobi Fairley
Just as before a big game, there’s a moment of anticipation when a designer is about to unveil a game plan to homeowners. The kickoff reveals the palette, textures, and furnishings that the designer hopes will create a winning style. But too often, there is one phrase—“Here is where I want to introduce color”—that can trigger a timeout, with the homeowners huddling to devise a strategy that’s more reserved.
Happily for Little Rock, Arkansas, designer Tobi Fairley and homeowners Julie and Patrick Swope, of Rogers, Arkansas, that didn’t happen when Fairley showed them her ideas for their house. In fact, the Swopes were dazzled with the conceptions, which fit the fast-paced style of the athletic couple and their two energetic young sons. “Patrick and I love tradition,” Julie says, “but we also wanted a home with a youthful appeal that was not too serious for our active family. We knew Tobi’s color sensibilities would be perfect, giving us the best of both classic and current styles.”
For her part, Fairley understood that a hip plan with a winning design was needed for the Swopes. But before she injected any fancy color footwork, she relied on the fundamentals—a neutral base and classic furnishings—to anchor her vibrant approach.
“Julie is confident in her style,” says Fairley. “It wasn’t scary to recommend a strong palette because I knew she understood color as a tool for a memorable design. She is comfortable with color and modern uses of it. As long as the colors I used were rooted in tradition, I could create something special.”
A neutral envelope of warm ivory paint on the walls grounded the intense combination of blue-and-white that the designer put into play in the entry hall and living and dining rooms. Wanting the entry hall to be not only welcoming but also useful, Fairley created a comfortable seating area at the base of the impressive curving staircase. Matching blue-and-white armchairs and a stair runner bordered in a Greek key trim warm and soften the cool sleekness of the stone and wood surfaces.
The living room served as a tutorial in investing in pieces that work well together over time and in various spaces. Fairley incorporated furniture that the Swopes already had—like side tables and a sofa with graceful lines upholstered in beige—into her scheme. Fresh pairings of seating pieces were repositioned, including grand wing chairs covered in a handsome shade that bridges navy and cobalt, cream-colored slipper chairs at the room’s opposite end, and benches perched on X-shaped stainless steel bases and upholstered in a geometric Greek key motif that adds a graphic touch.
The dining room continues the palette, but here the look is contemporary and less patterned. “Julie is extremely organized,” notes the designer. “Everything has its own place so the family can live clutter-free. In the dining room, we wanted her ‘Tobacco Leaf’ porcelain from Mottahedeh to shine when she entertained, so I kept the surroundings dynamic but restrained.” White klismos-style chairs with blue upholstery encircle the round dining table.
Because of its cheerful disposition, yellow often earns the silver medal for color, coming in second place after blue-and-white. Team Tobi and Julie wanted to use yellow but preferred a hue with enough muscle to hold its own—nothing overly feminine and pretty. Black and gray accents with bold yellow in the family room, breakfast room, and kitchen give a competitive kick that acknowledges the male presence in the home. Julie, who loves to cook and spends countless hours in the kitchen, wanted her husband and boys nearby as she chops and stirs. So Fairley and Julie made the adjacent family room an effortlessly casual place where the Swopes could be comfortable. The space sports masculine stripes on its X-base benches and an armchair that looks dapper in pinstripes.
Fairley suggested replacing the kitchen’s existing ornate cabinetry and making its black-white-and-gray granite counters look more sophisticated. Cabinets were refaced with contemporary doors, and Lucite bar stools with easy-clean vinyl in taxi-cab yellow provide a casual setting where the Swope men can keep Julie company while she cooks.
In the breakfast area, the bold black-and-gold duo takes on a slightly softer flair. A banquette references Chippendale style with black bamboo chairs in the same shiny patent material used on the sturdy bar stools. A fabric patterned in curvy black-and-white silhouettes is used for drapery panels, toss pillows, and cushioned chair backs. The rug echoes the room’s dramatic colors.
The striking palette also makes its way downstairs to the media room, where high-gloss lacquer finishes the wall, and bar stools in wide white-and-black stripes mingle with geometric patterns in the relaxed seating area.
In the master suite, the designer repeated the blue-and-white that is so magnetic in the public spaces. But this time, she paired the twosome in a way that is calming, selecting a four-poster bed in a chalky finish and using a swirling floral fabric for window treatments and chair coverings in the sitting area.
The Swopes consider Fairley’s design a triumph. ‘’We don’t sit a lot in our family,” Julie says. “We are active, athletic, and love to travel. After living in our completed home, we find it perfect for keeping us happy and organized so we can make the most of our time doing things we love.”
Photography: Nancy Nolan
Interior designer: Tobi Fairley, Tobi Fairley & Assoc., 5507 Ranch Drive, Suite 103, Little Rock, AR 72223; 501/868-9882, tobifairley.com.
Classic Blue-and-White Touches
Blue-and-white ginger jars frame the view from foyer to living room.
Foyer Sitting Area
Below the staircase, a pair of chairs are covered in a blue-and-white damask fabric from Schumacher.
See more details of the foyer on the following slide.
In the foyer, a stair runner is edged with an eye-catching Greek key pattern.
A pendant light from Circa Lighting contrasts with cobalt lamps atop the buffet. Klimsos chairs from Hickory Chair are upholstered in a matching blue fabric from Duralee.
A painting by artist Saliha Staib informed the color scheme of the family room. It’s flanked by Visual Comfort sconces above Hickory Chair’s “Camden” sofa covered in a neutral Kravet fabric. The “Relaxor” charcoal pinstripe lounge chair is from Lee Industries, and the X-based “Park Avenue” benches are from Duralee.
See more of the family room on the following slide.
On the other end of the room, a painting by Jen Bradley reflects a similar palette to balance the space. Two yellow urns from Tozai Home ground the artwork's bright colors.
Pal+Smith’s “Antoinette” rug anchors the breakfast table, extending the black-and-yellow theme. Schumacher’s statement fabric, “Chenonceau,” demands attention.
In the kitchen, contemporary polished nickel pendants from Urban Archaeology offer lighting over the island.
See more of the kitchen on the following slides.
Lucite corbels and glossy vinyl seats on the kitchen stools give the room a subtly modern vibe.
Kitchen Sink Area
Existing granite in the kitchen was downplayed by the addition of Carrara marble subway tiles used for the backsplash and on the walls above the range and windows.
The room's bright touches of vibrant yellow are tempered by its neutral background palette and natural stone surfaces.
Media Room Sitting Area
“I wanted the space to be theatrical,” says designer Tobi Fairley of the media room. Adding to the room’s drama are noteworthy upholstery treatments, including an ottoman that pairs a leather top and a vigorous black- and-white fabric base.
Media Room Bar
Bar stools add to the room's contrasting palette, each artfully clothed in a centered, wide black stripe.
"It wasn't scary to recommend a strong palette because I knew that Julie understood color as a tool for memorable design," says designer Tobi Fairley.
Media Room Game Table
Bold stripes adorn the game table chairs as well. Black-and-white architectural photos and circle artwork by Scott Carroll add a sharp, graphic quality to the walls.
Julie and Patrick Swope with sons Carter (left) and Hayden.
A custom blue finish on the walls lends texture to this red-and-blue playroom. Lucite chairs from H Studio tie in contemporary details from elsewhere in the home.
A chandelier from Circa Lighting reflect the room's bold stripes, which are defined in the gold-and-mint bed linens and custom area rug.
Tailored bed linens by Matouk grace the cream-colored four-poster. “Serpentine Commodes” by Amy Howard sit on either side of the bed and are topped with crystal lamps from Circa Lighting.
Master Bedroom Desk Area
A stately round mirror provides glamour above the writing desk. The desk lamp from Circa Lighting imitates the mirror's round shape.
Master Bedroom Sitting Area
Schumacher’s “Aylesbury Vase” fabric was used for the master suite’s draperies and Roman shades. It also covers the Lee Industries lounge chairs that flank a Hickory Chair “Eton” sofa in the seating area.
A beaded chandelier by Made Goods hangs above the tub, and “Imperial Trellis” by Schumacher blankets the walls with graphic pattern.
Walls coated in Sherwin-Williams’ “Rainwashed” set the stage for rest and rejuvenation. Black-trimmed linens with chic scalloped edges from Matouk adorn the bed by Oly.
See more of this room on the following slide.
Guest Bedroom Sitting Area
In the sitting area, a series of classic Greek portraits provides a whimsical backdrop for Duralee chairs in stylish Schumacher upholstery.