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Friday, July 24, 2009

My meeting with the talented Tobi Fairley! / Mitt møte med den talentfulle interiørdesigneren Tobi Fairley!

Tobi Fairley er en av designerne jeg beundrer, mye pga hennes evne til å lage spennende fargekombinasjoner og paletter. I feburar fant jeg ut at jeg har lyst til å dele noe av hennes kunnskap med mine lesere, og vi har siden den tid diskutert vinkling på saken. Tobi jobber på det amerikanske markedet, og har blant annet blitt utnevnt til en av topp 20 lovende interiørdesignere av magasinet Traditional Home. Nedenfor kan du blant annet lese om hennes favorittmøbler, tips til unge interiørdesignere / int.ark. og hvordan man kan bli mer "vågal" i fargebruken.

Tobi Fairley is one of the designers I admire, much because of her great talent in composing great color palettes and interesting color combinations. I started discussing with Tobi back in February about doing a piece about her here on Beautiful Living, and we ended up with what you see below. We dish about her favorite pieces of furniture, how to implement more color in your design, and tips on how to survive as a young designer (among other things!). Enjoy!!

1. As a designer, your style is very re
cognizable by your great color schemes. What lead you to use such daring colors?

I am VERY inspired by all the GO
RGEOUS and colorful textiles that are available. I am actually just published a post on my blog about fabrics that I love. But I guess it is just the confidence that my parents instilled in me that allows me to take risks with color in my interiors. And although when I get my interiors just the way I want them I don’t change them often, but I don’t really ever think about my personal interiors as being “written in stone”. I think of them as evolving so if I tire of something, or find something new that I love better, I am not opposed to tweaking things a bit.

It is funny that I have a little bit of a hard time answering this question because I us
ing color just comes naturally to me. It was not really a conscious decision on the beginning. I have always worn bright colors well and am comfortable with them in my wardrobe so I guess it was a natural progression from fashion to interiors! I also love to wear colorful shoes!

Image Courtesy of

2.Here in Norway, we're "color challenged", and by that I mean that designers very often only use white, beige and maybe some soft colors that are "barely there". Do you have any advice for designers or individuals that want to use more colors, but are unsure how to?

I always suggest that people ease into their use of color if it is not their comfort zone. Things like pillows, an accent chair, accessories are great places to start because they are small and not such a huge commitment. And though it seems a little bold and daring, paint is not a bad place to start either. It is relatively inexpensive to buy paint compared to buying furnishings and drapery. So you can always put the color on the wall and keep your furniture and window treatments neutral. This way if you tire of the paint, just paint over it and you will have neutral pieces that will still work with a new paint selection whether you decide to go for color again or go back to your neutral comfort zone.

One last tip for infusing color is buying colorful artwork, especially o
riginal artwork. A lot of people can embrace abstract colorful artwork to mix back in a neutral space. And a neutral surrounding gives a “gallery-like” atmosphere in which to display these wonderful works of art so they seem more special! They become a real focus point in the room!

Image Courtesy of

3. What is in your opinion the most important part of an interior design? Is there a particular thing you think can "make it" or "break it"?

Space planning is probably the most important! If you don’t get the room laid out well and the furniture placed properly than you really compromise the function of the space. A well planned room can be made to look gorgeous with all the amazing furnishings, fabrics and accessories on the market.

And a well-planned room can be made more interesting by adding architectural detailing and mi
llwork. But it doesn’t matter how much detailing and decorating you do, if a room is not functional then it is not successful design. I am a big proponent of good “flow” in a space…meaning traffic flow. I love to entertain and there is not much worse than rooms that don’t accommodate people well.

4. What's your favorite piece of furniture?

Wow! This is a hard
question!!! I love Jan Showers desk (I love a ton of her pieces actually!). Also a favorite is my Thomas O’Brien Secretary from Hickory Chair. And if you want to know about accessories and accents…I am a sucker for ALL Christopher Spitzmiller’s lamps! I am a huge fan of both Chris and his products! And another all-time favorite piece is Thomas Pheasant’s Sunburst Mirror for Baker. I know it has been used a TON but it is still one of my all-time greats!

Image Courtesy of ChristopherSpitzmiller.com

Jan Showers desk. Image from janshowers.com via tobifairley.com

5. I see sunburst mirrors recurring in several of your projects. What is it about this piece that makes them such a successful part of the design?

Funny, I just mentioned the Baker mirror and now this question!
J I am pretty consistent in the things I love. They are typically classic pieces rooted in traditional design even if they are clean in their presentation. I rarely tire of things even if they experience a popular phase, the things I look are always classic in my opinion! Things that fit this bill for me are the greek key motif, the sunburst mirror, and classic animal print if done well like the Bergamo and Brunschwig Leopard velvets! So for me, sunburst mirrors are classics! I especially still love the antique versions from the 18th and 19th century. I often buy these for clients on 1st dibs! I love the round and graceful lines of these mirrors and they are often a nice accent to my interiors which are often filled with straight lines. They also seem to be a perfect fit for some hard to accent places like over beds, so they are good solutions to some challenging spots. But like anything else that is popular, there are gorgeous and sophisticated versions of the sunburst and then there are imitations that get the scale and proportions all wrong!

Image Courtesy of

6. Which of your projects have been the most memorable to date?

I love the bedroom for the 2007 Susan G. Komen Build for the Cure Designer House. Not only was this project for a great cause that is dear to me and my family, my husband’s mother died of breast cancer, but it was also my first project published in Traditional Home Magazine! I would say it is also one of my most admired interiors. The cool color palette is appealing to almost everyone!

Image Courtesy of

7. Do you have any advice for interior designers in the beginning of their careers, and what do you think are the main components to stay competative in today's market?

Those who know
me know that I always have tons of advice! J I come by it honestly from my mother! I am a fan of formal education and certification. I know that there are many, many great designers that did not take this path and I admore them and their work. But for someone who is starting out in this field, I think a design education is so helpful and I think it is beneficial for the public for designers to be educated in the health, safety and welfare of their clients.

I give talks on how to stay competitive in this market and the top 3 things I discuss are:

1) building a unique brand
2) extreme customer service
3) building a strong company infrastructure.

As you know, I am a huge proponent of using social media and networking to build your brand. It has worked beautifully for me. I think customers are no longer willing to pay high price unle
ss they get personalized service to match and I have learned the hard way that it is impossible to successfully grow a design firm without setting up a sound infrastructure for your company. I am a huge fan of using business consultants and experts to help make this happen. But the very first place to start of you are opening your own firm is by reading the book The E-myth revisited by Michael Gerber! And they all need to keep in mind that opening a firm is about 90% business and 10% creative! Many creative people are not great managers and I think this is the hardest part about owner your own business. I have an MBA so I have a good deal of management training. So getting some experience manager others in a large design firm would be great practice for managing your own firm.

8. What would be your advice to a designers practicing (or trying to practice) in areas where it's more common to use interior designers for commercial projects than recidential?

Again, I think that building your brand and reputation is key. And the best way I have found to do this is through social networking avenues like blogs, facebook and twitter. Before and after photos that show the value you add to the project are very helpful to clients and you can easily post this sort of things on a blog and on facebook. And it always helps build trust with people if you can give them added value. So I love using the blog as a platform for adding value to my client and potential client’s lives including everything from DIY projects, product resources, travel tips and must-see’s, recipes and more!

Image Courtesy of

To see more of Tobi's work and visit her blog, go to www.TobiFairley.com


Mimi said...

Great interview...As a young interior designer my self and a fan of Tobi Fairley, I found the interview interesting and informative. Thanks so much for asking the right questions!

Farmgirl Paints said...

Veru colorful and fun. Great designer!!

My Wonderworld said...

Så gøy at du har fått intervju med selveste Tobi. Absolutt interessant lesning! Håper du gjentar denne tråden.

Angående farge på både benk og stoff, så er jeg veldig usikker for øyeblikket. Vurderer hvit eller mørkebrun benk mot gult stoff. Tenkte jeg skulle rådføre meg med deg ;-) Kunne også tenkt meg den tapeten du har i gangen i vår gang, - bare i gul. Hva tror du? Blir det liksom riktig i forhold til den andre tapeten? Eller blir det feil stilmiks? Og den indiske kommoden, synes du jeg skal ta den i gul også?
... skulle ønske du var her og bare kunne fortalt meg at sånn og sånn gjør du ;-) ... Har hatt en liten farge- og mønsterkrise de siste dagene. Har funnet ut at jeg rett og slett ikke har peil på hva som passer sammen ;-)

Ragna said...

Det var litt turkis her også ja :-) Det turkise og røde rommet var veldig flott. Tør ikke helt å bruke rødt jeg, er redd for at det skal bli alt for kraftig...

My Wonderworld said...

Det er en god ide! Vet du om Lysthuset fortsatt er åpent for privat kunder? Jeg har nemlig ikke funnet noe inngang og i 1 etg. er det nå klesbutikk. Hva med til uken?

My Wonderworld said...

Jeg ringer og sjekker ;-)

Har dere fått bordet?

My Wonderworld said...

Så kjedelig med bordet. Håper de klarer å få til et fint resultat.

daily decorator said...

I am a color lover so I love Tobi's designs--especially that green in the 2nd to last pic!

DesignTies said...

Thanks for the great interview with Tobi :-) Her work is beautiful. And her advice for starting a design business is super-helpful for me, seeing as I've just started my own business :-)

My blog partner Victoria will be meeting Tobi at an event in Vancouver on Monday. I'm SOOOO envious!!

Kelly @ DesignTies

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