Are You Operating Your Business Like a Hobby?

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If you’re an interior designer, I have a question for you: How seriously do you take your business? I can hear you say, “Tobi, my business is my entire life! I don’t even have time for anything else! I take this VERY seriously.”

But are you treating your business like a BUSINESS? By that I mean, do you know to the penny what your overhead is every month? Do you know how much money you have coming in over the next six months? Are you paying yourself? Are you acting like the CEO that you are?

It is tough to be an entrepreneur and a small-business owner. Most of us get into this business by focusing on the parts we love – maybe for you it was a love of color, or the idea that you are transforming people’s homes with gorgeous interiors. The part we don’t focus on, in most cases, is the enormous amount of hard work, of tough financial times, and of serious business management that it takes to be a business owner.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 2.03.43 PMYou may be just starting your business, or you may have been in business for a long time and the new economic reality has you reinventing yourself and your company. Either way, it’s basically a start-up process for a small business. We need to all remember that 60% of small businesses fail within four years. I’m not telling you that to scare you or to shake your confidence in your own ideas or your own company. I’m telling you the reality because only when you KNOW what you face can you really meet it head-on.


If you have the tools and are ready to do the hard work to make YOUR business one of the 40% that does make it, that will help put your company – and YOU – on the path for success.

Trust, me I have been there! And I am still living in the design trenches – just like you are – every single day. That’s why I developed my Designer MBA intensive course, to help designers learn how to charge what they’re worth, to help you operate “lean and mean” for maximum profitability,” and to help you find and attract your BEST clients!

This fall, I’m offering Designer MBA on Nov. 11-12 in Dallas at the historic Stoneleigh Hotel. It will be two intense days that will give you the tools you need to REALLY improve your business, and it will give you the tools you need to design your own roadmap for success!

Don’t just take my word for it – read what previous attendees have to say:

  • “Since attending Tobi’s event, I had a 500% increase in profits! What Tobi will spoon-feed you is a roadmap to making money.” Mara Malcolm
  • “Tobi Fairley & Associates helped me immensely. I’ve gone from being unhappy with my business and processes to now having more confidence, enjoying my projects, getting great ‘magazine-worthy’ full-room jobs and, most importantly, increasing my profits.” Heather Blue Harkovich
  • “Tobi is so generous with her time and her knowledge. I walked in frightened about the future of my business. I walked out a confident designer! I have the tools to restructure, and I am rebuilding for success.” Alison Johnston
  • “I would have paid twice as much for the results I have already reaped!” Suzy Watkins, ASID

To kick things off for you, here are three of my top business tips that will give you a small peek at the incredible amount of information, tips, and tools you will receive at Designer MBA:

1. Be Yourself. Without a strong sense of what makes you unique, you’ll never be able to build an authentic brand that has the power to attract your ideal clients, captivate a wide audience, and command the attention of online and print publications. Be honest with yourself, resisting the temptations either to idealize or to judge yourself too harshly.

2. Create Diverse Revenue Streams. Identify multiple services or products that you can offer that satisfy the demands of your audience. Consider a Good/Better/Best option, and you will multiply your income channels.

3. Keep Your Eye on the Ball. I live by this quote from Theodore Roosevelt: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s absolutely true. Not only does comparison put us in a negative frame of mind, it also distracts us from our goals. Know just enough about your competition to keep you motivated, but don’t detract from your own path by thinking the grass is greener for some other designer.

So what are you waiting for?! Click here to find out more about Designer MBA, and I look forward to seeing you and getting started on your business TRANSFORMATION!








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An Inspiring Show and Partner

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Hi, everyone! I’m spending this weekend at the amazing High Point Market, the world’s largest home furnishings trade show located in North Carolina. And today is a busy day for me! I’m speaking with the editors of Southern Living and Coastal Living today about how designers can get their work published in shelter magazines, and then at 4pm I will be at a fabulous cocktail event with my new partner C.R. Laine!

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.10.33 AM

I love coming to High Point Market because it’s full of color, style, and inspiration! It is honestly like Fashion Week for those of us in the home world. And this is the first market that I’m also dipping into the exhibitor side of the show!

Next April, I will debut my first upholstered furniture line with C.R. Laine, an absolutely amazing partner! As a start to our partnership, I designed the bistro area in the newly expanded showroom for C.R. Laine on the 2nd floor of 310 N. Hamilton. I went with a striking black-and-white palette, with bright splashes of kelly green in the chairs.

What really sets the sophisticated tone in this space is an amazing new product from Soicher Marin. Wall Couture is a customizable wall covering that is also reusable! I designed the paneled look you see here – and they have hundreds of designs in their High Point Market showroom at C&D, space 1B/1C. Wall Couture can be applied to any smooth or semi-smooth surface, so I may have to try this on some doors and shelves in the future.


I am so excited to embark on this new collaborative and creative partnership with C.R. Laine! It was thrilling to design their new Bistro as our first project together. We will be giving a few of their VIP clients some sneak peeks of the product this market. Exciting, right? And I can’t wait to unveil the designs to all of you next spring!

In the meantime, if you’re at High Point Market stop by and see the new C.R. Laine Bistro and their newly expanded showroom. Also don’t miss Soicher Marin’s Wall Couture - and be sure to notice ALL the artwork in C.R. Laine, because it is expertly created by Soicher Marin.

Until then, I’m off for more inspiration!









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Modern Art and Minted Giveaway

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I was recently asked to guest judge an art contest for Minted, an amazing online marketplace for independent artists and designers. The Art Fair Challenge was inspired by art shows and fairs around the world, and was open to all works of art that can be reproduced on paper.

Judging this amazing art exhibition was a tough job! There were so many gorgeous entries, from paintings to photography to collage to pen-and-ink drawings. But one work really drew me to it right away – it was Mingle by Julie Song Ink.

The first thing that caught my eye is the color – I am known for my use of color and this blue just grabbed my attention. But what really made me select this gorgeous artwork as my favorite was the movement and excitement created by the swirls and splatters. It actually reminds me of the creative process I go through in my own work. It is a vibrant and electrifying work!
Isn’t that a gorgeous piece? And now it will be available in Minted’s amazing line of cards and art! And they really do have an extensive line – in fact, they are going to offer one of my blog readers the opportunity to win a $500 gift card to purchase cards, stationery, gifts, or art from their site! Isn’t that amazing!


We will hold a drawing on Thursday, Oct. 30. All you have to do is register by filling out the form to the right of this blog post – and the bonus is that you will get a free download of my Top 10 Ways to Add Style with Color! Register between now and 5pm on Oct. 29 and we will draw a name from all the entries, and will announce the winner here on the blog on Oct. 30. That lucky person will have $500 to splurge on the Minted site!

Good luck!


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New House Diary: Breakfast Room Color Palette

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New House Diary

We’re moving into the breakfast room for New House Diary, and while we’ve discussed the table and whether there will be a banquette or a TV in the room, we haven’t really talked about my favorite design element: Color!

Last fall, I taught a course on color for House Beautiful and creativeLIVE and we really dug deep into this topic. Color has a huge impact on your mood and emotions, it can even impact your metabolism! So this is a key room for a color discussion.

Yellow is a fun color for a breakfast room! It’s cheery and bright, and it has the added bonus of energizing you and giving you a better metabolism, which is perfect for a morning area, right? The only downside is that people tend to lose their temper more in a yellow room, and we don’t want that!

Margie Bromilow

(Design by Margie Bromilow)

Blue is one of my favorite colors, and it has a calming influence. Studies show it lowers blood pressure and relaxes you, which is a great way to start the day! Blue is also a social color, it makes people interact and it is the most-loved color for the majority of us. So blue is definitely in the running. It is certain to show up in some other places in this home, so maybe the Breakfast Room, too.

Virginia McDonald

(Design by Virginia McDonald)

Green would be an interesting choice! It’s the most restful color for the eye, which is perfect for those “just woke up” eyes. And it also promotes togetherness and serenity – both good qualities in a gathering room like this one. But I haven’t really been planning for any green in this home, even though it’s sort of my signature color.

Jen Langston Interiors

(Design by Jen Langston Interiors)

I could consider a little vitamin C with pops of bright orange in the breakfast room – it’s definitely an energizing color that stimulates excitement and fun! So there is another great color to consider.

Jay Jeffers

(Design by Jay Jeffers)

Or maybe I need to mix some of these great colors for another unique Tobi Fairley combination. With all of these great colors to choose from, I know can’t go wrong! Tell me your opinion below for what color best suits this Color Girl! I can’t wait to unveil the finished room for you!










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Which Would You Choose: Breakfast Area with TV, or No TV?

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I love my mornings at home! Getting ready for my day always includes a healthy breakfast, a cup of coffee, and catching up on current events with the morning news programs. So as I look at the design for the breakfast area in my home, I am trying to decide if I want to include a TV in the design, or if I should leave it out of this room.

breakfast TV

(Design by Lauren DeLoach, photo by Emily Jenkins Followill for Traditional Home)

Currently, I watch the morning programs in my bedroom as I get ready. And while that works, it can make for unexpected messes as I juggle coffee, a breakfast plate, my daughter, and our dogs! The breakfast room would be a much better – and less stressful – command center for my morning routine.


(Breakfast room designed by Lindsay Ellis Beatty)

On the other hand, do I really need another room with a TV in it? This is a constant struggle for modern living, and one my clients ask about all the time, too. Do we include TVs in each room where we would use them, or try to contain all electronics to just one or two rooms? I can really understand both sides – connected to technology, or connecting to each other? It’s all about having a home that really functions for YOU.

So which would you choose?

A breakfast room designed with a TV in it? Or one that doesn’t have that distraction?

Leave me a comment below and tell me which one you would choose, and why! I can’t wait to hear your choice and I am looking forward to showing you the final result!









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