Archive for January, 2016

Saturday’s Secret Sauce: Taking Action Every Day

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6Wednesday was my Birthday…my 44th birthday. The good news is that I still feel like I’m in my 30’s and hopefully I look that way too. But it is pretty interesting to think about the possibility that if I live a long life, I am possibly at that half way point as we speak.

So when looking at my life so far, it’s fun to see what I’ve accomplished and if I am where I would have wanted to be half-way through my life. Thankfully the answer for me is yes. I realize that I have accomplished more in my 44 years than many people accomplish in a lifetime. I believe that is because I work at it all the time. Success almost never happens by accident and my accomplishments have been plans that I crafted and set in motion.


I set goals. I review them regularly (as of this year daily). I constantly read and study and travel and learn. I am on a quest to squeeze all the life out of my life that I possibly can. And I also have a very clear vision of where I am headed. And that, my friends, may be the single most important part of my 44 years of success. You can’t move towards your goal if you don’t know where you are going. You cannot walk a straight line if you don’t have a fixed point to follow. Now don’t get me wrong, none of our lives are actually a straight line. And success is definitely not a straight line. But the goal is to stay on course more than you are off course. And the thing that helps keep you on track is noticing as quickly as possible when you are off so you can course correct and keep forging ahead.

None of us are perfect. Nobody is going to hit every goal they strive towards. But if you don’t have goals or a plan of attack for reaching your dreams, you will have a very low chance of getting there. Still,  you can have the best plans in the world and if you don’t take ACTION, you won’t achieve them. Action is definitely the secret sauce!


I am not one to regret much in life. I have almost no regrets really. And I think that is because I take very focused action on a daily basis to create the life that I want for myself and for my family. I don’t wait for things to happen. I make things happen.

This started way back in my childhood. Fortunately I had parents who had a clear picture of what kind of life they wanted for me. And what they wanted was a life where I could dream big and I could have the resources and support system to achieve anything I set my mind to. Lucky me! I am well aware that everyone doesn’t have that kind of support. The funny thing is that as a child when my parents were having me listen to Dr. Wayne Dyer on cassette tapes at the age of 12 while my friends were watching Saved by the Bell (ok I did watch it some too), I didn’t think their ideas were super cool.


But by age 18, I was buying my own set of Tony Robbins personal power tapes from an infomercial at midnight from my college dorm and mapping out my future. And thanks to my parents planting these sorts of seeds in my life, my future grew into many successes and achievements because I designed the life I wanted and I didn’t wait until the timing was perfect or I was “ready”. If I thought it was important then I went after it. I still do this today.


It’s never to late to achieve your dream life. Martha Stewart achieved her first major success at age 41 when her first book came out. She had started her catering business in her mid-thirties. Vera Wang didn’t get into fashion until age 40. My fellow Arkansan Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart at age 44. And you’ve probably heard that Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62. I started my design firm at age 27 and it’s been a fantastic 17 years of growth, but I am thrilled that I still have so much time to reach even bigger goals. These stories of great women like Martha Stewart and Vera Wang inspire me to keep pushing for my dreams and that it’s never too late to start a new path.


If you are looking at your life right now whether you’re “middle aged” like I may or may not have just become (wink), or you’re in your 30’s or 60’s or 80’s, the most important thing is that you believe that you have what it takes to make your goals and dreams happen. And that you do that one critical thing…Take Action!

Cheers to going for your dreams this year so matter your age. You can do it!





Before and After: All About the Art

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I love clients who come to me with a great starting point for inspiration, and are fearless about color and pattern! In the living room I designed above, the clients collected a lot of art, which gave them pieces for me to design around, and also made them really appreciate how mixing patterns and colors can make a room come alive.

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This is the painting that they wanted to keep in the room, and to inspire my selection of fabrics, patterns, and colors for the room. It’s a great piece that definitely gave me a fabulous jumping off point!

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They also had a gorgeous mantle that they wanted to keep – the photo is a little dark, but you can see it above in the “before” photo. And this is the room that they gather in to watch TV, so they needed a spot for that, as well. But the cabinetry they had built in was dated, and also the furniture in this room was heavy and a little tired.

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As you can see in the close-up “after” photo above, the mantle and the art are at the heart of this room! The TV has a more sophisticated home, and the colors in the room complement the painting, highlighting its beauty without distracting from it.

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The room before was also a little cluttered, and the light coming in from the windows was gorgeous, but way too bright for watching TV. And there were no window treatments to help darken the room when needed.

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I added color, pattern, updated and refreshed furnishings, and gorgeous window treatments that can be closed for TV time, or opened to allow in all that lovely natural light! I do love to mix pattern in a room, and here you can also see that I followed my rule of letting one pattern be dominant, while bringing in other supporting players in varying scales.

So what do you think of this colorful living room? Do you like to design around art in your rooms? Let me know in the comments section below! I’ll have more before-and-afters coming soon!








New House Diary: How to Survive a Kitchen Remodel

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New House Diary

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I am right in the middle of a major kitchen remodel on my new house, which is both wonderful and scary. As a designer, I know better than most what can go right and wrong during a renovation, so I thought I would share my best tips for how to start, and survive, a kitchen remodel.

Tobi in hard hat

First, you have to have the right contractor. This is going to be a person that you’ll be with through thick and thin for days on end, so it better be someone you trust, and that you like. Ask for referrals if you don’t know someone, particularly from people who have kitchens that have been renovated recently. And yes, it’s okay to interview any contractor! You need to feel that you have a good rapport with this person. To me, that’s as important as the cost of their estimate. In fact, my contractor is a good friend of mine, but we are able to maintain a professional relationship which is the best of both worlds!

Tobis kitchen

You also have to budget wisely. Most renovations cost more than you think they will, and there are often things that come up that you weren’t expecting. I always know exactly where I need to splurge and where I need to save, and I made sure there was a cushion in my budget for any contingencies. In general, it’s smart to put your money where you’ll get the most for it, and some of those important areas are definitely appliances, cabinets, and flooring.

A good rule of thumb is that a budget around $5,000 will get you some small cosmetic changes; $15,000-25,000 will let you pull out old appliances (or a few of them) and maybe slightly change your floor plan, but it won’t let you move plumbing or electrical. At $25,000-45,000, you’re able to take out a wall and to upgrade to better fixtures and cabinets if your kitchen isn’t too large. And at $50,000 or more, you’re probably going to get closer to your dream kitchen, with custom cabinetry and professional-grade appliances. But keep in mind, many people would need $65,000-$100,000 to really get the kitchen of their dreams. Be honest with your contractor about what you can and cannot afford so you can set priorities for what you want and need now and what you may be able to phase in later.

Tobis wish list

My priority? Definitely the appliances! I am a cook and baker at heart, so I definitely need to have the right tools for my new kitchen. In fact, the most fun I’ve had in this whole process is dreaming over my Thermador catalog! The fabulous range above is just about the one thing I built my whole kitchen around!

Once you have the perfect contractor and your budget in place, then comes a scary decision: to stay or to leave! If you can, it’s better (and faster) if you can move out. I am having more than just my kitchen gutted, so staying in the home just wasn’t an option. If staying in a rental or long-term hotel doesn’t work for you, see if you and your family can bunk with a family member or friend. As hard as that can be, it really will make the kitchen remodel go faster at least during some of the messiest and most dangerous (electrical upgrades) and smelliest parts (think paint fumes). Plus, it’s just safer if you have kids and pets!


(my kitchen with the sheetrock up!)

If you just can’t swing that, consider where you can set up a “kitchen outpost,” as I like to call it. It’s where you can at least have some dishes, a microwave, your coffee pot, a slow cooker, and any other small appliances you might need like a toaster or a can opener. Be sure the outpost is away from the dust and clutter that’s going to come out of your kitchen. You’re going to want to use this station mostly in the morning as you get everyone out the door. And then you’re going to want to get the number of every takeout joint near you! That’s just the name of surviving this remodeling game, so figure that into your budget, too.

If you’re remodeling during the right time of year, unlike me, you could also set up an outdoor kitchen around your grill and have plenty of fabulous dinners al fresco. Another great idea is to have snacks like microwave popcorn, trail mix, cereal bars, and raisins. If you have kids, you know they’re going to be hungry at inopportune times, so be ready. And also consider a dorm-sized fridge for drinks and water. You also want to only use disposable plates and utensils, because who wants to do dishes in the bathroom sink or the tub? Yuck!

Realistically, it can take months to complete a kitchen remodel. Often, the cabinetry alone will take at least 8 weeks for cabinets to be built and be installed, so think carefully about how long you can live without your kitchen. I am so excited because my cabinets are going in this week!

Now is also a great time to consider what you can live without so you can organize as a bonus to moving out. Those scarred baking pans you keep meaning to throw out need to hit the road. Don’t let junky stuff go back into your gorgeous new kitchen!

Finally, the best thing you can do to keep your sanity is put up a pinboard somewhere in the middle of your house where you can’t miss it. And pin up every single gorgeous kitchen inspiration photo you’ve ever torn out of a magazine. Then you can stare longingly at it to remind you of why you started this project in the first place. It’s all worth it!







PS – Want a fabulous guide to get you through your kitchen remodel? Check out my friend Kathleen DiPaolo’s amazing Return on Interiors system, with tools, tips, and worksheets that will help you finish your project on time and on budget!

A Birthday Celebration

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Today is my birthday. It isn’t a milestone birthday, but I’ve believe that we should celebrate every day in our lives, especially our birthdays! So today I have a fun lunch and a relaxing spa day planned today with my daughter and a fabulous dinner out tonight with family. It’s going to be perfect!

It just so happens that Paperless Post – the fabulous online and paper stationery company – asked me to tell them what I would do to celebrate my birthday if I could plan a fun soiree! Now that’s a bit of a hard one for me because I love planning parties for other people where I am the hostess, but I am not one to have big birthday party plans when I am the guest of honor. I usually keep my birthday pretty simple. But just for fun if I WAS having a fancy fete, it would be all about the details…

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I am really making it a priority these days to spend more time with my friends – people whose company I truly enjoy. So I would have a small party with a few of my favorite people. And Paperless Post has fantastic online designs for birthday invitations, including the one above that I love which would be ideal. This one is perfect for me with its pattern of dots and its bright pink color! So I would invite friends to enjoy cupcakes and cocktails – two more of my favorite things.

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And any event that I plan has to have fresh flowers! I especially love bright pink peonies, white tulips, and gorgeous lush hydrangeas. Flowers liven up a room with color and style, and they are my favorite form of decoration.

I’m all about little nibbles at a party – in fact, I would probably have hors d’oeuvres instead of dinner most nights if I could get away with it. So my cocktails and cupcakes event would include lots of frosted cupcakes, salty snacks, and deliciously designed appetizers. I’m thinking these Neapolitan cupcakes would be the perfect flavor because my family and I can never agree on our favorite flavor. Some of us love chocolate and others vanilla. So these are the best of both with fabulous strawberry icing on top!

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And to keep the pink color theme going, I would pop the cork on a few bottles of a gorgeous rosé champagne like the one above! After all, it isn’t a celebration without some bubbly!

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And my family is the BEST when it comes to thoughtful and fabulous presents that are chic and colorful. Because a color-lover like me can’t celebrate without bright, fun, and festive details!

Thanks for letting me share my perfect little celebration with you and with Paperless Post! With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, be sure to check out the gorgeous designs from Paperless Post that will help you celebrate with those you love, too!







Tobi TV: Adding a Touch of Glam

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I love a room that has a touch of glam. Oh, who am I kidding?! I love a fully glam room, too! But it’s a real balancing act to create a gorgeous room that has just the right touch of glitz without going too far over the top. Think about how glam translates in fashion – it’s really the same idea for interiors!

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Those fab touches can add luxury and style to any room, but how do you keep that glam-quotient right where it needs to be? I’ve got some great tips that I love to use in the interiors I design – so let’s roll the video to see what they are!

Now those are some va-va-voom spaces, right?! That should give you some ideas from small glamorous additions to full-on Hollywood glitz! Let’s review them again:

1. Use sheen and shine, to reflect your glamorous side! Silver and gold metallic tones give a room that luxury, just like your jewelry is the finishing touch for your wardrobe. And remember that mirrors can also put a sparkle into any space!

2. Texture is so important for luxurious looks in a room. Think about velvets, plush chenilles, silks, and satins!

3. Leather is also key to giving a room the look and feel of a luxe life! Try to use leather in exciting colors other than black or brown for a true glam style – like blush, yellow, or lavender!

4. Is there anything more bewitching and glam than a lacquered ceiling? Well maybe snakeskin wallpaper and fur throws! Keeping the colors toned-down and monochromatic helps this mix of moxie stay fun and fabulous.

5. There’s nothing better than jewel tones for a glamorous color palette – especially when they evoke those sparklers that Elizabeth Taylor loved so much: pearls, sapphires, emeralds, amethyst, and rubies!

6. If you don’t want to commit to a lacquered ceiling, how about trying a metallic wallpaper up above? Or try sinuous shapes and bright colors to add that captivating charisma to a room!

Don’t you just love a glamorous life? Let me know how you use a little glam in your decor in the comments section below! And I’ll see you next time on Tobi TV!







For more tips and ideas, be sure to check out my YouTube Channel, featuring every episode of Tobi TV!