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Tobi TV: 4 Ways That Art Can Inspire Your Decor

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I love original artwork! I collect a lot of original art, and I love to use it when I’m designing homes for clients – it actually often inspires my designs. One-of-a-kind pieces really add personality that can’t be recreated in another house or room.


The key to using original art in your home’s decor is to let it inspire the rest of the room, and to allow the art to be the focal point. It really will give you space that is all your own and is full of personality.

So let’s take a look at some of my top tips for using art to inspire you:

I’m feeling inspired already! Here is a quick recap of those top tips:

  1. In a neutral room, use a brightly colored painting to add that pop! You don’t always want to match to the painting, but do use the colors in the art to inspire the palette for the rest of the room.
  2. Choose art that has sentimental value for you, or that reminds you of a special moment or person in your life. It will add meaning and emotion to your room!
  3. If you have a piece of art that’s by a famous artist, like the painting in my client’s home by Dale Chihuly, hang it front-and-center so it can be enjoyed by your family and your guests.
  4. If you’re a collector, edit your art so that pieces will complement each other, and will complement the rest of your decor.

What art or items do you collect? And how can they inspire your home’s design? I hope these tips have you looking at your art in a new way and seeing how each piece can inspire a room’s decor! Please let me know in the comments below how you’re using art in your home!







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

4 Ways to Rethink Your Work Team

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I’m asked all the time when a small business owner should hire employees – and there’s really no easy one-size-fits-all answer. You have to determine that for yourself based on your income and overhead. But I will tell you that I have completely revamped how I work with team members, and you can too! Let’s take a look at 4 ways to create a lean-and-mean productive team:

1. Make a list of all your tasks and jobs required in your company. Remember what I always say: You should spend 80% of your time on the thoughts and activities that will produce the most results (aka MONEY) for your business. So look at that list and mark the things you need to do to make your company money or that require your skills. If an activity doesn’t give you a strong return on investment, then you should not be the one doing it. You have to assign tasks that you should not be performing to other people. That’s going to make your company more productive. After all, if you are the most important asset your company has, can you really afford to be the one taking out the trash or cleaning your office? Making that list will help you focus on where you need help.

2. Once you know you have job duties that you should pass on to someone else, it’s time to decide what type of person can handle them for you: an outsourced hire or an employee. The advantages of outsourcing include: getting specialized experts for a fraction of the cost. You also don’t have to pay for insurance, retirement, payroll taxes, office supplies, a workstation or a computer. In most cases, you pay when the work is complete. And you don’t have to manage anyone in-house. I outsource things in my company like bookkeeping, web design, IT help, graphic design and more.


There are advantages to having an employee, of course. You have someone to work with you and to bounce ideas off of. They are on-call immediately and can help when there’s an issue. Once they’re trained, they know the “ins and outs” of the business and can help make decisions without your guidance, which comes in handy when you need to take time off. Once you really think about the pros and cons of outsourcing versus having an employee, you need to do a cost/benefit analysis to determine which type of employee makes the most sense for your budget and your needs. You may want to use a hybrid, like I do, with employees handling some jobs, and other things being outsourced.

3. Think global rather than just local. In today’s world, your team doesn’t even need to be in the same place – you can hire the right person for the job, regardless of where they’re based. As many of you know, I have full-time team members in different states, and my outsourced people are in other states, too. Because of today’s technology, we stay in touch and work together just as if we were all in the same office. Having a virtual team allows you to get the best and brightest in the field and not settle for less just because that’s all you can find in your area.

4. Get connected. We are so lucky to have so many tools available to us today that let us connect with people around the world. They also help keep a hybrid work team connected and productive. Some of the tools we use are Studio Webware, Asana, Dropbox, Skype, Google calendars, Time Tracker, and more. It creates a seamless work system that feels as if we’re all working in the same office.


You’ll also have to meet and check in with your team a little more often just because you aren’t sharing the same office space and you don’t have the luxury of gathering around the water cooler or break room and casually discussing topics. Organize time when your team can socialize and get to know each other and build a relationship that will last.

Building a team, like building a company, takes some work and time but if you put these ideas into place, you should end up with a more productive and smoother-running company in the long run. Let me know what you think in the comments section below!







6 Things That Add Personality To Your Home

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The one thing that I want for all of my clients is to design a space that really fits their personalities – that is a showcase for who they are. We can do that with the colors, patterns, and styles that they love, but nothing adds a uniqueness to a room more than things that really are personal to the people living there! So here are my top 6 tips to help you add that personality to your home!


1. Original art. Art is a very subjective thing – one person viewing it can feel completely different about than another person who’s also looking at it. That’s what makes it personal! If you love a piece of original art – no matter who did it or how much it costs – then you should use it in your decor. Sometimes that piece of art can be the jumping-off point for the color palette of the room, too, like in the space I designed above. And remember, you can also use other forms of art, like sculptures, textile art, and more.


2. Things that you collect. I absolutely love my collections of jadeite and glass grapes – they mean a lot to me. If you collect something that you love, then show it off. Grouping those items together can make a style statement all their own, so think about clever ways to display those collections you love.


3. Books and more books. I read a lot – and I have a lot of books to prove it! I display my books on tables and shelves, and they really add color and a uniqueness to a space. But don’t just buy a bunch of books to put out in your home. Only choose titles that you really want to read – that’s the only way to show who YOU are and what you love!


4. Things from your travels. There’s nothing that will take you right back to that fabulous getaway than a memento or something that you purchased from a local artisan! Showcase that piece of Venetian glass, or the woven baskets from that small village – they are so much better than some mass-produced knick knack for adding your stamp to a room.


5. Custom creations. I create custom looks all the time for my clients, like bespoke sofas or a one-of-a-kind finish on the walls. There won’t be another one like it in their neighborhood, that’s for sure! So consider how you can create something that’s all yours – like the silhouettes I designed above of my client’s children.


6. A dash of fun. Consider this your permission to go a little crazy! Try something new and experiment with the fun factor. A little whimsy goes a long way in adding personality, that’s why I created a simple black border and a fun wall pattern in this little girl’s nursery. It’s fun, and it’s different!

Adding personality to your spaces not only makes them unique, but it’s magical to live in rooms that are filled with things that make you happy, or that remind you of a trip or someone you love! What do you think? What would you add to your home to make it your own? Let me know in the comments section below!







Tobi TV: 3 Ideas for Displaying Collectibles

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I love to collect jadeite, vintage cake plates, antique oyster plates, and glass grape clusters – they are all special to me and many of them have been handed down to me by family members! If you have a collection that means something to you, it’s great to share it with others by showcasing it in your home.

Collectibles can be anything from vintage china like Flow Blue to something like my client’s antique Russian boxes from her grandmother. Decorating your home with these special items can bring give your design a unique look, so don’t hide those precious treasures!


Some people tend to only bring out collections when it’s the holidays, to showcase special china or vintage silver. But I have three ideas for displaying your collections all year long – let’s take a look:

What do you think of those fun ideas? Let’s recap those tips for putting your collectibles on display:

  1. Put collections of small items, like my client’s Russian boxes, in a bold and beautiful cabinet to make a big statement.
  2. Use acrylic risers to add scale to your collections or put very important pieces under an acrylic box. Putting anything under an acrylic box makes it seem more important!
  3. Display your collections in one place. Spreading them out throughout your home diminishes their importance and displaying them together will have a greater impact.

Use these tips to help you create the perfect home for your cherished collections! And let me know in the comments section below what you collect and how you’re making a home for your favorite treasures.

Happy collecting!







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

5 Business Lessons I’ve Learned

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When you’ve been in business as long as I have – over 17 years now – you learn some things along the way. I’ve learned from business experts, coaches, my dad, and so many others. But the lessons I really took to heart are the ones I taught myself, by making missteps, having to course-correct, or flat-out failing at something!

Those experiences may not be fun, but they do give you a real-world lesson. And they taught me that I can fail at something and come back even stronger. So here are the 5 lessons I learned the hard way over the years:

1. Bigger is not always better. I thought I had to have a big office and a huge staff to be taken seriously and to get everything done. I just thought that was what you did as a “real business.” Boy was I wrong. I’m now in a much smaller office (more about that in the future), and I not only have a leaner staff, but they are based in several different states, too! We are a much more efficient and cohesive team that functions at a high level with a lot of online tools. And business is better than ever!


2. Profit margins are where it’s at. I’ve told you over and over how I had to face some hard truths early on in my business, and get super-serious about my financials. And the one thing in that painful process that really rocked my world is the realization that profit margins are the key. Small business owners like me can fool ourselves into thinking we have a ton of money coming in. But once we weigh that against the expenses going out, or against our REAL hours spent on the project, we can get a cold slap in the face when we realize we aren’t making a 10th of what we think we are. I watch my margins like a hawk today!

3. Think local. Now I love the major shelter magazines more than you can imagine, and they are always my goal for publishing. But sometimes we forget that our local magazines are fabulous vehicles for getting published, too! In fact, they can often bring in more clients for a designer than one of the national magazines. So even though I will always earmark projects for submission to the premier magazines, I really love to support my local and regional publications, too. In fact, as I always say, At Home in Arkansas really helped me get to where I am today!


4. Niche is key. If you’ve spent time with me, or read this blog for any length of time, I know you’ve heard this before. But defining and refining what makes me different from other designers and businesses was the key to everything for me, from getting covers of publications, to forging new partnerships, to attracting new clients across the country. In the early years, I wasn’t clear on that niche. It took me a while to really settle into what was my “sweet spot.” That happens for a lot of us, we’re afraid to be pigeonholed. But being clear about what makes us different is really what sets us apart!

5. Leap into new ideas. This one is actually already part of my DNA – I love to come up with new ideas and strategies for my business. But where I’ve made missteps in the past is on not pulling the trigger! Whether it was fear or overthinking, I’ve missed out on some really great ideas that I then saw someone else execute and put out sooner than I did. And good for them! However, it did teach me to trust my gut and leap when I have a great idea. After all, if it doesn’t work, I’ll have another good idea to replace it!

What do you think about the lessons I’ve learned? And what are the most important lessons you’ve learned along the way? Let me know in the comments section below!