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New House Diary: Breakfast Room Banquettes

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New House Diary

As I said yesterday, morning is probably my favorite time of the day! I’m crazy about breakfast food, I love the smell of coffee, and I really enjoy the time with my family as we get ready for the day. So I’m having fun deciding all of the details for my breakfast room – the room that will probably be the hub of a lot of our day, not just our mornings.

I’ve always been a big fan of banquettes and have used them often in my designs for clients. But in my new house, the floor plan is tricky so I’m not even sure it’s possible. And then if I do use a banquette, I need to decide if it should be free-standing or built-in.


(Massucco Warner Miller Design in Los Angeles)

A banquette makes such a cozy seat, and I would love to snuggle up with my daughter on one in the morning. They also add a bit of sophistication to a normally casual space.

Photo by Helen Norman

(Photo by Helen Norman)

But they also can be difficult to get into for children, and some adults. And of course a free-standing one takes up more space than a single chair would at the side of a table. But a built-in banquette can actually be a space saver when you have an area that isn’t really big enough for chairs to pull in and pull out. Of course as a designer, I will be able to figure out those space planning details, but I would love your thoughts on which one you would prefer if it were your home.


(Design by Luis Bustamante from Veranda)

And let’s not forget, with a built-in banquette there is the added benefit of extra storage, either under the seat or at the floor level. However, you have to be sure you use enough cushioning for these seats, or no one will want to linger in them too long.

case di lusso

(Design by Case di Lusso)

So what do you think? In a perfect world where either chairs or a banquette work in the floor plans, should I use a banquette in my breakfast room, or not? And if I do use a banquette, should it be a built-in?

Lisa Sherry Interieurs

(Design by Lisa Sherry Interieurs)

Leave me a comment below and tell me what you think! And be sure to say whether you think a built-in is right for my house, or if I should look at one of the many furniture banquettes. There are some pretty free-standing ones these days and maybe I should even design one for my line with CR Laine Furniture coming out next Spring.  Your vote may decide the seating in my breakfast room and a piece in my furniture line!









Which Would You Choose: Breakfast Room Lighting

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One problem with going to the High Point Market this week is that it makes it even harder to choose items for my new house! Once I think I’ve absolutely made my choice, I see hundreds of new ideas and products at market that make me question my decision.

So this week I need your help choosing the lighting for my breakfast room – and my choices fall into two categories. Should I choose a lantern or a chandelier?

I love the casual look of a lantern-style light fixture – in fact I love them so much that I’ve custom-designed some for my clients’ projects! I really like the look of this one because it’s copper. That was a big trend at this week’s High Point Market.

Liz Levin

(Liz Levin Design from Better Homes & Gardens)

I also like the design of this chandelier with the strands of all-white shells. It removes some of the formality that comes with a chandelier, so it would be perfect in a more casual room like a breakfast area.

Kelly Deck Design

(Design by Kelly Deck)

So which would you choose, a chandelier or a lantern? And this week I have additional questions – what material should I choose? There are so many colors and metals for a lantern, and a chandelier could be constructed of glass, crystal, shells, metal…the choices are endless!

Let me know in the comments below what you would choose for my breakfast area! I need help narrowing down all of the beautiful choices!









Tobi TV: Fresh Traditional Design

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I did a presentation this week at the High Point Market with Southern Living magazine, and executive editor Jessica Thuston pointed out something that I’ve also been noticing: Traditional design is coming on stronger each season! But it is a more current and fresh traditional look, with new colors and tweaked patterns.

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In this week’s episode of Tobi TV, I’ll show you how traditional style is finding a new life in interior design, from updated damasks, to brighter colorways, to new scales.

So if you want to bring this fresher approach to traditional design into your home, let’s recap my tips:

1. Overscaled patterns. Nothing is more traditional than a damask pattern in a classic color like navy. But if you overscale that pattern, it gives the design a whole new life.

2. Tradition with a twist. If you take a traditional looks like a claw-foot chair, add a twist like lemon yellow leather to give you a fresh take on a classic design.

3. Add a “wow” factor. If you live in an historic home, or a home that features traditional architecture and design, avoid a stuffy formal look by adding a “wow” factor like bold wallpaper or an unexpected color.

4. Keep it classic. Floral patterns and traditional designs are timeless looks. Consider lighter colors and simpler patterns to give them a current update.

As you can see, if you love traditional style then you are in luck – it’s always IN style! Share this video and the tips with your friends and family who love Traditional Decor! And let me know how you are decorating with classic looks and patterns!

I’ll see you next time on Tobi TV!









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!








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!