Tobi TV: Chic Chinoiserie

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Okay, first of all, what is chinoiserie? It’s a classic design motif from the 18th century, and how people of that time interpreted Asian art and ceramics. It was actually a way to get away from the more Greek and Roman influences that were so popular then, and instead focus on romanticized ideas of nature and landscapes.

So in this traditional design idea, you see a lot of flowers, butterflies, vines, birds, pagodas, and dragons. And although toile patterns have been around centuries longer, a lot of chinoiserie patterns can also be called toiles. Either way, the patterns are often seen in traditional interiors, but there are some fabulous updates happening now with new colorways!


So what should you look for in chinoiserie, and how can you use the patterns in your own home? Let’s take a look at contemporary chinoiserie that can add chic touches to your decor:

Now you see why I love to use chinoiserie in the interiors I design! Here’s a review of what we saw:

1. In the most classic versions of chinoiserie, you’ll find birds, blooms, and butterflies. I love how today’s patterns, like in a Fromental wallpaper, give a twist to tradition with updated colors like a fabulous hunter green.

2. There’s nothing more perfectly chinoiserie than a pattern of dragons and mums! Look for the traditional Asian dragons with the serpent-like bodies to really give you a bold look.

3. I love a Ming jar pattern that showcases the iconic ceramics. It’s made even more bold and beautiful in new colors like teal and yellow.

4. In a twist on toile, look for chinoiseries that are more pastoral, like the pattern I found that mixes Asian bamboos with island influences.

Use these ideas and patterns to bring that perfect piece or traditional design into your home! 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!

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Confidence (REALLY) Counts

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When I meet with my consulting clients to talk about challenges they’re facing in their businesses, there is one single core issue that’s at the heart of almost any problem. And that’s a lack of self-confidence. It keeps people from doing their best work, from reaching out to the perfect prospective client, from charging what they’re worth for their services. It holds them back from success!

We all struggle with our confidence at times, but it’s how we respond to those moments that really makes the difference! Do you feel like I am talking to you? Let’s do a quick quiz to see where you are on the confidence spectrum:

Do you do what you think is right, even if others mock or criticize you for it? Or do you make a lot of your decisions based on what other people think?

Are you willing to take risks? Or are you too afraid of failure to move out of your comfort zone?

Do you admit your mistakes and learn from them? Or do you try to cover up mistakes and hope no one notices?

Are you comfortable telling others about your skills and strengths? Or do you wait for other people to point out your accomplishments?

Are you great at graciously accepting compliments? Or do you start protesting or downplaying the compliment?

I think you see where I’m going here. If you identify more with the second question in each paragraph above, you have confidence issues – and I’ll guarantee it’s impacting your success at work.

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After all, how can you “sell yourself” to someone and convince them that you are the perfect person that they need to hire if you can barely recognize your own skills and specialties? How can you take the risks required to get your business to the next level if you don’t have the confidence to make the first move? And how are you going to ever be happy – with yourself and with your life – if you can’t stop worrying about what others think?

Part of getting into the confidence zone takes some practice and role play. Some would call this the “fake it till you make it” idea. But I don’t think it’s fake. You are talented. You are unique. You have something to offer. And by pushing yourself to “play” confident until you start to really feel more confidence it’s really fake. It’s more like practice. Rarely is anyone good at something without a lot of practice, right? And most people haven’t been “practicing” confidence. So you have to put your shoulders back, hold your head high, and pretend you’re wearing a crown! You have to stride confidently into a room, look people in the eye, and act like you are the world’s best at what you do. It’s an odd thing, but even just projecting confidence will actually make you feel more confident about yourself. It just takes practice. It’s at the core of the book Presence by Amy Cuddy, who says that taking those “power stances” gives you a hormonal boost that makes you feel more confident!


But you also have to stop fearing failure. You have to be willing to try new things and to take risks – even small ones. Because you will learn new things as you fall and get back up. You will have successes too, and both things will give you more confidence! So today, write down 2 things that will get you out of your comfort zone, either personally or professionally. And then make a commitment to do those 2 things right now.

We also need to stop thinking we have to be perfect at everything. There is a difference in excellence and perfection. There’s nothing wrong with having high standards. But there has to be a point where we really believe we tried our best and our outcome is not only good enough, but that it’s actually great! That’s not arrogance. It’s important for happiness, joy and fulfillment. We have to be able to be satisfied with our work. Too often we won’t try something unless we believe we will do it absolutely perfectly. Well that’s just not going to happen in every situation, so get over that perfectionism and get out of your comfort zone! That’s where the good stuff is – where the great new ideas come from.


Finally, and this is probably the biggest thing you can do, you have to get rid of that inner “mean girl.” You know the one – she’s constantly telling you that you aren’t good enough, that you don’t have what it takes, that you’re stupid, and really not worthy of success. Would you let anyone talk to your daughter or your best friend that way? Then why do you allow that voice to talk to you like that?!? It’s the worst form of self-abuse and you have to commit to stopping it today.

That inner voice also tends to whisper to you what others think of you, too. It’s a complete waste of time to worry over what others think of you or what they say about you. Often they aren’t even thinking or saying anything about you, they are too busy being a “mean girl” to themselves. Trust me on this one. And yes there are a few out there who really do think or say negative things about you. So what! I am perfectly aware that I have people out there who may not like me or believe in me. We all do. And if you are putting yourself out there, leaning into your potential or taking risks to be your best, somebody is not going to like it. But my favorite saying for situations like that is that “What people think of me is none of my business!!” They are entitled to their opinions but I don’t have to hear them!  Everyone and everything has detractors, but it doesn’t make any sense to pay attention to them. We have to remember that we are each on our own paths and we can’t let others knock us down or push us off the path or we will never become all we were meant to be!

Instead of hearing those naysayers, focus on your cheerleaders and supporters. They’ll help remind you of why you’re so special, unique, and fabulous. Because YOU ARE! Now get out there and show the world what you’ve got!

Confidently yours,







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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!





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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!








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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!

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