Mastermind Spotlight: Laura Lee

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portfolio picOne of the great things about my Mastermind Consulting Program is that the members are from many different backgrounds and careers – but they are all passionate about design! Laura Lee began her St. Louis-based design business, Laura Lee Home, in 2012 as a second career and never looked back! She joined my Mastermind Program in 2014 after attending Design A-to-Z and Designer MBA the previous year.

Laura’s niche is helping to direct her clients’ resources, both time and money, to help them get the very most for their investment. “Tobi really helped me see that my financial background is a unique benefit to my clients, and I love that I get to do what I love every day,” Laura says.

“Decorating and renovating are expensive and I help my clients achieve their goals without the stress of an open-ended cost structure,” Laura says. “We are vigilant about communicating every step of the way. When I approach design projects, we get very clear about budgets and timelines. I help direct clients on where to splurge and where to save.”

Laura also specializes in bringing fresh, classic, edited interiors to older homes. From the first 1920s bungalow Laura and her husband John painstakingly renovated, to the 1930s colonial and two 1920s Tudor homes she’s also worked on, Laura knew she loved historic architecture and design.

“My expertise helps to make the most of the wasted space found in many older homes and to support 21st century living,” she says.

DSC_8741Laura says that 2014 was a big year of transition for her business with the launch of her first website in June and evaluating everything about running her business.

“I worked to streamline my design process, documented my systems, renovated my office-to-house samples as well as paperwork, and addressed my financials,” Laura says. “Design is the fun part and getting really serious about the business side of running the design business took discipline.”

Elevating her business and her transition year was not without its challenges.

“The biggest challenge I have faced was realizing that not every client that calls our office is right for my firm,” Laura says. “We do a lot of work in Mastermind on identifying our ideal clients and what differentiates us as designers. Educating people on the design process and what I am able to do, as well as not able to do, sets the tone for a successful partnership.”

Laura’s goals for this year are to continue to grow her business and to hire an assistant to allow her to spend more time on the design work. She is also investigating options to work on a show house as well as developing a focused social media strategy.

“I am looking forward to some exciting new design projects, including a first-floor renovation and a mid-century modern home,” Laura says.

familyroom2 When Laura isn’t working, she loves to cook, spend time with her friends and family, read, walk and garden. “My favorite place to spend time away from home is the beach, especially Sanibel Island in Florida,” she says.

Laura says it has been a challenge to strike the right balance between work and personal commitments since starting her business, especially with two teens at home, Audrey and Jack, and their oldest son Eric in college.

“My husband and I start each morning having coffee together and playing with our dogs Charlie the Golden Retriever and Lucy the Shih-Tzu,” Laura says. “That time is sacred and keeps us connected. I have learned that exercise has to happen very early in the morning and that I have to be more structured about appointments, errands, and commitments. John and my kids have been so supportive – pitching in and taking on more responsibility, especially when I need to be out of town.”

Laura says her biggest takeaway from the Mastermind program is to be 100% authentic in everything she does. “Tobi really helped me lean in to my niche and the unique perspective that my financial background brings to my clients and business,” she says.

Laura is an amazing designer, and a fantastic businesswoman! She does have the discipline and drive to really succeed in this tough business – and I look forward to seeing what she achieves in 2015!








PS – If you are interested in seeing how my Mastermind Consulting Program can help you transform your business for success, just click here to learn more!  Or contact me at!

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Tobi TV: Fab Faux Bois

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I usually have a firm policy of “Just Say No to Faux” – there is nothing like the real thing in most cases. But just like with any design rule, there’s always an exception.

For example, I love a good faux bois! What is faux bois? It’s French for “fake wood” which is exactly what it is, a fake wood or woodgrain. In fact, I love this design motif so much that I might just be using it as the inspiration for one of my upcoming fabrics for Duralee!

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The faux bois I used in the Jack and Jill bathroom in my Riverside Penthouse project is actually hand painted on the walls, giving this room a gorgeous textured look. Here are a few tips that tell you why I think faux bois is a real design winner:

Isn’t that a fun room? Let’s recap the fabulous faux bois ideas:

1.  Faux bois brings in an element of nature, which makes everyone and everything feel fresh and alive!

2. Faux bois gives the impression of texture that can really amp up a space!

3. The woodgrain look is also gender neutral, and here I used it in neutral tones. So it works well with any color, and in any room.

4. Try getting a local artist to hand paint your faux bois to keep your space budget-friendly!

5. You don’t have to worry about the trendiness of faux bois, it’s a classic finish that is always in style!

So what do YOU think about this wood-like look? Let me know in the comments below!







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Tobi TV: Big City Style

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Modern design enthusiasts may think they will only find “big city” style in places like New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. But you can get the chic and sleek look you crave, no matter where you live!

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Right here in Little Rock, Ark., I harnessed that city style for my Riverside Penthouse project, and I’m going to show you exactly how you can use these ideas to give your space a modern look and feel!

That entryway is metro marvelous! Here’s another look at a few tips that will give you a lot of big city style:

1. Think glam: A velvet and vinyl banquette will definitely add that sophisticated city look to your home. It’s perfect for entertaining or having a few friends over for cocktails.

2. A gorgeous marbelized wall covering in every shade of blue from cobalt to ink will make your space feel penthouse perfect! And it is ready-made art, as well!

3. Black-and-white striped marble floors would make a jailhouse rock – and the high-gloss makes them super-chic.

4. Blue suede doors would make Elvis proud – add some glass doorknobs and they are definitely fit for a King!


A great city view is a bonus, but even if you live in the suburbs, these tips will help you feel like you’re living large in the big city! Think YOU are a City Sophisticate? Take my fun color quiz to see if you fit that category – or to see if you’re a Blushing Beauty or a Drama Queen. Just click here, and you’ll also get a sneak peek at my new upholstery collection for CR Laine, debuting in just a little over 2 weeks at the High Point Market!

Stay colorful!







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A Sneak Peek at My New Collections!

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High Point Market is almost here – so now it’s time to unveil a few of the pieces from my new collections of upholstery and art! These will be debuting April 17-23 at CR Laine’s showroom (310 N. Hamilton, 2nd floor) and Soicher Marin’s showroom (C&D 1B/1C).

My vision for the collections was to provide fashion-forward color and design that speaks to my aesthetic as an interior designer, which is Bright, Bold, and Tailored. I love every single piece and can’t wait to start putting them in my own home, and in my clients’ homes! I think the gorgeous Marguerite Armless Sofa above really makes the statement for my look – with its strapped bolsters, starburst nailhead pattern, and acrylic legs.

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It pairs perfectly with my Inkblot series of art from Soicher Marin, which was so fun to design. You can see all sorts of interesting patterns and shapes in the inkblots, but I promise not to psychoanalyze what you see!

My CR Laine color stories are defined by three “personalities,” from Drama Queen to City Sophisticate to Blushing Beauty. We even designed a fun quiz to help you decide which personality is YOURS! All you have to do is click here to take the quiz – I think I’m definitely a bit of all three.

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Of course you’ll see a lot of shape and pattern in my designs – that is another of my design signatures! In the sketch of the Helen dining chair above, you’ll see my favorite Greek key pattern in the wood of the chair, partnered with a fabulous hexagon fabric in peridot.

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There is a lot of geometry and shape in the Soicher Marin art I’ve designed, too, including a series that offers varying squares of saturated color inspired by the great Josef Albers.

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One of my very favorite pieces – I’m ready to place my order today! – would be the Elle chair in leather and brass, above. CR Laine translated my vision into the style, comfort, and quality that they put into everything they manufacture. It is gorgeous AND comfortable!

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And if you know my interior design at all, you know I love pairing modern art with traditional and transitional furnishings. So I’m thrilled to have several series of graphic designs from Soicher Marin, including the ones above that are formed on a blush background. You’ll definitely see blush as one of my color stories as I love to be on the front of color trends, and blush is the next big thing.

So what do you think? This is just a very small idea of what you could see at the High Point Market, or in a retail store near you later this summer! There are 17 items in my collection for CR Laine, and my series for Soicher Marin is the largest they’ve ever done with a designer, with over 100 pieces!

Come see me at market if you’re in the trade! Both collections will be on display at CR Laine’s showroom on the second floor of 310 N. Hamilton, and we’ll have a big color celebration there on Sunday, April 19 at 4pm. I’ll also be in Soicher Marin’s showroom at 1B/1C in the C&D building on Sunday at 11am, which will be a fun brunch event. Put those on your market schedule, and I’ll see you SOON!








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Saturday Bliss: How Do I Do It All?

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How do I do it all? That is one of the most often asked questions I get. It is usually followed by “So you are still doing Design work even though you are a business consultant, teacher and speaker now?”

The answers are 1) I don’t do it all and 2) YES! I am STILL a designer. Not only an interior designer but now a product designer.

nate dbc

Last month at the Designer Bloggers Conference, It was interesting to hear Nate Berkus say that he is also inundated with the question “So, do you still do Design Work?” Yes everyone, Nate and I are both still designers.


But of course, neither Nate or I can do it all. No one can. Accomplishing all I do in life takes a lot of help. It’s no secret that I surround myself with an amazing team, I happen to have a crazy supportive family and a fabulous teen-aged young woman to help me with my daughter each week. It literally takes 6 stellar employees, an amazing accountant, my husband, my mom, my dad, my housekeeper, my teen-aged sitter, my aunt who helps me with my all important errands and laundry and anything else I need help with, my business consultant, several companies we outsource business tasks to, and I still don’t accomplish all I set out to each day.

girls at dbc

And then there are the top-notch companies I am partnering with to design products, and create online content who have amazing teams that are an extension of me and my team. And let me not forget a hand-full of dedicated and loving friends who pick up my child in a pinch, or let me drop her off on a snow day as I am jetting out of town, or let her spend the night when my plane is late and my husband is out of town too and those who let me bring her with me and stay for a night or a weekend. Which by the way my daughter thinks is the best thing since sliced bread. A trip with mom or a sleepover on a school night, are you kidding!?!?

soicher collection

But at the end of the day, I love my life. It is never boring. And though I don’t do it all, I do a LOT! You may have noticed that my blogging has been sporadic for a few weeks, well that’s because I was designing 2 product lines, and putting finishing touches on a third. I was designing the showroom at High Point Market where my new products will soon debut. I was designing many fabulous homes that I have the privilege to be working on at the moment. And I was spending important time with the people I love. So there is always some part of my lofty list of to do’s that doesn’t make the cut in my 24 hours each day and lately that was my blog.

girls at CR Laine

But in the midst of it all, there is always fun. There is always down-time. Or at least my version of down-time. There were the 3 snow days spent at home earlier this month, working from my bed in my Pj’s cuddled with my 10 year old and my lap top and her lap top and my pup Izzy. And maybe you’ve seen all those yummy meals posted on Instagram that I’ve cooked and treats I’ve baked for my family and my friends.

blue apron

Last week was a fun trip across North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia for Spring Break with my mom, daughter and niece.  We made a fun visit to see my furniture line prototypes and had a yummy Macaroon tasting for treats we are serving at market all color-coordinated to my designs for CR Laine. That was followed by 4 fabulously relaxing days hiking, and biking, and playing Corn Hole and Bocce Ball and roasting marshmallows by the fire and breathing in fresh mountain air (Aaaahhhhhh!) at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina and the Barnsley Resort in Georgia .


I’m a “Creative” or probably more accurately a Creator. I create. It’s what I do. It’s not by choice. It’s innate. It’s genetic. I have a drive to “Do”. And I don’t know how not to. I can’t turn it off. It’s not optional. In the same way I need oxygen, I need to “Do”.  It is my lifeblood.

I recently saw this very interesting article about people just like me. You can read the  Creativity article here. But these are a few of my favorite excerpts…

“No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.”

“Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time.”

Wow, it’s like I have finally found an understanding of who I am. The article even goes on to say that our saying “No” to other things in order to create makes other people think we are “aloof, boring, impolite, unfriendly, selfish, anti-social, uncaring, lonely and an arsenal of other insults. But “no” is the button that keeps us on.” Yes, often saying No to things that seem fun and frivolous to others in lieu of creating is what fills my deepest needs. 

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Many weeks of my life someone tells me “Don’t work your life away, slow down and enjoy your life and your family because it will all be gone before you know it.” But what I want to respond is this. I AM enjoying my life AND my family. Creating makes me enjoy my life and my family every day. In fact, I think I squeeze more life out of life WITH my family by my side than many people who think about “one day” what they will do with their life. My daughter is happy and well adjusted and a whole lot like her mom–a lover of travel and a girl who follows her heart!

Banana Bread

Why is it that keeping a busy schedule and working seem mutually exclusive from enjoying life and family? Why is it that enjoying family in peoples’ minds means being at home every moment and available just in case something my family needs may come up. I haven’t missed a single elementary school homeroom party 4 times a year for the last 7 years. I spend many a weekend cuddled with my daughter watching movies, or baking together or walking on a gorgeous day in our neighborhood with our pup and picking daffodils. I spend 6-8 weekends each fall going to College Football games with my family, my parents and my brother and his family. And those weekends are all about cooking and sitting fireside and laughing and telling stories about our childhood and lots and lots of football.

mom and me

I take a two-week beach vacation with family and friends each year and I take about 3-4 more vacations with family throughout the year. My mom and I go on about 8-10 fun trips together every year and yes they may be for work but for the 2 of us that is SO much fun. Designing Fabrics in New York and filling in the days with shopping and fabulous restaurants–seriously, what mom-daughter duo wouldn’t love that? And for me to be able to make so many special memories with my mom while she and I are both young and healthy is the best. So for me it’s not about just being with family, but the quality of the time we spend together and my family and I are making AMAZING memories every week of our lives!


So how do I do it all? I don’t. But I do squeeze the life out of my life. I make most every moment count, even if that means a conscious decision to lay on the beach and read a book or to open an expensive bottle of wine on a weekday with dinner and eat on the good china. I choose to go after my dreams. I do not have FOMO…Fear of missing out. I decide what’s important to me and I make that happen. I follow my heart. I show my daughter that being happy is our own responsibility. And that means different choices for every person. Some people are meant to be Stay at home Mom’s or Dad’s. And thank goodness for those people. Some people are meant to work and travel out of the home and thank goodness for them too. Some people are meant to be moms AND designers AND consultants at the same time.

morning coffee

But the most important thing is to live your life to your version of the fullest and I do that very thing every day. I am not missing out on the important stuff. I am grabbing the important stuff by the horns and riding them into the sunset every week of my life.

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I am a mom, a creator, an interior designer, a writer, a cook, a baker, a coach, a consultant, a product designer, a teacher. And I am happy. I have joy.

Do you?

Happy Saturday Friends! xo,

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