Tobi Fairley, of Tobi Fairley Interior Design in Little Rock, was presented with a few key pieces of furniture when she joined the creative team of a Little Rock custom build project. “The homeowners wanted to take cues for the design from a few existing pieces that were important for them to keep, like their dining table and 18 chairs,” Tobi says. With these beautifully ornate and formal pieces as her touchstone, she went on a mission to infuse their traditional style with her own simple aesthetic. “The result is fresh and new, instead of looking stuffy or tired,” she says.
Although the home was already framed and under roof, Tobi worked closely with builder Byron Holmes, designing the interior, kitchen and bath, choosing interior finishes and consulting on the exterior finishes. “Byron has a great attitude and builds an extremely high-quality home,” she says. “He took a great deal of stress off my plate and made the process run seamlessly.” Additionally, working with clients who had a considerable amount of building experience and on-target expectations for the process was immensely rewarding for the team. “It was a smooth process that was enjoyable for my firm, the builder and the client, so in my opinion it was a huge success,” Tobi says.
Creating a home that is formal and sophisticated, yet still warm and inviting, was the clients’ key request, along with well-designed spaces for entertaining. “Instead of using the traditional approach of piling on the accessories, I planned the bones of the space to be full of details, including inlaid marble patterns, decorative painting, wall tile mosaics, ornate lighting fixtures and highly detailed cabinetry and millwork,” Tobi explains. She devised a color scheme of chocolate brown, gold, turquoise and terra cotta, infusing the home with Mediterranean influences and a few carefully chosen Moorish elements. Rather than grouping accessories, she allowed them to stand alone for maximum visual impact, and she commissioned artwork by Arden Boyce, Sheila Cotton and Andy Reed, who are all represented by Tobi Fairley Fine Art.
To add to the home’s luxurious feel, wallcoverings make a strategic appearance, layered with antique mirrors, gilded millwork and plenty of textured fabrics, including velvets, chenilles and brocades. Stone and tile are equally important elements, with marble, Jerusalem stone and mosaic tile all contributing richness and depth.
While the project was certainly large in scope, it never became overwhelming thanks to the close working relationship of designer, builder and homeowners. “The challenges were typical for a house this size,” Tobi says, “but nothing that couldn’t be managed relatively easily between my staff and the builder.” The challenges, however, were welcome to Tobi, who loves the opportunity to display her affinity for traditional styles. “Considering the level of detail in this project, it’s particularly rewarding when it all comes together,” she says.
Though he’s now one of Little Rock’s top builders, Richard Harp began his career by building a 1,500-square-foot home in Fayetteville and organizing his receipts in a shoebox. “When my mom heard that, she offered to start entering invoices into Quickbooks!” he says. Despite his low-tech beginnings, the experience gave him a strong background in every aspect of home building, from the ground up, and after relocating to Little Rock, he launched his own business, Richard Harp Homes. Today, his work ranges from remodels to custom-designed homes, and he prides himself in being an expert in using energy-efficient building technologies, computer-based project management and home automation.
When Richard and his wife Brandy began thinking about building a new home for their family, including daughter Isabella and son Nicholas, the Bella Rosa Estates neighborhood was a natural choice, because Richard and his business partners had just begun developing it. “We enjoy the lot size and relative seclusion, yet we really have quick access to the major Little Rock corridors,” Brandy says. In addition, Richard, who is a certified graduate builder and a certified green professional with the National Association of Homebuilders, wanted to make the home as energy-efficient as possible, eventually earning designation as an Energy Star Partner.
Around the same time, interior designer Tobi Fairley of Tobi Fairley Interior Design began exploring the possibilities of a professional partnership with Richard. “I knew Brandy and Richard from Junior League events, and I invited him into my office to see our design process,” Tobi says. Immediately impressed, Richard asked her to meet with Brandy to discuss the design of their personal home. “The timing was perfect to form a partnership,” says Richard. The trio began an incredibly rewarding collaboration on the space. “I kept the structural and utilitarian interests in mind, and Brandy and Tobi ensured the spaces were matched with the correct fabrics, colors and furniture. So, as a team we built the house together,” he says.
Throughout the home, French-inspired design was a major influence. “The home was certainly inspired by French country design but executed in a simple way,” Tobi says. “The interiors are not overly accessorized, which gives it a very updated and fresh feel and allows the architectural elements to stand out.” A European color palette of blues, yellows and creams is a unifying element, from the floral and toile fabrics inside to the stone and stucco exterior and gray-blue roof. The hand-scraped hardwood floors, Rumsford-style fireplace with cast-stone surround and wrought-iron, travertine and granite finishes were all carefully chosen to create an overall atmosphere of relaxed elegance. Large windows allow beautiful views and copious natural sunlight. “We used traversing drapery on all the windows so that they could maintain the views and have total control over the amount of light in the space throughout the day and into the evenings,” says Tobi.
While creating a cohesive look for the home was essential to the Harps, it was also necessary that the home meet their needs as a family and have an open floor plan for entertaining. The master bedroom and children’s bedrooms are on the first floor, making it easy for Richard to check in on the kids from his home office, while the evenings find the family congregating in the open hearth room and kitchen. The master bedroom, however, was designed as a private retreat for Brandy and Richard, including a sitting area, stunning master bath and a second laundry facility. “The monochromatic color palette in the master suite is so serene and relaxing,” Tobi says. In fact, the finishes throughout the home are perfect for a busy family, thanks to their slightly rough-hewn nature. “Even though the influence is somewhat formal, the finishes are distressed and casual which cover a multitude of ‘sins’ when it comes to wear and tear from the kids,” she continues.
For Tobi and the Harps, the finished collaboration is far more rewarding than anything they could have created singly. Whether for family time, business or entertaining, the home is an ideal environment and a testament to all of their talents. “Richard made my job easier because his great knowledge of product and the building process helped translate my design ideas into structural elements,” says Tobi.
Order is a key concept in the Little Rock home that interior designer Tobi Fairley shares with her husband, Carter, and daughter, Ellison, who turns three this June. In fact, keeping her busy family centered and organized was a major influence on the home’s entire design, from its cohesive palette of neutral walls, colorful furnishings and green accents, to its structural background of open spaces and abundant storage. “My main goals in this home were for it to be relaxed and organized, and the two really go hand in hand,” Tobi says. “It’s hard to be relaxed amidst clutter.”
The owner of T. Lamarr Interiors and Fine Art, Tobi is an important force in the Arkansas design community, bridging the gap between creative talent and business savvy. As a child she was influenced by her mother’s innate sense of style and her aunt’s and cousin’s careers as designers in Fort Worth, but had completed a degree in accounting before changing paths and enrolling in the nationally accredited interior design program at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She continues to push herself professionally, obtaining her masters in business administration, certification by the National Council of Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ), and registration by the Arkansas State Board of Registered Interior Designers, to which Governor Mike Beebe has recently appointed her.
Creativity, however, is the lifeblood of Tobi’s career. “Interior design school does not teach you decorating and style,” she says. “That’s either a natural ability or something you learn outside the degree program.” She focuses her business on high-end design projects, because it’s where her passion lies. “I would rather be great at one thing than good at several,” she says.
This passion makes itself more than evident inside Tobi’s own home, a traditional 1970s home in the Pleasant Valley area. “Carter loves looking for real estate, and I knew the moment I saw this house that it had amazing potential,” she says. “The traffic flow and layout were great, and it had large open rooms on the main level that were perfect for entertaining.” After renovating the kitchen and master bathroom, she gave the home a neutral background, introducing color with the furnishings. “The entire color scheme is based on a green color story with a lot of black and white accents that I had used in our previous home,” she says. Shades of green are incorporated into nearly every space, giving the home a cohesive and relaxing flow. Original art from the artists Tobi represents at her gallery is displayed throughout, as well as pieces she and Carter have collected while traveling.
While the home exudes a refined glamour, it has definitely been designed as a welcoming space for a family with a small child. Light, natural fabrics keep things casual, along with functional touches like the vinyl on the breakfast area banquette. For Tobi, designing her own home is a treat without equal. “I get to put all the things I love together in one space,” she says, and she wants her family to be able to enjoy the home as much as she does. “We definitely don’t take it too seriously,” she says. “I teach Ellison to respect and take care of our nice things, but just last night she built a fort out of all the sofa and chair cushions in the family room.”
Organization is another component of the family’s harmony, which Tobi achieved by maximizing the home’s available storage with bins, boxes, hampers and other organizational systems, as well as carefully editing the tabletop accessories and even covering books on open shelving in white paper to allow visual “breathing room.” In the office off the kitchen, she created the home’s command center with spots for mail and business materials, as well as crafts and other projects she’s working on. “I am so much happier as a busy mom and business owner when I can come home to a clean and beautiful space,” she says.
Although landscaping projects and the design of Ellison’s playroom are on the horizon, Tobi is not the kind of person that likes to change things once she gets them right. “It’s wonderful to have it completed so I can enjoy it and move on to spending time with family and friends here,” she says. “I feel very, very blessed to be able to wake up each morning to such a relaxing and beautiful space.”
When the St. Vincent Foundation debuted their new signature fundraising event, the IV Party, last spring, they set a new standard with the party’s style, elegance and amazing atmosphere. For the second annual IV Party, Little Rock designer Tobi Fairley, of T. Lamarr Interiors and Fine Art, has collaborated with event planner and Arkansas native Todd Bagwell of Delaney T. Bagwell & Associates in New York City to create an event that is both visually stunning and fashion forward.
For this year’s beach-inspired rooftop bash on the St. Vincent campus, Tobi aims to create a look she describes as “ Miami chic.” With drinks, dancing, delectable food and entertainment by the Emerald City Band to enjoy, guests will be blown away by the crisp, cool hotel vibe the designers will create inside the tent. “We wanted the feel of some of the fabulous beach hotels, like the Delano in South Beach,” Tobi says. With designer Kelly Wearstler’s work as their muse, Tobi and Todd will fill the space with an impossibly chic, yet decidedly lighthearted atmosphere.
Beyond the good times, the IV Party is essential, because the money raised goes to support the St. Vincent Foundation in its mission to provide St. Vincent Health system with the resources its hospitals, clinics and community outreach programs need.
Scheduled for Saturday, May 3, the main event will begin at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are available for $150 per person. But for $500 per person, you can be a part of the exclusive VIP party beginning at 7:00. To reserve your own spot, visit the IV Party Web site at stvincenthealth.com/ivparty.