Lessons from Arkansas a.k.a Tobi Fairley’s Design Camp (part 2)

Today in part two of ” Lessons from AR” I have 3 more tips to share from designer extraordinaire,  Tobi Fairley.  If you missed my first three Tobi Tips you can read them here.

 #4. Don’t try and make something work that you don’t love. I think we have all experienced this at one time or another. Say you have a dated sofa. You don’t love it but to make it work you find a wall color to go with the sofa, then window treatments that have the same colors, then you find a rug that also “goes with the sofa” then you work in your accessories.  What you end up with is a room designed around something you never really liked in the first place so you never really love the room. Better to start from scratch than to try and make something work you don’t love.

#5. Beware of living only with “decorator art“. When Tobi said this, I knew EXACTLY what she was talking about. I call it ” staging art” and I use it all the time when I Stage a home for sale. It is generic art that doesn’t offend,  or make too much of a statement. You know the kind; mass produced and sold at your local Home Store.

Something like this:


"Decorator art" a.k.a Staging art


A small amount of decorator art is fine to add some color or to fill in where needed but original art that has meaning and speaks to you is what will stand the test of time and enrich your life.

Original art does not have to be pricey fine art. Your kids drawings, photo enlargements taken by a loved one, or the $6.00 etching you bought 15 years ago from that colorful street vendor while on your honeymoon will all have meaning for you and give your room some soul.

Here is a hallway in my home where I have a collection of small water colors my son did in high school. They cost zero dollars and I found the frames on sale at the Crate and Barrel Outlet for $5.99 each. I never tire of looking at these and they are a great topic of conversation when friends visit.

art work by Ben Holt

#6. Carefully consider the architecture of a home BEFORE you build or buy. What looks interesting, different, cool, or unusual  is usually NOT easy to decorate. Super tall ceilings, large arched windows, or big open floor plans might seem like a good idea at the time until you actually try and arrange your furniture, hang your art work or put up window treatments.


I am not sure what is going on with this room but I bet it looked great on the blue prints.

And although these windows are gorgeous; it would be a challenge if you needed window treatments for privacy.


So going back to Tobi’s very first lesson #1:  always think about Function Driven Design. If  it makes sense to how you live on a day to day basis then you will always feel comfortable, and decorating your home will be a lot more enjoyable.


I hope you enjoyed my 6 Tips from Tobi, and as always, I love reading your comments and feedback!

If you would like help with choosing the perfect Color, Staging your home for sale or Redesigning a room, give me a call.


13 Responses to Lessons from Arkansas a.k.a Tobi Fairley’s Design Camp (part 2)
  1. Sherry Daniele Reply

    Thanks for the reminders, Linda – esp. #1. I’m doing exactly that as I type this…trying to work around that danged ‘oops’ of a sofa! What’s the wisdom behind throwing good money after bad vs cutting my losses and startng over?. Argh!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      I think I have spent a good part of my decorating life trying to make something old, dated, or just plain ugly, work.. after Tobi’s camp though, I have vowed..no more!

  2. Sherry Daniele Reply

    BTW, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the wall of art!!!

    • Linda Holt Reply


  3. Sheila @SZInteriors Reply

    More great tips – thank you again!

    I know exactly what she’s saying in #6 about the large open space. We are in a lease home and the main area is very open. It’s been quite a challenge to work with, and since it’s not ours, we are being careful where we spend our money. After living here for a bit, we know this is not the home for us to buy, and the awkward open concept is one of the reasons for that… so glad to enjoy it while we lease, but even happier to have given it a test-run before purchasing!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      So true Sheila, my friend just moved to s wide open loft pent house condo..OMG what a challenge it has been for her to decorate without it looking like a furniture store.

  4. Jennifer Reply

    Great job Linda….your tips on artwork are perfectly said!! I still learn things everyday!!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks so much Jennifer!

  5. kristie@thedecorologist Reply

    thanks for sharing, Linda! i absolutely love your son’s art grouping in your hallway. you hung it PERFECTLY – so impressed 🙂

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Thanks Kristie…after I published I noticed one was tipped…guess no one else saw it though LOL

  6. Kelly Reply

    Looking at your original artwork and then the decorator art is a great example. They just do not compare! Great job Ben! Great job Mom in hanging them so perfect! Really looks great! Thanks for sharing your design camp ideas. I really enjoyed reading!

    • Linda Holt Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it…and now you know everything I learned so think of all the money I saved you 🙂

  7. [...] great blog posts pop up all over the web already like this one from Linda and her follow up post here.... tobifairley.com/blog/2011/design-camp-a-to-z

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