Bye Bye Beige: Tips for Color and Pattern with Tobi Fairley

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Welcome to the second installment of our three part series featuring decorating advice from the uber-talented interior designer Tobi Fairley. Tobi has been recognized for her masterful use of color and pattern by such institutions as ASID and Traditional Home Magazine. For all of us looking to break beyond our comfort zone of neutrals (guilty as charged!) Tobi has some excellent advice!

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My own greatest fear about bringing vibrant elements into my home is that I'll overwhelm the space. Tobi suggests taking it one step at a time: "I start every project with fabrics first. I spend some time in my workroom pulling fabrics that I think represent the client and compliment the architecture before I do anything else. I then go back to the beginning and start analyzing the architectural elements to be sure they are scaled properly and detailed in an interesting way. When I feel like the “bones” of a space are perfect, then I start layering in the furniture. This approach allows me to put just the perfect amount of interior elements in the space without over-decorating!"

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But what if I do my best to mix and match, and it still looks off? Tobi recommends a no-brainer approach: "A word for the timid with regard to pattern: I suggest selecting one pattern that you REALLY love and using it liberally. Put it on the sofa pillows, the drapery, the accent chairs. The more the better! The good news is that if you keep it simple by using one fabric, it won’t be busy; it will be beautiful! But one caveat: make sure the scale is substantial to get the most impact!"

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What about injecting color into the space? I'm a total commitment-phobe and I'm terrified that I'll get sick of any color I choose. Tobi says not to worry: "As far as color goes, I always encourage people to bite the bullet and select a bold element as a focal point. You will tire much less quickly of a fantastic red sofa than an ordinary beige one. If committing to a major purchase is just too much, use some of the less expensive items to add a great deal of impact. Paint is relatively inexpensive and pretty easy to change, so select a bold paint color and pair it with your neutral furnishings. Or take one bold accent color and repeat it on several elements: the drapery, the pillows. I would even go as far as painting some of the furniture a bold color, like some wooden side chairs, a vintage coffee table or as in my recent post, an antique secretary!"

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Tobi makes it sound so easy! Though she does have a final word for those who want to go all out: "I do admit, it takes a lot of experience or a special knack to be able to combine much color and pattern with confidence! So one no-fail bit of advice….hire a professional!" But armed with Tobi's great tips, I'm a lot closer to taking the leap and spicing up my space on my own—I have a blah wooden desk that could use some serious color TLC!

Oh, and be sure to stay tuned for the final installment of our series: Tobi's save/splurge secrets and more visuals of her inspiring work! In the meantime be sure to check out the our first post with Tobi as well as her fabulous blog.

All images courtesy of Tobi Fairley.

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31 Responses to “Bye Bye Beige: Tips for Color and Pattern with Tobi Fairley”

  1. cupcakes and cashmere Says:

    i need to not be so timid when playing with colors and patterns. that blue screen is phenomenal.

  2. summer Says:

    oh, my.
    that room with the green chairs + lamp… i’m in love!
    and feeling like I should start adding a little more color to my home.

  3. Joanna Says:

    That yellow writing desk is just sublime. I dream of wearing a beautiful tea dress and sitting down to pen some thank you letters or my latest idea for a novel. Not that I have an idea for a novel, but maybe it will inspire me!

  4. Rachel Says:

    These are great tips! I have definitely embraced the color, but I’m always uncertain about pattern. She has a great eye.

  5. Michelle Says:

    This post ifs for me..I am a color phobe, I stick to my beige but this has inspired me.

  6. Kristy Says:

    This might just be the inspiration I need. I love color, but I usually am very timid when it comes to decorating. I will use a little pop here and there with a pillow or 2, or a lamp, but I get nervous when it comes to printed fabrics or bold colors on the walls.
    I may have something to do this weekend, now. . .

  7. Kristy Says:

    This might just be the inspiration I need. I love color, but I usually am very timid when it comes to decorating. I will use a little pop here and there with a pillow or 2, or a lamp, but I get nervous when it comes to printed fabrics or bold colors on the walls.
    I may have something to do this weekend, now. . .

  8. Rachel Says:

    I love the yellow secretary!!!
    And you should definitely take the plunge and paint your desk a fun color!! I love painted furniture.

  9. Rachel Says:

    I love the yellow secretary!!!
    And you should definitely take the plunge and paint your desk a fun color!! I love painted furniture.

  10. molly Says:

    okay, i want those green chairs.

  11. molly Says:

    okay, i want those green chairs.

  12. little house on Green Says:

    The second photo, the soft blues and red accents . . . love it, want it!!

  13. little house on Green Says:

    The second photo, the soft blues and red accents . . . love it, want it!!

  14. christina Says:

    That second photo with the turqoise and red is extrordinary. I know I’m going to daydream over it for days to come.

  15. christina Says:

    That second photo with the turqoise and red is extrordinary. I know I’m going to daydream over it for days to come.

  16. Luphia Says:

    the artwork in the first photo is so perfect for that room, loving the yellow shades!

  17. i.d. Says:

    I’m loving pale buttery yellow at the moment! 🙂

  18. Jen Says:

    Obviously the two of you did not see my post about the “new” beige.I think you are really missing the next trend here…

  19. callie grayson Says:

    Great post!
    love all the pattern textiles and the bold use of colour, especially that yellow secretary. Beautiful!!

  20. cassandra Says:

    i’ve had that top photo with the yellow and navy saved in my ‘waiting to blog’ file for the past two weeks! you beat me to it 😉 her use of color and pattern is perfection!

  21. blair Says:

    WOW! What an amazing collection of interiors. Reminds me how much I adore kelly green.

  22. Heidi Jo Says:

    I love the coral and blue combo. Gorgeous.

  23. trailingspouse Says:

    I’m guilty of decorating my whole house in earth tones, so THANK YOU for the inspiration.

  24. dwellings and decor Says:

    These are quite vivid and fun to look at. Love the play on patterns.

  25. Courtney Says:

    All of these spaces have such great use of color and pattern! I like all of these rooms, and I especially love the green chairs.

  26. Jill Says:

    I love the room that is second from the top… I am working on incorporating more red into a room that is mostly brown/blue. And that room is fantastic!

  27. Miss Aimee Says:

    OMG- I want those kelly green patterned chairs NOW!!!!!!

  28. Kotori Says:

    Love that blue screen! Again, you’ve inspired me with patterns this week. I think I’m going to work on injecting some myself this weekend maybe with some pillows. Wish me luck!

  29. Modern Sofas Says:

    Tips suggested by your for color and patterns are very helpful. The designs posted are wonderful. The yellow writing desk is excellent. Everything needed arranged at one place.
    Thanks
    Lucy

  30. please sir Says:

    Great tips. I love pattern but always fear overwhelming a room, so I love this advice.

  31. Jackie Says:

    Loving these tips! What a great series.

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