“Every time I see a beige-on-beige room, a little part of my color-craving soul dies,” said Tobi Fairley without a hint of hyperbole. One visit to Fairley’s website yields a trove of people and surroundings bathed in brilliant color. Her approach to interior design has led her to be featured in the pages of House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Better Homes & Gardens and, that inimitable favorite, Southern Living. She takes this color-conscious approach to everything, including holiday decor. Here, she offers advice and tips for making the holidays unique, beautiful and bright.


AY About You: Tell us a little about yourself. What led you to become an interior designer, and what keeps you engaged?


Tobi Fairley: I was always creative as a child, and I had a great aunt and cousin who had both earned interior design degrees. That was my first introduction to the field, and I also got a degree in interior design and started my own business at age 27. I am constantly inspired by my travels, by inspiration on social media and in magazines. When you love design like I do, it is a lifetime passion and commitment.

Designer Tobi Fairley’s iconic pink Christmas tree illustrates her color-conscious style.

AY: Barbie, the movie,  has made pink the new black. What trends do you see for Christmas that incorporate pink and other colorful trends?


Fairley: I definitely think the Barbie movie brought a new appreciation for pink, but I have always loved it. I had a pink convertible 1965 Mustang (restored, of course) as my first car, and my current home is full of pink, including my dining room chairs and my pool furniture, cushions and umbrellas. I am sort of known for it. I have had a pink Christmas tree in my entryway since 2017, and I just keep adding to it and cannot imagine growing tired of it. I think pink trends in Christmas decor have been coming on strong for a few years and will continue to be a trend this year.


AY: What is your favorite way to design for Christmas?


Fairley: I love Christmas trees and have four of them around my house, but I also like to bring a bit of Christmas into other rooms by hanging wreaths on interior windows and doors, decorating fireplace mantles, displaying collections. I teach a three-part Christmas workshop online that shows all the ways I add Christmas into my home and how you can decorate yours similarly.

AY: What advice would you give a home or business owner looking to hire someone to decorate their spaces for the holidays?


Fairley: In the same way someone would consider an interior designer, a holiday decorator should be able to show you photos of their work and share references from other clients who have used them. I also think you should collect images of holiday decor you love, maybe on a Pinterest board, and share those with the designers you are interviewing so you can make sure your style and the results you desire are the style in which they typically work. There are a lot of different ways to approach holiday decorating, from rustic to whimsical to formal and fancy. You want to know what style you are going for and communicate that well to anyone you hire to help you create that look.

Fairley advised those with limited budgets to focus on bringing high-quality decorations to one space, such as a tree, then add another space, such as a door, the next year.

AY: What design tips do you have for home or business owners who plan to decorate their spaces themselves but want a more designer touch?


Fairley: First, look for inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram for the style you are wanting to create, then read blogs or articles on how to decorate, or even take an online course so you understand the techniques and tips that professionals use when decorating for the holidays. Once you have that solidified, plan an ample budget for decor.


Holiday decorating adds up quickly, and it shows when you skimp on decorations. If your budget is not huge, start with one area — maybe just a tree this year — and as the budget allows, add in other spaces, like a mantle or doorway decorations, next year. Also, stick to buying products and decorations that you love and are true to your style so you can use them for years and add to them over time. Many of the ornaments on my pink tree, I have been collecting for over 20 years. They may have originally been on a tree in my daughter’s nursery, but as I collected more over time, I had enough to decorate an entire nine-foot tree in my entry in shades of pink and gold. It is OK to start small and grow into a bigger collection as you go.


AY: Some folks see decorating for the holidays as more of a chore than a creative way to connect with their loved ones. What advice would you give them to make holiday decorating more joyous?


Fairley: Make it a fun tradition. I love taking out my decor I collect each year and remembering how pretty it is. If some of the pieces were collected in my travels or were gifted from people I love, it warms my heart to get to pull them out again. I also turn on the holiday music, light a fire if it is cool enough and set the mood for decorating — and all the while, I am thinking about how much my family and friends are going to love being in my home that I make inviting and beautiful this time of year.


AY: Design is not all you do. You are also a life and business coach. Would you tell us how you moved into this industry?


Fairley: My life and business coaching work are for other designers and creatives. For years, I had people ask me how I grew my business, how I charged, how I got published in national magazines, how I developed my product lines. My business-consulting offerings were born of that about 15 years ago. As I worked with creatives on their businesses, I realized a lot of what was holding them back from success was more personal development and mindsets, so I got certified as a life coach so I could better help these amazing and creative people step into the best versions of themselves and their businesses.


AY: What led you to create design and business courses?


Fairley: When I was a little girl, besides being creative and rearranging my bedroom at night when my parents were asleep, I also often dreamed of being a teacher. Playing school was my go-to way to spend time. As an adult, it is so much fun to take my creative career and combine it with those old dreams of teaching. I have been leading workshops, courses both live and recorded, and mastermind groups and programs for about 15 years now.


Most recently, my team and I have been creating online workshops that are two to three sessions on a specific topic, either business- or design-related, and people love them. I currently have “How to Decorate for Christmas with Color,” “How to Show Up on Social Media like a Pro,” and “How to Create Additional Revenue Streams for Your Business” as my most recent workshops. We have a lot more workshops planned for 2024, including more on interior design. I think people are currently enjoying our workshop series because they are not as long of a commitment as working with me in one of my programs for six to 12 months. They also are a lot less expensive. You can buy a workshop, learn a specific skill and then put it right to work. This seems to feed our need for learning but also for speed and instant gratification.

tobi fairley

AY: You also have a podcast. What is it like producing that? What success do you see from the episodes you have had so far?


Fairley: I have had a podcast for five years, and as of the end of December, I will have created 300 episodes. The podcast drives lots of people to my brand, programs and courses, but it is also a way for me to share my knowledge and insights about interior design, the business of interior design, entrepreneurship, and lots of other helpful ideas and topics completely free to other creatives and design enthusiasts.


A lot of my content and advice is good for anybody and any business. I often get comments from listeners who say things like, “I sent this to my lawyer husband” or “my sister, who’s a doctor” or “my friend, who owns a small business.” It is extremely rewarding to help other creatives and many others who are out there, trying to navigate business and life like I am. A little secret is we are launching an all-new rebranded podcast in January, and it will also have video, so you will not have to just listen, but you can watch my guests and me starting next year.


AY: What is the No. 1 cause of burnout for creative people who run their own businesses? What can they do to avoid that happening or rectify it when it does?


Fairley: We think burnout is caused by overworking, but it is usually caused by overthinking. It is mental exhaustion, most of the time, more than physical. Adding to that, it is usually coming from a place of scarcity or not enough; for example, thinking you do not have enough time, enough money — even thinking you, yourself, are not enough. When we are thinking scarcity thoughts, we typically try to outrun them, so we work harder and longer hours and try to prove ourselves. That is a recipe for burnout. I am a huge fan of journaling, which sounds simple and even silly, but if we can see on paper what we are thinking, we can start to make some intentional shifts in our thoughts. When we do not write down what we are thinking, we tend to just believe our own thoughts, and unfortunately, our thoughts are not always serving us.

Fairley said she loves Christmas trees and has them all around her house.

AY: What has been the best thing to come out of life and business coaching?


Fairley: The relationships I have built with designers and creatives all over the world. We have had students from England, South America, Australia and more, and those relationships have been priceless to me and, hopefully, for them too. Many of those people have made lifelong friendships with other students. I plan to continue teaching and leading and collaborating with creatives in the field of interior design and in the business of design. We have lots of exciting new things coming out in 2024, so stay tuned.


Everyone is creative, even if they do not fancy themselves as such. It may be they just have not flexed that muscle much in their lifetimes, probably because somewhere along the way, they were told they were not creative. I encourage everyone to tap into their creativity. Take a class in painting or sculpting or interior design. Try some small projects or craft ideas without judgment — you are a beginner, after all. Think of it as fun and entertainment, not that you are supposed to be good at it right off the bat.


According to a great Forbes article in 2021, multiple studies have shown correlations between creativity, art, wellbeing and happiness. Our mental health and wellbeing are enhanced with more creative pursuits. Creativity taps into a different part of our brain and helps us relax and let go of many of the stressors in our day-to-day. My best business ideas come when I let myself be creative.


AY: What else is on the horizon for you?


Fairley: One of my newest endeavors is a store I started with my daughter we call Fairley Fancy. We have a small boutique in Sheridan, but we are also online at fairleyfancy.com and ship all over the country. We started it in June with my mom, who is often the person running the day-to-day of the shop in Sheridan. We have colorful home decor, gifts and ladies clothing. My furniture line with Woodbridge furniture is also sold on our site. My daughter is studying apparel merchandising at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, so we have combined her love of fashion with my love of design, and it has been a hit. We just launched our first holiday collection for both home and apparel online at fairleyfancy.com. This business has been a labor of love, and it is so fun having all three generations doing this together.


READ ALSO: Arkansas’ Winter Event Calendar 2023