Taste and Good Design

Posted by Phoebe Oldrey in Interior Design Advice

Living room sofa and chairs with animal rug

Oscar Wilde, a man who prided himself on his fine taste, had the character Lord Goring in “An Ideal Husband” utter these now famous words “Fashion is what one wears oneself. What is unfashionable is what other people wear.” Oscar Wilde was a great wordsmith but also an immense snob. We all have our own style and taste and it’s time for us all to stand up and be counted!

we love the way this motorbike matches the colours in the painting & the table in this office design via

The most exciting interiors I come across are done by people who have enough confidence in their style to bring it all together and also take a risk on some different ideas. The phrase “Taste maker” has worked its way in to the media of late. What really makes the difference between “People with Taste” and regular folk is the confidence to express themselves and the more they do it, the more they learn what works and what doesn’t.

As an Interior designer, a lot of the time prospective clients worry that I am going to impose a style on them or that I can only deliver a certain kind of look. This is most defiantly not the case, I love to work with many different styles, from contemporary to country, from modern to retro, they are all exciting and beautiful. However what will make all these designs work is the underlying principles of “Good Design”.

Living room sofa and chairs with animal rug


wonderful eclectic living space designed by Benjamin Vandiver

Surely “Good Design” and “Taste” are the same I hear you say.

In my eyes you can’t have one without the other. Think of it as a beautiful cake. “Good Design” is the cake itself and the “Taste” is the icing. Without a well-made cake in the middle the whole thing falls apart. Beautiful icing never might make a great impression, but a bad sponge leads to disappointment.

The principles of good design are frequently unsexy for most people. However as a design geek I love it,  it’s like solving a puzzle. When presented with a room to design I ask two key questions, what does my client want this room to be and how will the space allow me to best achieve that. To accomplish this I call on all of my resources and experience, looking at lighting, colour, layout, product knowledge to name just a few.

The funny thing about Good Design is that when you live with it, you don’t even think about it, it just pleases you. At a recent talk lighting designer Michael Grubb summarised it as “Good Design is Efficient Design”.

Bad design however will annoy you every day you have to deal with it. No matter how beautiful your sofa, if it is too large for the space it will always drive you mad. If you have to squeeze round it to get into your lounge, or worse, are unable to open and close the door (trust me I have seen it happen) you will curse the day you purchased it.

Good Design needs more. If all a room can deliver is “Good Design” then it will feel very sterile and lifeless. “Taste” is the fun bit, the place where we can express ourselves and I am great believer that our homes should reflex our personality, after all that is what makes a house a home. A lot of the time I find people are worried about making bold decisions, then point to other people’s bold choices and say “I love that, I wish I could do that.” I say if a beautiful chair covered in bold print rocks your world go for it,  then layer the rest of scheme round it. If big and bold is too brave right now, try starting small.

Timorous Beasties’ beautiful wallcoverings and furniture textiles are full of spirit

Custom wardrobe design bedroom

a custom made wardrobe we designed for a Smartstyle client in Golders Green

Don’t hide your sentimental treasures away in favour of something that you feel is “tasteful” I have a passion for using things outside their normal job description. My emery boards live in my christening mug on my dressing table so instead of losing this sentimental object in the back of a cupboard I can appreciate it every day. It has become stylish, functional and meaningful all at the same time.

I see my job as an Interior Designer, not as a “Taste Maker”, but interpreter. I use my experience and knowledge of good design to create a base layer to a room and then to use my confidence to help people express themselves in their homes. So as Wilde also said “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”

personal storage for the entryway & a Christening mug used as a catch-all on my vanity

similar colours but very different outcomes in this dining room and living room

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