There's no such thing as 'bad' taste

DESIGN LINE

October 10, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer Los Angeles Times Syndicate

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in my favorite coffee shop, leisurely flipping through one of the more prestigious interior design magazines. A friend pulled up a chair and asked a question that started a lively conversation. "Is that magazine getting boring," she wanted to know, "or is my taste getting better or worse?"

I was taken aback by her question for a couple of reasons. First, the magazine I was perusing hadn't recently shifted its focus, which is fixed firmly on the opulent homes of the rich and BTC famous. In addition, I hadn't noticed any change in my friend's taste, which tends toward the sort of minimalism associated with Manhattan living lofts. And, finally, I was puzzled by her suggestion that personal taste can be considered either "good" or "bad."

While I do believe there are different kinds of taste -- popular, exotic and eclectic being among the prominent varieties -- I don't think taste should ever be described as "bad."

"Particular taste" is the euphemism often used for stylistic preferences that the speaker does not share. I confess to using that term myself on occasion. To say that someone has "bad taste" seems to me to be so rude and judgmental that it's actually best left unsaid.

After telling all this to my friend, I quickly added that a person's taste can certainly change. If that weren't so, then there could be no such thing as fashion. Trends simply wouldn't develop if people remained forever devoted to a certain style.

It also isn't necessary to be a follower of fashion to exhibit changing taste. In fact, what we find appealing will almost inevitably vary in accordance with a number of changeable influences, including one's age, budget, lifestyle and educational background. In the case of interior design, a home's size and architecture will also be instrumental in determining a person's taste.

In my estimation, the key criterion is always whether these various factors are balanced in a way that produces an appropriate design. And that, I suppose, is a roundabout way of defining "good taste."

I've chosen this photo to illustrate my point because it depicts a ++ setting that is surely "appropriate" today, at least in certain locations. This rugged, spacious and luxuriously casual interior is a fine example of late 20th-century Americana. It artfully blends the nostalgia and coziness of the traditional log house in the mountains with the latest in home technology. And the design itself qualifies as completely up-to-date.

Alpine Log Homes, the Montana-based company that built this retreat, has long prided itself on using natural logs. The designer picked up on that basic theme, outfitting the space with similarly authentic materials such as cotton, wool and black iron. Ceramics and a profusion of green plants further enhance the warm and inviting atmosphere.

For this particular user, the result is entirely appropriate and therefore "tasteful." Not to your own taste, you say? Well, that might not always be the case. While I don't know whether tastes get "better" or "worse," I'm positive that they do indeed change.

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