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Do you have good taste? Does your partner?

Home Decorating | Learning Do You Have Good Taste

Have you seen that movie where the couple moving in together has a tiff over the wagon wheel coffee table? She thinks his wagon wheel coffee table is awful and doesn't want it in their new joint living room. He loves the wagon wheel coffee table and is convinced he has good taste.

This is a common issue with any two people setting up house together, or even a couple who has lived together for years. So who is right? When it comes to home decorating, whether it is wagon wheel coffee tables, mounted deer heads, doll collections, or quantity versus minimalism, every couple must create their own home, even if sometimes outside help is needed to do so.

While it isn't correct 100% of the time, here are some quick principles to apply to that object d'art that she wants to throw out and you feel you can't live without.

It may be in bad taste if:

  • It is plastic, resin, vinyl, or other man-made material. While there are definite exceptions to this, such as some post-modern furniture made of Lucite or plastic, synthetic materials are a clue that something may be "just awful".
  • It was specifically manufactured and marketed to be "collectible" such as some collections of Christmas ornaments, plates, or even paintings by well-known and mass marketed "artists".
  • It is very low quality, such as furniture that is boxed in pieces and then assembled by the owner.

Please understand that these are not hard-and-fast rules for home decorating, but instead, principles that can be applied generally or usually.


But what if after you run these principles over that plastic object you love and still feel it is an exception to these principles? Are you right? You could well have great taste and maybe no one understands you. Here are some (but not all) notable exceptions:

  • Your object has become an icon. This applies to plastic lava lamps, a particular first edition full-figured doll we all know only by her first name, and some objects made from an early attempt at plastic called Bakelite.
  • It was designed by a well-known and well-respected artist, architect, or designer of interiors, fashion, or jewelry. An object with such a pedigree is the well-known Tulip Chairs. These were designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen, who as we in St. Louis are well-aware, designed our Gateway Arch and certainly have a respected place in home decorating.

So what if your object does not fit into these categories. Don't despair, read on...

Home Decorating | St. Louis Interior Designer

Modern vs. Traditional interiors:

What if the opposite is true? What if you own a collection of post-modern plastic furniture you wish to use in your home decorating and it has all passed through the above with flying colors but your new spouse has a collection of American folk-art? In this case, you might readily admit that it is generally accepted as art but you simply cannot stand looking at it? Now what?

Let's say your home decorating taste which prompted you to collect Tulip Chairs by Eero Saarinen and your spouse's taste that built his or her American folk-art painted furniture collection have brought the two of you to an impasse.

You think the decorative, colorful paintings on every object are "busy" and "distracting". She thinks the clean lines of your modern objects are "cold and "impersonal". How do you successfully meld this seemingly disparate collection of objects into a home where both of you can be happy and peaceful, and proud to have friends over?

You decorate that room, and I'll do this one!

One oft-tried technique is to zone different rooms of the home to each of you. Maybe she gets to decorate the master bedroom and he gets the kitchen; she gets the dining room and it's his taste in home decorating for the living room. While the two of you may have come to what you believe is a truce, after friends visit your new abode and then leave, they may start a betting pool behind your backs on how long the relationship will fare. Just as partitioning off sections of a country hasn't brought peace to the Palestinians or the Israelis, it doesn't usually work in smaller, more confined spaces either.

Home decorating for couples can be tough. But just as tolerance is expected for pets and children that came before the two of you met, so too is compromise the word of the day for beloved objects that are, or will someday become, family heirlooms.

Nelson Mandela's commitment brought down Apartheid, and everyone is the better for it. Tolerance is good, nearly 100% of the time, as long as no one is being hurt. If you are committed to the relationship, then learn to compromise on this issue of home decorating just as you do on others of importance. Who knows, you may find that in a few years you respect American folk artists and she respects modern designers and their sleek lines; and in the balance discover wonderful things about your partner you never used to see.

So if I have convinced you to mix it up, and combine your collections, but you do not know how, you may wish to read my article entitled "Mixing and matching furniture styles: How to make it work". It may help. I can't guarantee that both of you will love all of it right away, but I can guarantee your new home together will be in good taste and your home decorating will reflect who each of YOU is individually and who YOU are together as a couple.

Hey, but what about the wagon wheel coffee table?

Oh yes, if the object is in fact a wagon wheel coffee table or some other object that is not plastic and after reading all of the above, there is still disagreement over whether it is home decorating trash or treasure, here are some principles to apply to the object that may help:

It may be in good taste if:

Home Decorating | St. Louis Interior Design
  • It was made by a craftsman or craftswoman at some point in the past even if not originally intended to be part of home decorating. A craft is a skill, such as a blacksmith forging the metal around that wagon wheel or the tiny handmade stitching in a quilt sewn to keep a family warm in winter.
  • The object is imperfect, which shows easily in the woodwork of that wagon wheel or one not-so-straight stitch in that quilt. Imperfections in art and home decorating remind all of us that we are human and that none of us is perfect.
  • The object demonstrates the personality of its maker. The wild unique strokes in Van Gogh's paintings give us a window into his soul and again remind us that we are all unique, just as is the object in front of us.
  • Intricacy of a handmade object almost always demonstrates the great talent of its maker. These objects can inspire awe in us that generations that came before us bore their heavy daily burdens with not only patience but love. Some person you may have never met poured their heart, soul, sweat, and maybe even blood into the object in front of you. It deserves some respect, and you could use some awe in your daily life as well.

The time took to make handmade objects can help bring peace to your daily life to remind you through your home decorating how fortunate you are, that when you get a flat tire, you don't have to walk possibly miles through mud because cell phones don't exist only to find a blacksmith and then have to wait weeks for a new wheel to be made by hand.

And last but not least:

Remember that in school often people are judged on a bell curve. This theory says that 50% of people have average abilities, another 25% below average and only 25% have above-average abilities in schoolwork.

Home Decorating | Interior Designer in St. Louis

If this theory applies to good taste in home decorating then take heart that your partner, and that other couple there telling you that you have bad taste, may be the 75% that possess average and below-average taste combined, while you could very well be the 25% in that room with good taste!

For a definitive answer, contact me for a personal consultation at [email protected]. I will be happy to act as mediator to help resolve this issue between the two of you once and for all, so you two can move on from home decorating to truly important things such as who gets control over the remote!