Is unique design considered as ‘good or bad taste’ in interior design?

Unique design can be an acquired taste, for example the young designer Adam Slade’s ‘Swalm design’ is based mainly on insects (See figure 13). The idea of using insects may be considered as something that doesn’t appeal to the wider and the commercial audience but welcomed to some tastes.  It requires a certain preference. Lanyon (2014) suggests that the aim for design is to be successful commercially. Slade’s design was not designed to blur into the interior space. He creates a twist on the norm which is quite unusual and would have to fit a certain interior design. Slade (2015) describes his work as: “The weird, the wonderful and the sometimes sister” . The appearance of his design is quite normal at first but when you look into the details it can be quite a dark and a mysterious design with skulls. Slade (2015) describes that “it makes you look twice” this quirky style may be a controversial.

As an inspiring interior designer myself, I sometimes opt for the more unusual design. I like Slade’s style of design; he has designed something unique and makes him stand out from the crowd. Many others may share my opinion also. I feel like it makes such a different to a space. Josef Frank (from Svenskt Tenn- an interiors which create bold pattern design) wrote in the magazine Form: “There’s nothing wrong with mixing old and new, with combining different furniture styles, colours and patterns. Anything that is in your taste will automatically fuse to form an entire relaxing environment. A home does not need to be planned down to the smallest detail or contrived; it should be an amalgamation of the things that the owner loves and feels at home with.” (Anon 25, no date) This suggests that taste is what the owner loves which Slade shows within his work so who is to say his work is bad taste?

CUSHION swarm_0 (1)Figure 13 Anon 26 (2015)

An extreme unique design may be considered those of The Chapman brothers (Jake and Dino Chapman). They base their designs on quite vulgar and unsightly elements which might be considered as ethically wrong (a more subtle version of there work is in figure 14). They take their design preference to the extreme, gaining associations with bad taste. This shows that unique design can be more liable to be associated to bad taste (Emery, 2002).

chapman brothers

Figure 14 Anon 27 (no date)

Slade even admitted in his lecture that he changed his design commercially for hotel designers; taste can be adjusted to fit certain styles and clients. Catering to peoples taste is essential to be successful. The client has to have a say.

Slade’s idea of good design for interior furnishings suggests that his work is to his taste and considers it as beautiful: “In a bizarre and slightly surreal way, all connect together to form beautiful” It seems that good taste and beauty fit together and beauty is associated with good taste. It appears that the individualistic nature of the design can make you love or dislike it (Anon 28, no date)

Ethically, putting skulls on butterflies and other insects can be considered as wrong and not the norm as they weren’t naturally made like this, the natural element has been warped and changed to fit Slade’s taste. It can generate the idea that there is a decreasing element of natural beauty in design today: “Swarm Design offers a contemporary take on a Victorian aesthetic, aiming to diminish minimalist decorating and challenge what you think you want in your homes” (Slade, 2015) Slades idea is to always make something different to the original. This makes me question is there any natural beauty anymore? Another example within interiors is shabby chic, an on-going trend which changes the original design of something old. Painting the original design with bright pastel colours and sanding the design.

The idea of controversial design isn’t always valued; it’s a niche, which may suggest the lack of exposure to the masses. This type of design may need to appear again and again for people to recognise it. This may be why a more unique design isn’t as associated with good taste.

Interior designers are eager to add a quirky element to a design so it is more suited to their taste and not exactly the same as what you can find yourself in a store. (Loretto, no date) This maybe why the idea of changing the natural is in Slade’s designs

On the other hand, William Morris’ works, featuring repetitive prints of foliage, has been generated many times and Morris isn’t alive; so that it may be that they have lost it’s original appeal suggesting that rapid exposure can not always benefit.

It appears that taste is based on your personal preference but may be influenced by aspects I have discussed through my blog. Like the same ideology that Grayham (2002) has, he suggests that taste may be less subjective as you think as he suggests that taste is influenced by a variation of different factors.


Does age demographics influence ‘good or bad taste’ in interior design?

When you design for interior spaces it appears that your idea of taste in design could be influenced by age, but is this always the case? Duvall (no date) suggests that it takes years of practice to be praised by designers and non-designers. This suggests that the longer experience you have within the field of design (including interiors) the more knowledge is gained therefore developing a refined good taste- creating a better design than others such as the younger generation which have had less experience. Linda Barker- a famous interior designer has had many years of experience in the interior design field which may be a factor to why her designs are valued and is also heard of in the public eye. Duvall’s argument suggests that the idea of waking up with good taste one day is absurd. But not all people seem to think so…

It was suggested: “one view of the world is that some people just have it and others don’t” (Anon 18, no date). This suggests good taste is something which just comes to you naturally. In a design field such as: interior design this can be ‘the gift of the gab’. Age and experience doesn’t even come into it.

As the younger generation of interior designers are less experienced, their version of taste may be deemed as being ‘lower in the pecking order’ and ‘not as valued’. “Actually creating work that’s consistently praised by those in and outside the design community takes many years of practice” (Duvall, no date). This suggests that many might have a good idea of what interior design is but to actually succeed in it you need experience to appeal to all tastes. A younger interior designer may be not as popular in the public eye and be valued less.

Although there are also welcoming opinions to the younger generations taste: “A whole bunch of young people buy into a new kind of taste, oldsters had better pay attention”. (Metcalf, 2007) the tongue in cheek nature of Metcalf’s quote appears to suggest that the younger taste is more desirable, new and more exciting than older tastes. Maybe suggesting that the older generation needs to keep up with with the younger generation’s design. It is something new and better than some ‘outdated’ styles.

This makes me think: is this attitude apparent nowadays? if somethings broke, buy a new, better one, instead of fixing it like they used to. The idea is much more appealing to buy a newer, modern and better one like the ‘Go Stacking Chair’ by designer Ross Lovegrove in figure 13, instead of fixing an older one. As technology has developed, we can do so much more with design. Lovegrove  suggests that the 21st century reflects the great potential of our advanced technology in design (Lovegrove, p11 2004). The reason why the elder generation may be keen to hold onto a certain taste as this was done for hundreds of years, but maybe it’s all changing? This technological nature of the younger generation appears to be influential on today’s good tastes,  but many may turn their nose up at the idea.

go-stacking-chair-ross-lovegrove-bernhardt-design-1Figure 13 (Anon 20, no date)

Fisk (p7 2009) suggests that when you design for a maturer client, you have to make it simple as currently they aren’t user friendly for them to use. But doesn’t this contrast with the idea that modern designs are simple so why doesn’t the elder generation like/prefer it? It can be argued that the older generation were brought up with the Traditional style interior spaces, maybe filled with ornate, maybe Art Deco objects and all things not modern. Ron Arad demonstrates contemporary design in his ‘Bookworm Bookcase’, this doesn’t appear to look like traditional design therefore not appealing to elders (see Figure 14).

rojFigure 14 (Anon 21, no date)

It appears taste is influenced by so many factors. Figure 15 shows a traditional design which is apparently ‘more approachable’ to the older generation. Although there is part of the older generation which may welcome new technology, its your preference. In the modern day modern design is associated with modern technology “older adults are less likely to use technology than younger adults” (p5 Fisk, 2009). For  example the modern sofa which has integrated speakers (see figure 16) can be seen as a strange concept and can be confusing to those who do not know how to use technology (p5 Fisk, 2009). It was suggested that for a long time great artists set the standard for beauty. Now those standards are gone, implying that modern is a bad aspect to design in any design fields (Anon 19).

.style-renovation-traditional-staircase-beautiful-design-ideas-in-pennsylvania-philadelphia  Figure 15 (Anon 22, no date)

Sound-Sofa-with-built-in-iPod-by-CSL-Sofas Figure 16 (Anon 23, no date)

This is an example of a Staircase at a Mumbai apartment by Mexican studio ‘Arquitectura en Movimiento Workshop’ It’s style is very contemporary and the simple nature which may get some scrutiny by the maturer client which wasn’t brought up with this style.  Love it or hate it, it is apparent the contemporary style is influencing our tastes.

SDM_Apartment_by_Arquitectura-en_Movimiento_Workshop_dezeen_1Figure 15  (Anon 24, no date)

It’s interesting to question: how do we define older adult? where is the line between the older generation and younger generation? maybe when technology to design in this modern way developed then it reflected in the younger generation. Fisk (p4 2009) also suggested that people are living longer and in need of assisted living so tastes in specific elements to your home may be effected by this.

Has ‘Apple’ defined its own rules of taste and will this reflect on interiors?

Modern interiors usually get scrutinized for their ‘cold’ and ‘simple’ design and these type of spaces sometimes feature products by Apple, e.g. The Apple Mac (see figure 10). But have leading designers Apple now cracked the case by defining their own rules of good taste (forming its desirability)…

computer1 Figure 10: Anon 17 (no date)

As Apple is constantly improving it’s products it appears that they are trying to provide the most advanced form of technology available today. It may appear that Apple has created their own rules of taste as their products appear to be desired by many. The ever-developing products which Apple design, appear to make the customers feel like it’s essential to have the newest and most up to date products. It was suggested by Bilton (2014) in the panorama ‘Apple’s Broken Promises’ (see video 3 for full panorama) that hundreds of people wait day and night for Apple’s new products such as: the iPhone 6 (see figure 10). This shows that Apple has effected our tastes to an extent that it seems we can’t live without it and we need to have it. It becomes part of our daily life and used within our interior spaces. It has been made to commercially suit everyone. In the future examples of this could include Apple integrating into interior furniture impacting our interior spaces even more. When a demand like this happens, this shows that Apple has moulded the customer’s taste. Lest we forget the inevitable expensive price tag because of the ‘advanced’ nature of their products.

It was suggested by Apple that: “the iPhone 6 isn’t simply bigger, its better in every way” (Anon 14, 2015). This shows that Apple will constantly try to improve their design and will always strive to be better and better. The desirability to have the best Apple product could subsequently develop the feeling of elitism because the customer has purchased the ‘best’ product around. The desirability of Apple could be forming the customer’s taste, making them feel like they have good taste. Although because of the advanced nature of this product, are the ethical elements being breached? Are Apple being distasteful in how they create the design through their workforce?

At Apple, their principles of design that has been shamed upon with it’s cold and thoughtless reaction to workers in the panorama (see video 3 for full panorama) ‘Apple’s broken Promises’: “Apple operates heartless factories” (Bilton, 2014) which suggests their products are driven by their workers being treated unethically. The association with this and Apple may deter customers buying the product as their design ethic is bad taste.

Hodgkins (2014) suggests that Apple is the most valuable brand in the world which shows the importance of the brand, suggesting that it helps us and is useful. It appears to have effected our preference to technology as we only have to walk down the street and everywhere you look there are people with Apple products in their hands.

It appears that Apple can be seen as distasteful to some, the appearance of Apple is very modern and simple which divides people’s opinions (same applies in interior spaces, where some clients like the more traditional designs). It was suggested that Apple have merged both good design and minimalism so that most people assume those two things are the same but they’re not. (Anon 15, 2012) This suggests that we may have been unconsciously ‘fooled’ that Apple is good taste when it isn’t and good taste should not always be associated with Apple’s design. This shows that Apple designs cannot appeal to all tastes.

Another element is that the demand of Apple can essentially deter people which do not want to be the same as everyone else and therefore opt for the Android phones instead (see figure 11).

Samsung-Galaxy-S4-vs-iPhone Figure 11: (Johnson, L. 2013)

Apple are bringing out more and more pricey advanced technology. Will this give us the idea that the more expensive something is then the more likely it will be good taste? And does this mean that the price will form someone’s taste? It appears that when something is less affordable it’s demand increases: “the anticipation of buying that makes us truly happy” (Thompson, 2013). This is a trap we have all consciously/unconsciously fallen in to. Apple could be continuously brainwashing us into thinking this is the taste we desire and the price we are prepared to pay.

Figure 12: (Anon 16, no date)

In the panorama ‘Apple’s Broken Promises’ (see video 3 for full panorama) it was suggested that Apple’s customers are an elite group of people: “Faithful have gathered” (Bilton, 2014) suggesting that you feel like you are followers more than customers. Apple appears to be obsessing over tastes and influencing tastes, even one customer suggested that “only cool people use Apple” (Bilton, 2014) implying that only people with good taste use Apple products, looking down at others which don’t. Apple appears to be seen as a fashionable product: “People around the globe want to be seen using apple” (Bilton, 2014).  It seems that we take a sheep-like role, and have given in to the Apple brand. It appears to be harder for other companies to compete and cause such an impact on taste as Apple has clearly effected millions of tastes and is continuing to do so.

Video 3: (2014)

Who knows, the debatable element that Apple have ‘their own rules of taste’ may stretch to more design fields including interior design.

Is class a factor to ‘good taste’ in interior design?

Anon 7 (no date) states that the legitimate taste of the society is the taste of the upper class. This opposes the idea of genuine good taste, as the legitimate taste is only a class taste. Anon 7 (no date) suggested that class may give you a superiority and the upper class’s taste is more valued. The writer uses the bold statements: “one’s social class determines one’s taste.” and “upper classes tend to signal their superiority, and they act as the initiators of new trends.” These statements suggest that class plays a vital role in someones taste.

Millard (2011) suggested that in the past people used to speak in hushed tones about taste in interiors, as if it were a matter of class. But now this has changed according to Millard (2011) as she questioned: “are we are all supposed to be living in a meritocracy, has the idea of the importance of class in taste disappeared?” This suggests that interior design is now less about class and privileges anymore it’s about the ability and talent of the designer (Millard, 2011). Within interior spaces Millard (2011) suggested that anything can be in good taste, as long as it is given the right environment. This shows that good taste isn’t something we are luckily gifted with or about class, everyone has it but it needs to be effectively used in a suited space. She suggests that we now have more freedom to design.

Millard placed a swing within her kitchen but is this good or bad taste to the upper class?


Figure 2: (Anon 8, no date)

Hinton (2009) suggested that “designing for taste is about understanding those pecking orders well enough to play them, manipulate them” this suggests that understanding the different classes of tastes rather than just your own is more effective. Also it suggests that that taste doesn’t have to be one sided to your preferences. and a good design based on taste isn’t just about what you like. It is about also understanding other tastes which are unfamiliar to you. Experiencing your tastes around you can result in a better design than one which is solely based on your vision (Hinton, 2009). Although it can be suggested that taste doesn’t need to be justified because it can be hard to blend styles, tastes and needs so you don’t have to consider other people tastes. It is your individual taste and doesn’t need clarification (Bleasdale, no date).

From these arguments it appears that the idea of good taste is from class is a very controversial issue and an opinionated subject with no right or wrong answer, it is a personal view.

Is gender a factor to ‘good taste’ in interiors?

Is it good or bad taste suiting a specific interior space to gender? the well known example: pink for girls and blue for boys causes a lot of discussion. “In almost every culture, one stereotype emerges: pink is associated with girls, blue with boys” (Anon 9, no date). It appears that this stereotype of gender may be effecting our taste, as we simply wouldn’t choose colours for a specific gender if it wasn’t to our taste. This shows how much of an impact this stereotype has had consciously or unconsciously on our taste.

When we suit our interior spaces to the well-known “pink for girls” and “blue for boys” this can be more of an impact than we think and it can result in others reflecting this taste. Also it appears that peoples preference to colour has an influence on every aspect of colour we see surrounding us, including interior environments. “The presence of colour has become more important in an interior environment” Khouw (no date).

Evans (p3 1982) suggests that: “When designers are presented with a problem and it’s context they normally attempt to change the design to satisfy a particular client” maybe this is society today, we have the view that discriminating by colour is wrong.

Below there is an example of two boys and girls which had the opportunity to show their favourite items within their bedrooms. These images below make me question: is this inequality within interior design? or sticking to a well known preference/taste? (Bridges, no date)


Figure 6: (Anon 10, 2010)


Figure 7: (Anon 10, 2010)

Evans (p2 1982) suggests that adjusting environments and contexts result in human physiological changes which are necessary for life. Which suggests that the ever changing environments created around us effect how we are as a person and maybe our taste. As taste is very personal to you, this might suggest that there is no such thing as good taste as everyone is different.

Is it a form of discrimination- stereotyping (pink and blue) and maybe misleading many people into a certain gender roll or even defining their sex by colour? Will it always be ambiguous to society what is the right taste when it comes to gender or will nature decide what colour preferences we choose within an interior space.

Is money a factor that can influence ‘good taste’ in architecture/interior design?

The ArcelorMittal Orbit (see figure 1) was created in the legacy of London’s hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games and cost an incredible 22.7 million pounds to build. It was designed by the well established architects Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond (Anon 1, 2012).

ArcelorMittal Orbit

Figure 1 (Anon 5, no date)

See video 1 for an idea of the Orbit’s exterior and interior design:  

Video 1 (Anon 6, 2014)

The Orbit is a complex design and is meant to represent the incredibly physical and emotional effort Olympians undertake in the games. It represents the Games in a creative sense. (Anon 2, no date)

The Orbit is a design which has received a significant amount of controversial feedback considering it’s hefty price tag. This suggests that the 22.7 million spent on the design cannot buy your taste approval. For example, It has been negatively described by Boland- Rudder (2012) as the “Godzilla of public art”, “a supersized mutant trombone” and a “rollercoaster caught up in a spaghetti junction” which emphasizes the fact that this design isn’t good taste and is unattractive. Boland- Rudder (2012) isn’t persuaded by the millions of pounds spent on the design within the article.

The designers of the Orbit Kapoor and Balmond apparently have grown tired of the question, what is it? and many people saying: whats the point of it? (Anon 3, 2011) Which moves me on to my next point – is good taste making the point of the design clear and not ambiguous to the reader? Duvall (2012) suggests that your design should provide a simple way for your audience to make sense of the content. This suggests that a simple design can cause less confusion and give the audience a clear understanding of the design. This leaves less room for negative misconception of a design. As shown in Kapoor and Balmond’s complex design (see figure 1) simplicity wasn’t their goal.

Alternatively the Orbit is seen as an impressive design to some tastes: “it is the perfect attraction to get an exclusive insight into the iconic sporting structure and its nail-biting history” (Anon 4, no date). This suggests that the design is good taste. The Orbits look and feel is striking, creative and bold and very Kapoor and Balmond’s style. The complex design of the Orbit makes you think and Kapoor is described as an artistic genius. It is a design which lets the viewers imagination decide what the design is and its meaning (Leadbeater, 2014).

There may always be the question: does the cost of the design change your opinion positively or negatively?

This creative flare has created a divided opinion and contributed to a positive and negative amount of press. It is described as the worlds tallest sculpture (376ft), but does price and height make a difference to people liking this specific design taste? (Anon 4, no date)

It appears that design will always appeal to some tastes but not so much to others. This type of taste is a personal preference and there appears to be no right or wrong answer (Moore, p18 2012).

Is ‘bad taste’ often used humorously or ironically?

In my opinion this nose soap dispenser which represents mucus coming out your nose (shown below in figure 8) might be described as a ‘humorous’ design to some tastes but it also would be considered as ‘distasteful’ to others. This design wasn’t created to be subtle; it was designed to stand out and cause a reaction in its contemporary style. A design like this is unique and not commonplace which might explain the mixed opinions about this ‘humorous’ style of design. This design (shown below in figure 8) can be considered as good taste to some interior designers and also bad taste to others; which I am going to discuss…


Figure 8: (Anon 11, no date)

This style of design can be seen as ‘light hearted fun’ to some designers/non designers and its obvious intentions were to be ‘humorous’. This nose dispenser was described as an amusing bathroom accessory that puts some fun into a bathing space (Anon 11, no date). This shows that this design is very humorous to some interior designers and not so much to others…

Graham suggests that when a design lacks humour it is difficult to call it a good design. (Graham, 2002). This suggests that humour in design is essential. The ‘distasteful’ nature of this design can be seen as a positive element to some and this type of design appears to play a big role in design. Baley (p78 1983) suggests that “In order to make a product a commercial success it is essential to make it offensive in design terms”. This shows that a design which is deemed as ‘offensive’ can make a design more popular and successful. I would say that a good design is something which is popular and it appears that many humorous designs accomplish popularity.

When I watched the BBC television program ‘Your Home in Their Hands’ (see video 2 at 1 minute 20 seconds) an amateur interior designer had the chance to decorate a space for a naive client. The designer used an incredible amount of prints and bold colours (see figure 9) which created an incredibly flamboyant design which was very extravagant. It wasn’t meant to be subtle in anyway. The clients reaction to that space was totally against the design and didn’t see the beauty of it or its humour and fun. This is the type of reaction which is quite commonplace with this type of design. This style of design can be considered as ‘distasteful’. The designer based the design on their style and personal preference but it didn’t suit the clients taste in any way. Heritage (2014) suggested that the unexpected nature from the designers on this show are outdated and he suggested that “times have changed. Tastes have moved on.” This suggests that humorous tastes are out of fashion. (Heritage, 2014)

Video 2 (Anon 13, 2014)


Figure 9 (Heritage, 2014)

This concludes that the humourous nature of this design will always appeal to some tastes but not so much to others. This type of taste is a personal preference and there appears to be no right or wrong answer.