Good taste and good design



The basic rules of proportion and scale are unchanging. They are reinterpreted according to the needs of the time. I like simplicity and I believe in restraint. Above all, there should be harmony – of proportion, line, color and feeling. The most important element in decorating is the relationship between objects – in size, form, texture, color and meaning. None of these is in good taste in itself but only in relationship to where it has been placed and what purpose it is to serve. 

– Eleanor McMillen Brown

Interior design is about the big picture and the big picture works when it is the result of a carefully planned compilation of elements and principles.

Good taste, on the other hand, is the sum of one’s life experience and one’s exposure.

A person can be born with a sense of design but the quality of good taste is gleaned, collected and polished.

When we assume that good taste will trump a sense of good design, there is a very good chance that a space will appear haphazard and chaotic and be less than satisfactory.

These principles are basic to all good design, must be treated with the respect they are due and should be altered only with care.


I have worked with a number of clients who have insisted that symmetry is essential to livability in their space. In reality, they were saying that they crave one of the foundations to good design … balance.

Balance can’t be measured … it is felt. It is the visual equilibrium of a room and is achieved by the placement of objects within the room according to visual weight.

Shape, color and texture all help to determine the visual weight.


This refers to the direction the eye travels and remains as it first enters a space. A multitude of focal points in a room makes it quite uncomfortable because the eye has no place to rest. Good design guides the eye gracefully through the space with carefully selected focal points.


This is achieved when the elements of a room work together to form a visually pleasing cohesiveness with the proper balance of variety and unity. Harmony in design is similarity of components or objects looking like they belong together. This unity can be defined as a design thread that tells a story from one element to another.

This concept also applies to the mood of the pieces. Whimsy does not play well with elegance even if all the other elements fall in line.

 Proportion and scale

Ah, proportion and his best friend, scale. These are too often missed when furniture is purchased from a big-box furniture store. Thirty-foot ceilings are far different from nine-foot ceilings and this difference can be a road to disaster. Technically, proportion refers to how the elements within an object relate to the object as a whole, and scale relates to the size of an object compared to the space in which it is located.


The rhythm of a room controls the visual flow around the room. Rhythm allows the eyes to move around from one object to another and creates a harmonious atmosphere in a room.

Just because someone with good taste might appreciate a painting, it does not mean that the same person could create such a piece of art. The same is true with good design.



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