Our role as interior designers is to provide intelligent and successful design schemes that functional and exceptionally tasteful. But what exactly does this idea of ‘taste’ really mean, where does it come from and how do we achieve it?

There are of course several explanations and theories around the concept of ‘taste’ and it’s origins; from the psychological to the social and hierarchical. One theory likens taste to playing chess as through the ability to pick up on patterns and experiences to inform our decision making.

“Both chess and design revolve around visual memory and spatial reasoning. Both involve a phase of orientation, exploration, investigation and validation. And both have enormous branching factors. The permutations of design are limited only by constraints and imagination, while the number of chess games of just three moves each numbers over nine million.” – Cennydd Bowles

As design consultants, we use our experience and knowledge to provide suitable and effective design solutions. One could claim that having good taste is beneficial and convenient. Our knowledge and experience that has provided our ‘good taste’ is now a factor for efficiency and good business, we don’t use ineffective solutions, badly created artwork or ‘ugly’ furniture and we certainly can’t afford to waste time – but, does that mean that taste is in fact learned? This theory suggest that experience, exposure, and practice give us patterns that suggest which solutions might fit which problems.

There is of course, a stigma around taste due to it’s social hierarchical connotations; with some philosophers stating that the whole concept of something being tasteful is to reinforce social hierarchy and classes. The idea is that ‘taste’ is in fact a value judgment and correlates directly with historical concepts of the lower class lacking taste, middle class aspiring to it and upper class has it. However, why do we become interior designers? We have a talent of being able to design tasteful and successful spaces and the idea of taste being learnt undermines our ability to transform environments in the ways that we do.

Our favourite article, which was the one that inspired this blog, was The School of Life article; “Why Do Scandinavians Have Such Impeccable Taste in Interior Design?”. A thought provoking title as the world has been admiring, imitating and obsessing over scandi-design for years and the iconic style looks like it is here to stay.

The suggestion is that the answer lies in psychology – the ideas that we use psychological mechanisms that help make us feel better as individuals and one of the by-products is our taste. This theory suggests that those of us living chaotic, busy lives are attracted to calm, clear and serene design schemes in the same way that those of us stuck in a hectic urban lifestyle are more drawn to natural materials and plants.

This then equates to the idea that good design and good taste is actually due to a wealth (and variety!) of understanding – socially, psychologically and perhaps even politically, allowing us to make informed decisions about how to rework, transform the spaces around us in the best possible way!