Bad taste is the attempt at making something with good taste without understanding the underpinnings of what good taste are. An example of this is the overuse of the Palladian window as seen in so many of the McMansions that are built in affluent suburbs. So many arched window make it difficult for the eye to align itself. The lack of a focal point makes the design feel a little queasy. It is rather like reading a paragraph that has an exclamation point at the end of every sentence! !Or in front of every sentence as well! Stop me now!

In essence, good design is in knowing how to use the right elements at the right time. Good taste, which is not necessarily synonymous with good design although it sure helps, is similar. You don’t want to put an enormous house on a tiny plot of land, no matter how beautiful it is. You lose more than what you are trying to gain.

So where do ugly and kitsch fit into bad taste? Ugly is interesting unless someone tries to fob it off as beautiful. Kitsch is the memory of former bad taste that reminds one how embarrassingly bad one’s taste once was. It is ego control for those of us that think our taste is so great!


Good taste requires training your eye. And just because you train your eye, it does not mean that you will have good taste. To make the assumption that good taste is a genetic trait is a presumption that a) there is good taste from one’s past to inherit and b) that it is possible to compact good taste in a gene and transfer it.

Bad taste, however, is not naivete. It is an ssumption that you can do something in a fashion that imitates good taste for less money or less effort. Think of the plenitude of balloon curtains,for example, and how poorly they can look with too little fabric. That is bad taste.

Good taste does not require money. It requires the ability to try things until they work. If you don’t try, you won’t know and if you don’t know, you will never learn. The magazine “World of Interiors”, particularly in its early years, showed great taste at a wide range of budgets. If money defined good taste, we would have better looking currency.


The question is how much bad taste matters in regards to the state of the world when humanity clearly prefers a state of religious strife, to ignore hunger and disease and to warm the planet so that our weather gets wilder and our lives more uncertain? Bad taste seems a minor infraction when placed on such a scale.

I beg to differ. Our environment is us. Pretension, the underlying conceit of bad taste, is a plague on humanity. Not quite as deadly as disease or starvation, it should not be ignored. It leads us down the wrong path, the path of arrogance or perhaps of stubbornness in not seeing that which is in front of us.

Art, and by art I mean all things creative, has the potential to soothe the soul. It maintains us and keeps us on an even keel. Things that offend the eye do not. They have quite the opposite affect.

My daughter and I were discussing elitism the other day. I thought that elitism was the belief in the value of the best and she thought it meant a form of snobbery. Neither of us was correct although her understanding was closer to the “” definition, “The belief that certain members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social class or financial resources.” I have never believed the value of one person to be better than another, but there are people with bad taste and bad taste requires elitist principles. I may like people who have bad taste, but I won’t like their taste.

As my daughter is still in college and is an unbiased egalitarian about most things, I try to encourage her to make judgments. Being a dealer of English antique furniture requires a host of judgments. Being any kind of dealer requires judgments and I encourage the development of an elitist attitude, at least regarding the quality of any of the arts.

Contemporary art is a wonderful case in point. Some of it is fantastically priced and appears, to my eye, quite ordinary. It seems that some of the art floats on great PR and not much more. Not being a connoisseur of the genre, I will fall back on my elitist principles and judge according to what I see and what pleases me about art. More often than not, I disdain it. Equally, some English antique furniture should be disdained. Just because it is old doesn’t mean that it has any particular aesthetic or monetary value.