The Conundrum of Taste

Taste is nothing but an enlarged capacity for receiving pleasure from works of imagination. – WIlliam Hazlitt

Do you like things luscious or spare?  Are you drawn by intense colors and textures with lots of patterns or do you prefer something more clean-cut and smooth?  After all, your design should be a reflection of who you are.

There’s an individuality to taste that sometimes my scientist friends find hard to understand.  All is not black and white with style and taste – often there’s no right or wrong.  It is personal in the old ‘I know what I like’ way.  It’s that visceral reaction – a feeling of affinity a room … a poster… a pair of trousers … draws from you.  It pulls you in.

Mum on the roof

My mother on the roof in Manhattan as a young woman about town.

Fashion and style were in characters in the home when I was growing up – and they took up a lot of space.  Sometimes playful, sometimes serious, the visual was ever present.

My mother worked for Jacqmar in London after the Second World War and then as a personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman in New York.  Needless to say, she has exquisite taste.   We actually mostly agree on things visual, but when we don’t it doesn’t mean one of us is wrong.

What styles excite you?  I’m wild about Art Nouveau.  Those luscious, ripe curves from nature are fantastically satisfying.  This is epitomized in one of the most famous Art Nouveau designs – the entrance to the Paris Metro by Hector Guimard.

abbesses metro entrance (art nouveau)

I also love the incredible Willow Tea Rooms designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow.  Imagine the uproar that caused at the turn of the Twentieth Century – what a change!  There’s a wonderful harmony along with sumptuous strong colors.  Isn’t it a perfect place for a good gossip over darjeeling tea and a scone?

willow tea rooms



willow tea rooms









At the same time there’s something thrilling about the sparseness and simplicity of the graphic art after the First World War.  Streamlined became the watchword in the Nineteen Twenties and held sway in design through to the Second World War and even beyond. An iconic example of this is this 1939 New York Word’s Fair poster.  It was designed by Joseph Binder who felt that posters were “an expression of contemporary civilization reduced to its simplest forms for instantaneous visual communication.”

NY World's Fair

To me railway posters epitomize the wonderful design during that interwar period.  Their sleekness, angularity and use of color all form a harmonious and often witty whole.  Above all – there’s movement.  These designs are not static at all.

'Liverpool & Manchester Centenary Celebrations', LR and MR poste

People enjoy so many different tastes and styles.  What look grabs you and makes you feel comfortable and at home – where do you gravitate to when in a store?  Whatever style you are drawn to, my mission is to interpret that vision and make sure your design is reflection of who you are.