Many people think good taste is in the eye of the beholder, and to some extent that is true. But what makes “good taste,” and is “bad taste” really something to be avoided?

Good taste is sometimes seen as conventional, safe and comforting. Gaudiness and ostentatiousness rarely works unless you are decorating the Palace of Versailles.

Good taste has nothing to do with being proper. It is certainly not a function of social class, as might have been implied in the past. Whether you are rich or poor, like bold colors or a neutral palette, anything can be in good taste, as long as it is given the correct setting. If you place a zebra-printed couch in a farmhouse that might not be in good taste. But put the same couch in a vibrantly decorated modern living room and you may get a different result.

What constitutes ‘taste’ in the home is never simple, but this advice should help:

It is often said that having good taste is a matter of whatever design personality you have. Home is the only place in the world that you can truly be yourself, so honor your personality. Bad taste is in the eye of the beholder; one person’s junk is another’s treasure.

Having said that, the point is to strike a balance between expressing your individuality and creating a space where others can feel comfortable as well.

One must be discerning in their choices. Use your intuition and hone a sensibility. Sentimentality, like using personal photographs and mementos, in your own home always creates inviting and tasteful interiors. Most importantly, think about dimensions, proportions, materials and colors.

Good taste is also achieved by thinking about how you use a space. For example, the living room should be comfortable. It is a good idea to use more than two seating options. Carry your color scheme across the walls, windows and furniture. It is also attractive when you group your ornaments, whether they are fine crystal, pottery, photographs, or flowers. This adds a sense of theatricality to the room and shows you care.

Especially here in Napa, but certainly across the country these days, the kitchen has become a frontline for good taste. The kitchen can be the most important room in the house, but it is also fraught with decorating dangers.

For example, do your remember the avocado appliances of the 1970s? They may have looked great then, but not after a few years time. You can use bold colors in the kitchen, but be sure that they are not too trendy or you can easily cross the border into bad taste.

Tastes in bathroom décor also change over time. For example, gold fixtures were in vogue in the ‘90’s but not so much now. If you want your bathroom to be in good taste and free of risk, go for clean and well appointed. Fluffy white towels and white fixtures/furniture are always tasteful. If you have windows in your bathroom, try shutters instead of curtains, as the curtain fabric may look dated after a while. And by all means, hide the extremely personal toiletries.

Since the bedroom is your most “adult” room and one that is a refuge from everyday work, you should avoid placing a desk there. If you must have a TV in the bedroom (a personal dislike of mine), please make sure it is small. Again, anything other than cozy and serene in a bedroom is in bad taste.

Making beautiful, comfortable and unique settings of our own is satisfying, whether ultramodern or traditional, calming or glamorous. Just make sure it is uncontrived; don’t make it look like you are trying too hard.

Sprout new ideas with our home & garden newsletter!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Deborah Macdonald is the owner of Textured Design Napa. Contact her at 707-255-0246 or Deborah@textureddesignnapa.com. Her webite is www.textureddesignnapa.com