Can You Buy Good Taste?

I am often asked if I think “good taste” is inherited or learned. I have thought about this off and on for years. I still do not have the answer, but I think the concept is interesting.  I recently ran across an article by Frank Lloyd Wright entitled “The Ideal of Beauty”. (Courtesy of The House Beautiful, 1896-1897.  (The Auvergine  Press, River Forest, Illinois.)

“The Ideal of Beauty”

Frank Lloyd Wright with William C. Gannett

Can you buy taste?  Taste cannot be manufactured.  Like Solomon’s wisdom it cannot be gotten for gold nor silver, be paid for the price thereof; but in house-furnishings, it is more precious than fine rubies.  It is the one thing that no store in New York sells. Nor can rich relatives leave you any of it in their wills.  And yet it comes largely by request.  Nearly all one can tell about its origins is that it gathers slowly in the family’s blood, and refines month by month…Taste shows itself in pictures, in flowers, in music, in the choice of colors for the walls and the floors, in the amenities of the mantle-piece and table, in the grouping of furniture, in the droop of the curtains at the windows, in the way dishes glorify the table…


Perhaps “good taste” is kin to having the talent of a gifted musician, poet or artist. I can surround myself with those who have special talents that I do not have.  I can appreciate and take pleasure in the results of their endeavors.

Wright goes on to address the interior design profession which was considered a “new profession” in the early 1900’s.

The emerging profession of interior design in the United States was initially driven by the strong personalities and singular talents of women who introduced fresh ideas with panache and publicity.  In New York, Elsie de Wolfe became a leading doyenne of the decorating world when she introduced light, air, white walls, and French-style accessories into interiors by stripping away the jumble of oriental carpets, dark window coverings, and heavy framed paintings that were holdovers from the late Victorian and Edwardian eras


I think many professionals, including interior designers, have an obligation to bring what they perceive is “in good taste” and appropriate for their clients regardless of where and how they have received or learned this gift. “Buying good taste” is what I do when I am browsing through a decorating or fashion magazine, working on a design project in a showroom at ADAC or canvassing my favorite stores for the next season’s “must-haves”. I call it smart shopping.