Understanding Good Taste
Thom Filicia is an interior designer, most famous for his role as an interior design expert on the television program "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" on the Bravo network. Filicia established his own design firm in 1998 and since then has completed residential and commercial work around the country, as well as designing the U.S. Pavilion at the 2005 World's Fair in Japan. In 2006 he was chosen as one of House Beautiful magazine's Top 100 American Designers and House & Garden magazine's Top 50 "Tastemakers."
Question: What is good taste?
Thom Filicia: I almost think that taste at a certain level is, I mean, it’s kind of an emotional experience. So I think fundamentally what good taste is about is, you know, creating something that’s harmonious or that’s comfortable, or that’s appealing that’s almost a reaction or an emotional connection to something.
So I do think that as people we gravitate towards things that are pleasing or that are what – in my book I talk a lot about balance and I talk about when things are inviting. So I do think that good taste at a certain level is really just understanding, you know, the human element in it. Understanding what is attractive and what is comforting to people. And then I think what – then taking that to the next level once you have a good handle on that I think good taste is about being able to take what is truly inviting to people and comforting to people, and appealing to people and then making it fascinating, and interesting.
And then making people really kind of think that it’s special and that it’s unusual and interesting, and even more appealing. So I do think that it’s such a subjective question but I think it’s more of an emotion than it is an actual factual thing. And I think that’s what makes it sort of mysteries and makes it very appealing to people is that the concept of good taste, you know, we’re trained by society to understand what’s in good taste and what’s in bad taste. But generally the taste makers of any generation have always been the people who have pushed the envelope and has recreated the concept or the idea of what’s really in great taste.
I would say sometimes I think manners get sort of mixed up with what sort of defines good taste and I think that’s sort of the learned fundamental. And I think sometimes when you’re very proficient at anything you then are able to look at it holistically and then actually push it a little bit further. I think when people are – when they’re less connected to a concept or an idea they’re intimidated by it and therefore they kind of follow it as opposed to lead it. So I think when you talk about taste or taste makers they’re generally people who have a great understanding of the social requirements but are able to sort of play with it and push it a little bit further.
I also think what defines great taste is also understanding that you can’t define it and understanding that a lot of, you know, on my show I always say – people say, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m on Tacky House” or they don’t think they’re on Tacky House in the beginning. They think their room is fabulous and their husband or wife can’t deal with or best friend, or somebody. They sort of bring them to me as an intervention and I say, “Well you’re not on My Awesome Room, you’re on Tacky House.” And they’re generally like, “Oh my God, I cannot believe what room in my house is tacky.”
And I always say, “Tacky is not the worst thing or bad taste is not the worst thing. No taste or a really boring or dull room, something that’s a void of any esthetic is worse because at least you’ve committed to something and you’re willing to go to a certain place. Now we just kind of have let, you know, you just have to dial it back and refine it a little bit.” So I think the idea – some of the most interesting spaces, I would say more public spaces certainly, you know, night spots and things like that, sometimes the more, you know, more in bad taste they are, sometimes the more interesting they are to people because it’s a different experience.
Question: What’s the biggest sign of bad taste?
Thom Filicia: That’s a fun question. I would say I think that – well there’s a variety of different ways that, that can sort of that, that can work. I would say, you know, things that people do that they think are really tasteful – I mean, I would just say in general I think one of the things that people do that they think is sort of tasteful which is the worst has a lot to do with snobbier. I think when people put themselves in their mind in a certain place whether it’s interior or clothing or their cars or their jewelry, whatever it is that people decide defines them.
And I think they put too much value on it. And I think to me that is truly – I think that’s generally that’s the real formula for bad taste. You know, and I think when someone is walking around through life and everything around them is a representation is who they are as a – and they’ve taken all the focus off of themselves. I think that’s kind of – that’s the foundation I think of bad taste.
Recorded August 4, 2010
Interviewed by Max Miller
Tacky is not the worst thing in the world—it’s better to have bad taste than to have no taste at all.
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