“Our world is dominated by algorithms — by data collection that steers us toward a limited set of products and designers who have paid for the privilege of coming up first in our search. The result is that our taste has gotten . . . only more homogeneous, more limited.” —Rachel Tashjian, style contributor to The Washington Post, in her article Whatever Happened to Having Taste?
The primary reason I wanted to begin with this quote is because the reality is all too real: good taste is often hard to find, and much of it has to do with remaining inside the box. Often this ‘box’ is the one we see frequently on Instagram, Pinterest or TikTok.
Enter interior designer Heidi Caillier, someone who didn’t and doesn’t play by the rules of social media, who didn’t follow the trends, and trusts her own voice and eye.
To walk into a home curated by someone with exquisite taste, time seems to vanish, and the primary emotions one feels are comfort, awe and appreciation even if we don’t know at all how they did it. Somehow, it all just works. A symphony of hues, textures, pieces, and details that appear as though they just belong together to welcome the residents of the sanctuary home each time they cross the threshold.
I remember seeing interior designer Heidi Caillier’s work for the first time. It was the cover story of Rue Magazine in 2019. Caillier had designed a Seattle cottage guided by the charming Scandinavian aesthetic – simple, yet cozy, unique, yet functional, and with thoughtful touches of vintage to create a feeling of nostalgia. I became even more intrigued when I saw her work on a handful of Arts & Crafts houses both in California, Oregon and across the country on the east coast. Heidi was speaking my language (she embraces wallpaper!), as she incorporated the aesthetics that reminded me of English country with modern sensibilities for living well and thoughtfully. Check out a few of the homes here (one of my favorites – the kitchen!), here and here. And her entire portfolio here.
Caillier too loves British design, and it is her use of William Morris wallpaper in the Cow Hollow home in San Francisco that immediately captured my eye and admiration.
As Caillier is also someone who lives in the Pacific Northwest, in Tacoma, Washington, part of my intrigue was her home base as rarely had I seen an interior designer from PNW that has their own aesthetic that wasn’t wed to the stereotypical Portland or Seattle modern trends that never quite captured my definition of timelessness or comfort, or even warmth. With delight and immediate appreciation, I began following her on Instagram as she shares glimpses into her projects as they begin, are in progress and eventually are completed. As she shares in her new book, just released on September 5th, Memories of Home, the portfolio shared in the pages of the book tells stories that are “nostalgic, romantic, creative, playful but sophisticated, and so incredibly comforting.” All the boxes in my ideal of a sanctuary are ticked with that sentence, and indeed each home showcased demonstrates her objectives have met their desired results with each client’s home shared, including her own.
Heidi’s kitchen and nook, the nook that has become ubiquitous for all the right reasons when it comes to good taste.
As timing would have it, the topic of good taste, and the seeming lack thereof arose this month in an article written by style contributor to The Washington Post Rachel Tashjian, as I was pouring through the pages of Heidi’s new book, it became immediately clear she understands and brings forth good taste in each of her homes, but how does one do that? Even if we don’t hire someone or are unable to work with the talent and expert Heidi provides, how do we curate a home, and in very much the same way, curate a wardrobe and a life that is not guided by algorithms? Well, I think that question in and of itself is a great place to start. Let’s take a look at eight key aspects of curating good taste when it comes to our décor.
1.Be aware that the algorithms exist and begin to set yourself free of them.
Generally speaking, most of us know that algorithms exist and by ‘liking’ something, following a particular influencer or channel, more of similar content is funneled our way. We’re talking social media on all platforms (TikTok, IG, Pinterest, etc) as well as what we do online when shopping, reading, searching (our web browser for instance – Google, etc.) and clicking, and as we know what we watch on the many streaming platforms. Algorithms are everywhere, seemingly trying to give us what we want, but when it comes to curating a good taste, it can make us all pretty ‘beige’ in our choices.
How do we step away from algorithms or work with them and avoid being pigeon-holed? For me, escaping the algorithm feeding of ‘similar content’ has come by way of reading something regularly in a general newspaper (an actual paper, in my hand), something that allows me the ability to see everything without it being filtered. I also am very thoughtful about what I ‘like’ or ‘love’ on my social media accounts because I know it will procure more and more of similar content and often what I am ‘liking’ isn’t necessarily what will be shown more of to me. Often it is a very minute detail or the overall persona and ethos of the brand or business.
There are also other ways, if you are a regular social media user, to adjust the settings. Mashable wrote a detailed article to show you how.
“[Those who exhibit good taste in their home décor] suggest a passion for living in a way that is ambivalent to the confines of Instagram’s frame or TikTok’s editing preferences . . . The point is that [the inhabitant] likes it — whether an audience might aspire to live there, or copy her every choice, is decidedly not the point.” —Rachel Tashjian
2. Travel broadly and stay and visit various accommodations, museums, shops, homes, etc.
Heidi shares in her introduction of her book that she traveled and lived in a myriad of places around the world and the United States. As she began to realize she was drawn to the interiors of homes and the world of design, a cataloging mentally of all that she had experienced no doubt played a helpful role in offering perspective and insight beyond the boundaries of a particular region or town a client lived.
As I shared in my interview with Anita Joyce on her podcast Decorating Tips & Tricks, so much of why and how I decorate my own home, inspired greatly by England’s Arts & Crafts movement but also Provençal country aesthetic and coastal cozy, has everything to do with all of the places I have visited and stayed over the 20+ years of travel both around the states and in particular in France and England.
Whether consciously or unconsciously, we are drawn to certain aesthetics, and it is when we become aware of our inclinations, what provides comfort, what feels like home when we are away from home, that we begin to home in on good taste that will also speak to our predilections of welcome and comfort.
3. Straddle two opposing approaches and find what they have in common
Heidi shares that she “discovered a love of tension—a play between masculine and feminine, old and new, modern and traditional . . . unexpected, but rooted in tradition, and also layered and eclectic . . . mixing patterns, combining florals with graphic lines and shapes.” And this is where experience and talent come together to create what Heidi does to perfection. Finding the balance between two opposing approaches is not initially easy. This is why you travel. See how it works when others who have more experience do it well.
Often when we see something that doesn’t work, or feels off to our eye, it is because the balance has not properly been struck, and it is a dance, but a dance that becomes easier with practice and experience of seeing it frequency the work of others who know how to do it.
For me, and my own approach to decorating and customizing Le Papillon, pairing prints was a lesson and skill I wanted to learn because to me that is what created the comfortable, yet sophisticated look of English interiors that I loved. I looked to two women in the industry that clearly knew what they are doing when it comes to prints – Rita Konig and Heidi Caillier – and I continued to follow their work, taking Rita’s online course, and now reading Heidi’s book.
4. Understand how the power of textures and colors create warmth and complement ‘heavy’/dark details
In the photo seen below found in Memories of Home, an Arts & Crafts home in Berkeley, California, Caillier explains how they used linen on the walls to soften the contrast with the original dark wood that they were definitely going to keep. Yep, you read that correctly, they hung linen wallpaper on the walls, so not only does it provide texture in a solid hue, it also provides a softness. And because of the light color of the linen, it brightens what would be a traditional Arts & Crafts room. Thus, the balance of unexpected with traditional.
In that same room as well as the dining room, the ceiling is painted blush, but to read that word ‘blush’ you may instantly think, ‘no! not in a a dining room’, but yet again, when the pieces are brought together, how do they complement each other. I can almost guarantee, you don’t look at the ceiling at all, you look at the room, and the room is magnificent. And yep, the ceiling’s color choice plays a role in making it all come together.
5. Seek out and bravely purchase antiques and vintage one-of-a-kind finds
Thoroughout each of Heidi’s clients’ homes antiques and vintages finds are sprinkled about with consideration. And as she writes, there is only one, so when it’s gone, it’s gone. This is what taste is about: bravery. But not rash bravery to wow the crowds or gain attention. Actually it is the reverse: Bravery to purchase something that speaks to you, complements what you love in your home and the design your house has provided regardless of whether someone else will approve.
The aforementioned article begins by talking about taste with a conversation centered around Jenna Lyons whose sartorial as well as décor design choices are most definitely ones of taste as it’s not about labels; it’s about adorning her personality, her lifestyle and honoring what she has learned about what makes an outfit. Arguably, her expertise carries over into how to pull together a room, and her décor harmonizes and wows the eye in the best possible of ways.
The first step in being able to be brave and purchasing a vintage piece is to know what a room needs. Where are the gaps? What textures or fabrics would complement what is already chosen and present in the room? I have shared that in each room I decorate I make sure I am clear about the star in the room, thereby letting the other pieces support that star. In some cases, such as my tulip chair, I already had the vintage piece, and then I had to figure out how to make it the star in one of my rooms.
Our homes become our sanctuaries with time, careful consideration and wisdom of ourselves. And part of the reason I so enjoy treasure hunting whether at brocantes while in France, or antique shops here in Bend or in England is because while I may not find anything, I could find something rather special, and in time, the feeling of our homes being our sanctuary begins to occur.
The other reality regarding vintage pieces when we include them in our homes is that, as Heidi writes, they “lend authenticity”, helping to create the nostalgic feeling we are trying to create without going overboard.
Finding a vintage rattan mirror adds a touch of whimsy in the powder room in the Pittsfield house. Notice the wall lamp as well as the antique marble sink – one of a kind. A vintage find to treasure.
6. The power of wallpaper – knowing where and how to use it
A frequently discussed topic here on the blog and podcast, as a lover of wallpaper, I always appreciate learning more from those who use it oh so well. Heidi Caillier is one such person.
In the tour of the Pittsfield home, one of my favorites, she shares how “small-print wallpaper in many of the home’s common spaces-including the vestibule, the hallways, and the stairwell—brings charm to often overlooked areas . . . using this paper liberally, even near the back entrance, creates a beautiful flow—and that comforting, cocooned sensation—throughout.”
The wallpaper in the entry of the Pittsfield house.
7. Invest in built-ins
One of the most known and recognized (and loved) photos showcasing Heidi’s work is of the ‘green kitchen’ with the hexagonal terracotta tile flooring. In fact, this is her home that she shares with her husband and twin boys. A Tudor in North Tacoma located in a historic neighborhood, it is in each room you see her expert eye both have fun and bring the timeless feeling of cozy and welcome. However, it isn’t so much about the fact that the kitchen is painted in a lovely, calming hue, but the kitchenette banquette that creates the kitchen nook seating. Heidi shares that “you can only take a room so far with furniture”.
By definition, you can’t take built-ins with you should you move, but that is actually the point. Customize this home for you and what this house gives you. When we work with the walls and nooks and corners of the house we call home, we begin to make it even more a space that works, but also reaches its full potential.
Built-in bookshelves in a library and workspace in the Fox Island home designed by Heidi Caillier.
One of the first details I knew I wanted to add to my home, and in fact the first measurements my contractor took when he arrived and we met for the first time was the measurements for the bookshelf I wanted built-in for my living room reading nook. The corner was begging for something to bring it to life, and I needed a permanent place for my many books. Now the shelves look like they have been with the house for its lifetime. It just makes sense.
So yes, adding built-ins, whether it’s a banquette or shelves or the hood for your stovetop will be more expensive than buying a bookshelf that you can take with you, but your home will become a sanctuary and it is in the intention and the eye of proportion that makes it works perfectly in the space available that will reveal your good taste.
8. Let your taste evolve and mature
“It’s about letting your developing taste both inform your sense of connoisseurship, but being all right with letting that sense of taste redirect you over time to other things.” —Michael Diaz-Griffith, executive director of the Design Leadership Network, who published The New Antiquarians: At Home With Young Collectors
Because it will take us time to experience and see all that will inform our knowledge of what good taste is and what it involves, be gentle with yourself. In other words, be open to tweaking, removing, acknowledging and learning. Ultimately, good design makes you feel good, makes you feel welcomed and there is a sense of respect for the space because it did take time and it wasn’t something you could purchase with one click within a couple of hours and have delivered to your door.
That is not how good taste is acquired. There will be times when you reflect and say to yourself, “What was I thinking?” But in the same breath, I encourage you to say, “I did my best with what I knew and what I had at the time.”
Good taste is not about perfection, but awareness mixed with playfulness. No room will ever be stoic as it needs to breathe, items and furniture and fabrics will change over time, but knowing precedes why you are making the choice you are making. Thinking about proportions, thinking about complementary colors, thinking about warmth and light, and how all of the concepts of design work together.
Have fun learning, experimenting, treasure-hunting and most of all, keep your eyes wide open gaining glimpses and insight from those who have come before and know, just as Heidi Caillier does, what good taste is all about.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
The Hygge Phenomenon and Living SImply Luxuriously, episode #148
~The Chelsea Detective, AcornTV
—Peach & Blueberry mini galette
Watch a video sharing how to make this tart in episode #2 of Season 6, The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show. The season continues on September 30th through Thanksgiving every other Saturday.
Peach & Blueberry Mini Galette
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
- 1/8 cup sugar (or 2 tablespoons), to taste for sweetness
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1-2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
Peach & Blueberry filling
- 2 medium peaches (or 1 large peach)
- 1/4 cup blueberries
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1-2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1 Tablespoon toasted almond slices
- 1 egg for egg washing the pastry
- In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, butter and salt. Pulse until combined, but still loosely.
- Add the orange juice, just enough until combined.
- Roll up in a ball and flatten the pastry into a disc, then wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
- Prepare the peaches as you did for the jam. Score the bottom of each peach with an "X", then place in boiling water for at least 45 seconds. If you see the corners of the peel curling, you know they are done. Place in a cold water/ice bath. Then peel each peach. Using a paring knife, slice each peach in half, carefully remove the pit and keep the two halves in tact.
Preparing and Baking the Tart
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roll out the pastry to a round shape, trim as necessary/desired. Place parchment on a baking sheet and place the pastry on the pan. Arrange the peach halves, hulled side down (dome facing up). Place blueberries on the outside of the peaches and then, having left an inch all the way around free of fruit, fold over to create an edge. Now, add the rest of the blueberries to the middle of the tart. Sprinkle brown sugar on top.Whisk the egg in a small bowl and then brush the egg wash on the pastry. Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds on the pastry.Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds on the tart once finished baking. Serve with vanilla gelato and pair with a hot cuppa.
~All photos shared of Heidi Caillier’s projects shared with permission from Rizzoli.