Service of Who Gives Someone the Right to Criticize Your Design Choices?

February 17th, 2020

Categories: Criticism, Décor, Interior Design


The headline “Are Taxidermy Animals Distasteful?” in a recent Wall Street Journal sparked another question from me: “Who gives someone the right to tell another person yea or nay about their interior decorating?

The threat of being criticized or laughed at is why beige on beige has consistently been America’s color of choice for homes and apartments. It’s safe. What mother-in-law or know-it-all acquaintance would comment “This room is boring?” but they might assess with a crack and a wrinkled nose a space dressed in peacock blue or tangerine.


The subhead of Allison Duncan’s Taxidermy Journal article reveals that the subject is more than one of taste: “Interior designers lock horns over using mounted beasts in décor. Some see them as celebrating the natural world, others see them as violating it.”

Even so, is it up to family and friends to lecture about the suitability of a person’s mounted moose head any more than share comments about food choices?

Editors, reporters and bloggers writing about color and home fashion trends as well as the plethora of TV design shows with the same purpose leave design decisions up to the home decorator. A good interior decorator works with clients but doesn’t dictate.

Has anyone made negative comments about your décor? Is there any instance in which it’s appropriate to critique someone else’s design choices?



9 Responses to “Service of Who Gives Someone the Right to Criticize Your Design Choices?”

  1. BC Said:

    No mounted beasts, but lots of scratch made boats in acrylic cases. We have multiple paintings of boats too. Everyone likes them! Who cares about interior designers anyway!

  2. JBS Said:

    Love this. I haven’t had my decor criticized, but wouldn’t like it. It’s my decor, not yours, and I’d fight (to-the-death) for the right to decorate as I please. (Also would fight-to-the-death for anyone else’s right to decorate as they please!)

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I love boats and can imagine how peaceful yours would make people feel. When I was an editor at Art & Antiques Magazine ages ago I wrote a marketing piece about artist Antonio Jacobsen’s [1850-1921] pictures. He was known for his ships. In one interview with a dealer I learned that ships in peril in a violent stormy sea did not sell well because people found those disconcerting.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wrote previously on this blog about the interior designer, [a friend, not my designer], who jumped up from the sofa and arranged some things that were on our mantel. Had she done just that, it would have been OK. But as she did it she said, “I couldn’t stand to look at them the way they were.” Neither she nor her husband were invited back.

    I don’t mind if someone straightens a picture that’s gone askew, [not from my over-dusting unfortunately], but much more than that, UNLESS I ASK for counsel, as they say in NYC “faghedaboudit.”

  5. Helen Rabinovitz Said:

    Picture this….I’m sitting on the floor of our master bedroom in our new condo waiting for the movers. I hear footsteps and hear a woman’s voice mutter oh my God! Not in a complimentary fashion. Our walls are not all white. I’m an artist. Several accent walls were shades of burnt orange. Think fall leaves. Then she’s gone and doesn’t see me. A few days later I bump into her. We’re the only two families so far. She invites me in. I see gigantic and elaborate furniture everywhere. She obviously moved from a large home….now she’s in a 1400 square foot condo. Inside I gagged but just said oh my goodness isn’t this nice. There’s no reason to hurt someone’s feelings. Just smile and nod. She has since moved. Thing is I’ve helped many friends decorate their homes successfully. I’m flattered when then ask. So Elinor Berk if you’re out there…I really hope you use a decorator next time.

  6. Lucrezia Said:

    Everyone has the right to criticize anything I say or do, and I have the right to put them in their place. PS My late mother-in-law was a classy person, and wouldn’t dream of lowering herself to rank of busybody!

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’m giggling at your great comment! You should write comedy.

    In an email to me JBS wrote what most of our mother’s taught us in the day: “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It can be very hard to find something positive in some homes for sure! And there are cultures in which you should not admire a person’s belongings, be they furnishings or jewelry and clothing because their tradition requires them to give you the item in question. We were told this when we lived in Turkey for example.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The people who suffer when someone has a negative thing to say about their design choices are insecure about them so that it is a mean thing to do to them. I love the things I’ve chosen–and the gifts I’ve been given as well–so someone can criticize all they want and I’m fine. I am plenty insecure about other things so I know the cringe feeling when prodded about any of them.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Uninvited criticism is a form of bullying which is met in as many ways as there are people. Same goes for the variety of responses. It’s a fine subject for a class on Ethics.

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