An Interior Design Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

An Interior Design Vocabulary Cheat Sheet

Interior Design
By Dikran Seferian November 03, 2021

Every field has its special lingo that we may come across every now and then. We may even be using it more or less correctly, sometimes without knowing the exact definition — or the right pronunciation. Just like any other field, interior designers have their own jargon that they use in their domains. And if you have an interest in home renovation and styling, it can be a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few interior design terms. By having a decent knowledge of this vocabulary, not only will you have a clue what your interior designer might be talking about, but you'd also be adding a few fancy words up your own sleeve —what better way to sound sophisticated in a conversation than saying words like chinoiserie or trompe l'oeil?

Art Nouveau: A type of interior design that is defined by curved lines, blanched colors, and natural materials. Art Nouveau thrived between 1890 and 1910 throughout the western world and has recently made a comeback in the applied arts.

Bauhaus: A design style that is based on a prominent German Art School which was active from 1919 to 1933. The Bauhaus design follows a simple modernist style defined by the use of geometric shapes, clean lines, and smooth surfaces. Today, Bauhaus is a popular choice among minimalists as well as modernists.

Bouclé: (coming from the French word boucler, meaning “to curl”) A textile known for its looped yarns that form a heavy texture when woven. Besides upholstery, bouclé is also a common choice of fabric in fashion design.

Cabriole Leg: A decorative furniture leg that features a double-curve shape, with the upper side being convex and the lower concave. The cabriole shape gets its inspiration from the legs of certain animals.

Getting Familiar With Fancy Design Elements

Getting Familiar With Fancy Design Elements

Case Goods: Furniture pieces such as cabinetry, wardrobes, and chests that allow for interior storage. Case goods are typically made of wood or metal and are not upholstered. 

Chaise Lounge: An upholstered chair with a lengthened seat and a reclined back. A chaise lounge offers both comforts as well as style to a living space. 

Furniture That Can Double as a Centerpiece

Furniture That Can Double as a Centerpiece

Chinoiserie: A decorative style in European interior design characterized by Chinese art forms. Chinoiserie features a blend of 18th-century Western-style and traditional Far Eastern art.

Clerestory: A set of windows that are located on a high section of a wall. The purpose of a clerestory is to strategically illuminate the interior with natural light.

Console Table: A table with the top surface typically supported by brackets on the wall behind it. Usually placed in entryways of houses, console tables provide a space for decorative items.

Credenza: An efficient piece of furniture that resembles both a table and a cabinet — and can be used as both. A credenza normally features sliding doors and enough space to store silverware and other items. While a dining room is an ideal place for a credenza, it also goes well in living rooms, hallways, and even bedrooms. 

Storage Solutions for Your Living Spaces

Storage Solutions for Your Living Spaces

Damask: A textile that gets its name from the fabrics that were produced in Damascus, Syria during the Middle Ages. Damask features a pattern that contrasts its background and has been adopted in Victorian interior design, especially for wallpaper.

Elevation: a two-dimensional sketch of a set of walls with various levels of detail. An elevation is used by interior designers and architects to indicate the final appearance of a home’s sections.

Enfilade: A row of rooms connected via aligned doorways. Enfilades are commonly found in grand palaces such as Château Versailles in France.

Etagere: A French-style set of hanging or freestanding open shelves used for displaying books and decorative items. Étagère literally translates to “shelf” in French.

Faceted: A decorative surface designed to reflect light by featuring a crisscross pattern and sharp edges. Faceted elements can be ideal choices for a modern yet eccentric interior design.

Fauteuil: A type of armchair with a bare wooden frame as well as an upholstered seat, back, and arm. The fauteuil originates from the early 17th century in France. In modern settings, it adds a touch of elegance and can be used as a centerpiece. 

Types of Furniture That Add Elegance to an Interior

Types of Furniture That Add Elegance to an Interior

Faux: An synthetic element of design meant to emulate a certain type of material or piece. Faux leather, for instance, is an inexpensive, cruelty-free, and identical alternative to the actual material.

Focal Point: The spot in a room or style that is often the first to catch the eye. The focal point features a centerpiece that stands out from or inspires, the rest of the elements.

Hue: The predominant color or shade that refers to an element of interior design. In terms of the applied arts, a hue is essentially a pure color to which a shade or tint is added.

Interior Wall: The wall inside the house built with the purpose of providing structural support as well as dividing the interior into sections.

Jacquard: A fabric is woven using a loom of its name in addition to other materials such as cotton, polyester, and silk. Jacquard fabrics may even feature raised patterns such as damask.

Extravagant Fabrics to Dress Your Furniture in

Extravagant Fabrics to Dress Your Furniture in

J-box: An abbreviated term for ‘junction box’. Typically mounted on a wall, a j-box is a storage unit that accommodates electrical wires.

Kelvin: A measurement unit that can refer to color temperature, which describes the appearance of light from a bulb. The higher the Kelvin value, the more it appears like sunlight. Color temperature plays a significant role in interior design.

Monochromatic: A palette of shades that are based on one particular color. A monochromatic scheme uses one single hue with various tones, shades, and tints.

Niche: An inward recess or an alcove in a wall that creates space for storing or displaying items. Niches are versatile and customizable, making them popular among many homeowners. 

The Niche is a Functional Element of Interior Design

The Niche is a Functional Element of Interior Design

Parquet: A hardwood flooring that features a mosaic of patterned geometric and angular shapes such as lozenges, squares, and triangles. Parquet was introduced in the 17th century at Versailles and Grand Trianon in France to replace the marble flooring. A common parquet pattern that is used nowadays is herringbone.

Patina: A tarnish that is created by a chemical process that forms on a surface due to age or artificial distressing. Patina can be used to introduce a vintage or a rustic effect to an interior design.

Sconce: A light fixture that is mounted on a wall, providing either general or accent lighting to a room. Sconces can be a stylish source of illumination both indoors as well as in an outdoor living space such as a patio.

Settee: A long sofa that is built to accommodate more than one person, and is typically upholstered. A settee is an ideal type of furniture for living rooms and family rooms. 

Sectional: Also referred to as a sectional sofa, it is a piece of upholstered furniture that includes two or more seating sections. Many modern sectionals may also feature a reclining seat beside the stationary ones, making it a popular choice for home entertainment centers. 

Common Furniture Options for Your Entertainment Center

Common Furniture Options for Your Entertainment Center

Trompe L’oeil: (French for “deceive the eye”) A method used in art and design that makes a flat surface appear as though it is three-dimensional. In interior design, trompe l'oeil is applied to walls, ceilings, and other surfaces to alter perspectives and to push one’s imagination.

Upholstery: The practice of covering pieces of furniture with fabrics, padding, webbing, and springs. Upholstery comes from the Old English word upholder, which refers to a craftsperson who produces fabric furnishings.

Window Treatments:  Window covers or modifications that are designed with the purpose of enhancing the aesthetics as well as providing insulation and privacy to a room. Among the most popular window treatments nowadays are matchstick shades.


Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian