[UPDATE] Say What? The Interior Designer Terminology Guide

By 31st July 2019 July 20th, 2020 Interior Design
Say What? The Interior Designer Terminology Guide

Not sure what your interior designer is talking about? Here’s our list of terminology to help you understand their lingo.

Every industry has its terminology and when you spend every day in that world, the language becomes second nature. The problem is, the people you’re talking to probably don’t always know what you’re talking about and new terms pop up all the time. 

That’s why we’ve updated our guide of the most commonly used terms in the commercial interior design industry – so you can speak ‘designer’ too!



Contemporary New, modern
Chic Elegant, stylish
Ambient The environmental conditions of a room, like sound, lighting, and so on.
Accessories Small items that you can add to the space like, artwork, plants, and sculptures – anything used to personalise a space.
Ballast A device that controls the current in a fluorescent lamp.
Base Cabinets A cabinet that’s low to the ground (usually on the floor)
Bevelled Glass Clear or mirrored glass that has an edge perimeter cut at an angle to achieve a contrasting visual effect.
Clear Floor Space An area that is clear of any obstruction.
Colour Rendition An index of how light makes an object, surface, or wall appear.
Contrast The difference in light between surfaces or rooms, as well as the difference between light and dark.
Faux-Finish A decorative technique which translates to ‘false finish’. It refers to many finishes, including upholstery, where vinyl simulates leather.
Focal Point The visual centre or focus feature of a space.
Green Design A design which conforms to environmental principles. This can be related to the building, material, and energy use.
Halogen Lighting A type of lighting which is better at displaying colours than traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs.
Hot Desks A workspace option that involves multiple employees using one desk or surface during different time periods.
Incandescent Lighting A type of lighting that uses inexpensive bulbs to create good natural light. But uses more energy than other bulbs.
Open Plan An office setting where employees sit in an open area together at desks.
Bespoke An item that is custom designed and custom made. 
Eclectic  A mixture of various design elements. 
Refined  Method of selecting a small number of specific design components for their complementary effect.
Collected  Decorating a space with uniquely curated pieces which are collected over time.
Clean  Minimalistic design style that is uncluttered.
Well-appointed  Highly crafted furnishings of exceptional quality.
Aspirational  The intention of matching the interior space to the desired lifestyle. 
Whimsical  A concept or specific feature which exists to bring a sense of humour, or to add an element of fun, to a space.
Contrived Patina  Aesthetics which are artificially produced to create a sense of natural ageing or old-world quaintness.
Moody  A mixture of deep coloured aesthetics and textures to create a dramatic atmosphere within a space.
Reimagined  Completely reinterpreted space without any creative limitations or constraints.
Conversational  An unexpected or unusual choice of a specific component within a space, with the intention of creating a conversational piece.
Timeless  A design style that does not follow the current trend so as to avoid quickly becoming out-dated.
Curated  Distinctive style inspired by the incorporation of multiple unique items.
Textured  A mixture of materials, textures, and patterns which create a sense of depth through the use of multiple layers.
Artistic  Unstructured style with mismatched features, which may be surprising and unexpected.
Focal Point  An item or design feature which acts as the sole source of interest, drawing immediate attention within a space.
Tinted  Variations of a single colour,  usually darker shades.
Layered  Creating interest with a variety of layered elements.
Retro  A style which uses an era from the not-too-distant past as a reference point.
Monochrome  The use of one colour and multiple tones within a design scheme.
Tailored  A design feature which has been specifically customised to suit its environment.
Bohemian  Design style which uses mismatched features and patterns.
Advancing Colours  An optical illusion which is created by utilising colours to cause surfaces to appear either closer or larger than it is.
Rhythm  Design and layout that creates a “flow” for the eye to move from one element in the space, to another, through the use of patterns, colours and textures.
Hygge  A Danish design concept that embraces a ‘cozy’ environment.
Feng Shui  A Chinese design concept that embraces functionality coupled with the flow of good energy (chi).
Transitional  Traditional design blended with the contemporary.
Minimalism  The concept of ‘less-is-more’, often utilising clean lines and a limited colour pallet.
Maximalism  The concept of ‘more-is-more’, often utilising very striking and bold design elements to create a unique ‘personality’.
Industrial  Space which is inspired by an industrial environment, usually with design aspects taken from a factory floor.
Ambient Lighting  Light that produces a soft glow, creating a relaxed environment.
Task Lighting  Concentrated lighting created for specific tasks, such as an office lighting over a desk.
Accent Lighting  Concentrated lighting for the intention to draw attention to an object, such as lights placed above a painting.
Accessible  A space that is designed in a way which makes it easy to access elements of the space. 
Elevation  An architectural term that refers to cutting a through-view of the space from floor to ceiling, showing heights and ‘elevation’.
Floor Plan  A 2D scaled drawing of your space from a birds-eye-view
Perspective  A 3D drawing of an area of the proposed space, to provide a sense of the completed space.
Reflected Ceiling Plan  A 2D drawing of the ceiling which showcases the placement of lighting fixtures, along with all ceiling-mounted services i.e. aircon diffusers, sprinklers, smoke detectors etc.
Rendering  A drawing of a three-dimensional view showing a realistic rendition of the completed space or area.
Space Planning  The discipline of planning your interior space for optimal use.

Click here to download a copy of this guide. 

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Derek Stedman

Author Derek Stedman

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