When I was just getting started as a New York City interior designer, I was horrified to see the blank stares on the faces of my clients while I was waxing poetically about the perfect Schluter or the ideal flitch. It didn’t take me long to realize that if I wanted projects to run smoothly, my clients and I had to be on the same page right from the start.
So I began, right at the beginning of a project, to provide a glossary of the common interior design words and terms I’d be using during our conversations. This practice has proven to be a lifesaver.
So, if you’re working with (or plant to work with) an interior designer anytime soon, I recommend that you bookmark this page so you can refer back to it during your project. It’s not only very handy; it will also make you look very well versed in interior design!
Common Interior Design Terms
[& What They Mean]
A Schluter strip creates a transition between a tiled floor and the wall. It serves to protect the edge of tiles from being chipped or cracked. The most well-known company that produces Sschluters is, not surprisingly, Schluter Systems. Although many manufacturers make this product, interior designers call them all Schluters (similar to when someone asks for a Kleenex what she really wants is just a tissue.
Lead times are a measure of the amount of time that elapses between initiating a process and completing that process. Examples include the time it takes to fabricate cabinetry, build/upholstery and ship furniture, and the manufacturing time to make custom carpet and area rugs. We always identify long lead-time items early on because they can affect the critical path of a project.
COM and COL
The acronym COM stands for Customer’s Own Material. COL stands for Customer’s Own Leather. Furniture manufacturers use these terms to let interior designers know that they will accept nearly any fabric and apply it to any of their pieces.
The term mitered describes the process of joining together two pieces of material, such as wood or glass, that have been cut at angles to form mitered corners. Material that is cut this way, at a 45-degree angle, form beautiful, elegant (and snug) 90-degree corners.
Despite being one of the most frequently used terms in interior design and architecture, the word elevation is often misunderstood. An elevation is a simply a drawing that illustrates the front or side of a room or building. Often confused with a floor plan, which shows a space from above (as if you are looking down on the room from the ceiling) an elevation gives you the opportunity to see everything from many different viewpoints.
RCP – Reflected Ceiling Plan
An RCP is a drawing that shows items located on the ceiling of a room or space. Drawn to display a view of the ceiling as if it was reflected onto a mirror, a reflected ceiling plan is a very handy tool to show clients what their finished ceiling will look like.
CFA – Cutting For Approval
A CFA is a small snippet of fabric from a bolt that has been reserved for a project. It serves as the confirmation of that the fabric pattern and color is consistent. When matching colors for a client we must often purchase fabric from different bolts, especially when we are re-ordering material. We’ll ask for a cutting from the bolt before the fabric is shipped. A CFA ensures consistency particularly when the design requires a large quantity of material.
Although ogee may sound like a surfing maneuver, it’s a very common interior design term having to do with countertops. Ogee edge refers to a concave arc that flows into a convex arch. Ogee edges, not to be confused with bullnose edges, are frequently used in traditional kitchen designs.
A punch list is a document that contains all the tasks that must be addressed before the project is deemed complete and our clients can move in. Commonly the punch list will include things like minor repairs to finishes, cleanup, and outstanding minor installations that are not part of the construction scope.
Trompe L’Oeil is a French term that means “deceive the eye”. It is an art technique that’s meant to create an optical illusion. Objects depicted in trompe l’oeil appear three-dimensional when in reality they are rendered on a flat surface, such as a wall.
Bullion is decorative fringe comprised of twisted fibers that are generally in longer in length than average fringe – sometimes as long as 12”. Bullion adds drama to furniture and is often affixed to the bottom apron of sofas and chairs. You’ve likely noticed bullion on the bottom edge of theatrical curtains, too.
Renderings and Sketches
A rendering is a highly detailed, three-dimensional view of a room, an interior, or a façade. People often confuse renderings and sketches. But a sketch is quite different. It’s usually rough and hand-drawn, with a minimal amount of detail.
A section is a drawing that symbolizes a “cut through” image of what has been designed. It reveals the construction methods and material types used in the design.
A flitch is a very thin piece of wood veneer sliced from the trunk of a tree. It is often used to finish exposed sides of cabinetry and millwork.
I hope this glossary of common interior design terms is helpful. It’s my pleasure to share it. If you have questions about interior design, please post them in the comments.
Marilyn Sygrove is the leading apartment and condo building lobby interior designer in the New York City metropolitan area. She also is a highly sought after residential interior designer where she applies her expertise in designing public spaces to the rooms her clients spend the most time in.
You can reach Marilyn by email at [email protected] or call her directly at 212.757.0631