Category Archives: Thoughts On Design

Common Interior Design Terms [& What They Mean]

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.

interior design terms-schluter,

Example of a Schluter strip


Lead Time

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.


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.

interior design terms-mitered edge

Example of a mitered corner (courtesy of J Pocker)



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.

interior design terms-elevation

Example of an elevation








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.

Interior Design Words-Reflected ceiling plan

Example of an RCP


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.

Ogee Edge

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.

interior design term-ogee edge

Example of an ogee edge







Punch List

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

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.

interior design terms-trompe l'oeil

Example of trompe l’oeil




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.

interior design terms-bullion-fringe

Example of a chair will bullion fringe (to find out more about this chair, visit


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.

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Example of a rendering

interior design sketch

Example of a sketch




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.

interior design section

Example of a section



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.

interior design terms-flitch

Example of a flitch



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

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A Gallery Of Beautiful Apartment Building Signage

Have you ever paused at a street corner to think to yourself, “why does a stop sign look like that?” This may come across as a weird question at first. After all, we follow stop signs every day, what’s more, to know? However, a stop sign has more going on than you may think. Its sharp red color shows oncoming traffic when to hit the brakes; its reflective coating makes it easy for nighttime drivers to pinpoint its location in the dark, and its unique octagonal shape is designed to alert drivers (facing the back of the sign) of oncoming traffic’s impending stop at an intersection.

As an interior designer, I am admittedly somewhat obsessed with signs. But the signs I’m obsessed with are indoors and serve some very mundane functions, such as informing you what floor you’re on, or what to do in case of a fire, or which direction to turn when you get off an elevator. The choice of signage (fonts, materials, placement) is an important part of residential lobby interior design and hallway interior design.

 I must admit, designing interior signage is one of my favorite parts of a project. When all the other design decisions have been made, it’s fun to design them. I don’t think anyone has ever written a blog before about apartment building interior signage designs, so this may be a first.

My personal gallery of beautiful apartment building signage


1) 140 East 56th Street, Manhattan

Building SIgnage ideas














The period typeface “Neutra” (named for the modernist architect Richard Neutra) was perfect for this midtown Manhattan mid-century modern building built in 1956. The emphasis here is on the apartment line, which presents larger than the floor number (kind of sexy, right?) To emphasize this fun juxtaposition even further, the chocolate brown door is layered with a lighter oiled bronze metal etched around the border, so you have the dark door, a light border, and a dark field behind the lettering.

Also, “Neutra” just sounds cool.

2) 1230 Park Avenue, Manhattan

Top Door Signage designs













This Upper East Side Carnegie Hill 1930 pre-war has an exquisite lobby encrusted with molded plasterwork on its ceilings and walls, marble and terrazzo floors, and luscious paneled doors. Our task was to provide signage designs and hardware that indicate the stairwells but fit beautifully into the elegant interior design.

 In this case, we chose a classic serif font for the letters (Times New Roman) and mounted them over the lovely period-style door hardware. The effect is super luxurious and gets the job done.


3) Holland House – Forest Hills, Queens

For the Holland House, we used some of the original advertising materials that were created when the building first opened in 1929. We were able to match the font (“California”) and it perfectly fits in with the lobby interior design. You can see it on the sign on the right-hand side in this image.

Here’s something really cool, too! The building originally had floor indicator signs above each elevator. But when the elevators were renovated, the indicator signs were removed. We gave them a new life and today when residents and guests step out of the elevator they are greeted by the old elevator indicator, which is set to the floor they’re on. We also matched the apartment “wayfinding” letters and arrows with the same font and material that leads visitors to the right apartment in style.


4) The Endicott – 101 West 81st Street, Manhattan

Door and Laundry Room Design















With this 1900 pre-war building’s proximity to Central Park, the residents requested that we find a way to bring the verdant lushness of the park right into the building. We found lots of ways to do this in our work as NY lobby interior designers and NY hallway interior designers but when it came to the signage design, we had to make a decision. How could we keep the signage from overtaking the delicate interior design elements we had created?

The answer was to use a weathered and antiqued aluminum, which looks like real silver for most of the signage design. On each floor, we hung a simple rectangular mirror framed in aluminum. The text looks like it’s sandblasted into the glass, but it’s actually a custom designed decal! The simple yet elegant “Palatino” font was a perfect choice here.

At The Endicott even the laundry room sign is distinctive. We stayed true to the overall design again with the horizontal shape and white lettering in “Palatino”. The striking white line around the perimeter keeps the effect from being stodgy. Note the braille, which is now part of ADA requirements, of which we are experts (we have to be!).


5) 45 Sutton Place, Manhattan

Sutton House Interior Design by Sygrove








Here we chose brush brass for the signage and, despite similarities to signs at The Endicott (they both are brushed metal, use a serif font, and have white borders), the 45 Sutton signs are more traditional in feeling. The font is “Times New Roman” and “ the white border gives it a fresh, up to date look.

6) The Atrium Palace Condominium – Fort Lee, New Jersey

Sygrove Design Fort Lee's The Atrium








We call this sign “balls” because of the tiny balls that are mounted on the top and bottom of the apartment identification signs. Believe it or not, this inspiration came about when I visited the sign factory and saw braille signs they were making. Since the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requires that all new signage include braille, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be unique to use the balls as a design motif, too?” Imagine my delight when the residents agreed with me!

 The “balls” eventually became a design motif for the entire renovation project of this large residential building in New Jersey.


7) Residential Apartment Building – Upper West Side, Manhattan

Sygrove - NYC Door Signage












This sign was designed for a pre-war Upper West Side of Manhattan rental building whose owner really loves his buildings and appreciates quality, too! The signs have some real heft to them. They are 1/8” thick solid polished brass with two etched borderlines and a flower motif, which was inspired by the frieze on the exterior of the building. In this way the building’s distinctive exterior is incorporated into the interior design.

 These signs are affixed to each apartment door and in addition to looking just gorgeous, provide residents with a peephole for security and incorporate their doorbell button, too.

 If this blog makes you start obsessing over interior signage where before you walked past with nary a glance, share them for me. I have a soft spot for lovely fonts and clever design.

— Marilyn



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