An important term and abbreviation used in interior design specifications to describe “above finished floor” so designers and installers know precisely where to install light switches and sockets and the height of lighting pendants and chandeliers.

A recessed part of the room. 

Any item that is at least over 100 years old and is often confused with vintage which describes an item that is 40-90 years old.

Image Source: A design by Studio Designer client Nate Berkus featuring a antique piece.


A style of architecture and decoration that is geometric, streamlined, and minimalist. First popularized during the 20s and 30s, the art deco style can be seen in the shape of notable buildings like the Chrysler building in New York City and can also be found in furnishings and household appliances. Other distinguishing characteristics include wood furniture with chrome decoration, glass tops, rounded fronts, with simple and unadorned lines.

This decorative style originated in France in the late 1800s and early 1900s and is a more modern form of embellishment with curvilinear details with flowing lines and decorative contours that range from subtle to exaggerated. Other notable art nouveau qualities include the liberal use of floral patterns, stained glass windows, rugs, light fixtures, and staircase railings. Many Parisian metro stations were decorated in the Art Nouveau style by architect Hector Guimart. The work of fine artist Alphonse Mucha is a great representation of the art nouveau style.

Image Source: Photo from Shutterstock.

Art nouveau

Also known as the “Mission Style,” it is a style of the late 19th century and early 20th century that is the root of the modern style and a direct reaction to the reigning Victorian style of the era as well as the rise of the industrial revolution. This wide-ranging style highlights hand-crafted materials and started in the U.K. and soon spread to Europe and North America. Notable artists and designers in this style are William Morris, architects Greene & Greene, and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

A panel behind or sink or stove that protects the wall from splashes.

Image Source: Photo from Shutterstock.


A financial statement for a business showing the assets, liabilities, and shareholder equity at a point in time. Also known as a financial snapshot of your business that can be used to evaluate ROI and the capital structure of a company.

Image Source: Photo by Shutterstock.


A common type of seating in restaurants now widely used in residential home design. It is a built-in upholstered bench (often tufted) used in dining areas that is paired with a dining table. Allows homeowners to have a restaurant booth in their own home.

Image Source: Deluxe banquette design by Studio Designer client Ken Fulk for the Wayfare Tavern‘s Sequoia Room in San Francisco.

Sequoia Club

In pre-World War II Germany (1919-1933), the Bauhaus German art school was founded by architect Walter Gropius. It is thought to spark the beginning of the modern movement in architecture design and applied arts. Bauhaus describes a minimalist and simplistic aesthetic with the idea that form follows function. The most famous Bauhaus designs include the Barcelona Chair by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich or the Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer.

A textured heavy fabric made of nubby and looped yarn meant to create upholstery that has engaging texture and a super-soft feel. Can be used for pillows, upholstery, throws, and even window treatments.

Image Source: Colina benches in bouclé by Studio Designer client Kelly Wearstler.


A dresser used to store clothing that also can be used as a desk.

An ornamented furniture leg with a double curve structure.

Image Source: Image from the The British Antique Dealers’ Association.

Cabriole leg

Cotton or cotton-blend fabric printed with small, colorful patterns. 

Furniture and cabinetry designed for storage space often made out of wood and similar materials.

A European style incorporating Chinese or East Asian art that started in the 17th century and endures in popularity today. Often evoked by blue and white porcelain and similar art on furniture and walls. The term is French for “in the Chinese taste.”

Image Source: Studio Designer client Mark D. Sikes is known for his superb use of chinoiserie in his designs like this Montecito home.


A style of decorating that incorporates liberal use of the chintz fabric—a cotton fabric printed with vivid patterns of leaves and flowers with a glazed finish. The fabric has its origins in 15th-century India and the style exploded during the 1980s, and went away for a few decades. It has since enjoyed a resurgence, especially with a renewed interest in the characteristic Chintz style of the late designer Mario Buatta.

A decorative painting technique where a thin glaze is applied over the base coat of paint to create an effect of subtle layers of color.

A style and design movement that embraces an agricultural and English countryside look and an overall simplified “back to basics” lifestyle with floral patterns, handmade lace, and hand-crafted materials like knitted items, embroidery, and cross-stich. Also known as “farmcore” or “countrycore,” cottagecore promotes living in harmony with nature and is particularly popular with women for the romantic qualities taken from the Romantic and Victoria eras.

Image Source: New York townhouse design by Studio Designer client Kati Curtis Design.


Widely used terms in the trade for a special client request to use fabric, leather, or trim not available from a manufacturer or for a fully custom order. Designers must ensure that the fabric, leather, or trim is shipped directly to the manufacturer.

A common request designers make to fabric manufacturers and brands for fabric samples to check the quality and color of the material before a large order is made. While it can be time-consuming, it can save costs in the long run in order to ensure no unnecessary fabric is purchased.

A decorative table in a half-circle shape, this term comes from French for “half-moon” and is meant to be placed against a wall.

Image Source: Marble demilune table by Four Hands.

Marble demilune

An accounting method that ensures that a business’s books are balanced and easier to analyze. Not only does it present a more accurate financial record of a business, but it operates from a relatively simple equation Assets = Liabilities and Equity. When you record an entry to one account, you need to record an opposite entry in another account.

A drawing of a custom item with detailed product dimensions, structure, and finishings provided to a client for approval prior to production.

Chair drawing

A style of decorating combining furniture and accessories from a variety of styles and periods.

A type of shelving that can either be mounted on a wall or set on the floor with open shelves meant for displaying accessories and decorative items.

Image Source: Daniel Etagere by Arteriors.


A critical stage in the interior design project management process when efforts are made to ensure that items and all necessary material are delivered correctly, in time, and at the right location. Whether done in-house or through a third-party, expediters work with all vendors and tradespeople to supervise progress on manufacturing quality, manage payments for services rendered, and minimize costs by managing deadlines and deliveries.

This indicates where a designer pays shipping from. For example, if an item is made in London but is indicated as FOB New York, that means that the designer only has to pay for shipping from New York to the Ship To address.

A cohesive grouping of artwork, photographs, or décor pieces on a wall.

Image Source: Gallery wall of mirrors design by Studio Designer client Corey Damen Jenkins.

Mirror staircase

The general ledger is an important record-keeping method in accounting that offers the total record of every financial transaction for the entire life of the business. Transactions are organized by different account types including assets, liabilities, owners’ equity, revenue, and expenses. Journal entries record the transactions which are later entered into the ledger.

Financial statements, balance sheets, and other vital reports are generated from the general ledger. It is the basis of a double-entry accounting system to ensure your accounts are balanced.

Also known as “granny-chic” Grandmillennial is a term coined by House Beautiful magazine that has become one of the most popular styles amongst millenials. This industry defines this style by having mixed patterns, florals, chintz, pops of color, skirted and pleated furniture, fringes, ruffles, and more. The overall vintage feel can bring generations together by reimagining classic trends with touches of modernity.

Image Source: Design by Studio Designer client Lilse McKenna.


Pronounced “hoo-gah”, this term refers to a popular Danish decoration style that is all about creating a cozy, natural, and calming environment. Elements of Hygge include soft textiles, neutral color palettes, gentle and charming lighting fixtures, and a space to read and relax.

A record of a financial transaction that details a debit and credit (in a double-accounting system) before it is officially added to a business’s general ledger. It is usually recorded on a daily basis and four common journal entry types of the Sales Journal for credit sales, the Purchase Journal for credit purchases, the Cash Receipts Journal, and Cash Payments Journal.

An open work decoration of crisscrossed materials (usually wood) in a diagonal or square pattern

Image Source: Room design by Studio Designer client Paloma Contreras.


A common term used to describe how designers layer design elements in a given space to create a cohesive and dynamic room design. Layers are the levels of the design including the floor, window treatments, lighting, accessories, and furniture. Layers add depth, beauty, and visual interest to a room.

One of the most popular and prevailing style trends of the past century, mid-century modern describes a design style that emerged in the 1940s and endures today. The mid-century aesthetic is modern, streamlined, and minimal with such qualities as open-plan interiors, full-height windows, skylights, patios, and sculptural furniture pieces. Notable designers include Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles and Ray Eames, and Isamu Noguchi, and the overall look is seen in the television show Mad Men.

Image Source: Biscuit Loft in Los Angeles decorated with pieces by Eames and Noguchi.

Mid-century modern

The most time-consuming and crucial stage of an interior design project when the designs and items are approved and now designers and their team must take action to obtain them in a timely manner. Designers use their specification lists to ensure that the items they want for a project are produced and delivered correctly and expediting also happens during this phase.

An understanding of how the size of one object in a space relates to the size of the other objects in the space.

This indicates the preferred shipping method for an item.

A way for a designer to indicate that the shipping method will be determined later or signals to the vendor to suggest a shipping method/price.

For interior designers, this is an important tracking label that you can apply to orders and items made to vendors. Generally, sidemarks have four parts: Your company name / client / room / item. When you are expediting an order or item, sidemarks help you coordinate with the vendor to get accurate information.

This is an important listing of all the fittings, fixtures, furniture, and furnishings of an interior design project. The list should be as detailed as possible about each item including dimensions, cost, retailer, etc. Specification lists should also include instructions on how items should be installed, affixed, or arranged in the project depending on the material. These lists are reviewed with the clients and often revised as they provide the core road map towards the final installation.

Samples of material, wood, on concrete table

A one-page documentation of a given item that provides the precise details of a given item including images, materials, fabrics, finishes, measurements, cost, and other important information. Used in specification and for designers and clients to review potential items for a project.

This is used service industries—especially interior design—as professionals must be able to keep accurate track of the time spent working to calculate how much to charge their clients for billable hours. Time Billing keeps track of how much time and for what activity is spent on which client and are accordingly detailed in time billing invoices.

Thin sheets of wood that are applied to a furniture surface to create decorative inlay patterns of wood grain.

A grouping of interior design items in a given small space or table arranged by a designer to provide a smaller vision of the overall room or house design. Vignettes can be arranged in most rooms and are often photographed for promotion and social media.

Image Source: Vignette by Studio Designer client Suzanne Kasler.


Any item that is at least 40 years old and up to 99 years old. Often confused with antique items that are over 100 years old.

Image Source: A design by Studio Designer client Nate Berkus featuring vintage bar stools.

Vintage bar stools

Decorative paneling for the bottom half of a room interior, often used in bathrooms but also popular in other rooms. Styles include “Board & Batten” and “Beadboard.”

Image Source: Studio Designer client Thad Hayes of Ries Hayes designed this room with double-height wainscoting with a chair rail.


Also known as piping, this is a cord wrapped in fabric used to trim and finish the edge of upholstery especially where fabric touches exposed wood. Welts can be a self-welt, double-welt, or contrast welt.

Image Source: Wilmington Lounge Chair by Hickory Chair.

Wilmington Lounge Chair

Window coverings are used for aesthetic design purposes as well as to provide privacy and insulation.

Image Source: Window treatment design by Studio Designer client Nicole Fuller.

Window treatment