Interior Design Terms Glossary

Accent Lighting: Controlled and specifically focused lighting for accenting interior decor elements or architectural details.

Art Deco: A streamlined, geometric style of home furnishings and architecture popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Characteristics include rounded fronts, wood furniture with chrome hardware and, or, glass tops. Art Deco influence can be seen in all sorts of modern design, from structural architecture to household appliance design.

Atrium: An internal courtyard rising vertically through a building with a glass or open roof. An atrium provides natural light and ventilation while creating the visual impact of indoor-outdoor living. It’s also an effective way to save energy by utilizing daylight.

Barrel Vault Ceiling: An architecturally sound continuous arch, often used in cellars and long hallways. Using stone, brick or wood construction, the rise of the barrel can be a soft arch, a half-round or elliptical.

Backsplash: The material used to cover the area of wall between a kitchen counter top and the upper cabinets. Backsplashes are generally found in kitchens and bathrooms, directly behind sinks and usually stretching the entire length of the counter. They help to protect the wall behind the sink against water damage from inadvertent splashing.

Banquette: A long upholstered seat, settee or bench, that’s usually built-in. The term also refers to the ledge at the back of a buffet.

Bauhaus: A style of design that takes its name from an influential German art school that operated from 1919 to 1933. Bauhaus is defined by simplistic modernism and the concept of “form following function.” This minimalist style has had a great effect on contemporary architecture and furniture design and is considered to be the starting point of the modern movement.

Breakfront: This is a large cabinet that is like a buffet or china cabinet. The center section protrudes, making both sides appear to be recessed. The protrusion can vary from only a few inches to being very pronounced.

Faux-Finish: A decorative technique in which paint or stain is applied to a surface to simulate another material such as wood, marble or granite.

Focal Point: The visual center of interest or point of emphasis in a room. 

Integrated Kitchen: The term “integrated” means that many individual parts combine in a way that makes a unified whole. The goal of an integrated kitchen is that the appliances are invisible elements; they are either made to appear to be cabinetry or made to be flush with the cabinets, with the visible controls removed.

Mantel: The shelf above a fireplace. The term is also commonly used to refer to the decorative trim around a fireplace opening.

Mid-century Modern: A modern style of architectural design that emerged in the aftermath of World War II, defined by open floor plans, clean lines, large windows and the use of modern materials such as plastic and aluminum. It typically maintains a sleek minimal profile.

Molding: Ornamental shaped strips that are applied to and project from a surface.

Sconce: A light fixture affixed to a wall. Commonly, sconces are tall and narrow and are often made to hold a candle.

Shaker: A simplistic furniture design including features such as straight, tapered legs, and woven-strap chair seats. This style originated in the mid- 1770’s from an American religious sect (Shakers). The Shaker style is renowned for exceptional design and craftsmanship combined with functionality and beauty.

Sideboard: A serving piece with drawers and, or, open shelves for displaying plates, crystal, silver, etc.

Task Lighting: A lighting source directed to a specific purpose within a room. Reading lights in a living room or under-counter lighting in a kitchen are examples of task lighting.

Vanity: The countertop and cabinet used to support a sink in a bathroom. 

Veneer: A thin layer of wood created by peeling the trunk of a tree on a roller to produce long sheets with a consistent grain pattern. This layer is then applied to a solid or fiberboard backing to create a more uniform appearance.

Wainscoting: Paneling on the lower half of a wall that differs from the upper half. A chair rail usually separates it.

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