design lingo

As we navigate through our blogosphere, work directly with you as a client, or become an online resource & outlet for all things interior design, we'll be using some standard interior design terminology that for some may feel confusing without further explanation.  In today's post we're going to break down some of this design lingo, along with their application within interior design.  We hope this helps to make things clearer, fill in any gaps, or just becomes a new resource of useful knowledge!  So without further ado... 

Scale & Proportion
Scale refers to the size of one object in relation to another object, while proportion is the relation of a group of objects to one another.  Together these two principles lay the foundation of any well designed space.  Perhaps you've heard of the golden ratio or golden rectangle; a mathematical formula believed to create an end result that is visually & aesthetically pleasing.  This formula has been around for centuries, first appearing nature, but quickly finding its way into music, art, and architecture.  (For further details & examples of the golden ratio click here.)  As designers, we often rely on these guidelines to find the correct scale & proportion within our client's spaces.  In doing so we are able to design a room that address both their functional & aesthetic needs, while ensuring the pieces selected for the space are neither too large or too lacking.

Accent pieces are the smaller, yet important elements within any space; lighting, artwork, accessories (i.e: small trinkets, sculptures, and the like).  Interior Designers consider these items to be the finishing touches within a space that give it its personality, color, and movement.  Imagine you're in your favorite jeans & t-shirt.  Sure you look & feel great in this outfit, but you can also put the exact outfit on 1,000 different people.   Ladies, now accessorize this outfit with your favorite jewelry, shoes & purse - Men, do the same with your belt, shoes & watch.  Though accents are small in theory, without them your look can feel both incomplete and unrepresentative of your personality.

Finished or Completed
An Interior Designer considers a space finished or completed when the design has been fully implemented, and no additional pieces of furniture, lighting, soft goods, or accents need to be added.

By definition, dynamic means having or showing a lot of energy.  For Interior Designers its application within a space is created by 1) the use of properly mixed materials, patterns, & textures, and 2) playing with colors, shapes, & the scale of pieces within a space.  When these elements are combined, we can create a room that allows your eye to move through it both freely and excitedly.  The end result feels finished, well-balanced, and captures our client's aesthetic personality.

Soft Goods
Soft Goods consist of any decor items that are fabric-made; pillows, throws, rugs, window treatments, etc.  These pieces are crucial to a properly designed space for the reasons listed below:

  1. Depth: Fabrics and area rugs are a great way to bring depth to a space.  Layering patterns, colors, and textures can make any room feel dynamic.
  2. Grounding: Area rugs are a crucial element of design, no matter what type of room we're working in.  Placing furniture atop a correctly sized rug allows your eye to read the space as 'grounded', which means the furniture feels as though it's intended for that area, and won't 'float away'.
  3. Sound: Believe it or not, soft goods are a key way to absorb sound in a space.  Have you ever been in an empty room and heard your voice echo?  As sound carries, it gets bounced from one hard surface to another until it eventually disperses to a quiet.  The use of soft goods help to absorb that sound, and allow for a room filled with otherwise hard furniture to not echo.

Cool vs Warm Tones
Though our example below represents a neutral color pallet, every color has hues that are both warm & cool.  Working with an Interior Designer can help you figure out which pallet you lean more towards, and your designer will tailor your space as such.  Cool tones are often described as tranquil & relaxing, while warm tones feel inviting & exciting.  A great mixture of both can bring an eclectic mix that allows for pops of color in unexpected places.

Ready-Made | Semi-Custom | Fully Custom
Working with an Interior Designer opens up a world of new furniture and soft-good possibilities.  (Style Tip: Working on a budget doesn't mean you can't splurge on a great piece!  Finding a balance between ready-made, semi-custom, and fully-custom pieces will create a room tailored exactly to you.)

  1. Ready-made pieces are items that are purchased as is, and have no options for customization.
  2. Semi-custom pieces will have a pre-designed, existing frame, but will allow for you to choose a fabric, finish, or hardware selection out of a few pre-selected options.  (Depending on the store, the number of options can vary from a handful to a great many.)  Semi-custom pieces allow the item to feel tailored to you without breaking the bank, and are a great option for mid-priced design projects.
  3. Fully-custom pieces can be anything from soft-goods to furniture, art, and more.  Interior Designers have access to trade-only resources that open up a world of possibility to their clients for fabrics, woods, hardware, etc.  Designers also have custom workrooms to create these pieces, designed & tailored specifically for their client's space.  Though the price point will be higher, you are guaranteed to end up with a piece that's one-of-a-kind, and exactly what you wanted.  Fully-custom items are also a great option if your space requires a particular item not readily found in stores.

Visual Lightness vs Visual Heaviness
The way an item is read as its sitting upon the ground.  Contributing factors commonly are: the upholstery of an item being light & open vs overstuffed whether the item has visible legs vs sitting directly on the ground, and the material of an item's frame.

Feminine vs Masculine
The terms feminine and masculine do not dictate which gender owns a piece, but simply refers to certain aesthetic qualities color pallets & fabrics, furniture, and accents can possess.  (Style Tip: For a sample of rooms utilizing both Masculine & Feminine design elements, check out the Dynamic rooms above.)

Feminine furniture leans more toward a glamorous, vintage style with soft & shapely frames.  Fabrics tend to lean more toward the blush, teal, & cream pallets, often have floral or soft geometric patterning.  Feminine materials can include mirrored items, crystal or translucent acrylics, as well as tufted or plush upholstered pieces.

Masculine furniture tends to have clean lines, which keep it feeling industrial and simplified.  Fabrics tend to be more menswear-inspired, which include striping, plaids, and thicker weaves.  Masculine materials can include wood, metals, and leathers.

Negative Space
Negative space is the untouched or unfurnished areas within a room.  As you decorate your space, you want to create an environment through the use of object placement, like-colors, and height variations that move your eye organically from one end of the room to the other.  One of the key parts in doing this successfully, is learning where not to put anything, creating a negative space that allows for your eyes to rest before continuing onto the next 'designed' part of your room.  (Style Tip: Create a negative space that's large enough so the room doesn't feel overwhelming, but small enough that your room doesn't feel under-designed or underutilized.)

Working with an Interior Designer will always be the best way to ensure you end up with the space you've always envisioned, but it's our hope that these design lingo definitions will give you the confidence to go out and begin tackling this design journey on your own!


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