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The Property Brothers Glossary of Design Terms

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Looking to expand your knowledge of design terms? Here’s a helpful list of our commonly uttered words and phrases, from abstract to zigzag.


abstract: a design style that uses general forms rather than detailed realistic representations

accent colors: contrasting colors, often used to enhance a room’s size, shape, or color scheme

accessories: small decorative objects such as books, plants, vases, and lamps

ambient lighting: lighting that provides overall, even illumination for a room or space

Americana: objects and decor items that are characteristic of American history or culture

apron sink: a large sink with with an exposed front-facing side, originally designed to hold a lot of water; also called a farmhouse sink

Art Deco: a streamlined, geometric style of home furnishings and architecture popular in the 1920s and 1930s; characteristics include rounded fronts, wood furniture with chrome hardware, and glass tops. It’s also inspired one of our favorite fabric collections!

artisan: a style characterized by fine, but not overly ornate, workmanship that celebrates the makers community identity or ethnicity

asbestos: an insulating material used in many homes built before 1980 that is now considered dangerous to the lungs


backsplash: a panel behind behind a sink or stove designed to protect the wall from splashes or spills  

balance: the design principle of arranging objects in a way that evokes a pleasant, welcoming feel 

banquette: a long upholstered seat, settee, or bench that’s usually built-in; this term also refers to the ledge at the back of a buffet

baroque: a highly ornate decorative style that originated in Italy in the 1600s and is characterized by irregular curves, twisted columns, elaborate scrolls, and oversize moldings

beveled edge: a slanted and polished edge finishing detail used on wood, marble, glass, etc.

bungalow: a small, low house or cottage that usually consists of a single story


calico: cotton or cotton-blend fabric printed with small, colorful patterns 

chic: haute design elements that are in style and on trend

cane chair: chairs that were first made in England and very popular since they were cheap, light, and durable; they were first used in America in the late 1600s

canopy bed: a bed supported by four tall posts with a cross members joining the posts that may be used for a supporting a fabric canopy cover, swags, curtains, etc.

canted: sloping at an angle, such as a sofa or chair back

casting: the method of forming metal objects by pouring molten metal into a mold and allowing it to harden

centerpiece: an ornament used to occupy the center of a dining table

channeling: a grooved or creased effect in wood

chevron: a V-shaped pattern often found in tile and flooring; also called zigzag

Chippendale: a design style that includes cabriole legs, ball and claw feet, and highboys with broken pediment tops

cladding: the covering or coating of a structure with another material—we often use it to make a wall or structural beam more aesthetically pleasing 

country: a design casual style that gained popularity in the 1980s and remains popular today; often features nature and nostalgic motifs as well as handcrafting and distressing

Craftsman home: an architectural style of home that typically has a covered front porch, tapered columns that support an overhanging roof, and pillars lining the entry

curb appeal: the attractiveness of the exterior of a property 


dinette: a small dining set, often used in the kitchen

distressed (or distressing): a furniture trait where pieces are purposely dented or otherwise marked to render an antique, rustic, or country-style appearance

drop seat: a concave seat where the middle and front are lower than the side

drywall: a low-cost construction material used to create walls and ceilings; also known as gypsum board

Dutch dresser: a cabinet with open shelves on the upper portion and drawers or a cupboard below


Eames chair: a classic chair style designed as modern take on the nineteenth-century club chair

eat-in kitchen: a kitchen designed to allow for both food prep and eating

eclectic: a marriage of various design aesthetics

Edison bulb: any carbon- or early tungsten-filament lamps (or modern bulb reproducing their appearance); also called an antique filament bulb

elevated: something that’s kicked up a notch or taken to another level in style or design

eggshell: an oil-based paint that has a low-sheen satin finish; works well in high-traffic areas

embossing: a technique to impress or stamp a design onto a piece of furniture; mostly used on wood pieces to resemble carving

emulsion: a water-based paint that’s mainly applied to walls and ceilings

ergonomic: relating to furniture design and function for the human form; commonly found in home office furnishings, such as chairs

étagère: a freestanding set of open shelves commonly used for displaying accessories; also, a small work table consisting usually of shelves or tray sets one above the other


fanlight: a window, usually semi-circular, with radiating glass sections that make it look like an open fan, commonly found above doors

faux: a simulation of something else, like faux marble as a marble-like surface painted onto walls or other surfaces

feng shui: the concept of crafting a welcoming, functional space with good energy; it is the mindfulness of place, noticing all the details in your environment with gratitude and care

finish: the surface coating of an item, which can include paints, stains, varnishes, and fabric treatments; wood, metal, fabric, stone, and many other materials require a finish for reasons such as coloring, texture, and protection from moisture

Finnish style: Finnish furniture designers used bent and laminated (layers of solid wood) woods to create organic, humanistic forms and lightweight open shapes

firmness: a sought-after quality by many in upholstered furniture and mattresses, which is usually interpreted to mean support

floor plan: a diagram, usually to scale, showing a view from above of the relationships between rooms, spaces, and other physical features at one level of a structure; they often include details of fixtures like sinks, water heaters, and furnaces

focal point: an area to which the eye is drawn; this could be a part of a room, a view, landscaping, etc.

French doors: a set of doors of light construction with glass panes extending for most of their length

functionalism: a form of design based on use rather than on ornamentation


garland: an architectural ornamentation representing foliage, flowers, or fruits plaited and tied together with ribbons 

gilding: a coating with a thin layer of gold or gold-like substance

glaze: a coloring technique used in the finishing process of furniture to highlight the grain characteristics of wood or to give a high sheen to leather

Gothic: pieces from this period (late 1100s to early 1500s) were large with straight lines and very heavy in weight and scale

grout: a thin mortar used for filling spaces such as between tile and bricks


halogen: a light that emits true color characteristics; unlike fluorescent and other lighting that tend to give a room a yellowish cast, halogen’s light remains neutral

hardwood: wood derived from trees such as oak, beech, maple, mahogany, and walnut

headboard: an upright structure rising above the mattress at the head of the bed

hearth: the floor or area in front of a fireplace

herringbone: a distinctive V-shaped weaving pattern commonly used in flooring and tiling

highlighting: a color-removal technique in the finishing process, which is used to highlight natural grain characteristics

hood: a shaped top on cabinet work that usually overhangs the vertical lines

hue: a color tone such as red, green, yellow, or blue

hutch: an enclosed cupboard with shelves resting on a solid base such as buffet or desk

hygge: a Danish-inspired design trend focusing on coziness, warmth, relaxation, and homey-ness


inlay: decorative patterns created with pieces of different woods or other materials, which have been set into the surface of wood furniture

inset tile: tile with a different design than the surrounding body of tiles

inspired: the idea of harmony in a design scheme; the inspired home works cohesively as a whole rather than through a piecemeal approach

inverted living: a design trend in which a home’s bedrooms are downstairs and the kitchen and living room are on the first or second floor 


jewelry armoire: a small and narrow upright chest for the storage of jewelry and fashion accessories


kick pleat: an inverted pleat that’s usually found at the corner of a flat or box-pleated skirt on a piece of upholstered furniture

kiln-dried: wood that’s dried by a means of controlled heat and humidity in kilns or ovens to specific ranges of moisture content

kitchen work triangle: a concept used to determine the most efficient kitchen layout for a design, usually consisting of the cooktop, the sink, and the refrigerator

knit: a type of  upholstery fabric that is made from polyester or nylon; it is knitted as opposed to woven and is softer and stretchier than other fabrics

knot: the area where a branch or the limb of a tree appears on the face or edge of a piece, such as knots commonly found in knotty pine furniture


ladder-back: a country style of chair with a back that resembles a ladder 

laminate: any thin material such as wood or plastic that’s glued to the exterior of a cabinet or other surface

lattice: an openwork decoration of crisscrossed wood, iron plate bars, etc. in a diagonal or square pattern

Lawson: an overstuffed furniture style that has square seat cushions, short square or rectangular backrests, and high rolled or squared arms; variations are often referred to as transitional

layered: building interest through various levels of elements or a combination of many different textures and patterns together

lazy Susan: a revolving tray or stand, normally made of wood or metal

linoleum: an all-natural flooring material made of linseed oil, cork dust, wood flour, tree resin, ground limestone, and pigments

live edge: a furniture trend in which the natural edge of the wood under the bark is incorporated into the design of the piece

living wall: a vertical, eco-friendly design installation comprising different types of plants or other greenery


mantel: the shelf above a fireplace; the term is also commonly used to refer to the decorative trim around a fireplace opening

marbleizing (or marbling): decorative painting or finishing of a surface that is marble-like in appearance

matte finish: a finish that’s more flat than shiny

millwork: construction materials that are produced at a woodmill

modern (or moderne or modernist): a clean, streamlined furniture style of 20th Century with roots in the German Bauhaus School of design and Scandinavian design; sometimes referred to as “international style”

modular: furniture units that can be rearranged or stacked in different configurations

molding: ornamental shaped strips that are applied to and project from a surface

monochrome: a single hue

mosaic: colorful natural stone tiles, usually sold in squares

motif: a decorative theme, component, or element


natural finish: a transparent finish that doesn’t seriously alter the original grain or color of the natural wood; they’re usually applied with oils, varnishes, and/or similar materials

Neo-Classic: a design style that’s elegant and simple, with motifs borrowed from ancient Rome and Greece

nesting tables: tables of varying sizes stored one under the other, normally consisting of a set of three

neutral color: colors such as white, black, gray, and tan that easily blend with other colors

niche: a recess in a wall for displaying a sculpture or other accessory


onlay: an ornament applied to the surface of wood or other materials

opaque: any material that does not allow light to pass through (i.e., non-transparent)

open concept: an interior design style that eliminates most walls to combine common areas like the kitchen, living room, and dining room into a single great room

ottoman: a low, often upholstered footstool or seat without arms or a back


parquet: wood flooring that’s usually laid in blocks with boards at angles to each other to form decorative patterns

pastel: a light, soft color

pencil pleat: a tightly gathered drapery heading

plush: fabric in a velvet weave with a long pile

plywood: a trusty construction material consisting of sheets of wood glued or cemented together

pop: a design style developed in the 1950s and 1960s that draws inspiration from commercial art such as product packaging and comic strips

Post-Modernism: a reaction against Modernism that began during the 1950s and promoted the reintroduction of bright colors and decorative components to furniture- and decor-related designs

primary colors: the three colors that cannot be produced from any other color: red, yellow and blue


quirk: a narrow groove that separates a bead or molding from the others


rake: the angle or slant of a chair back or non-vertical furniture leg 

rattan: a type of climbing palm with very long and tough stems that are often used in wickerwork

rayon: a synthetic fiber that’s derived from the cell wall of plants and noted for its rich luster, pilling resistance, and absorption of dye colorings 

ready-made: standard-sized draperies that are factory-made

receding colors: colors that appear more distant, such as blue, gray, or bluish-greens

reproduction: new furniture that’s a copy of an antique style or period

retro: a style featuring contemporary reinterpretation of some of the best-loved furniture looks from the 1930s to 1980s; the vibe of these pieces is often playful and/or ironic

revival: a reproduction of classic American furniture styles from the 1700s (although not always accurate in detail); these pieces were popular from the late 1800s through the early 1900s

Roman shade: a tailored fabric window shade that folds sideways 

ruching: a narrow gathered or pleated strip of decorative fabric


saddle seat: a wooden chair seat which has been hollowed to the sides and back to resemble the pommel of a saddle

sateen: a cotton fabric that’s made to mimic satin with a smooth silky finish on one side

sauvage: a two-toned or contrasting color effect applied to leather furniture

scale: the size of an object, or comparisons between a drawing size and the actual size of a piece

scallop: a curved case piece ornamentation, commonly in the shape of a scallop shell

Scandinavian: a simple, clean, and lightweight design style with a focus on function

sconce: a light fixture that attaches to a wall and is commonly tall and narrow 

sectional: a type of sofa that is divided in several parts, which provides ample seating and ease of rearranging 

shiplap: a style of wooden wall siding characterized by long planks that are mounted horizontally with a slight gap between them

shutter: a louvered or flush wood or vinyl frame in the shape of a door placed at each side of a window

soft close: a type of self-close drawers or cabinets that have a gentle closing effect due to special slides

spindle: a slender turned and shaped column, often arranged in rows and used in a staircase or chair back 

squab cushion: a loose, flat cushion on the seat of a chair

striated: the long, thin lines or streaks running through design materials like marble or flooring

suite: a complete matched set of furniture, such as a bedroom suite

symmetrical: a formal, mirror-image balance in design or decorating


tailored upholstery: a furniture frame that has fabric fitted and permanently attached

tallboy: a tall chest with a larger chest of drawers that supports a slightly smaller chest

tapered leg: a leg that becomes incrementally smaller towards the bottom

tapestry: traditionally a heavy woven fabric featuring decorative designs or pictures to be hung on a wall; today, the term commonly refers to highly decorative fabrics with a woven design

task lighting: lighting targeted to a particular area of a room for a specific function

thread count: the number of horizontal and vertical threads per square inch in a bedsheet; the higher the number, the softer the sheet

throw pillow: a small, decorative pillow usually placed on a bed, couch, or armchair

traditional: a style of design that is traditional and comfortable

transitional: a style of design that blends influences from various style categories

trim: decorative elements such as fringe on an accent pillow or moldings on a bookcase

trundle bed: a low bed that can be rolled under another bed for storage when not in use


under-drapery: a lightweight, usually a sheer drapery that hangs behind the heavier over-drapery

upholstery: Furniture such as sofas and chairs covered in fabric, vinyl, leather, or other materials


valance: a horizontal feature used as a header for draperies, which can be made of fabric, wood, metal, or other materials

vanity: the countertop and cabinet used to support a sink in a bathroom

velvet: a luxurious fabric that is soft in texture and features a short, thick pile

veneer: thin sheets of wood applied to a furniture surface to create decorative inlay patterns of wood grain

venetian blind: a window treatment consisting of a series of horizontal slats that can be turned or raised to control light or privacy 

Victorian: a furniture style named after England’s Queen Victoria that was very popular through the latter half of the 1800s; it was usually constructed of mahogany, walnut, and rosewood in dark finishes, which were often highlighted with elaborate carved floral designs


wainscoting: an application of wood molding up to the middle or lower half of a wall

wicker: made from woven materials such as willow, reed, or rattan

writing desk: a small desk or table commonly used for personal use such as writing letters or paying bills


zigzag: a molding or stitching with a series of frequent sharp turns from side to side

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