How to Decipher Interior Design Lingo

10 Terms to Know

Photo: Michaela Satterfield

Photo: Michaela Satterfield

Businessmen have their due diligence and soldiers have their 15 minutes prior to 15 minutes prior.

Like most fields, interior designers have their own jargon — terms that may not be commonly known. Knowing these phrases can make the difference between an expert and an amateur.

When communicating with designers, it can be helpful to know what those terms are. This saves valuable time in the design process and aids designers in bringing your ideas to life.

Interior design jargon to keep you in the know:

Universal design

Design that caters to every individual, regardless of age or ability.


The companies that supply the furniture and other items available for purchase.


An annual or semiannual event that hosts various vendors. Some are open to the public, but many are only open “to the trade”, meaning only licensed interior designers can attend them. At markets, designers purchase furniture for their showrooms and clients.


Customer’s own material. A piece of furniture can essentially be ordered from a vendor in any fabric, even if the vendor does not carry it. When a customer supplies the fabric, it is referred to as COM.

Case goods

Non-upholstered furniture that can typically store items, like bookcases or desks. It can also refer to tables and chairs.


A light fixture. In the design world, lamp is a technical term for light bulb. What is commonly referred to as a lamp is referred to as a luminaire by interior designers.


What may be commonly referred to as a couch is always referred to as a sofa in the interior design world.


Also called accents. This includes sculptures, plants, throw blankets and other extra décor used to tie things together.

Commercial design

Design of businesses, schools, offices and other commercial buildings.

Residential design

Design of residential houses.

Now that you know the lingo, communicating with your interior designer will be a breeze.

Michaela Satterfield

James Décor Writer