Common Interior Design Terms [& What They Mean]

When I was just getting started as a New York City interior designer, I was horrified to see the blank stares on the faces of my clients while I was waxing poetically about the perfect Schluter or the ideal flitch. It didn’t take me long to realize that if I wanted projects to run smoothly, my clients and I had to be on the same page right from the start.

So I began, right at the beginning of a project, to provide a glossary of the common interior design words and terms I’d be using during our conversations. This practice has proven to be a lifesaver.

So, if you’re working with (or plant to work with) an interior designer anytime soon, I recommend that you bookmark this page so you can refer back to it during your project. It’s not only very handy; it will also make you look very well versed in interior design!

Common Interior Design Terms [& What They Mean]


A Schluter strip creates a transition between a tiled floor and the wall. It serves to protect the edge of tiles from being chipped or cracked. The most well-known company that produces Sschluters is, not surprisingly, Schluter Systems. Although many manufacturers make this product, interior designers call them all Schluters (similar to when someone asks for a Kleenex what she really wants is just a tissue.

Example of a Schluter strip

Lead Time

Lead times are a measure of the amount of time that elapses between initiating a process and completing that process. Examples include the time it takes to fabricate cabinetry, build/upholstery and ship furniture, and the manufacturing time to make custom carpet and area rugs. We always identify long lead-time items early on because they can affect the critical path of a project.

Com And Col

The acronym COM stands for Customer’s Own Material. COL stands for Customer’s Own Leather. Furniture manufacturers use these terms to let interior designers know that they will accept nearly any fabric and apply it to any of their pieces.


The term mitered describes the process of joining together two pieces of material, such as wood or glass, that have been cut at angles to form mitered corners. Material that is cut this way, at a 45-degree angle, form beautiful, elegant (and snug) 90-degree corners.

Example of a mitered corner (courtesy of J Pocker)


Despite being one of the most frequently used terms in interior design and architecture, the word elevation is often misunderstood. An elevation is a simply a drawing that illustrates the front or side of a room or building. Often confused with a floor plan, which shows a space from above (as if you are looking down on the room from the ceiling) an elevation gives you the opportunity to see everything from many different viewpoints.

Example of an elevation

RCP – Reflected Ceiling Plan

An RCP is a drawing that shows items located on the ceiling of a room or space. Drawn to display a view of the ceiling as if it was reflected onto a mirror, a reflected ceiling plan is a very handy tool to show clients what their finished ceiling will look like.

Example of an RCP

CFA – Cutting For Approval

A CFA is a small snippet of fabric from a bolt that has been reserved for a project. It serves as the confirmation of that the fabric pattern and color is consistent. When matching colors for a client we must often purchase fabric from different bolts, especially when we are re-ordering material. We’ll ask for a cutting from the bolt before the fabric is shipped. A CFA ensures consistency particularly when the design requires a large quantity of material.

Ogee Edge

Although ogee may sound like a surfing maneuver, it’s a very common interior design term having to do with countertops. Ogee edge refers to a concave arc that flows into a convex arch. Ogee edges, not to be confused with bullnose edges, are frequently used in traditional kitchen designs.

Example of an ogee edge

Punch List

A punch list is a document that contains all the tasks that must be addressed before the project is deemed complete and our clients can move in. Commonly the punch list will include things like minor repairs to finishes, cleanup, and outstanding minor installations that are not part of the construction scope.

Trompe L’Oeil

Trompe L’Oeil is a French term that means “deceive the eye”. It is an art technique that’s meant to create an optical illusion. Objects depicted in trompe l’oeil appear three-dimensional when in reality they are rendered on a flat surface, such as a wall.

Example of trompe l’oeil


Bullion is decorative fringe comprised of twisted fibers that are generally in longer in length than average fringe – sometimes as long as 12”. Bullion adds drama to furniture and is often affixed to the bottom apron of sofas and chairs. You’ve likely noticed bullion on the bottom edge of theatrical curtains, too.

Example of a chair will bullion fringe (to find out more about this chair, visit

Rendering & Sketches

A rendering is a highly detailed, three-dimensional view of a room, an interior, or a façade. People often confuse renderings and sketches. But a sketch is quite different. It’s usually rough and hand-drawn, with a minimal amount of detail.

Example of a rendering
Example of a sketch


A section is a drawing that symbolizes a “cut through” image of what has been designed. It reveals the construction methods and material types used in the design.

Example of a section


A flitch is a very thin piece of wood veneer sliced from the trunk of a tree. It is often used to finish exposed sides of cabinetry and millwork.

Example of a flitch

I hope this glossary of common interior design terms is helpful. It’s my pleasure to share it. If you have questions about interior design, please post them in the comments.

– Marilyn

Sygrove Interior Design Services

Sygrove Associates Design Group is an NYC interior design company. Our company’s founder Marilyn Sygrove is the lead interior designer on all projects. And she’s as tough as you are when it comes to quality, aesthetics, and coming in on time and on budget.

It all starts with a design consultation with Marilyn. She takes the time to thoroughly understand your design needs then personally directs all interior design, planning, and installation activities. Her work has been delighting clients, co-op and condo boards, and homeowners for over 30 years.

You can reach Marilyn by email at or call her directly at 212.757.0631.

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How to Pick Art for a Room That Complements Your Interior Design

How do we choose the perfect art pieces for the design of this space?

I get this question a lot. With my residential clients choosing art is a piece of cake because most of them already own art they love. When more is needed I help them find pieces that fit perfectly into the spaces I’m creating for them.

But with my other clients, coop and condo residents making decisions about lobby and hallway re-dos, the process is a bit trickier. Can you imagine trying to achieve consensus on something as personal as art with a group of people who have differing tastes – and very strong opinions?

(You can view some of our recent projects and the art we chose at the end of this blog post.)

Through trial and error I have created a process that makes picking art to complement the interior design of public spaces such as lobbies and hallways, that results in gorgeous, functional rooms – and very happy residents.

Tips on How to Choose the Perfect Art Piece for Your Interior Design

Decorate around art.

Knowing how to decorate around art is an important skill to develop. For example, a wonderful painting can be the focal point around which your furniture is placed, instead of the other way around, and will help guide you in your choices of paint and accessories. Using art this way adds texture, interest, and will give your rooms a finished look.

But how to choose?

Art is everywhere and ideas are, too. Before you purchase anything, I recommend you get out there and really look at art. You might think the best place to get ideas are museums, and in New York City where I live, there’s a plethora to choose from. But museums are filled with art and nothing but art. You need to look at art where there are furniture and accessories, too.

How to decorate with art: Look for inspiration in unexpected places.

To get inspiration on art for your interior design visit places where you wouldn’t normally go specifically to look at art. For example, your favorite fine restaurant. It’s entirely possible you’ve eaten dinner fifty times at the same establishment, but never really looked at the artwork in the room.

So, make a reservation, sit down, order a glass of wine, and take a look around the room with fresh eyes. See if you can answer these questions: Why did the restaurant designer choose each particular piece? Why is it placed in that particular spot? What kind of emotion does it evoke? How does the artwork impact the room? Does it set the tone for the vibe of the restaurant? Is it disruptive – or does it harmonize with the décor?

A hotel lobby is another great place to find inspiration on decorating with art. Hotel designers invest a lot of time to select the perfect paintings, photography and sculpture. Most hotels have no problem if you want to hang out in the lobby, too.

Of course, one of the best ways to get inspiration on how to pick art for your rooms is your computer. The internet is bursting with ideas on how to choose art to enhance the décor of a room.

There are thousands of boards on Pinterest containing every type of interior design idea. In fact, my residential clients use it all the time to visualize their rooms. Some even create their own boards and share them with me. On Pinterest you’ll find images with art pieces used in every way possible – as focal points, to set the tone, to influence the arrangement of furniture, and to enhance the interior architecture.

(Another great online resource for design and art ideas is Houzz.)

It’s One of Our Most Important Skills – the Know-How to Decorate with Art

My office receives a lot of work as a New York City apartment building lobby and hallway design firm. Picking the right art is one of the most important discussions we have with our clients. We have many important decisions to make, from floor materials, to furniture, to signage – but the perfect artwork is what ties the whole design together. It’s like the bow on a gift box.

For public spaces such as the lobbies and hallways we design, there are some rules we must follow: Artwork cannot contain faces or figures. It can’t be religious or political. We stay away from edgy and extremely contemporary art. (We never want to hear “Why, I could have painted that myself!”).

We look for art that is as uncontroversial as possible. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring!

Here’s what our process of picking art looks like:

During initial meetings with our clients, we present pictures of the style of art we want to recommend. We source the web, pull tear sheets from magazines, and compile photos of some previous projects. We feel it’s very important that our clients – the people who’ll be walking through the lobby every single day, to understand our choices and appreciate the feeling we want to achieve.

Sometimes we’ll recommend art to be a focal point and use the furniture as accessories. Sometimes it’s the other way around. No two buildings are alike and no two coop/condo boards are alike, therefore, no two projects are alike.

We’ve become so good at this process that we usually get consensus pretty quickly. That’s the result of having designed hundreds of New York City lobbies!

Something that really sets us apart is the fact that we have incredible resources to work with. We have a wonderful relationship with an amazing art consultant named Marlaina Deppe of Novo Arts. Marlaina has a crew of full-time artists who can work in any style and in any medium. Whatever idea I bring to her, she can supply me with a wide selection of samples to show my clients. Over the years Marlaina’s crew has created photographs, graphics, wall sculptures, mosaics, collages, and even wood cutouts for my clients. (

One of my other go-to resources is a super-talented New York photographer named Alyssa Peek. Alyssa’s unique work blurs the line between art and photography. I often choose her photographs to elicit emotions such as serenity, peace, excitement, or surprise – without being overt. (

Another resource we are lucky to have, especially for pre-war buildings and high end residential projects, is our favorite framer – J. Pocker Custom Frames & Prints. J. Pocker’s distinctive frames are works of art themselves and their craftsmanship is incomparable. They also carry a vast selection of prints in subject matter that speaks to the more traditional of our clients (see the classical landscape plans below). J. Pocker has been in business in New York City since 1926 – it’s an experience just to visit their showroom! (

Helping my clients choose the perfect art piece is truly one of the joys of being an interior designer. Art is an integral part of our designs and I’m happy to say we’ve never been called back to a building to replace the art.

I guess we’re doing something right!

Thanks for slogging through my explanation! Now enjoy some examples of how we use art in interior design projects.

Thank you for reading!

– Marilyn

Sygrove Interior Design Services

Sygrove Associates Design Group is an NYC interior design company. Our company’s founder Marilyn Sygrove is the lead interior designer on all projects. And she’s as tough as you are when it comes to quality, aesthetics, and coming in on time and on budget.

It all starts with a design consultation with Marilyn. She takes the time to thoroughly understand your design needs then personally directs all interior design, planning, and installation activities. Her work has been delighting clients, co-op and condo boards, and homeowners for over 30 years.

You can reach Marilyn by email at or call her directly at 212.757.0631.

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