Redecorating? Here are 14 Must-Know Interior Design Terms

Redoing your home — or just looking to brush up on your interior design terminology? With these 14 interior design terms, you’ll be speaking interior design lingo like a pro in no time.  


1. Balance


Balance is an important interior design concept that refers to the arrangement of elements in a room. It can be achieved through the use of symmetry, asymmetry, or radial balance. For example, a room may feature two chairs of the same size, or one large and one small chair, or a room can be arranged around a circular table in the middle.


2. Proportion


Proportion is another important interior design concept that involves creating a balance between a room’s elements and its corresponding space. For example, a large sofa in a small room would take up too much space. A smaller space needs to be balanced with smaller pieces of furniture.


3. Color Theory


Color theory is an essential aspect of interior design. Color theory involves using colors and color combinations in order to achieve a certain mood or effect in a room. For example, the use of blues and greens may create a soothing environment, while the use of oranges and reds may create a more dynamic, energizing atmosphere.


4. Texture


Texture is important in interior design as it adds visual interest and dimension to a room. Texture refers to both how a surface or object looks — but can also refer to how it feels or the material it’s made of. You can incorporate texture with materials like wood, stone, fabrics, and various kinds of wallpapers.


5. Scale


Scale is a concept that relies on the size of the furniture and other objects in a room. A room should not be overcrowded with large pieces of furniture, but rather contain a variety of pieces that are in balance with the size of the room.


6. Functionality


Functionality is an important consideration in interior design — and an important interior design term to know!  Functionality describes how a room is used, and it’s important to ensure that your space is designed to suit your day-to-day life. For example, a living room should be designed to be comfortable and inviting, while a kitchen should be designed with plenty of counter space and storage to allow you to get cooking. 


7. Hue


Hue is another way to refer to color — but can be nondescript. Examples of hues include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, and brown. To better define the color you’re working with (or in search of!) you’ll also need to take into account brightness and saturation. 


8. Saturation


Saturation refers to the intensity of the color. A color is saturated when it is pure and has no shades of white, gray, or black. An example of saturation is a bright red versus a dull red, such as maroon.


9. Floating


Within interior design lingo, there are two definitions for floating, depending upon the context. 


In one instance, floating refers to making an object appear as if it is suspended or levitating. An example of floating would be if you suspended a light fixture or a piece of furniture from the ceiling or wall rather than the floor or a table.


In the second instance, floating refers to ensuring that each of your pieces has room to “breathe” by leaving space around the item. Designers will often talk about the importance of “floating furniture” — meaning that you don’t have it shoved up against the wall or another piece of furniture. Floating furniture in this way helps your room appear well-organized, less cluttered, and overall can make your space look bigger. 


10. Vignettes


A vignette in interior design is a decorative display or arranged group of objects, typically used to create a focal point or to add interest to a room. You can use furniture to create furniture vignettes, or decor and other items to create a vignette display. 


The goal of a vignette is to create a cohesive and attractive visual arrangement that enhances the overall look of a space. Because a vignette is typically a carefully curated statement, you’ll want to think about how each of your items is arranged and what purpose it serves— whether you’re creating a seating area or a bookshelf display. 


11. Finish


Finish refers to the surface of an object — typically a piece of furniture, or even paint.  Examples of finishes are glossy, matte, satin, or textured. You can play with finish to change up your look — and even make a space look larger or smaller. For example, a glossy finish reflects light, while a matte finish absorbs light. 


12. Visual Weight


Visual weight is the perception of how heavy or important an object appears. It is based on size, color, texture, and placement. Visual weight  can be used to create balance — or draw focus to a particular area — within your space. 


Objects with high visual weight (for example, a large colorful sofa) tend to draw the eye in and “take up space”,  while objects with low visual weight (like a minimalistic end table) tend to fade  into the background. Placement also impacts visual weight — an item that is centered (whether an area rug or a piece of wall art) will carry more visual weight and draw more focus due to its relative position to other objects in the room.


13. Focal Point


A focal point is the area of an image, design, or composition that attracts the most attention — and carries visual weight. Focal points typically are large, or include a bright element, an interesting texture, pattern, or bold color. However, sometimes a room may have a focal point already built in. Consider if your room has an existing focal point (a fireplace, bed, or TV). If not,  you can create a focal point with a gallery wall or statement furniture. 


14. Upholstery


Upholstery is the fabric which covers your furniture and cushions — adding comfort and style. Upholstery comes in a variety of textures, patterns, finishes, and more — each with their own merits and drawbacks. Examples include: leather, velvet, wool, linen, cotton, microsuede, and silk. 


Ready to Redecorate? Head to CORT Furniture Outlet 


Feeling inspired? Visit your local CORT Furniture Outlet or browse online now to find stylish, durable furniture and decor. Our pricing on new and gently used furniture is as low as 70% off original prices —  you’ll find that your dollar stretches a little bit further. Browse our ever-changing inventory now and take home your items the same day.

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