10 Interior Design Words You Should Know

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In the world of interior design, there are a plethora of words and terms that can sometimes be tricky to pronounce with really specific definitions. These ten words are just a few of our picks that you must know if you’re going to demonstrate your design expertise to clients and (let’s be honest) other designers. Study up!

Photo from Kathy Kuo Home

1. Pied-à-Terre: It’s French for “apartment,” so it’s typically used when describing a small apartment space with a French design style that is located in a big city away from the individual’s primary residence. Check out the look with our Apartment in Paris lookbook.

How to pronounce it: Pea-YED-ah-tear.

Photo from Kathy Kuo Home

2. Étagère: An étagère is a French set of hanging or standing open shelves for the display of objects or ornaments. It was very popular in the nineteenth century, and it continues to look stately from French to traditional to regency looks. Our Worthington and Chamberlain are some of our favorite examples.

How to pronounce it: Ay-tah-jair

Photo from Kathy Kuo Home

3. Armoire: An armoire is a large moveable cabinet or wardrobe with doors (it’s the moveable qualifier that defines it). It is most often used to store clothing, linens, or entertainment equipment. Our Oriana armoire is perfect for the bedroom, or check out our Dorie armoire for a more masculine look.

How to pronounce it: Arm-WAAR


Photo from Kathy Kuo Home

4. Chaise Longue: In French, it literally translates to “long chair.” Typically, a chaise is a reclining chair with a lengthened seat that forms a leg rest. We’re obsessed with the silhouette and color of our Nia chaise above. It’s also very frequently misspelled and mispronounced.

How to pronounce it: Shez Long

NOT: Chayze Lounge

Note: The common American spelling and pronunciation is “lounge.”

Photo from Kathy Kuo Home

5. Kilim: a flat-woven fabric made in Turkey, Kurdistan, and neighboring areas, typically made with bold colors and patterns. Kilim pillows or rugs make for great accessorial details in a global look.

How to pronounce it: KEY-lim

NOT: Key-LEEM or Kill-im

Photo from Kathy Kuo Home 

6. Ikat: a fabric made using an Indonesian decorative technique in which warp or weft threads, or both, are tie-dyed before weaving. The result is a fun pattern for pillows or even benches or lamps.

How to pronounce it: EE-cot

NOT: EE-cat

Photo from Kathy Kuo Home

7. Settee: a long upholstered seat for more than one person, typically with a back and arms.

How to pronounce it: Set-TEA


Photo from Copper Elegance

8. Finial: the ornament at the top, end or corner of an object, most notably a roof, curtain rod or lampshade.

How to pronounce it: Fin-E-al

Photo from Kathy Kuo Home 

9. Objet: It’s French for “object.” But in the interior design world, it’s used to describe an object of artistic worth or curiosity, especially a small object. Explore our collection of objets d’art at KKH!

How to pronounce it: Ob-jay

Photo from Paint and Pattern

10. Faux Bois and Boiserie: If you know that the word “bois” means “wood” in French, you might be able to further guess at these final two vocab words. Faux bois is a visual technique where an item is printed or painted to look like it's wood or has wood grain detailing—aka, fake wood. Boiserie is the carved wood panels that were common in 18th century France. Today, they are less ornate but still used, especially on doors and entrances.

How to pronounce it: Foh-Bwah and Bwah-Zer-E

For more interior design guides: Why Grey Is the New White | Eat-In Kitchens: Lounging With Banquettes

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The Kuotes is a blog written by Kathy Kuo Home purposefully created for interior designers and design-savvy individuals. We strive to solve the challenges and answer the design questions that face your day to day business so you can save time and money and get back to what you love: design! Our blog includes helpful how-to's, exclusive designer interviews, and our thoughts on the latest trends.