Ever have trouble understanding what your favorite shelter sites and design-obsessed friends are describing when talking about décor? See below for some of the most common design terms with detailed explanations of what they actually mean.
Your Guide to Decoding Popular Décor Lingo
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An aspect of design that is essentially the opposite of minimalism but more thought-out and purposeful than "crowded." Layered rooms take a simple concept and add additional pieces to create a collected vibe (see below). For example, in this room by Nate Berkus, instead of just a simple console and mirror in this entryway, the designer has added another layer with a pair of sconces, yet another with the upholstered bench tucked beneath the console, and another with the pair of chairs on either side of the console. As additional finishing layers, Berkus included a table lamp and accessories creating a rich, cohesive composition.
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A term which describes a style where the designer has created a space full of various styles, time periods, and materials. Literally, the home would look as if the individual items, from art to furniture and rugs, were collected by the owner over time rather than having purchased everything all at once. A collected space might have an industrial light fixture, an antique Persian rug, a midcentury modern sofa, and a shabby chic coffee table.
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This typically refers to the architectural plan of the space. A floor plan describes where walls, windows, and architectural elements like fireplaces and columns are located as well as where flooring might change from hardwood to tile. For example, an "open floor plan" is devoid of interior walls and hallways.
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Different from above, a furniture plan will show where outside elements such as rugs, lamps, chairs, sofas, and tables will be placed within the space. Furniture plans may note the dimensions and distances between items to ensure there is enough walking space between pieces or to confirm your desired rug will adequately cover the chosen area.
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Flow refers both to how spaces relate to each other and how individuals might move between them. When developing a furniture plan it would be a bad idea to place a table in the middle of the walkway between the living and dining rooms as it would disrupt the flow between spaces and make movement difficult. Alternatively, flow also describes how adjoining rooms or spaces in close proximity visually connect to each other in terms of their colors or styles. A deep blue lacquered library full of old books next to a bright white, minimal dining room doesn't exactly flow.
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A term that refers to a collection of items and components to create an overall visual grouping. A vignette with give a small sense of a home's overall design or style. For instance an entry table with mirror, accessories, and sconce would be considered a vignette as would a corner table with a lamp, piece of art, and books. Think of a vignette as a multi-piece snapshot of a space's vibe.
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A subset of the above vignette, a moment can be comprised of much fewer elements but is still an eye-pleasing visual composition. A chair at the end of a hallway with a painting hung above it is a lovely moment to see as you're coming up the stairs but does not have enough components to really give a sense of the home's overall design. All vignettes are moments but not all moments are vignettes.
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This is a conscious decision the designer makes as to where to draw your eye upon first entering a space. Common examples include fireplaces and beds or headboards. Essentially, focal points are the main attention-getters of a room, and other elements are then added with a conscious effort to help divert the eye toward the focal point or enhance its attractiveness.
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Scale refers to the size and proportions of different elements and how they relate to each other. In some cases, designers opt to create a "play on scale" and replace a piece usually seen at typically accepted size, with something vastly different. For instance, a small mirror hung over a grand fireplace, or a massive portrait placed over a twin bed are not typical pairings. When accessorizing, a play on scale can be visually pleasing and unexpected but for functional purposes, such as matching a lamp with a side table, it's generally best to stick to classic proportions. If the lamp base is the same size as the table's top, all functionality is lost.
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Popular in today's increasingly eco-friendly design world, reclaimed materials are those which were previously used in another space and are being returned to their original use in a new space. For instance reclaimed wood floors are typically the same floor boards used in another home or building but have been removed and reinstalled in a new space. Other architectural elements such as mantle pieces and doors are also commonly reclaimed particularly from historical locations or homes.