Interior Design Dictionary: 96 Interior Design Words to Help You Understand Your Home

My living room.

When I first started writing about interior design, I created my own interior design dictionary, or glossary, of all of the decorating words I came across. I did this both to help solidify my new interior design vocabulary, but also so that if I was writing about something, but at a loss for a way to describe it beyond “pretty” and “modern,” I had something to reference. It was literally like learning a whole new language, because at 25 years old, I didn’t have much experience with interior design.

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I included everything from adjectives used to describe interior design styles, to the names of common furniture and furniture styles, to color names like aubergine and ways to describe them, like desaturated. It was infinitely helpful when I got started as an interior design writer. Later, I used it to help train new writers and freelancers on my team, so I flushed it out with even the most basic design terms.

But once my design-speak became more natural, I forgot about my interior design dictionary almost completely.

And then I was having a conversation with a friend and she asked how I’d learned to talk about design with such detail when I wasn’t a designer, and I remembered my list of interior design words. I found it in my Google docs, and decided to spruce it up a bit and share it here, in case anyone finds it helpful for communicating with a designer, understanding how to talk about their own design style, writing about interiors, etc.

This list isn’t exhaustive, since there are so many interior design words in the world, but it’s a good place to start if you’re trying to put words to different decorating styles, types of furniture, patterns, etc.

Interior Design Dictionary

I’ve broken this up as best as I could by word category, so words to describe overall decorating styles, ones used to talk about furniture, color words, etc.

Interior Design Words for Different Styles

Coastal design style. Image via Serena & Lily

There are a set of core interior design styles that set the tone for most of the trends out there today, which are often a combination of two or more design styles. Below, I’ve listed out the key styles.

  • Art Deco: Characterized by rich colors, bold geometry, and decadent detail work.
  • Bohemian: A whimsical style with a care-free, layered look full of patterns, textures, and colorful fabrics.
  • Coastal: Inspired by the ocean, featuring cool, neutral tones paired with blues and greens.
  • Contemporary: Defined by simplicity, subtle sophistication, deliberate use of texture, and clean lines.
  • Eclectic: Involves a mix of textures, time periods, styles, trends, and colors.
  • Farmhouse: Incorporates rustic charm, distressed furniture, country-inspired touches, and a neutral palette.
  • French Country: Warm, earthy colors, wrought iron furnishings, and a rustic feel. Similar to farmhouse, but with more of a feminine flourish.
  • Hollywood Glam: Characterized by luxury, opulence, and a flair for the dramatic.
  • Industrial: Focuses on raw, unfinished materials, exposed brick, metals, and a monochrome color scheme.
  • Mid-Century Modern: Characterized by refined lines, minimalist silhouettes, and natural shapes from the mid-20th century.
  • Minimalist: Emphasizes simplicity, using monochromatic color schemes and uncluttered spaces.
  • Scandinavian: Inspired by the simplicity of life in Nordic countries; white with touches of color, minimalistic, and functional.
  • Traditional: Reflects classic European decor, with deep wood tones, architectural details, and elegant furnishings.
  • Transitional: A blend of traditional and modern styles, incorporating clean lines with classic comfort.
  • Rustic: Embraces nature-inspired textures, simple and earthy colors, and ultimately an unpretentious, organic warmth.
  • Shabby Chic: Uses vintage elements, distressed furnishings, and soft, opulent, yet cottage-style decor.

Interior Design Terms: Furniture Styles, Details & Techniques

An example of a bentwood dining chair. Image via Pottery Barn
  • 8-Way Hand-Tied Construction: A traditional, high-quality technique for sofa suspension, offering durability and comfort.
  • Acapulco Chair: A 1950s design classic with a round frame and woven seat, perfect for outdoor use.
  • Applique: Decorative surface detail, often ornamental, added to furniture for aesthetic enhancement.
  • Armoire: A tall, freestanding cabinet with doors that hide shelves and drawers.
  • Arts & Crafts: Focus on craftsmanship and simple forms, reaction against industrialization.
  • Ball Foot: A spherical, often turned, foot style used at the base of furniture legs.
  • Barcelona Chair: A modernist chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, known for its sleek, chrome frame.
  • Bevel: An edge that is cut at an angle less than 90 degrees, often found on mirrors or furniture.
  • Bentwood: Furniture made from wood that is mechanically bent into curved shapes, offering elegant lines.
  • Bergere Chair: An upholstered armchair with closed sides, originating from 18th-century France.
  • Brutalist: Architectural style using raw, exposed concrete and large-scale, blocky appearance.
  • Burlwood: Wood from a tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner, highly valued for its beauty.
  • Carbriole: A curved furniture leg, typically terminating in a foot, characteristic of Queen Anne and Chippendale styles.
  • Cerused Wood: A finishing technique that highlights the wood grain.
  • Chaise Lounge: An upholstered sofa in the shape of a chair that is long enough to support the legs.
  • Console Table: A long, narrow table typically placed against a wall (can be called a sofa table when placed behind a sofa)..
  • Credenza: A dining room sideboard, particularly one where dishes are stored and served.
  • Divan: A long low sofa without a back or arms, typically placed against a wall.
  • Early American: Rustic, utilitarian style with Colonial era influence, using local materials.
  • Ebonize: The process of darkening wood to create a rich, black appearance, resembling ebony.
  • Escritoire: A small, portable writing desk.
  • Etagere: An open shelving unit typically used to display ornaments.
  • Faux Bois: An artistic interpretation of a wood grain pattern
  • Futon: A low, foldable bed that doubles as a couch.
  • Gothic: Medieval style known for pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses.
  • Gueridon: A small round table often supported by a central pedestal.
  • Hepplewhite: Neoclassic style, light and elegant with contrasting veneers and inlay.
  • Hutch: A set of shelves or cabinets placed on top of a lower unit with a counter and drawers.
  • Jacobean: Early English style with heavy, ornate furniture and dark finishes.
  • Louis XIV: Ornate, grand, and luxurious style reflective of the French Baroque period.
  • Louis XVI: Refined, classical style marked by straight lines and Greco-Roman influence.
  • Ottoman: An upholstered stool or bench without arms or a back, used as a footstool or seat.
  • Parquette: A geometric mosaic of wood pieces used for decorative effect in furniture or flooring.
  • Queen Anne: Elegant, decorative style with curvilinear shapes and cabriole legs.
  • Reeding: A decorative feature consisting of a series of narrow, parallel lines carved into wood.
  • Serpentine Chest: A chest of drawers with a front that curves outward, then in, in a flowing manner.
  • Settee: A small sofa with room for two people.
  • Shaker: Minimalist style known for simplicity, functionality, and fine craftsmanship.
  • Skirting: A decorative border around the base of a piece of furniture, often fabric in upholstered items.
  • Veneer: Thin layers of quality wood covering a core of less expensive material, offering a fine finish.
  • Victorian: Elaborate and ornate, reflecting the tastes of the Victorian era, often with intricate patterns.
  • Vitrine: A glass display cabinet.
  • Windsor Chair: A traditional English chair with a solid wooden seat and a back formed from steam-bent spindles.
  • Wingback: A high-backed chair with side panels or ‘wings’ at the head, often used for comfort and privacy.

Interior Design Drapery Words:

Pinch pleat header. Image via Pottery Barn
  • Box Pleat: Curtains with pleats made of deep folds of fabric that create a boxy appearance. They fall into neat, regular folds along the length of the curtain.
  • Classic Tab: Classic tab top curtains feature loops of fabric sewn along the top. These tabs are threaded over the curtain rod for a casual look.
  • Inverted Pleat: Curtain pleats formed by folding the fabric back on itself to create a ‘flat’ look on the front, with the pleats hidden behind.
  • Pinch Pleat: Pinch pleat drapery features gathered fabric folds pinched at the top, creating a tailored, elegant appearance.
  • Rod Pocket: Rod pocket curtains are designed with a pocket sewn into the top. The curtain rod slides through this pocket, gathering the fabric to create a ruffled heading

Interior Design Color Terms

Neutral colors in my living room
  • Accent Color: A color used in a small amount to add a statement to a design scheme.
  • Analogous Colors: Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel and have a single color in common.
  • Chromatic: Relating to or produced by color.
  • Cool Colors: Colors reminiscent of water or sky, like blue, green, and purple.
  • Complementary Colors: Colors opposite each other on the color wheel, offering high contrast and high impact.
  • Hue: The attribute of a color by virtue of which it is discernible as red, green, etc., and which is dependent on its dominant wavelength.
  • Monochromatic: Using various shades, tones, or tints of a single color.
  • Neutral Colors: Unobtrusive colors that don’t compete for attention, such as beige, ivory, taupe, black, gray, and white.
  • Saturation: The intensity or purity of a color.
  • Value: The lightness or darkness of a color.
  • Tone: The effect of adding gray to a pure hue, reducing its brightness.
  • Tint: A color made lighter by adding white.
  • Shade: A color made darker by adding black.
  • Warm Colors: Colors that are typically associated with sunlight or heat, such as red, orange, and yellow.

Interior Design Adjectives

This was probably the most helpful part of the interior design dictionary for me, since I often found myself describing various items and spaces.

  • Aesthetic: Concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.
  • Ambient: Relating to the immediate surroundings of something. Often used to describe light in a room.
  • Collected: Appearance of being gathered and decorated over time
  • Curated: Similar to collected, but with more obvious editing and intention
  • Ethereal: Extremely delicate and light in a way that seems not of this world.
  • Lavish: Sumptuously rich, elaborate, or luxurious.
  • Layered: Using more than one design style
  • Minimalist: Using the fewest and barest essentials or elements.
  • Moody: Dark, deep colors that create a
  • Opulent: Ostentatiously rich and luxurious or lavish.
  • Ornate: Made in an intricate shape or decorated with complex patterns.
  • Quaint: Attractively unusual or old-fashioned.
  • Retro: Imitative of a style or fashion from the recent past.
  • Sleek: Smooth and glossy; having an elegant, streamlined look.
  • Tailored: Refined and polished, often with a masculine undertone
  • Timeless: Classic style that stands the test of time.
  • Vibrant: Full of energy and enthusiasm; bright and striking.
  • Vintage: Characterizing an item of high quality from a previous era, typically representing the best of its kind.
  • Zen: A Japanese term that emphasizes simplicity, meditation, and the appreciation of beauty.

Prints and Patterns

  • Botanical: Features plant-inspired motifs, often leaves, flowers, or trees, adding a natural, fresh feel to decor.
  • Chevron: A V-shaped zigzag pattern, offering a dynamic and contemporary aesthetic in home design.
  • Flame Stitch: A sharp, zigzag pattern resembling flames, creating a bold and vibrant visual impact.
  • Herringbone: Resembles fish bones, with a distinctive V-shaped weaving pattern, adding sophistication and texture.
  • Ticking Stripe: Narrow, uniform stripes, traditionally in blue on white, offering a classic, clean look.
  • Toile: Depicts intricate pastoral or floral scenes, usually in a single color on a light background, offering a traditional style.