Modern Interior Design Glossary: 20 Terms to Know and Use

Modern Interior Design Glossary: 20 Terms to Know and Use

Upgrade your style lexicon with this list of 20 modern interior design glossary terms to know and use from the team at Sisal Rugs Direct.


The foundation of expertise when it comes to any topic is language. If someone doesn't know what the ABAA is, they're probably not a rare book dealer. If a person can't tell you how to write in Python, they’re not the right one to ask about computer programming. 

This means that, if you want to hold your own when learning or talking about a topic… you have to learn the lingo first. If your topic of interest happens to be interior design, then you’re in the right place. In today’s post, we’ll be listing foundational terminology for anyone interested in speaking with knowledge about modern interior design. 

We can’t list every possible term here, but we’ve listed popular ones broken into wider categories that can be dug into further at your own leisure. Let’s get started.

Furniture or Rug Descriptors

  • Antique

We’re sure you know all about what antique means, but it’s important to note how it specifically applies to furniture and home decor. If an item is called antique, that means it’s at least 100 years old.

  • Flat Weave 

This is a good term to know when talking about your preferred style of area rug. A flat weave is a weaving where no knots are used. They're typically flatter than other rugs and made from cotton or wool.

  • Pile Height 

This is another rug term. Pile height gets measured in decimal points per inch. The higher a number, the higher the pile. The higher the pile, the "squishier" a rug will be.

  • Cabriole 

You might stumble across this term a lot when vintage shopping, as it was popular in older designs. A cabriole leg is a double curved wooden lug that can be found on tables and chairs. The top curve is convex and the bottom curve is concave, creating a distinctive overall look.

  • Bobeche 

Pronounced bah-besh, this is a niche term that we're adding to the list just for fun. A bobeche is a round wax-catcher, usually. made from glass or metal, that surrounds a candle in a candle holder or similar piece of decor.

  • Club chair

A club chair is defined by it's low back (hitting at or just below your shoulder blades). It's most commonly upholstered with leather.

  • Inlay

A decoration technique that uses contrasting material (frequently tile) to create a patterned image on top of a piece of furniture or other surface.

Schools of Design


  • Bauhaus

Bauhaus is a descriptor for a famous pre-WWII school of German modern design and architecture. It's frequently referred to as the starting point of the modern design movement and is encapsulated by sleek, straight lines and style.

  • Mid-Century Modern 

Mid-Century is an especially well-known and popular school of design. These pieces come out of the mid-1900s, more specifically the 1950s. It has an organic look, characterized by minimalism and natural shapes. Common materials in this design style are plywood, aluminum,  molded plastic, and untreated wood.

  • Industrial

Industrial is a more present design ideology. If you like homes that have a lot of exposed brick, copper accents, and wood-metal combinations, then you like the industrial design style. 

  • Baroque

This is a very over-the-top design style that came out of the 1600s. It’s ornate and decorative and originated in Italy, characterized by overdone design elements. These include twisted columns, moldings that are oversized, scrollwork that is intense, or similar effects. This design style can also sometimes be referred to as “rococo.”

  • Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic decor focuses on furniture and decor that looks aged. That aging can happen naturally, but it can also be done by taking new items and treating them to look old. This design style is for anyone that really enjoys items found at antique flea markets.

  • Art Deco 

A design theory that came from the early 1900s, more specifically between 1920 and 1930. It has a very distinctive visual style that is focused on elegance and glamour. Glamour, bold color, sparkle, gold accents, and stylized patterns define this style.

  • Bohemian

Unlike many design styles, any style labeled bohemian doesn't have a defined timeline. Instead, bohemian style is an interior design philosophy that focuses on items that are mismatched without losing impact. Pieces in a bohemian home are frequently found at places like thrift stores, vintage stops, and flea markets.

Elements of a Home

  • Wainscoting 

Have you ever heard the word wainscoting but didn't know what it meant? You are definitely not the only one. Wainscoting is materials, most frequently panels, that are applied beneath a chair rail and cover (commonly) the bottom half or third of a wall.

  • Focal Point

This is a piece of decor that draws the eye and inspires the design choices throughout the rest of your home.

  • Contrast. 

You'll hear this term a lot when talking with a professional interior designer. Contrast is important to any well-designed room, because it involves the balancing of differing tones, textures, colors, and shades.

  • Feng Shui 

Feng Shui goes beyond home decor. It is a concept based on a Chinese poem that discusses the connections between human life and the energy flowing between life and the environment around it.

  • Well-appointed

A room that is labeled as well-appointed in one that is especially well designed, usually by a professional designer or artist. The furnishings in a room like this will be high-end and beautiful.

  • Bespoke

Something that has been made or designed custom for you or your home.

Now that you know all of these new interior design terms, it’s time to put them to good use! For example, if you now know that the design aesthetic you like best is Bauhaus, you can start looking at our online catalog to find the perfect simplistic, beautiful, and functional wool rug for your living room. If you have any terms you’d like added to this list, feel free to use our contact form to let us know and we’ll take care of the rest.


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