10 interior design terms explained

Thinking of redecorating but not sure how to put the ideas into words? In a world where pattern, shape, colour and form mean everything, it's easy to get bogged down in complicated interior design terms. Before setting out to revamp that kitchen, bedroom or living room ponder these ten popular interior design terms.


Antiquing or distressing is a technique used to make a modern piece of furniture look older. It involves painting a piece of furniture with a base and top coat then using sandpaper or steel wool to create scratches and 'wear and tear' patterns in the wood.

Art Deco

Art Deco is a design style that originated in the 1920s and was popular throughout the 1930s. It's characterised by geometric and angular shapes, motifs of nature - such as shells and flowers - and the use of materials such as tiles, chrome and mirrors.


This influential design school - formed on principles of functional design in applied art and architecture - originated in Germany in 1919.

Colour palette

One of the most important interior design terms in the vocabulary, colour is everything when it comes to shaping a room. The human brain is wired to respond to hues of colour, judging some to be warm and others to be cold. The colour palette is a range of monochromatic, contrasting or complimentary colours. Choosing the correct colour scheme for a room could be the difference between making it dull and cold or bright and airy.

Feng Shui

The ancient Chinese art of balancing energy. The idea is to place objects within the home in such a way as to maximise the flow of positive energy or 'chi'.


Influenced by Japanese design, minimalist design sets out to reduce a room to only necessary components. Ornamentation is eschewed in favour of clean lines and simple colour schemes.


A monochromatic colour scheme consists of one colour or hue. Often used to compliment minimalist design.


The Shakers were a religious group who emigrated from England to America in the late 1700s. They believed a room and its contents should be purely functional and free from ornament or decoration. A version of the shaker style remains popular today, particularly in kitchen design.


A term that refers to styles and fashions from previous eras. Can be any decade or style period from the 1920s to 1980s.

Sustainable design

The use of materials or building resources that have been made from recycled or renewable products.

When thinking about redecorating it's important to have an idea of what you want your space to be. Is it to be a warm, welcoming and fun living space or a functional, relaxing work space? Flick through interior design magazines or visit a local design museum for ideas. Don't be afraid to experiment - interior design terms are just a guide, not a rule.

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