A Quick Guide to Design Terminology: Furniture
By Christine Stewart
Interior design is a world unto itself and just like other professions, it has its very own language. The industry has its own abbreviations, adjectives, and furniture terminology which we use frequently, forgetting that not everyone speaks this language. The following are a few definitions and clarifications to help you interpret “designer speak” regarding your furnishings.
Is it a pouf or an ottoman? An ottoman is a low, upholstered seat or foot rest (think of a lower chair, without a back). In contrast to an ottoman, a pouf usually does not have legs and the frame is often completely covered.
Sofa, settee, or couch? In historical terms, “sofa” and “settee” were often used in Europe, whereas the word “couch” is typically used in North America. However, in “designer speak” the correct term used is “sofa” – you had a couch in college, now you’re an adult and you have a sofa. We won’t even get into davenport, chesterfield, or divan – all synonyms for a sofa.
Console tables and cocktail tables and occasional tables, oh my. A console table is designed to fit against a wall or the back of a sofa and is generally long and narrow. It may also be a demilune console, defined by is crescent shape. A cocktail table is typically a low table designed to be set before a seating group (taller versions are described as “chat height”). The layman’s term for this would be a coffee table. An occasional table is a generic term used for any small table.
With terminology like bergere (an 18th century armchair) and etagere (a piece with many open shelves for display), there is no doubt you may be confused by some of the things your interior designer describes to you. Never be afraid to ask your designer what these terms mean and have no doubt that these strange words will make your rooms “pop” and “flow”.