Insider terms make it easier to communicate

Recently when working with a client, I realized I was bringing up terms she was not familiar with. Designing for more than 25 years, I unfortunately use some terms without thinking. So whether you’re working with an interior designer or shopping on your own, it wouldn’t hurt to know a couple of designer terms.

As in any industry there are certain words that are part of its terminology and jargon. To get in-the-know, here are some typically, “Designer EZ” terms.

118-inch goods: You can find fabric and wallpaper in 118-inch goods. From selvage edge to selvage edge the fabric or wallpaper measures 118 inches. Most 118-inch fabrics are sheers, so you can have a seamless window of sheers; 118-inch wallpaper is typically commercial, which allows wall-to-wall wallpaper without any seams.

Book match: When two adjacent sheets of veneer are glued side by side for a symmetrical pattern. This is something you also must consider when using any slabs of granite, marble or travertine when you will be butting any pieces together. The name comes from the final appearance, which resembles the pages of an open book.

COM or customer’s own material: When you use your own fabric, typically for upholstery, instead of using the fabrics available from the furniture manufacturer. Many times the upholstery piece will be priced the same or even more, since they are taking responsibility for using your fabric.

Diptych: Artwork on two panels that are hung together, where the image continues from one to the other. Essentially one piece of artwork cut in half.

Double rubs: Refers to the durability of a type of fabric. The double-rub testing method uses a special machine that passes a testing pad back and forth over the fabric until it is worn out. Each back and forth pass is known as a double rub. The higher the number, the better the durability.

Dye lot: The lot number that the bolt of fabric came from. Fabrics are dyed in varying quantities of yardage, so consistency of color will vary. Always ask for a memo sample of current stock and a cutting for approval if you are ordering a large amount of fabric that is not coming off the same bolt

Hand: How a material feels in your hand: soft, smooth, rough or stiff.

Lead time: How long something will take to ship after it is ordered. Notice it is when the item will be shipped not when it will arrive. You still have to figure in shipping and delivery time for how long it will take to arrive. And if it is coming from overseas, include its time in customs. I’ve had fabrics sit at the dock for two to four weeks waiting to clear customs.

Left and right arm facing sectionals: Unless you are ordering a sectional that is the same dimension from arm to arm on both sides, you need to be very aware of this. When ordering custom sectionals, the industry standard is to tell the manufacturer what section you want as you are facing the sectional. So if you are standing looking at the sectional and want the chaise on the right side, you order a right arm facing chaise.

But be careful when shopping in retail stores as many order them from the direction as you are sitting. So the same piece could be a left arm sitting chaise. This is an important and expensive lesson I didn’t learn in design school.

Light reflective value (LRV): The percentage of light that is reflected from a surface, typically seen in paint. All manufacturers have this number available. The higher the percentage, the more light is reflected. Most whites are 80 percent or more, whereas dark, deep colors are less than 10 percent, therefore absorbing light .

Listelle or listello tile: In Italian it means “thin strip.” In simple terms, it is a decorative border piece that we use as an accent in tile design. They come in a variety of widths from 1 inch to 6 inches and lengths normally measuring 6 inches or 12 inches.

Knocked down or KD: Furniture that is sold unassembled or partially assembled. Think of a hundred little pieces, small print instructions and the little hex wretch that comes in the package with the screws.

Knife edged: Edge treatment on a pillow or cushion that is simply sewn together without any embellishments. Like a seam in your clothing.

Memo sample: A sample piece of fabric, tile, carpet or other material. It normally comes with detailed product information, such as material contents, finish, cleaning code and country of origin. The samples are borrowed from a retailer or showroom.

Pattern match: Having fabric sewn together so that the pattern repeat continues. This is important to confirm when using a print for any custom items. Some manufacturers will charge extra for this since it takes precise fabric placement.

Rectified tile: Tiles that are cut from sheets after being fired. They’ll have a sharp straight edge and be more consistent in their dimensions, allowing for tighter grout joints.

Return: The piece of an L-shaped desk that is perpendicular to the main desk unit. You determine the return when sitting at your desk. So a left return is on your left side .

Scope of work: Master plan list of what you want to do to create your own Taj Mahal.

Stack back: The wall area that’s required for draperies to clear the window when they are completely opened.

To the trade: Showrooms and websites where you need a designer to have access to. Many showrooms are to-the-trade only and they represent manufacturers that often are not found in retail establishments.

Now that you are, in-the-know, always ask your designer if you’re unsure about whether you are speaking the same language.

Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is:

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