5 Crucial Design Terms You Should Know

You don’t have to be a professional designer to speak like one

At first glance, one of the best things about hiring an interior designer is handing off the need to know all the industry vernacular or weed through an army of potential vendors. But understanding a host of key terminology can save you a lot of embarrassing questions, helping you better communicate with your design team and getting you on a faster track towards completing the space of your dreams.

Here are five crucial terms you should know when embarking on any kind of design project.


The term balance generally applies to an equal distribution of weight, but in the design world, when we talk about weight, we’re really talking about symmetry. Many people tend to think of mirror images when we talk about symmetry, but a well-balanced space can be asymmetrical, too. Balance is achieved not just by mirroring the same pieces, but also by using similar sizes, widths, shapes and colors. Repetition is also a related word, because repeating a certain type of pattern can create visual symmetry and thus balance.


The term focal point refers to what immediately catches your eye as you enter a space—what gives it that “wow” factor. A statement piece can often be a focal point, but not all focal points are statement pieces. Whereas a statement piece can often be a small accessory with increasing interest the more you look at it, examples of focal points include a grand stone fireplace, an ornate light fixture, a wall wardrobe closet, or a large piece of art.


When used in design, the term dimension refers to the available space from floor to ceiling or from the foreground to the background. To create the illusion of having more space than it has, you could place curtains closer to the ceiling in the living room, which broadens the vertical space. To create the illusion of a roomier shelving system, you could layer accessories at different depths from the eye.


The term sight line refers to the visibility of any given item, and its importance increases with the frequency that item is used or how badly the owners desired for it to be seen. While this term is often used when talking about an open concept floor plan (with no obstructions to one’s sight lines), it can also apply to how you organize your home, as well. When designing your walk-in closet, you might consider systems that allow you to easily see and reach all of your clothing and accessories. Things like like translucent drawer fronts, wire bins, dividers, etc.


While maximizing the square footage of a space is important, it’s also imperative to keep in mind your walkable floor space—how much space is left to seamlessly navigate around room or area. When you’re designing a space, ask yourself questions like: How easy is it to walk, turn, kneel, sir or stand? How many people might fit in this space at any given time?

Kristin Becker is a Design Consultant with California Closets, a Denver-based company that specializes in creating custom storage systems for your bedroom closets, home office, entryway, garage, pantry and more.

Content for this article provided by California Closets.

Categories: Furniture & Accessories