Artistic Decor and Interior Design Terms: a Glossary for Busy Business Owners

Interior design planning from a creative art studio

Art, decor, and other aspects of design are all important when creating a stylish and inviting workspace. But if you’re unfamiliar with many interior design terms used to describe your business’ style, it can be tricky to know where to start.

Fortunately, in this glossary, our creative art studio will give you an overview of some of the most significant parts of interior office design. We’ll also explain why it’s worth taking the time to learn about them, even if you’re not an expert designer.

Interior design planning from a creative art studio
We’ll help you decide what to look for in an interior setup and how to describe it.

So, whether you’re looking to spruce up your office or simply speak more fluently about design, read on to learn some enlightening terms regarding abstract language and common materials.

Essential Creative Language

Get a broad view of the verbiage that artists and interior designers use to describe their work.

Design Concept

A design concept is an idea or theme of a workspace that combines aesthetics and functionality, typically in its preliminary/planning phase. Design concepts are critical for ensuring that the design of a product meets the needs of employees and target customers.

A well-crafted design concept includes a series of sketches and images (for interior design: elevations), along with a written statement, that all explain the basic idea driving a design. This helps designers stay focused throughout the creative process; it ensures that the final result and everything within it deliver value to their intended audiences.

Aesthetic

In its most general sense, aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and art. It is concerned with the study of how we perceive and respond to certain things, such as art, music, and nature.

Specific to interior design, an aesthetic is the overall look and feel of a workspace or its decorations. It closely relates to a business’ style and branding, as well as how these can achieve certain feelings or moods.

Function/Functionality

The function or functionality of a space describes its intended use and how effectively it can be used; in other words, usability. For instance, you might want your workspace to be designed around:

  • Collaborative work
  • Individual concentration
  • Brainstorming new ideas
  • Bringing people together from different departments
  • Serving and satisfying customers

Perspective

When creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing space, designers must consider many factors contributing to the overall design and its preliminary sketches. One important element is perspective. In art and interior design, perspective is the effect of foreground, middle ground, and background on the perceiver. It is important to create a pleasing perspective in any space, as it can affect the way people move through and interact with the space.

There are a few ways to create perspective in interior design.

Value

As an art and interior design term, value — the use of light (from man-made or natural sources) and shadow — can create visual depth and dimension.

Scale and proportion are also important elements that can be used to create perspective.

Scale

Scale is the size of an object in relation to other objects. Incorporating different sizes and shapes can help create a sense of depth and interest in a design.

Proportion

This refers to the scale of elements within an object in relation to its entire form. Objects with predictable proportions are known as proportionate, while those with unusual dimensions are called disproportionate.

By taking into account all of these elements, designers can envision a space that is both practically and visually appealing from any perspective.

Flow

The way traffic moves through a room or building is referred to as flow. It can also describe how our eyes move across a wall or work of art and concentrate on focal points.

Focus (or Focal Point)

A point of interest; there may also be multiple points of interest within an artwork, room, or building. The following are some of the most common focal points, which can be further emphasized by a thoughtful artist or designer:

  • Furnishings — furniture, appliances, television/entertainment centers, shelving, blinds or drapes, and other functional and decorative items added to a space after it is built
  • Lighting choices such as picture lights, track lights, or wall washer fixtures
  • Fireplaces
  • Accent walls/feature walls
  • Areas in which the highest number of people congregate

There are a few ways you or your designer might determine a room’s focal point. First, you can look for existing features in the room, such as those listed above. If there’s nothing already in the room that can serve as a focal point, you can create one by hanging a piece of art where guests are likely to look or arranging furniture around a center where they can easily and eagerly gather.

Once you’ve determined the room’s focal point, you can start planning the rest of the design around it. Remember that the focal point should be the starting point for your design, but it doesn’t have to be the only point of interest in the room.

Balance

Balance is the distribution of elements in a design to create visual stability. Without balance, a design can feel chaotic and overwhelming. Creating balance in a design is all about reaching a sense of harmony.

There are four main types of balance in interior design:

  • Symmetrical balance occurs when elements are evenly distributed on either side of a center line, such as when two couches face each other.
  • We see asymmetrical balance when elements are unevenly distributed but still create a sense of harmony; imagine two separate chairs facing a couch.
  • Radial balance is achieved when elements are arranged around a central point — for example, a circular table with evenly-distributed chairs at the center of a four-sided room with a painting in the middle of each wall.
  • Crystallographic balance is the repetition of many elements organized through some form of loose symmetry. Picture a conference hall with many chairs of two colors arranged in rows so that they alternate between the two colors.

Rhythm

Rhythm — borrowing from some aspects of balance — creates a sense of movement, adding variety and visual interest.

There are three main types of rhythm in art and design: regular, random, and alternating.

  • Regular rhythm is created when elements are repeated at regular intervals. This kind of rhythm is often found in places that are meant to be calming.
  • Random rhythm occurs when elements are in no particular order. It is often in art that is meant to be chaotic or confusing, such as an abstract painting.
  • Alternating rhythm happens when elements alternate in a specific order. It creates structured layouts, such as geometric patterns.

However, balance and rhythm don’t always refer to the arrangement of objects; they can also be attained through similar and contrasting combinations of textures, colors, and more.

Examples of balance, rhythm, and color in a storefront
The key is combining repetition with variety in visually-appealing ways.

Color Scheme

Any colors used; also called a color palette. Popular color schemes include:

  • Primary: consisting of red, blue, and yellow.
  • Secondary: consisting of violet, orange, and green.
  • Warm: red, yellow, and/or orange.
  • Cold: blue, violet, and/or green.
  • Analogous: contains colors close to one another on a color wheel.
  • Complementary: contains colors on opposite sides of the color wheel.
  • Triadic: contains groups of three colors equally spaced across the color wheel.

Texture

There are many different types of texture on a countless number of materials, and each one can be used in a number of ways.

Rough textures, such as coarse fabric, concrete, or rough wood grain, are great for conveying homelike, rustic, or industrial themes and highlighting certain features of any room. Smooth textures from silky fabric, steel, or polished wood, on the other hand, create a more sophisticated look and can make a room feel larger.

No matter what kind of texture you choose, you’ll want to use it in a way that complements the overall design of the room. Too much texture can be overwhelming, so finding a balance is crucial; the right amount of texture can create a sense of comfort. To achieve this, try choosing colors and textures that are similar, rather than those that compete for attention. For example, pairing a light, textured wallpaper or paneling with a patterned rug or throw pillows can create a bold yet inviting look.

Art & Interior Design Terms for Materials

Pencil

The “lead” of professional-grade graphite pencils is mixed clay manufactured along a scale of hardness; these pencils are used to create grayscale (black-and-white) drawings. Colored pencils are primarily made from wax-based or oil-based binder that holds the pigment together. There are also “pencils” made from other materials, such as charcoal and chalk pastels, which blend more easily.

Pen

Artists’ pens vary greatly in their thickness. Containing a wide selection of inks, they’re either water-soluble (able to be altered with water) or waterproof. Some old-style calligraphic pens require separate pots of ink.

Marker

When used tastefully and sparingly, studio-quality markers put to paper can make a bold impact.

Paint

Types of Paints

Painters creating wall art typically use one of three types of media:

  • Watercolor paint: the fastest-drying type made from powdered pigments.
  • Acrylic paint: made from pigment suspended in a polymer emulsion.
  • Oil paint: made from pigment suspended in oil and takes months to dry.

A less common type of paint is gouache — opaque (non-transparent) watercolor.

Types of Paint Finishes

Home painters rely on wall primer (a pre-coat) and wall paint for solid coats, murals, stencils, and faux patterns. They can typically choose between the following finishes:

  • Flat/matte paint: has the least amount of shine; has high coverage but is the least durable.
  • Eggshell paint: slightly more glossy than flat paint and is one of the most popular types.
  • Satin paint: the most popular due to its combination of moderate reflectiveness and durability.
  • Semi-gloss paint: very shiny and durable; great for small areas such as molding/trim and stenciled items. However, this type of paint can more easily show brushstrokes or other imperfections.
  • High-gloss paint: has all the characteristics of semi-gloss paint, but to a more noticeable extent. It is great for outdoor uses as well.

Types of Brushes

Paint may be applied through a number of brushes.

  • Flat brushes: typically used for painting large areas.
  • Round brushes: better suited for painting small details.
  • Filbert brushes: somewhere in between flat and round brushes; can be used for both large and small areas.
  • Angle brushes: designed for painting corners and tight spaces.
  • Bristle brushes: made with natural bristles; ideal for oil-based paints.
  • Synthetic brushes: contain artificial bristles; often used for water-based paints.

What is faux painting?

The word “faux” can describe a design element — but most commonly its surface — that resembles another material. Faux surfaces, typically painted on works of art or walls with the help of shiny glazes and/or paster, might resemble brick, stone, fabric, wood grain, or leather.

Prints

The word “print” may refer to a range of work, from printed reproductions of drawings, paintings, digital art, or photographs to traditional printmaking.

Printed reproductions and fine art printmaking
An abundance of prints

Printmaking involves creating a design and transferring it to paper or fabric through the following handmade or mass-produced means.

  • Woodcut printmaking: carving a design into a block of wood. The block is then inked and pressed onto another material to create a print.
  • Etching: a metal plate is coated with a waxy substance, an etching needle is used to draw a design on the surface, and the plate is then placed in an acid bath. The acid eats away at the exposed metal, creating a relief image that is inked and pressed to produce a final print.
  • Engraving: Engraving is a printmaking technique in which a design is incised into a plate of metal or other hard material. The plate is then inked before its design is transferred to paper.
  • Lithography: a type of printmaking that uses oil and water to create an image. The artist starts by sketching an image onto a piece of stone or metal. Then, they apply a layer of oil-based ink to the surface. The ink will only stick to the parts of the surface that are not covered in water. Next, they run a roller over the surface to spread the water evenly. The water repels the ink, causing it to pool in the areas it was initially applied to. Similarly, to transfer the image, the artist applies a sheet of paper to the surface and presses it down.

Paper

For artists, paper is a lot more complex than it may seem; there are multiple types of paper manufactured according to the look you hope to achieve and the medium your artist uses. These include:

  • Newsprint paper: has a smooth surface and affordable price that makes it ideal for preliminary drawings.
  • Drawing paper: specially made for drawing and sketching. This paper is usually a bit thinner than regular paper so it can be easily erased and rewritten on. Drawing paper also has a smooth surface that is ideal for drawing with pencils, pens, and other fine-pointed instruments.
  • Watercolor paper: there are two types of this specialized surface: hot-press and cold-press. Hot-press paper is treated with a heated roller during manufacturing, which gives the paper a smooth surface, making it ideal for detailed work. Cold-press paper is not, which gives the paper a more textured surface.
  • Acrylic paper: ideal for creating smooth, vibrant effects. It’s usually made from a slick, heavy-duty material that is both flexible and sturdy, making it perfect for art pieces that require a lot of detail. It’s also resistant to water, meaning your painting won’t be damaged by accidental spilling.
  • Bristol paper: a popular choice for colored pencils and other dry media. With its smooth, non-porous surface and relatively heavy weight, Bristol paper offers a great mixture of durability and smoothness, allowing artists to achieve incredibly detailed works of art.

Illustration Board

Illustration board is a type of thick, heavy-duty paper with a versatile surface. It is durable and can be erased and rewritten on, making it ideal for sketching out ideas. It can also mount finished artwork, as it is thick enough to support heavier media like paint or pastels.

Canvas

In addition to the canvas fabric covering some furniture, here are more forms of canvas material; the following are built to contain paintings.

  • Stretched canvas: rough canvas fabric stretched over wooden bars, which add more depth. These canvases can be hung directly on the wall without the need for a frame.
  • Canvas board/panel: similar canvas material glued to a rigid cardboard backing. It doesn’t have much depth and lays flat.

Wood

Wood is nearly everywhere we look in our workspaces, from doors to stair rails to furniture and its tabletop decorations, such as sculptures, paperweights, or coasters. Additionally, wood boards/panels may refer to 1.) wooden surfaces made for drawing, painting, or other types of wall hangings or 2.) paneling attached to the walls of a room to give it a sense of depth and refinement.

Clay

There are four kinds of clay used to make pottery, which are fired in a kiln to finish the process.

  • Earthenware clay: available in several colors, from red to black. This pottery is fired at a lower temperature than others, which means it is not as durable. However, it is still quite sturdy and can be used for everyday items such as plates and bowls.
  • Stoneware clay: has a distinctive gray or brown color. Prized for its durability and strength, it is often used for cookware, dinnerware, and other items that experience heavy use. Stoneware clay is also non-porous, making it resistant to staining and easy to clean.
  • Ball clay: is very light when fired and is known for its plasticity. This makes it ideal for a variety of purposes, especially when used in combination with other types of clay.
  • Porcelain: a white or near-white translucent material seen in fine china. It is extremely dense, making it highly durable.

Sculpture

Sculptures are divided into two main categories: additive or subtractive. Additive sculpture is created by adding materials to a base (such as wood, clay, or found objects), while subtractive sculpture involves removing or carving materials from a base. The former is often quicker and easier to create, but it can be less precise. The latter takes longer and is more difficult, but it can create more intricate and detailed sculptures. Oftentimes, the techniques are combined.

Interior design terms: sculpture
Sculpture created from a variety of media and techniques

In plenty of cases, you’ll find that two-dimensional and three-dimensional art merge together: anything from a drawing on a 2D surface creating the illusion of three dimensions to a sculpture with flat elements.

Or, for instance, envision a piece with drawing or painting as the base layer but three-dimensional elements — such as paper or fabric cutouts — on top.

Another way to combine the two is to create a three-dimensional scene and then add two-dimensional elements to it. This can be done by painting a background on a wall or by using projection mapping to create a virtual scene.

With limitless options available for nearly any aspect of how your business presents itself, making design decisions can be both fun and challenging. That’s why receiving help from a creative professional can maximize your fulfillment.

Find the Right Blend of Art & Interior Design for Your Business

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