Pronunciation is key. When you’ve been in the interior design industry for long enough, you recognize those list of words that everyone says a little differently… With all of the cultures and languages (particularly French) that permeate the interior design lexicon, saying everything correctly can get a little tricky. Today on the blog we’re discussing the top ten common interior design words that are difficult to pronounce. Read on so you can demonstrate your design expertise to friends, clients and (let’s be honest) other designers. Study up!
If you’re unfamiliar, this word is French for “apartment.” In interior design, it’s typically used when describing an apartment space with a French design style that is located in a city away from the individual’s primary residence. Basically, it’s a secondary apartment in the city. Because you don’t have to live there on the daily, the pied-à-terre is an ideal place to experiment with your design style and try out bold modern pieces next to your valuable antiques. Can’t get enough of this look? Shop it all in our Apartment in Paris lookbook. Now whether it’s the accent mark or the dashes that throw you off, don’t worry if you’re unsure how to say this one. The rule to remember: The “D” is not silent—it’s the subtle, connecting sound between the first and second part of the word.
An étagère is a French set of hanging or standing open shelves for the display of objects or ornaments. They were very popular in the nineteenth century, and they continue to look stately across a variety of looks today. Shop some of our favorite examples below.
You may recognize the word “armoire” as French… but don’t overcompensate with exaggerated pronunciations that don’t exist. Rhyming with “noir,” an armoire is a large moveable cabinet or wardrobe with doors (it’s the moveable qualifier that defines it different from a closet). It is most often used to store clothing, linens, or entertainment equipment. Our Oriana armoires flanking the bed above are the perfect example. Shop more below!
4. Chaise Longue
For one of the most popular statement pieces in the industry, the chaise lounge is almost always pronounced incorrectly. In fact, if you do say it how you’re supposed to, you may attract strange glances (or just come off a little bit stubborn when it comes to proper pronunciation). If you’re going to go for the “official” French pronunciation, make sure to really hold the hard G at the end of the word. This spoken error also caused many to misspell the word in English, and over time, the chair became known in America as the chaise “lounge” (meaning a chair to lounge in) instead of the chaise “longue,” which simply translates to “long chair.” Is anyone going to judge you when you say “lounge”? Definitely not. But it’s a fun piece of info (You never know when interior design will be a category at trivia night!).
Kilim is a flat-woven fabric made in Turkey, Kurdistan, and neighboring areas—typically made with bold colors and patterns. Kilim pillows or rugs make for great accessorial details in a global look. When pronouncing the word, just remember that the first I (and only the first I) makes a long-E sound. Shop this beautiful fabric on the items below.
There’s a LOT of ikat going on in the image above, but not a single cat. This fabric is made using an Indonesian decorative technique in which the threads are tie-dyed before weaving. The result is a fun pattern for pillows or even benches or lamps. See for yourself below.
Imagine having a nice cup of tea on a gorgeous French Country settee. Okay, so maybe it’s more likely that you’re at work drinking coffee, but it’s not a bad way to remember how to pronounce settee. A settee is usually defined as a long upholstered seat for more than one person, typically with a back and arms.
It’s French for “object,” but if you see this word in the world of interior design regarding small objects or curiosities—it’s pronounced “ob-jay.” Different from a general object (like a book or coaster) an objet is notable for its artistic worth or curiosity. Explore our collection of objets d’art at KKH!
9. Faux Bois
If you know that the word “bois” means “wood” in French, you might be able to further guess at this final interior design vocab word. Faux bois is a visual technique where an item is printed or painted to look like it’s wood or has wood grain detailing—aka, fake wood. This was common in 18th century France, and today this technique is less ornate but still used, especially on doors and entrances.
Is there a tricky interior design word not on our list? Let us know in the comments below!