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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
by Jan Colvin
Understanding terms of the trade
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About this blog
By Jan Colvin

I have been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). I credit my mother Pat Robinson and Lucille Chase for my intense interest and love for design.
I've taught interior design at the college level and operated a ...

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Through the Front Door

I have been a professional interior designer for over 25 years (Allied ASID). I credit my mother Pat Robinson and Lucille Chase for my intense interest and love for design.
I've taught interior design at the college level and operated a private design business since 2001. Today I spend a majority of my time completing a new book which will be available in the first quarter of 2013.   

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A chair in Anthony Baratta's Westhampton, New York shop. A balloon backed Victorian chair with a digital print of a little boy on the
A chair in Anthony Baratta's Westhampton, New York shop. A balloon backed Victorian chair with a digital print of a little boy on the "inside back" of the chair.
By Jan Colvin
Sept. 16, 2013 6:21 a.m.



During my move from Wichita to Highland House, my dearest buddy from childhood helped with the grueling task. My friend and I are different in many ways; she is solid and so down to earth while I have the brain of a designer. At times I can be a bit here, there and everywhere and my buddy is a terrific stabilizer. This trooper of a friend was there to help with all the packing and unpacking. As we performed these tiresome duties, I found myself using words from my world of design—and not her world. During our weeks together, she would have to stop me and say, “Jan what are you talking about?” As with all professions, a different vocabulary comes into play. After this experience, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the vocabulary of the design world with you. As a past educator I love learning and I found my buddy did as well. So on this most glorious Saturday we are going to talk terms of the trade. And my dear readers, that brings me to my first term: To the Trade!

To the Trade: This refers to the pricing I might receive as a designer—as opposed to the pricing for the general public. In regards to showrooms, it means you must have the credentials of a designer to enter the showroom.

Showrooms: This is where designers go to purchase items to resell to the general public. When a designer goes to the Dallas Market, for example, they are actually going to several huge buildings composed of floors and floors of showrooms. It actually looks like a very large mall with shop after shop, but the products are sold only “to the trade” at wholesale prices.

Market: When you hear designers talk about “going to market,” they are heading to buildings full of showrooms.

List Price: This is, generally, the same as the suggested retail price—a price to the consumer.

Markup: The markup is how designers arrive at the cost of something. A very common markup is “keystone” or a 100 percent markup; for example, if I purchase something for $10, I sell it to you for $20. Although you might think, “Oh my gosh that designer is really making some dough,” rest assured it does not happen that way. The designer must locate the product, which usually means travel on the designer’s dime, paying for the shipping and then, in some cases, paying a “receiver” to accept the product. If you calculate all the additional expenses you will see that the margins are pretty tight. I will be very honest: Usually, the expense of getting the product to the designer is added to the final price to the consumer.

Receiver: A receiver is usually some type of warehouse where people are trained to examine items for damage when they arrive. The receiver then holds the items until the designer is ready for them. A receiver offers this service when there are too many items or the designer cannot receive at their place of business. Freight companies usually won’t go into residential areas if the designer offices from their home, so a receiver is a must.

Apron: The strip of wood that joins the tabletop to its legs.

Armoire: A large cabinet or wardrobe used for storing clothes, often converted into an entertainment or computer center. I find them marvelous in hallways for storing linens. At present, I have one in my laundry room, serving as my pantry.

Balustrade: Also called spindles, this is the part of the staircase that looks like a row of sticks holding up the handrail. The balustrade might be composed of wood, iron and even stone.

Bergere: An upholstered French armchair with closed upholstered sides. There is no space between the arm and the seat—it is completely closed in.

Cabriole Leg: A curved type of furniture leg that appears to have “knees,” narrows back in at the “ankle” and finishes with a claw foot or a pad foot. These legs are common on Queen Anne furniture and Chippendale.

Casegoods: Storage pieces made largely, but not always, of wood. This includes bookcases, chests with drawers, and dining room and bedroom furniture that is sold in sets.

Chinoiserie (shnwäz-r): Pieces featuring Chinese figures that are often lacquered. You can also find this same design on fabrics and wallcovering.

Claw Foot: The carved end on furniture legs that resembles an animal claw; it might have a ball in the claw, making it a claw and ball foot.

Documented Fabric: A fabric from historical archives that has a known place of origin. A common fabric would be a Toile.

Entablature: The part of a mantel that looks like a shelf; this is where you place all the pretty things!

Escutcheon: The plate between a door and its knob that you might see on interior and exterior doors, some pieces of furniture, and some kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

Étagère: (tä-zhâr) This is a backless bookshelf with shelves supported by columns; it is used for decorative displays.

Euro Sham: A decorative square bed pillow that is 24"x24". These are the pillows used against the headboard, usually with other shapes and sizes of pillows in front for a well dressed bed.

Faux bois: French for false wood, faux bois is wood grain reproduced in various media, such as fabric for a woodsy feel. Recently I even saw an evening gown in a faux bois print.

Finial: The decorative lamp topper that holds the shade in place. They are also found at the ends of decorative rods for window treatments, atop newel posts on a staircase and atop the posters on a four-poster bed.

Fluting: Decorative vertical grooves that you might see on a column, a coin or the apron of a table.

Harp: The part of a lamp that looks like a harp and holds the shade in place with connectors on either side of the bulb.

In-side back: This is the part of a chair that you rest your back against. When doing a collage (many fabrics) of fabrics you might need to identify this particular area with a certain fabric.

Leaded Glass: Glass containing a percentage of lead oxide, which increases the density and makes it heavier. This makes the piece refract and disperse light beautifully. Leaded glass is considered a luxury for stemware and beautiful decorative pieces.

Millwork: A home’s interior trim, such as crown molding, baseboards or bead board.

Newel Post: The decorative post used at the beginning and the end of rail and balustrades of a staircase.

Out-side back: This is the opposite of the inside-back it is the actual back of the chair. Again when doing a collage (many fabrics) you may need to identify this area with a certain fabric.

Pad Foot: A simple foot at the end of a furniture piece’s cabriole leg.

Palladian Window: A three-part window in which the center window is arched and larger than the two smaller windows on each side. Some refer to it as a fan or sunrise window.

Pilaster: Columns that are attached to the wall rather than freestanding. You might see these on either side of a fireplace, holding up the mantel’s entablature.

Rush seat: Seats woven from reed that are very often seen on French Country furniture.

Soft goods:  Items constructed from fabric, such as window treatments, table cloths, decorative pillows, bedding, all the pretty stuff fabricated from fabric.

Toile de Jouy:  Abbreviated "Toile" usually cotton or linen, originally made in France. The design is woven or printed in one color on a white or off-white background, showing scenes from the day in great detail, a couple having a picnic by the lake or workers in the field. This fabric is used in window treatments, upholstery, wall paper, all sorts of wonderful soft goods. The classic Toile is usually in only two colors, but you can find Toile with many colors involved in the design if a more colorful fabric is needed.

Trompe L’oeil: (trômp loi) French for “fool the eye,” you might experience this with an entire wall painted with such detail that you feel you literally can enter the garden scene.

 Now don't you feel just too smart for words gor

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