Obscure Design Terms for Ordinary Things

“There’s no other place like home.”

We’ve heard this saying time and time again. And it’s timeless because it’s true. Our idea of home is usually attached to fond memories of our families. We know our homes better than any other place that we go to on a daily basis. But do we really know it-the bits and pieces that it’s made of and keep it whole?

There are many intricacies in the home that only architects and interior designers notice. It’s their job to know. They spent years in training. They are knowledgeable on a broad range of materials, inspirations, and design principles. But, most of all, they have a keen eye for design. They see things that we normally don’t.

Well, that’s about to change because there are a few terms that will help develop a keen eye as well. These are some terms that pertain to certain parts of our homes. After all, the first step in getting to know something better is knowing what it’s called.


This is often found surrounding balconies and staircases. It’s the row of columns that support the rail. That’s right. Who would have thought that those columns are actually part of the railing? That they have a word only for themselves? Some houses have balustrades made of wood, metal, and concrete. They have aesthetic purposes, especially the concrete ones with intricate details and the wrought-iron ones. But they also serve a very basic thing: to keep people and things from falling off the edge.


This is found in the lower part of a wall. If you have a wall that has a protruding rail of sorts that runs along with it, then the wall below that rail is the dado. It’s more common in houses with wallpaper. The upper part of the walls has printed wallpaper, and the lower part has a plain color of paint. It could also have wood paneling or wainscoting.


These are the edges of the roof that hang over the edge. They protrude beyond the wall, creating a narrow awning along the walls of the house. They can have some decorative purposes. Some houses have fixtures that support the weight of the eaves. These fixtures have intricate details on them, depending on the overall design of the house. But, ultimately, eaves have one special purpose: they keep the flow of rainwater from running on the sides of the house.


This is more common in large houses. It’s a row of rooms that connect together through connecting doors or passageways. If you live in a New York City brownstone that’s built at the turn of the twentieth century, then chances are that you have an enfilade at home. It’s because brownstones often have narrow but long floor plans.


This is the strips of metal or wood that crisscross over the glass of your window. Some of them serve to hold together the glass panes of the window. But some muntins can be purely decorative. They’re also often called “sash bars” and “glazing bars.”


This is often found in buildings with classical architecture. We see it in museums, government offices, schools, and libraries. But who knows, maybe you live in a home with classical architecture. In any case, the pilaster is the rectangular column that you see protruding on the outside walls of your house. It seems like it’s supporting the wall and the roof. But the truth is that it’s for decorative purposes.


Do you have a nice, cozy window seat in the bedroom? It’s a reading nook or a lounging area where you can nosily spy on your neighbors (discreetly, of course). Well, an oriel window is usually what makes a window seat inside possible. It’s a type of window that protrudes from the outside wall of the house. It’s often for the upper floors. And it’s supported by a bracket or corbel underneath.


This is mostly found on the outside wall of barns and sheds. It’s made of long planks of wood installed against the wall. Using shiplap as a style for the wall is a growing trend in interior design. Much like having exposed bricks for walls, this exposed wood makes up for a stylish home.

These architecture and design terms may seem too technical for some. You may ask whatthe point of knowing what to call the strip of wood along the glass panes of your window is. You may be right in questioning that. It’s all right not to know that and other terms for other parts of your house. But when you consider renovating your home or selling it, knowing these terms certainly helps. At the end of the day, you get to know your home better. And that’s always okay.

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