We’ve put together a basic list of industry terms to aid you in understanding design and cabinetry. Knowing what your designer is referring to is vital to understanding what you are being asked to pay for and how your final result will look and function!
Traditional style interiors are comforting and classic. Traditional decorating is calm, orderly, and predictable. There is nothing wild or chaotic in a traditional room. Furnishings are classic, with shapes and fabrics that are easily found and can range from generic to full custom pieces. Pieces often match (or are more consistent) in color/finish and style, and symmetry often plays a large part in design. Traditional style homes feel comfortable for any age group. It’s a familiar look that dominates magazines and furniture show rooms. A traditional room can range from rich and luxurious to somewhat casual or informal.
You might like the contemporary style of decorating if you like to keep stray from the designs of the past. While it’s been thought that modern interiors are cold and minimalist, today’s contemporary interiors can be comfortable and welcoming without being cluttered and dark. It’s a style that is equally appropriate for offices and stores, lofts and homes. Fundamentally, simplicity, subtle sophistication, nontraditional texture and clean lines help to define contemporary style decorating. By focusing on color, space, and shape, contemporary interiors are sleek and fresh.
Transitional style is a blend of traditional and contemporary design. Simpler versions of traditional elements are common. One common feature of transitional design is an open floor plan.
Regional style is best described as an adherence to certain colors, styles and materials that relate to a particular part of the country or world. Having a regional style preference does not have to dominate your design. The overall room may be traditional, transitional, contemporary, or eclectic, with accents and signature pieces that evoke the region of your choice.
Common Regional/Geographical Styles include:
If there is a particular architectural period in time you would like your space to emulate in layout, colors/finishes, styles, and décor, then you will want to be clear with your designer. Hearkening back to the past can be comforting and interesting at the same time. You may also wish to combine your time period preference with other styles, which will prevent your space from becoming restricted to one century or decade, while still including recognizable design elements. A good designer should also be able to modernize representative features to fit the life and style of today.
A style that has lasting worth or a timeless quality. Classic design often uses modified elements of Greek and Roman architecture and other recognizable themes from past centuries.
Modern design can be sleek and clean-lined or simply an updated take on design from the past. A great example is the resurgence of library cup pulls: An older concept with a modern interpretation in shape or finish.
In terms of design, we most commonly use this term to describe styles that utilized aged pieces (see Distressing) or are modeled specifically to look like they were made with methods from the past.
An aesthetic trend in design that emphasizes sharp lines, abrupt connections and dynamic interactions of motion. You may see unfinished edges, bolts and brackets, steel, and utilitarian shapes.
This style term is defined by curves, decorative lines, and soft colors. It’s not politically correct, but it’s a useful term that is universally understood.
This style term is defined by hard lines, angular shapes, and deep, unsaturated colors. It’s not politically correct, but it’s a useful term that is universally understood.
A mixed style in the fine arts: “the borrowing of a variety of style from different sources and combining them”. Eclecticism is a blend of furnishing styles from a mixture of sources and/or time periods. This is definitely not a hodgepodge or jumbled assortment of random items, but a planned deliberate design. An eclectic styled interior designed room is brought together when the cabinetry and furnishings relate to each other in color, pattern, scale, texture, finish, or shape. The color schemes used can be diverse, but as a general rule, neutral colors are important, both as a backdrop and for larger pieces. Contrast is an key element for colors and materials in eclectic style interior design.
Refers to things from a certain era, especially old or antiquated. Today, this term is commonly used to refer to design elements from the American 1920s to the 1970s. Shapes, features, colors, layouts, and more can be considered vintage.
Can sometimes be used synonymously with Traditional, but generally refers to simplicity in decorations, color combinations, wood species, and fabrics. Someone with a conservative style would not likely use zebrawood or a diverse color palette.
The level of color found in one hue. Variations in saturation usually present as a color with different amounts of white or gray added. Referring to an unsaturated color usually means a grayer version of the original color, and using unsaturated colors usually results in a more neutral palette.
Containing only one hue. Monochromatic spaces usually utilize different levels of saturation of the same color.
Combines the updates of contemporary design and the old-world traditions of the classic style. Many French designs could be considered romantic, as well as design elements from other European countries.
A distinctive style that combines utilitarian concepts (like butcher block countertops) with decorative furniture pieces. Country French design often features iron, exposed bracketing, open shelving, and simple cabinetry styles.
This style features architectural elements like pointed arches, fireplaces, stained glass, and wooden ceiling beams. Floors in a Gothic home are typically a hard surface like stone, tile, or dark stained hardwood.
A philosophy that takes environmental aspects of a product’s design and life cycle. The progression from production to disposal is always taken into account. See FSC-Certified for more.
Cabinets that cannot be customized when ordered. They come in predetermined sizes, styles and finishes. Stock cabinets are generally less expensive and made with lesser quality methods than Custom Cabinets.
Cabinets which have limited options for customization when ordered, but likely have more choices for styles and finishes than stock cabinetry. They may be able to be sized to fit, eliminating the need for fillers. Semi-custom cabinets are generally in between Stock and Custom cabinets in price.
Cabinets which have a wide range of options for customization when ordered. Size, style and finishing can be modified in any way and cabinetry can be adjusted to fit odd spaces and to hold variant storage in order to best accommodate your needs and the end design result. Custom cabinets will range from middle to high end in pricing. They are generally higher quality using better materials and construction methods than Stock and Semi-custom cabinets.
This is a more traditional style of cabinetry, although it can be used in contemporary design. The cabinet box is built behind a picture frame-like structure onto which the doors and drawers are applied. The frame itself is mostly visible when the cabinet door is open, but it can also be seen in the gapping between doors that are intentionally set further apart. Framed cabinetry is usually slightly more expensive than frameless, because of increased material and finishing costs, and it can reduce your overall storage space and accessibility, but the end look of the cabinet is truly beautiful.
In frameless style cabinetry, doors are attached directly to the sides of the cabinet box with hinges that are most often hidden on the inside of the cabinet. Frequently referred to as Euro-style, this method lends itself to a more contemporary look.
Inset Cabinet Doors
Inset doors, by default, are also framed cabinets. Instead of being behind it, the frame exists around the cabinet door itself, making the spaces between cabinets flush with the doors. Like framed cabinetry, inset doors can reduce your storage space, but the result is aesthetically pleasing. This style is more expensive than overlay, because of increased material and finishing costs, as well as labor. A common design with inset cabinet doors is to place a small bead between the door and the frame.
Overlay cabinet doors work with both framed and frameless cabinetry. In either case, the doors are set directly on top of the cabinet box or frame. In general, overlay doors are less expensive than inset, and are more widely by designers due to cost and increased functional aspects (larger cabinets, more storage space). In contemporary applications, overlay doors create a clean, seamless look, which appeals to a more modern design.
This term refers to the building method of the cabinets themselves, most specifically the use of mortar and tendon techniques, which were utilized by cabinetmakers of the past. The quality and lifetime of the cabinetry is second to none. K.D. & Steele Cabinetry, exclusively provided by The Kitchen Design Studio, is a great example of this style.
This form of cabinetry usually consists of overlay doors and hinges applied to the interior of the cabinet. Don Justice Cabinet Makers are experts at this method of construction.
Fully Integrated Appliances
This term refers to the application of cabinet door panels to kitchen and bar appliances which completely disguise the appliance itself, blending it seamlessly into the cabinetry. Many lines offer varying levels of integration, but Subzero, Wolf, and Asko have fantastic options which allow all seams, and stainless to be hidden.
Painted cabinets have an infinite number of color variantions and combinations that can be utilized. These cabinets can be built with a variety of wood species, but are most commonly constructed with poplar, which saves the buyer money on materials.
Stained cabinets look best with woods with definitive graining. Shades range from very light to deep to blacks and unnatural colors, but are most commonly found in brown shades. It’s important to ask your designer or finisher about the base color of the stain and the combination of the stain and your lighting; Reds and oranges have a different effect on larger scales than is possible to detect on small samples.
Glazing is a finishing technique that highlights variations in shape on painted or stained cabinetry. The final color can be drastically changed with the application of a glaze, and stains often look more vibrant and deep, while painted cabinetry usually looks more aged. Glaze comes in infinite levels of application, from very light to heavy. Glazing will add to your finishing cost, because it is almost always custom and brush-applied, but the result is incredible, and may be vital to the look of your final design.
Distressing is another finishing technique that ages your cabinetry with the careful application of dents, scratches, cracks, and wormholes. Like glazing, distressing is completely custom and can be as minimal as rub/sand-through, and as noticeable as peeling paint. Distressing also adds to your finishing cost, but can be one of the most distinguishing features of your cabinetry if done properly.
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