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Interior Design Terms Explained

April 12, 2024

Behind the Scenes

There are many things that make the design industry seem intimidating. Just like any other industry, interior designers often use technical lingo that you may not be familiar with. In this blogpost we’ll explain some of the most commonly used interior design terms and why they matter to you as a client.

Designer vs. decorator

A designer is a professional who plans and coordinates the design, style, and overall appearance of a building or environment. They may also be responsible for ensuring that all elements within the project are compatible with local codes and regulations. A decorator is someone who specializes in coordinating colors, fabrics and furniture arrangements, what are sometimes referred to as ‘soft furnishings’.

At Morrison Gates, we are primarily decorators who are sometimes asked to collaborate with our clients’ architects or builders on the ‘design’ aspects of a project as well.


To-the-trade materials are designed for professionals in the building or design trades and can only be purchased by licensed contractors. To-the-trade products are available exclusively through distributors who have been authorized by their manufacturers to sell them.

If you ever notice a piece of furniture labeled “to the trade,” it means that it’s meant for professionals only – and not intended for sale at retail stores.

Many of the high quality furniture, fabric and wallpaper lines that we employ in our projects are available only to-the-trade.


Elevations are drawings that show the front, side and back of a building or room. They help to visualize how a space will look when it is finished and can be used by builders as well as architects to help with construction. Elevations are most often made by the architect or designer.

3D Models

3D models are used to show the design of a room in…three dimensions. They can help you visualize how your space will look before it is built, and they can also be used for virtual tours and marketing purposes.

3D models are created using CAD software, which stands for Computer Aided Design.

Spec home vs. Custom home

Spec homes and custom homes are two different types of houses. A spec home is one that has been pre-designed by a builder, and buyers can choose from a few options when they buy it. A custom home, on the other hand, is designed by a designer and/or architect for a specific client and built to the client’s specifications.

Types of designers

Interior design is a broad term, and there are many different types of interior designers. Some focus on residential homes, others on commercial spaces or even retail shops. It’s important to understand what each type does so you can find the right one for your project!

  • Residential interior designer: This is the type of design we do at Morrison Gates. We can help you update your personal family home.
  • Commercial interior designer: These professionals work with businesses, including everything from restaurants to hotels and corporate offices.


Now that you’ve got a handle on the basics, we hope you’ll find the prospect of hiring a designer less intimidating. We can’t wait to speak with you about your project!

Filed under:

Designer, toddler-wrangler, professional decision-maker

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