Glossary of Terms & Definitions
Industry Terminology
SUPPORTING LOCAL DESIGNER, MAKERS & ARCHITECTS

Use our list of furniture design terms and definitions to cut through technical jargon. Terms are listed in alphabetical order. Contact us if the term you are looking for is not defined.

Arcade

A series of arches supported by columns or other vertical elements.

Arch

A curved or pointed structural element that is supported at its sides.

Baluster

A vertical supporting element, similar to a small column.

Balustrade

A railing consisting of a row of balusters supporting a rail.

Bevel

The angle that one surface or line makes with another when they are not at right angles.

Biscuit Joint

An oval shaped disk that when inserted in a slot with glue swells to form a tight bond. A special tool (biscuit joiner) is required to cut the slot.

Black Oxide

Or blackening is a conversion coating formed by a chemical reaction when metals are immersed in an alkaline aqueous salt solution. A black oxide finishing gives a glossy black finish to the metal.

Bow

A warp along the length of a board.

Brace

A reinforcing and/or stabilising element of an architectural frame.

Canopy

A metal frame covered with fabric that projects from a building entrance over the sidewalk.

Casement

A vertical window hinged on the side that opens either out or in.

Chalet

A timber dwelling, cottage, or lodge with a gable roof and wide eaves, indigenous to the Swiss Alps, but now found worldwide.

Chevron

A design that incorporates a pointed shape similar to an accent mark, common to Art Deco architecture.

Column

A supporting pillar consisting of a base, a cylindrical shaft, and a capital on top of the shaft. Columns may be plain or ornamental.

Cornice

A crowning projection at a roof line, often with moulding or other classical detail.

Courtyard

An open space, usually open to the sky, enclosed by a building, often with an arcade or colonnade.

Eaves

The projecting edge of a roof that overhangs an exterior wall to protect it from the rain.

Enamel

A glossy coloured finish with high varnish content.

Exposed Rafters

Rafters that are exposed to the outside of a building. Rafters are the inclined, sloping framing members of a roof, and to which the roof covering is affixed.

Facade

An exterior wall, or face, of a building. The front facade of a building contains the building’s main entrance, the rear facade is the building’s rear exterior wall, and the side facades are a building’s side exterior walls.

Fenestration

The arrangement, proportioning, and design of windows and doors in a building.

Floor Plan

The arrangement of rooms in a building.

Flush

When two adjoining surfaces are perfectly even with one another.

Fluting

Shallow, vertical grooves in the shaft of a column or pilaster.

Gable Roof

A roof with two slopes – front and rear– joining at a single ridge line parallel to the entrance façade. When the ridge line of a gable-roofed house is perpendicular to the street, the roof is said to be a gable-end roof.

Grain

The appearance, size and direction of the alignment of the fibres of the wood.

Hardware

The metal fittings of a building, such as locks, latches, hinges, handles, and knobs.

Hardwood

Comes from angiosperm trees that are not monocots; trees are usually broad-leaved. Has vessel elements that transport water throughout the wood; under a microscope, these elements appear as pores. Hardwoods are more likely to be found in high-quality furniture, decks, flooring, and construction that needs to last. Examples of hardwood trees include alder, balsa, beech, hickory, mahogany, maple, oak, teak, and walnut. Most hardwoods have a higher density than most softwoods.

Inlay

The insertion of pieces of contrasting wood into depressions flush with the surface.

Joint

The point at which two or more pieces of wood are joined together.

Knot

The portion of a branch or limb that is embedded in the wood.

Linseed Oil

An amber-coloured, fatty oil extracted from the cotyledon and inner coats of the linseed. The raw oil extracted from the seeds by hydraulic pressure is pale in colour and practically without taste or odour. When boiled or extracted by application of heat and pressure, it is darker and has a bitter taste and an unpleasant odour.

Masonry

Being of stone, brick, or concrete.

MDF

Medium density fiberboard; very stable underlay for counter tops etc. to be covered with laminate.

Mitre Join

Pieces are cut on an angle to make a joint.

Panel

A smooth surface, usually rectangular (or sometimes circular) in shape and framed by a moulding, and often featuring decorative, sculptural carving.

Patina

A thin layer that forms on the surface of metals characterised by fading, darkening or other signs of age which are felt to be natural or unavoidable. Patina finishing has many qualities such as the turquoise colouring that can be seen from a copper patina finish.

Pergola

A garden structure built up over a path or narrow terrace, lined with evenly spaced columns or posts that support a wooden-framed roof without sheathing. Often, vines are trained around the wooden framework of a pergola, and the pergola may lead from one building to another.

Pillar

A structural support, similar to a column, but larger and more massive, and often without ornamentation. Pillars can be round or square in section, and are most often made of brick, stone, cement, or other masonry, although substantial wooden timbers can be formed into pillars.

Plumb

A term used to describe something that is perfectly perpendicular to the earth relative to gravity.

Plywood

A glued wood panel (usually 2400mm by 1200mm) made up of thin layers of wood laid at right angles to each other.

Powder-coat

The process of applying paint (of any colour) in the form of powder. Regular liquid type paints are pigments and binders suspended in solvents. Powder coating is solvent free so you are just using the dry pigments and binders. The coat can be finished in an array of standards such as gloss, high gloss & matte.

Rafters

The inclined, sloping framing members of a roof, and to which the roof covering is affixed.

Relief

Carved or moulded ornament that projects from a flat surface.

Shellac

Resin flakes dissolved in alcohol used as a finish for wood.

Shutters

Pairs of solid or slatted window coverings, traditionally hinged to the exterior of a building to either side of a window, used to block light or wind from the interior of a building.

Softwood

Comes from gymnosperm trees which usually have needles and cones. Medullary rays and tracheids transport water and produce sap. When viewed under a microscope, softwoods have no visible pores because of tracheids. Examples of softwood trees are cedar, Douglas fir, juniper, pine, redwood, spruce, and yew. Most softwoods have a lower density than most hardwoods and is typically less expensive than hardwood.

Square

An instrument used to lay out or test right angles, with two arms at 90 degrees to each other, the longer and wider arm is the blade, the shorter narrower arm is the tongue.

Terrace

An outdoor extension of a building, situated above the ground level, and open to the sky.

Timber

The word timber is applied in a general way to the log and to the material itself, and to the standing trees. It is also applied more specifically to the larger squared pieces, or dimension stock, such as sills, beams, etc.

Truss

A rigid framework, as of wooden beams or metal bars, which supports a structure, such as a roof.

Veneer

A thin layer of expensive wood bonded to a thicker piece of cheaper plywood to give the appearance of the expensive wood but at a reduced price.

Window Sash

The movable frames in a window in which window panes are set.