Home Remodeling Glossary: 15 Key Design & Architecture Terms

What's the difference between modern, minimalist & mid-century modern? Gallery KBNY breaks down the meaning of the top 15 design and architecture terms.

August 8, 2018


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Home Remodeling Glossary: 15 Key Design & Architecture Terms

You know the song: "I'm a little bit country." "I'm a little bit Mid-century Modern with a Scandinavian twist . . ." But what does all that mean? Gallery experts spill the beans.

Table of contents

Whether it’s a cabinet finish upgrade, a full gut renovation, or anything in between, house remodeling can utterly transform a home. Kitchen and bath designers tackle the most important rooms, and in doing so, they metamorphose not just the look of each house, but the way families actually live.

With today’s extensive kitchen and bathroom showrooms, plus an Internet full of great bath and kitchen ideas, there are more options than ever to consider. Want an open kitchen layout? How about a wide, open bathroom anchored by an extra-deep, freestanding tub? Whatever the dream is, talented designers and contractors can help make it happen.

And at Gallery Kitchen & Bath, the designers are also the contractors. Because they’re accredited in design, and because they have a passion for it, they personally bring every project from bulletin board to real life. Clients call the shots, but it’s the holistically-minded Gallery team who makes the ideas concrete.

So, let’s say you know what vibe you want, but you’re not really sure of much else. Or maybe you know you love Ultra Violet, but you don’t know how to incorporate the Pantone color of the year. Or maybe you’re further along, having pulled inspiration pics from magazines, sketched ideas on napkins, and developed a plan of your own. Whatever the case may be, it’s helpful to articulate exactly what you want—and, more importantly, what you don’t want. Below, a glossary straight from the Gallery Kitchen & Bath team, who gave us a few specific home design terms that can help you express your dwelling dreams. Quick note: Many of these terms refer to both architecture and interior design, depending on the context.


The overall look and vibe. It’s a bit of a general term, used in conjunction with formal design terms (“I’m going for a Scandinavian aesthetic”) as well as more casual or general ones (“My aesthetic is royal and colorful”).


As an adjective, it means elegant, often effortlessly so. In the home renovation world, it’s often used, as the second part of a noun, to modify or specify a broader design term. So, “farmhouse chic” would mean a kitchen or bath whose rustic, natural feel is executed in a way that’s simple and refined.


A type of design characterized by quaint, rustic, and/or traditionally rural-feeling elements. Say the Gallery designers, “Think beautiful hickory wood in an inset country kitchen, as opposed to a beautiful, modern, flat panel, European style kitchen with Italian lacquer.” Both are beautiful. Only one is country.


As a noun, this word functions similarly to “aesthetic,” describing the style of a room’s transformation. Examples include modern, Mid-century Modern, and transitional. We’ll get to all those later.


Artfully varied, often with several quirky-feeling elements. Think furniture that harmonizes, but doesn’t exactly match.


When used with other descriptors, this word can describe design with any Continental influence, but when it’s used on its own in home remodel settings, it typically refers to a modern, often Scandinavian-tinted design. (We’ll get to Scandinavian design in a bit.)


Similar to country, but with a hint of industry and function-first priorities.


A design style originating in the middle of the 20th century. It includes Mid-century Modern, but is not limited to it.

[#Century]Mid-century Modern[#Century]

A subset of Mid-century style characterized by specific, elegant design features. Think Eames chairs, narrow little legs, and the first few seasons of Mad Men.


A clean, unadorned look that eschews loud patterns and baroque extras for a function-forward feel.


This refers to designs that originate in the 20th century. It includes Mid-century, Mid-century Modern, Scandinavian, European, and many minimalist styles.


Pre-war homes were usually built between 1890 and 1940, and often have a combination of specific architectural elements you won’t find elsewhere. A pre-war abode might feature solid oak floors, sky-high ceilings, decorative wood molding, and a fireplace. See examples via our pre-war renovation before + afters.


This is basically another word for mid-century modern. It refers to designs and architecture from the 1950-1975 period, and again, you’ll want to picture Eames chairs and Don Draper.


This typically describes design that is functional, modern, and minimalist, along with structures and angles that feel homey yet innovative and clean.


This is a design style whose name refers to the transition between classic and modern. That, in itself, is a broad concept (what is classic? What is modern?), but it typically means mixing ornamental elements, like crown molding, with modern elements, like sleek flat panel kitchen cabinets.

[#Design-Build]BONUS: Design-Build Firm[#Design-Build]

Ready to start your own NYC apartment renovation? As a full-service design-build firm in New York City, Gallery handles home renovations from start to finish, driving all aspects of a client's project from interior design and architectural planning to building board management and demolition plus construction. Learn more about how our all-inclusive design-build process differs from a traditional design-bid-build approach. Ready to renovate? Contact us for a consultation.

Marketing Director

Ben Bowdonhttps://www.gallerykbny.com/authors/ben-b

Ben Bowdon is the Marketing Director of Gallery KBNY, a full service design-build firm specializing in the design and interior renovation of apartments, townhomes, and lofts in NYC. For over a decade, Ben has navigated the ever-changing landscape of online marketing, delivering digital strategy solutions for companies of all sizes, until finding a permanent home with Gallery. As lead brand champion and curator, the proud Western Michigan Bronco strives to deliver thoughtful, industry-leading expertise to Gallery’s esteemed clientele via the most seamless omnichannel experience possible.




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