Studio Brunstrum

Design Speak 101

August 22, 2016

The lingo of interior design can be as baffling as a foreign language!

The lingo of interior design can be as baffling as a foreign language! What the heck is an escutcheon plate and how do you pronounce that anyway? Is a guilloche somehow related to a guillotine? Are girandoles a tasty pastry? Today we’re starting an occasional series of blogs unraveling the mysteries of interior design speak from A to Z. Pretty soon you’ll be throwing around terms like an expert! We begin in no particular order with some of our favorite terms.

Photo Courtesy of

Guilloche (gee-yosh or gee-losh) Another French term, it rhymes with brioche, but is not as tasty.  It refers to a decorative pattern of interlacing curves.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Photo Courtesy of

Escutcheon (iss-kutch-en) This can be a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms, but in most homes an escutcheon is a protective and decorative piece of metal installed around a keyhole, door handle, faucet or a light fixture where it meets the wall or ceiling. Of course, you could always design a coat of arms for yourself, too and have both kinds of escutcheons.

Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Étagère – (ay-tah-zhair) This is a fancy-pants French name for a tall, open shelving unit. Sounds prettier when you say étagère, though!

Photo Courtesy of Traditional Home

Girandoles (jir-an-dolz) Originally from the Italian word girare, “to turn,” girandoles are ornamental branched supports - you could call them arms - for candles or lights which stand on a surface or extend out from a wall.

Photo Courtesy of,uk

Ladies - you might have girandoles in your jewelry box, too. The term also refers to pendant earrings with three ornaments hanging from a central piece. This gold pair modeled by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton are from designer Cassandra Goad and are named Temple of Heaven Girandole.

Photo Courtesy of NeimanMarcus-com

Matelassé  (mah-tah-lassay) Sounds like something you’d order at Starbucks, double –shot, please, but it is actually a heavy, thick fabric meant to mimic the style of hand-stitched quilts made in Marseilles, France. It appears to be padded, but is not.

We’ll be back with more once you’ve memorized these! And if you like, send us a design term you had to look up or want to know more about.

Susan Brunstrum
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