Tips and Guides

The A to Z of Decorating and Renovation

Familiarize yourself with these terms that you need to know when renovating and sprucing up your home


From as-built plans to zigzag springs, here's a glossary of all the terms you need to know about decorating and renovation.

Special thanks to Architect Mia Quimpo and Interior Designer Tess Quevedo (resource persons). Interview and Production by Tala Singson. Illustrations by Joanne Bohol, Dagny Madamba, and Tala Singson. Additional photos by Ocs Alvarez/ACME Visual Productions, Bahaghari, Rene Mejia, and Miguel Nacianceno.

Read the original article in the June 2013 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App now! Log on to for more details.

Keep in mind these terms:


These are a new set of house plans created from observations and measurements taken on-site. They show how the space was actually constructed, including any changes made from the original house plans. “These plans are of great use when embarking on a renovation as they will inform you of where pipes and wires pass, and which walls or structures you may or may not break down,” shares architect Mia Quimpo.


Backsplashes are, according to interior designer and Professor Tess Quevedo, “a treatment for the wall behind a kitchen countertop that makes upkeep easy and protects the wall from water splashes or oil spatters. Natural stone is a common backsplash material, but other materials can also be used.” 


Simply put, it is a backup budget for unforeseen additional costs during construction. Mia states this example: “While tearing down a wall to open up a room, you discover that the wall is riddled with termites, thus increasing your budget to include pest control.”

RL Tip: Mia advises to always prepare a 5% contingency fund when doing renovations.


An acronym for  “Do-It-Yourself.” "This refers to projects like interior painting or furniture assembly that can be done with hardly any help from a skilled worker,” says Tess. “A step-by-step instruction often serves as a guide in accomplishing such projects.” 


According to Tess, “an interior is eclectic if it is composed of elements that come from a variety of styles or sources; the elements should complement each other so the interior will not appear cluttered.” Sticking to a color scheme should do the trick.


What usually creates interest in a room is the focal point that is “visually emphasized and draws the eye, much like a wall with a painting or a grouping of furniture,” elaborates Tess.


Mia explains that glass is “a great tabletop material for a small dining space; a glass-top table feels spacious compared with a solid top.” Adding to the list of applications are glass partitions that can be clear or frosted, which can easily open up a closed space.


These are metal fittings in the form of finish (or ornamental) hardware or common, rough hardware such as hinges, locks, and catches, or nails, screws, and bolts. “Finish hardware can also be decorative like those ornate locks used in Rococo or Korean chests,” adds Tess.


A feature of appliances like refrigerators, air-conditioning units, and the like, an inverter converts direct current to alternating current. Mia attests that in buying appliances with this technology, “the initial investment is higher than that for conventional appliances, but your monthly electric bill will decrease by up to 20% or more!”


Also called a Zen Garden, it is the stylized arrangement of rocks and sand that imitates the intimate essence of nature, not its actual appearance. These were created in temples of Zen Buddhism and are used to aid in meditation and contemplation.

To learn more about different styles/types of garden, click here.


“As applied to furniture, this is a piece that you buy unassembled or partially assembled,” says Tess. “Beds are usually knock-down for easy transport and also so that they can be brought inside a room without difficulty.” Another similar term is “flatpack” or RTA (ready-to-assemble).


Mia says that this is relatively new lighting technology. “It offers brilliant lighting yet consumes less electricity and it lasts ten times longer than your ordinary bulb!” Another plus: LED lamps, like these outdoor lamps from Philips, don’t heat up like fluorescents or halogens do.


“It is a trim or a finishing element made of contoured wood, plaster, or plastic used at the base of walls, the intersection of the wall and the ceiling, and around the door for a finished look,” explains Tess. Baseboards, cornices, and casings are examples of this. 


“Also called achromatic colors; without hue or colorless such as black, white, gray,” says Tess. “Neutrals easily blend with other colors.” This means that a neutral color scheme can adapt to any interior style and personality.


This fancy word is literally “art object” in French. “This refers to works of art other than paintings, sculptures, prints, or drawings,” says Mia. “They may be metal works, small carvings, porcelain, antiques, and textiles, among many others.” 

RL Tip: Mia’s advice: “Accessorizing your home with objets d’art that are dear to you will add a touch of individuality.”


“Plants are a great way of softening a space, highlighting architecture, giving direction, completing an assemblage, and best of all, breathing oxygen into your home.” Mia also adds that indoor plants should be taken out in the sun once in a while, depending on plant type.

Learn about the different decorative arrangements that you can do for your home here.


“A standard bed size that measures 60” x 80” (roughly 1.5m x 2.0m), and is good for two people,” says Tess. It’s a bit smaller than a king-size bed, which measures 76” x 80”, but is more ideal for couples who prefer sleeping in close quarters.

Learn more about the different mattress sizes here.


Tess characterizes this window treatment as “a flat, fabric window shade that folds like an accordion when drawn up by cords.” Another type of drawn-up window shade is an Austrian shade that has more volume at its hem and has layered scallops. 


It’s a removable fitted fabric cover for a piece of furniture, like a sofa. “These can be removed and washed, and are one way to change the look of a furniture,” shares Tess. Change your slipcovers when dirty, and whenever appropriate for the time and season.


Mia describes it as “the opposite of general lighting. Task lighting uses specific individually controlled lighting devices for a specific area.” Table lamps, floor lamps, work lights, and drop lights are a few examples of this.


“The process of fitting furniture such as sofas and chairs with springs, webbing, padding or foam, and fabric or leather,” explains Tess. “Upholstered furniture provides more comfort than an all-wood or all-metal furniture.” A room with upholstered furniture can visually—and literally—soften up a space.


Commonly used on wall panels or furniture, Tess describes it as “a thin layer of wood laminated or glued on a surface to give it the beauty of solid wood. Wood species with beautiful grains are best for veneer.”

RL Tip: Instead of paint, use wood veneer panels to create an accent wall. The result is more sophisticated and goes well with tropical interiors. 


This is a general term for interior design elements that cover or frame windows. Popular window treatments are curtains, louvers, roll-up blinds, or shades. “Consider your reasons for choosing a specific window treatment,” advises Tess. “Ask yourself: Is it for privacy? For shading from the harsh sun?  To screen an undesirable view?  For ventilation or style? Or a combination of all of these?”


“A chair with legs or a base shaped like an X, instead of the usual four upright legs. X-frame chairs have existed since antiquity,” says Tess. The ancient Roman savonarola is one such piece, of which there are many modern-day variations. 


Also known as landscape lighting. You can transform your yard into a stunning landscape with the proper placing of lamps and lighting elements. LED lamps are most ideal for this type of lighting because they are long-lasting and very efficient.


These are no-sag springs used in upholstery and are attached to the frame of the seat. Tess also attests that “this is what gives the chair its bounce when you sit on it.”


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