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Design Speak lets you in on a some industry lingo so that you will sound oh-so-smart. From abbreviations to acronyms to phrases to trendy words, we’ll do our best to cover it, and we’ll do it in language you’ll understand.

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Term Definition

(pronounced skirt)

Rather than referring to the latest mini-, pencil or slit skirt dominating the fashion runways, we are instead describing the cloth piece applied to the bottom of a bed, sofa, chair or table that both hides the legs and open area underneath the piece of furniture and allows for additional ornamentation to the piece.


slipper chair

(pronounced SLIH-per chehr)

A type of armless, upholstered chair having a low seat that can come in a variety of styles and sizes, most often small.



(pronounced SLUHB)

Though it sounds like a name that kids would cruelly taunt one another with, a slub is an important term in the textile trade. When wool is drafted unevenly as it is spun it forms lumps, or slubs, in the yarn, which are thicker than the rest of the yarn and have little to no twist. Once considered a mistake, these irregularities have become a popular effect designed intentionally into various fiber types as they can be used to add beautiful visual and tactile texture to the resulting woven fabric.

smart glass

(pronounced SMART-glas)

See electric privacy glass.

sofa table

(pronounced SO-fuh TAY-buhl)

See console table.


(pronounced SAH-fit)

This word tends to baffle people because it can mean several things, though they all correlate to the built environment. As related to architectural exteriors, a soffit is the underside of a part or member of a building. This especially applies to an arch, but it could be a beam, cornice, balcony, or lintel. On the interior, this definition could also apply to the bottom of a staircase or an overhang.

A more modern application of the word soffit is a lowered ceiling plane around the perimeter of a room, above cabinetry, or any place one wants to place recessed lighting. Designers may also use soffits to delineate a circulation path or a change in space function. Soffits can be with constructed with metal or wood stud framing, and they are typically finished with drywall. See – they’re not so mysterious afterall.

solution dyed

(pronounced suh-LU-shehn dyed)

In solution dyeing, dye is added to a manufactured fiber (such as nylon) while it still exists as a chemical solution – i.e., before it is extruded into yarn. Because the filament is impregnated with pigment, solution dyeing is an incredibly colorfast method of dyeing.

sound attenuation batts

(pronounced SOWND eh-TEN-yeh-WAY-shun BATZ)

Otherwise known as SABs, sound attenuation batts are flexible, lightweight sheets of fiberglass insulation designed to control noise transmission between interior walls. Batts are typically manufactured 8’ long, between 2-1/2" and 3-1/2" thick and a little bit wider than typical stud spacing, which mostly eliminates the need for fasteners and makes installation within stud cavities easier and faster. SABs are easily cut to fit around obstructions such as pipes, outlets, wires, junction boxes, etc., which helps provide higher acoustical performance. When combined with certain practices – such as sealing wall perimeters and properly locating and installing doors, sidelights, switches, outlets, ducts, and mechanical equipment – acoustical performance can be significantly improved. As most SABs manufactured are made of materials that slow the spread of fire, they are considered noncombustible by most major building code authorities.


(pronounced SPAN-drehl)

Just as there are many types of Spaniels, there are many types of spandrels. Before we go any further, we want to mention that a alternative, though lesser used, spelling is “spandril.” The general idea to remember is that the term relates mostly to a space bounded by other architectural elements. First off, a spandrel is the triangular area between the side of an arch and the rectangular molding surrounding it above and to the side. It is also the larger triangular area between the adjacent sides of two arches and the rectangular molding above. Thirdly, in a two+ story building, the term can also be used to describe the space between the top of the window in one story and the sill of the window in the story above. In older buildings, many times there are sculpted panel spandrels having ornamental elements or figures. In more modern buildings, this space might be filled with opaque or translucent glass – i.e., spandrel glass. Next, it is also considered the space between the arch of bridge and the upper deck. Before technological advances in reinforced concrete made it possible to have open spandrels, these spaces were filled in with stone. Lastly (and not pictured), a spandrel can also be 3-D. When a dome sits upon a rectilinear base and is raised above the level of the supporting pillars, three-dimensional concave spandrels – also called pendentives – distribute the weight of the dome onto the supports.

spandrel glass

(pronounced SPAN-drehl glas)

See spandrel.


(pronounced spesh-eh-feh-KAY-shuns)

Most in The Biz simply refer to specifications as “specs” (pronounced spehks). Our industry is just lazy that way. The purpose of specs not only is to tell the construction company what kind of products to use and how we expect them to use them, but also to (hopefully) prevent legal problems down the line. In our ultra-litigious society, the latter has become so critical that people make their living as Specification Writers. Specs can be incredibly detailed and precise on large projects (usually producing a large “spec book” in addition to the drawings), and fairly simple and general on others (either included on the drawings themselves or on an accompanying piece of regular paper). It all depends on the scope of the project and the relationship you have with the contractor, though you still need to cover yourself. We’ll cover the details on specs (i.e base-bid, descriptive, equal, open, performance, prescriptive, proprietary, etc.) in the future.


(pronounced SPESS-eh-feye)

Most in The Biz shorten the verb to say that they “spec” (pronounced spehk) something rather than they “specify” something. Though true specifications deal with a huge range of “behind the scenes” details (from sealants to insulation to fasteners), you will most commonly hear designers use the word “spec” when referring to choosing finishes, furnishings, furniture and equipment. You will also frequently hear sales reps ask if a designer if they are going to “spec” their product(s) on a particular job.


(pronounced spIr)

See finial.

spring bolt lock

(pronounced SPRIHNG bohlt lahk)

See dead bolt.


(rhymes with night and kite)

No, we aren’t referring to the refreshing lemon-lime carbonated beverage popular around the Western world. This sprite is far less tangible – at least in the material world. The word is another name for a fairy or elf, usually of the female persuasion. Less specifically, the term can just refer to a ghost, soul, or disembodied spirit. Why are we including this in the DESIGN SPEAK section? Because sprite figures are a common motif in the history of art, the decorative arts, and architectural interiors.

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