Since the launch of the DIY craze at the beginning of the millennium, many of American’s have launched new design and construction terms into our vocabulary. Perhaps it’s been our obsession over the last twenty years with reality television? There is also a theory that there I have been more accessibility to design resources as home improvement stores and box retailers expand into new markets while the Internet has allowed us to click and have anything delivered to our door. Regardless of how we have gotten here, I have noticed several designers, architects and design writers sharing quite a few things that we have gotten wrong. I decided this week to clarify just a few.

• The terms vintage and antique are often used interchangeable however, vintage describes an item that is at least 20 years old, where as an antique must be 100 years or older.

• Modern and contemporary is always getting shifted around. Modern refers to a specific design style, Mid Century Modern, which was introduced near the middle of the twentieth century (1920’s-1950’s). Contemporary design is not defined by a specific time period. This term is most generally referred to what is popular or trending at the present time.

• Quartz vs. Granite. Granite is a natural stone cut from the earth in massive sheets. It is very porous, somewhat durable and much more high maintenance than quartz. Quartz is a man-engineered stone consisting of approximately 93 percent crushed stone and 7 percent resin. This material requires no maintenance and is fully sealed providing the strongest durability between the two.

• Carrara marble and Calacatta marble are very similar and often confused. Calacatta is much whiter in color with thick grey veining areas. Carrera marble has a greyer hue and much softer veining. Carrara is more readily accessible.

• Porcelain is made form a more refined and denser clay than ceramic. Porcelain is less porous that ceramic and there more durable than ceramic.

• The difference between the chevron and herringbone is how they tile or flooring being laid. Chevron has a 45 degree angled end, where the zigzag pattern creates a continuous “v” shape. Herringbone features a square end, creating a more broken zigzag effect.

• Melamine refers to a specific type of plastic coating that is always applied to a substrate, such as particleboard, MDF or plywood. Please don’t confuse it with Laminate. Laminate is also a plastic material but it is much thicker and requires more processes to manufacture, which in exchange increases its overall durability. It can be sold on substrate or separately as its own thin layers either as a countertop or flooring material. Melamine on the other hand is a finish and is not used as a standalone material.

• Particle Board vs. MDF. Both materials are made from wood and resin. However, particleboard is made from larger wood particles and MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is made from wood dust. MDF is denser, making it more durable. You most often see kitchen cabinet boxes built from particleboard and the cabinet doors are made by using MDF.

• Sofa vs. Couch. A couch is a piece of furniture originally designed for reclining, typically with only one arm and no back. It’s more casual. You can crash on it. Sofa with that one extra syllable is something more ostentatious and formal. That sofa has two whole arms and a back to boot. It’s a piece to host guests on.

• These two phrases daybed and chaise get mixed up often. A daybed is a three-sided piece of furniture that typically features a twin-size mattress as the bottom cushion. A chaise is normally a part of a seating configuration for a sectional and is around 65” deep (some people also call it the “cuddler”). A standalone chaise lounge can actually float on its own in a room and does not need to be a part of a sectional configuration, but typically is not sized the same as a twin bed.

David Brown
Mulberry Seed Design