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Glossary of Architectural Elements and Terms

Architect: An individual, partnership, corporation or other legal entity licensed to practice the profession of architecture.

Architrave: 1. The lowest part of a classical entablature. 2. A molding enframing an opening such as a window or areaway or the open space between a rowhouse and the sidewalk, usually beside the stoop.

Armature: A metal structural support for a rigid projecting sign. The armature may support the bracket sign by means of one or two projecting arms.

Awning: A metal frame clad with fabric attached over a window, door, porch opening or storefront to provide protection from the weather.

Baluster: One of a series of short vertical posts, often ornamental, used to support a rail.

Balustrade: A railing composed of balusters and a top rail running along the edge of a porch, balcony, roof, or stoop.

Bay: A regularly repeating division of a façade, marked by fenestration.

Bay Window: A projecting form containing windows that rises from the ground or from some other support, such as a porch roof; see also oriel.

Block Plan: A drawing of a building’s foot print within an entire block in simplified, non-detailed form

Bracket: A projecting angled or curved form used as a support, found in conjunction with balconies, lintels, pediments, cornices, etc.

Bracket Sign: A rigid outdoor sign, with two display faces, installed perpendicular to a building facade and hanging from an armature, used as an announcement for an establishment in the building, consisting of the rigid display faces and all letters, words, numerals, illustrations, decorations, trademarks, emblems, symbols or their figures or characters associated with the name of the establishment that are applied to the faces. In addition, a bracket sign may consist solely of an outline of a shape and/or letters intended to act as a symbol or sign for the establishment.

Brick Molding: A milled wood trim piece covering the gap between the window frame and masonry, which can be rectilinear, curved, or composite-curved.

Bulkhead: The part of a storefront that forms a base for one or more display windows

Building Plan: A drawing that shows a horizontal view

Came: A slender rod of cast lead, with or without grooves, used in casements and stained-glass windows to hold the panes or pieces of glass together

Canopy: A metal frame clad with fabric that projects from a building entrance over the sidewalk to the curb where it’s supported on vertical posts

Cap flashing: A waterproof sheet that seals the tops of cornices and walls.

Capital: The topmost member, usually decorated, of a column or pilaster.

Casement: A window sash that is hinged on the side.

Cast Iron: A type of iron, mass-produced in the nineteenth century, created by pouring molten iron into a mold; used for ornament, garden furniture, and building parts.

Clapboard Wood: Siding composed of horizontal, overlapping boards, the lower edges of which are usually thicker than the upper.

Colonnade: A row of regularly spaced columns supporting an entablature.

Colonnette: A diminutive column which is usually either short or slender.

Column: A vertical, cylindrical support. In classical design it is composed of a base (except in the Greek Doric order), a long, gradually tapered shaft, and a capital.

Configuration: The number, shape, organization and relationship of panes (lights) of glass, sash, frame, muntins or tracery.

Console: A scroll-shaped projecting bracket that supports a horizontal member.

Coping: A protective cap, top, or cover of a wall parapet, commonly sloping to protect masonry from water

Corbel: An architectural member which projects upward and outward from a wall that supports a horizontal member.

Cornice: A projecting molding that tops the elements to which it is attached; used especially for a roof or the crowning member of an entablature, located above the frieze.

Cresting: A decorative element, frequently of iron, usually located at the peak or edge of a roof.

Crocket: An ornamental foliate form placed at regularly spaced intervals on the slopes and edges of the spires, pinnacles, gables, and similar elements of Gothic buildings.

Cupola: A small dome on a base crowning a roof

Decorative Masonry: Terra cotta, cast-stone or natural stone (such as limestone, marble, brownstone or granite) facade areas and/or any ornamental feature which is a component of the facade such as, belt courses, banding, water tables, cornices, corbelled brick work, medallions, enframements, and surrounds, and ornamental bonding patterns, e.g. tapestry brick or diaper patterns.

Demolition: Dismantling or razing of all or part of an existing improvement.

Dentil: A small, square, tooth-like block in a series beneath a cornice.

Details: The dimensions and contours of both the stationary and moveable portions of a window, and moldings.

Display Window: The large glazed portion of the storefront, and the associated framing, above the bulkhead and below the transom, extending from pier to pier. The display window is typically used for the display of goods and to provide daylight and visibility into the commercial space.

Doric: One of five classical orders, recognizable by its simple capital. The Greek Doric column has a fluted shaft and no base; the Roman Doric column may be fluted or smooth and rests on a molded base.

Dormer: A vertical structure, usually housing a window that projects from a sloping roof and is covered by a separate roof structure.

Double hung: A type of window with two sash, each sliding on a vertical track.

Drip molding: A projecting molding around the head of a door or window frame, often extended horizontally at right angles to the sides of the frame, intended to channel rain away from the opening; also called a drip lintel.

Dunnage: Supports for air conditioning and other equipment above the roof of a building.

Eave: The overhanging edge of a roof.

Elevation: A drawing of a face of a building with all the features shown, as if in a single vertical plane

Enframement: A general term referring to any elements surrounding a window or door.

Engineer: Any individual, partnership, corporation or other legal entity licensed to practice the profession of engineering.

English bond: A pattern of brickwork with alternate courses of headers and stretchers.

Entablature: A major horizontal member carried by a column(s) or pilaster(s); it consists of an architrave, a frieze, and a cornice. The proportions and detailing are different for each order, and strictly prescribed.

Entrance recess: The recessed opening in the facade leading up to the doorway of a storefront or building entrance.

Eyebrow dormer: A curved dormer with no sides, covered by a smooth protrusion from the sloping roof.

Façade: The main exterior face of a building, sometimes distinguished from the other faces by elaboration of architectural or ornamental details.

Fanlight: A semicircular or semielliptical window above a door, usually inset with radiating glazing bars.

Fascia: A horizontal, flat element often combined with a cornice and architrave.

Fenestration: The arrangement, proportioning and design of windows in a building.

Festoon: A carved ornament in the form of a band, loop, or wreath, suspended from two points; also called a “garland” or “swag”.

Finial: The crowning ornament of a pointed element, such as a spire.

Finish: The visual characteristics including color, texture and reflectivity of all exterior materials.

Fixture: An appliance or device attached to the facade (e.g., awning, sign, lighting fixture, conduit, or security gate).

Flashing: Strips of sheet metal bent to fit the angle between any two roof surfaces or between the roof and any projection, such as a chimney.

Floor Plan: A scaled drawing showing the horizontal arrangement of one level of the building that typically indicates walls, doors and dimensions

Flemish bond: A pattern of brickwork in which each course consists of headers and stretchers laid alternately; each header is centered between the stretcher above and the stretcher below it.

Foliate: Decorative leafage, often applied to capitals or moldings.

Frame: The stationary portion of a window unit that is affixed to the facade and holds the sash or other operable portions of the windows.

French door or French window: A tall casement window that reaches to the floor, usually arranged in two leaves as a double door.

Frieze: 1. The middle horizontal member of a classical entablature, above the architrave and below the cornice. 2. A similar decorative band in a stringcourse, or near the top of an interior wall below the cornice.

Gable: The upper portion of an end wall formed by the slope of a roof.

Galvanized Iron: Iron that has been coated with zinc to inhibit rusting.

Glazing: The material, usually glass, that fills spaces between sash members (rails, stiles and muntins), commonly referred to as panes or lights.

Gothic Sash: A window sash pattern composed of mullions that cross to form pointed arches.

Grille: A decorative, openwork grating, usually of iron, used to protect a window, door, or other opening.

Gutter: A shallow channel of metal or wood set immediately below and along the eaves of a building to catch and carry off rainwater.

Head: The upper horizontal part of a window frame or window opening.

Header: A masonry wall unit of brick which is laid so that its short end is exposed.

Hood: A projection that shelters an element such as a door or window.

Jamb: The side parts of a window frame or window opening, as distinct from head and sill.

Jigsaw Carving: Wooden ornament cut with a thin narrow saw blade.

Joist: One of a series of parallel timber beams used to support floor and ceiling loads, and supported in turn by larger beams, girders, or bearing walls; the widest dimension is vertically oriented.

Key: A block, often used in a series, which projects beyond the edge of the enframement of an opening and is joined with the surrounding masonry. A block handled in such a manner is keyed to the masonry; see quoin.

Keystone: The central wedge-shaped member of a masonry arch; also used as a decorative element on arches in wood structures.

Landscape improvement: A physical betterment of real property or any part thereof, consisting of natural or artificial landscaping, including but not limited to grade, terrace, body of water, stream, rock, hedge, plant, shrub, mature tree, path, walkway, road, plaza, wall, fence, step, fountain, or sculpture.

Latticework: Thin strips of wood arranged in a netlike grid pattern, often set diagonally.

Leaded window: A window composed of small panes, usually diamond-shaped or rectangular, held in place by narrow strips of cast lead.

Leade: A horizontal or vertical cylinder, usually made of metal, which carries water from the gutter to the ground.

Light: A pane of glass; a window, or a compartment of a window.

Lighting: The method or equipment for providing artificial illumination.

Lintel: A horizontal structural element over an opening which carries the weight of the wall above it.

Loggia: 1. An arcaded or colonnaded structure, open on one or more sides, sometimes with an upper story. 2. An arcaded or colonnaded porch or gallery attached to a larger structure.

Lunette: A crescent-shaped or semicircular area or opening on a wall surface.

Mansard: A roof having a double slope on all four sides, the lower slope being much steeper. In rowhouse design, a double-sloped roof on the building front, below a flat roof.

Master plan: A permit type issued to large residential or commercial buildings that sets a building-wide standard for future changes that could cover certain repetitive changes, such as window and air conditioner installation.

Match: Either an exact or approximate replication. If not an exact replication, the approximate replication shall be so designed as to achieve a suitable, harmonious and balanced result.

Materials: The substances used to fabricate the various elements and details of a building

Mature tree: Any tree with a trunk diameter of 12″ or greater.

Meeting rail: A sash rail in a double-hung window designed to interlock with an adjacent sash rail.

Mechanical equipment: Includes, but not be limited to, heating, venting and air conditioning equipment, water tanks and their supporting structures, satellite dishes, stair and elevator bulkheads, screens, dunnages, baffles and other accessory installations but shall not include telecommunication equipment and conventional television antennas. Mechanical equipment can also include unenclosed decks, garden trellises, or associated railings.

Member: A component part of a window.

Minimally Visible: Refers to any rooftop addition which when viewed from any public thoroughfare, projects into the maximum line of sight from such public thoroughfare by not more than 12 inches in height, or, due to its placement and size does not call attention to itself nor detract from any significant architectural features.

Modification: Any work to an existing improvement or landscape improvement other than (a) ordinary maintenance or repair; or (b) any Addition.

Modillion: A projecting scroll-shaped bracket or simple horizontal block arranged in series under the soffit of a cornice.

Molding: A piece of trim that introduces varieties of outline or curved contours in edges or surfaces as on window jambs and heads. Moldings are generally divided into three categories: rectilinear, curved and composite-curved.

Mullion: A vertical primary framing member that separates paired or multiple windows within a single opening.

Muntin: A tertiary framing member that subdivides the sash into individual panes, lights or panels. Note: Grids placed between two sheets of glass are not considered muntins.

Newel: The main post at the foot of a stairway or stoop.

Oblique: View in which a three-dimensional object is represented by a drawing  (oblique drawing) in which the face, usually parallel to the picture plane, is represented in accurate or exact proportion, and all other faces are shown at any convenient angle other than 90°.

Occupiable space: A room, or enclosure and accessory installations thereof, which are intended for human occupancy or habitation

Operation: The manner in which a window unit opens, closes, locks, or functions; e.g., casement, double-hung, etc. If non-operable, a window unit (such as a side light) is identified as “fixed.”

Oriel: A projecting bay window carried on corbels or brackets.

Original appearance: The visual appearance of a structure or site at approximately the time of its completed initial construction.

Palladian Window: A three-part window opening with a tall, round-arched center window flanked by smaller rectangular windows and separated by posts or pilasters.

Panel: A portion of a flat surface recessed, or raised from the surrounding area, distinctly set off by molding or some other decorative device.

Panning: An applied material, usually metal, that covers the front (exterior) surface of an existing window frame or mullion

Parapet: A low wall that serves as a vertical barrier at the edge of a roof, terrace, or other raised area; in an exterior wall, the part entirely above the roof.

Parting strip: The small member, usually wood and usually removable, that separates the upper and lower sash pockets in the jamb of a double-hung window

Paver: A block of stone used in sidewalk or areaway paving.

Pediment: 1. The triangular space forming the gable end of a roof above the horizontal cornice. 2. An ornamental gable, usually triangular, above a door or window.

Pier: 1. A column designed to support concentrated load. 2. A member, usually in the form of a thickened section, which forms an integral part of a wall; usually placed at intervals along the wall to provide lateral support or to take concentrated vertical loads. 3. A vertical supporting member or element (usually of brick, stone, or metal) placed at intervals along a wall, which typically separate each storefront opening from the adjacent storefront opening.

Pilaster: An engaged pier or pillar, often with capital and base.

Pitched: Sloping, especially referring to a roof.

Plinth: A platform base supporting a column or pilaster.

Pointing: The treatment of joints between bricks, stone, or other masonry components by filling with mortar; also, called tuck-pointing

Portico: A small porch composed of a roof supported by columns, often found in front of a doorway.

Primary Façade: A facade facing a street or a public thoroughfare that is not necessarily a municipally dedicated space, such as a mews or court.

Principal Façade: A facade facing a street or a public thoroughfare that is not necessarily a municipally dedicated space, such as a mews or court.

P.S.I. Pounds per square inch, a term generally used when describing water pressure when cleaning a building

Public Thoroughfare: Any publicly accessible right of way including, but not limited to a street, sidewalk, public park, and path.

Quoin A structural form, usually of masonry, used at the corners of a building for the purpose of reinforcement, frequently imitated for decorative purposes.

Rail: A horizontal sash member.

Relief: Carved or molded ornament that projects from a flat surface.

Rehabilitation Any repair work that requires a permit.

Repair: Any work done on any window to correct any deterioration or decay of or damage to a window or any part thereof and to restore same, as closely as may be practicable, to its condition prior to the occurrence of such deterioration, decay or damage. The term “ordinary repair” shall refer to work that does not require a permit.

Repointing: Process of renewing mortar joints; see pointing

Residential Awning: Any awning on a residential building and any awning on a commercial or mixed-use building except for storefront awnings.

Restoration: The process of returning, as nearly as possible, a building or any of its parts to its original form and condition.

Retractable Awning: An awning attached to a frame which allows it to be extended out or folded or rolled back tight against the building façade

Return: The part of a molding cornice, or wall surface that changes direction, usually at a right angle, toward the building wall.

Reveal: The side of an opening for a door or window between the frame and the outer surface of a wall, showing the wall’s thickness.

Reversible Alteration: An alteration in which the altered feature can be readily returned to its appearance prior to the alteration.

Roof Plan: A drawing showing the arrangement of fixtures on the roof

Rooftop addition: A construction or an installation of mechanical equipment and/or occupiable space situated on any structure’s roof.

Rock-faced: Masonry treated with a rough surface that retains or simulates the irregular texture of natural stone.

Roll-down gate: A security gate with a mechanism that allows it to roll up and down.

Rosette: A round floral ornament, usually carved or painted.

Round arch: A semicircular arch.

Rowhouse: One of a group of an unbroken line of attached houses that share common side walls, known as party walls.

Rubble stone: Irregularly shaped, rough-textured stone laid in an irregular manner.

Rustication: Rusticated stonework composed of large blocks of masonry separated by wide, recessed joints; often imitated in other materials for decorative purposes.

Sash: The secondary part of a window which holds the glazing in place; may be operable or fixed; usually constructed of horizontal and vertical members; sash may be subdivided with muntins.

Scissor Gate: A security gate with a sideways retractable mechanism.

Secondary Façade: A facade that does not face a public thoroughfare or mews or court and that does not possess significant architectural features.

Section Drawing: A drawing representing a vertical plane cut through the structure

Security gate: A movable metal fixture installed in front of a storefront or inside the display window or door to protect the store from theft or vandalism when the store is closed. A security gate can be either the roll-down or scissor variety.

Security gate housing: The container that houses the rolling mechanism of a roll-down security gate.

Security gate tracks: The interior or exterior tracks along the sides of the storefront (for roll-down gates) or along the top and bottom of the storefront (for scissor gates) that hold the edges of the gates.

Segmental arch: An arch that’s in the form of a segment of a semicircle

Semi-detached: A building attached to a similar one on one side but unattached on the other.

Shaft: The vertical segment of a column or pilaster between the base and the capital.

Shed Dormer: A dormer window covered by a single roof slope without a gable.

Shingle: A unit composed of wood, cement, asphalt compound, slate, tile or the like, employed in an overlapping series to cover roofs and walls.

Shouldered Arch: An arch composed of a square-headed lintel supported at each end by a concave corbel.

Shutter Dogs: The metal attachments which hold shutters in an open position against the face of a building.

Sidelight: A vertically framed area of fixed glass, often subdivided into panes, flanking a door.

Sight line drawing: A drawing representing an uninterrupted view from eye level

Sign: A fixture or area containing lettering or logos used to advertise a store, goods, or services.

Signage: Any lettering or logos in general, used to advertise a store, goods, or services.

Sign band: The flat, horizontal area on the facade usually located immediately above the storefront and below the second story window sill where signs were historically attached. A sign band may also occur within a decorative bandcourse above a storefront.

Significant Feature: An exterior architectural component of a building that contributes to its special historic, cultural, and/or aesthetic character, or in the case of an historic district, that reinforces the special characteristics for which the historic district was designated.

Significant landscape improvement: Any landscape improvement which is a character-defining element in its historic district, contributing to the special aesthetic and historic character for which the district was designated, and including but not limited to those landscape improvements identified as landscape features in the designation report.

Sill: 1.The lower horizontal part of a window frame or window opening; also the accessory member which extends as a weather barrier from frame to outside face of wall. 2. The horizontal member at the bottom of a window or door.

Site Plan: A drawing of the footprint of the subject building and immediate adjacent buildings indicating the location of the proposed work.

Skirt: A bottom finishing piece of fabric that hangs from the lower edge of an awning.

Soffit: 1. The exposed underside of any architectural element, especially a roof. 2. The underside of a structural component such as a beam, arch, or recessed area.

Spalling: The chipping or erosion of masonry caused by abuse or weathering

Spandrel: 1. A panel between the top of one window and the sill of another window on the story directly above it. 2. An irregular, triangular wall segment adjacent to an arched opening.

Spandrel Area: The portion of the facade below the sill of an upper story window and above the lintel of the window or display window directly below it or above the lintel of a window or display window and the building cornice or top of building.

Special windows: (1) those windows in which the complexity of the muntin pattern or the molding profiles is one of the characteristics of the style and age of the building; or (2) windows having one or more of the following or similar attributes, including but not limited to: (i) Bay or oriel window (ii) Curved glass (iii) Multi-pane sash, i.e., 12 or more panes in a single sash in which a typical pane does not exceed 30 square inches of open (glazed) area (iv) Stained or otherwise crafted glazing for artistic effect (v) Highly decorated (carved or otherwise embellished) sash or frame (vi) Non-rectilinear sash or frame.

Stile: A main vertical member of a door or window

Stoop: The steps which lead to the front door; from the Dutch “stoep.”

Storefront: The first story area of the façade that provides access or natural illumination into a space used for retail or other commercial purposes.

Story: A habitable floor level, including a basement but not including a cellar.

Stretcher: A masonry unit or brick laid horizontally with its length parallel to the wall.

Stringcourse: A narrow horizontal band of masonry, extending across the façade, which can be flush or projecting, and flat surfaced, molded, or richly carved.

Stucco: A coating for exterior walls made from Portland cement, lime, sand, and water.

Subframe: A secondary frame set within a masonry opening.

Sugaring: A term describing the deterioration of stone caused by the breaking up or dissolving of the stone surface.

Surround: The ornamental frame of a door or window.

Swag: A carved ornament in the form of a draped cloth or a festoon of fruit or flowers.

Terra cotta: Hard fired clay, either glazed or unglazed, molded into ornamental elements, wall cladding, and roof tiles.

Tie rod: A metal tension rod connecting two structural members, such as gable walls or beams, acting as a brace or reinforcement; often anchored by means of a metal plate in such forms as an “S” or a star.

Tracery: An ornamental configuration of curved mullions in a Gothic sash.

Transom: 1. A horizontal bar of wood or stone across a window. 2. The cross-bar separating a door from the window, panel, or fanlight above it. 3. The window above the transom bar of a door. 4. The glazed area above a display window or door separated from the main window area or door by a transom bar.

Transom bar: A horizontal element that subdivides an opening, usually between a door and window.

Trefoil: A three-lobed decorative form used in Gothic architecture

Turret: A small tower, usually supported by corbels.

Volute: A carved spiral form in classical architecture; often used in pairs as in the capitals of Ionic columns.

Voussoir: A wedge-shaped component of an arch.

Wrought Iron: Iron that is worked by being forged or hammered.

Glossary of Interior Design Terms

Accessories:   Small objects such as vases, books, lamps, plants and florals, and sculptures used to adorn and personalize a room.

Antiquing:  The process in which an object or surface is intentionally distressed or discolored to provide the appearance of age.

Armoire:  A large wardrobe or movable closet for storing clothing. Often also used to hide television and audio/video equipment and computer workstations.

Bergere chair:  A large armchair, usually associated with the French Country or Provençale decorating style. It often features an upholstered seat, back, and arms, a loose seat cushion, and an exposed wooden frame.

Beveled glass:  Clear or mirrored glass in which the edge perimeter (usually 1” wide) has been cut at an angle to achieve a contrasting visual effect. On clear glass it creates a distorted prism effect, and on mirrored glass it adds a reflective “sparkle”.
Blinds:  Rigid or soft window coverings, oriented either horizontally or vertically, that obscure light, provide privacy, and can be raised, lowered, or adjusted to different levels.

Bolster:  A long pillow or cushion usually placed on a chair, sofa, or bed.

Brocade:  A heavy textile with a raised design resembling embroidery. Usually made of silk, rayon, nylon, or polyester.

California King-sized bed:  One of the standard sizes for North American mattress manufacturers. 72” wide by 84” long (the depth varies greatly depending on the style and type of cushioning). Slightly narrower and longer than a typical King-sized bed.

Camelback sofa:  A type of sofa with a curved back, typically seen in more traditional styles (Queen Anne, Chippendale, Federal, etc.).

Case-goods:  Furniture made of hard materials such as wood, metal, glass, or plastic. Examples of case-goods are chests, tables, dressers, bookshelves, and cabinets.

Chair rail:  A piece of decorative molding placed approximately 30” off the floor to protect walls from being scraped by chair backs.

Chaise longue:  A long, low upholstered couch in the shape of a chair that is long enough to support the legs. Often mistakenly referred to as a “chaise lounge”; so much so that the latter term has come to be commonly accepted as well.

Chenille:  A type of fabric featuring a plush, variegated texture and often exhibiting an iridescent appearance.

Commode:  A stand or cupboard, traditionally used for storing chamber pots.  Often used as a side table or nightstand.

Console Table:  A long narrow table (usually around 30” high) used for displaying decorative objects, lighting, florals, etc. Often placed in a foyer or behind a sofa.

Contemporary:  The style inherent to the present time. Often confused with “modern”.

Credenza:  A large low cabinet, usually 30”-36” high with a flat top used for serving and storage.

Curtain panel:  A large piece of fabric designed to cover part or all of a window. Usually hung in pairs. Curtain panels generally come in standard lengths of 84”, 96”, and 108” and their standard width is usually 45”-50”.

Etagere:  A small, upright set of free-standing open-sided shelves for displaying small decorative items.

Faux-finish:  A decorative technique in which paint or stain is applied to a surface to simulate another material such as wood, marble, or granite.

Feng Shui:  Literally translated as wind and water. An ancient Chinese scientific practice based on selecting the optimal placement, arrangement, and selection of objects and surfaces to encourage positive energy or chi.

Finial:  The decorative end piece on a curtain rod. Often in the shape of a spear, ball, leaf, or pineapple.

Fluorescent lighting:  A type of lighting in which an electrical charge is passed through mercury vapor to create a chemical reaction that produces light. Uses far less energy and creates less heat than incandescent or halogen lighting, but the light quality and color rendering capabilities are diminished.

Focal point:  A visual center of interest or point of emphasis in a room. A well designed room will have many engaging focal points.

French-wired:  A lamp in which the power cord connects directly to the light socket, rather than being hidden in the base of the lamp.

Futon:  A Japanese-style filled mattress placed on the floor or a folding wooden or metal frame which can be used as both a seating place and a bed.

Grommet:  An eyelet in a piece of fabric reinforced with two pieces of affixed metal. Often found on contemporary curtain panels.

Gate-leg table:  A style of drop-leaf table with leaves that are supported by extra legs that swing out like gates. Developed during the Jacobean period and popular in early America as well. Still used in many compact spaces.

Halogen lighting:  A type of lighting in which a tungsten filament is sealed into a compact transparent vessel and filled with a small amount of iodine or bromine to create a chemical reaction that produces light. The light from a halogen bulb is better at displaying colors than traditional incandescent or fluorescent bulbs. Often used in retail application or display cabinets.

Highboy:  A tall, narrow chest of drawers usually placed in bedrooms.

Incandescent lighting:  A type of lighting in which an electric current is passed through a thin filament, heating it to a temperature that produces light. The enclosing glass bulb contains either a vacuum or an inert gas to prevent oxidation of the filament.  Incandescent bulbs are inexpensive and create good natural light and color renderings, but use more energy and generate more heat than fluorescent bulbs.

Jabot:  The side portion of a window treatment where fabric is draped vertically in soft folds on either side of a valance.

Kiln-dried:  Wood that has been dried using controlled heat and humidity in kilns or ovens to specific ranges of moisture content. This helps to prevent cracking, warping, and shrinkage of the finished wood.

Knife-edge:  A sewing technique found on decorative cushions using a single seam or welt around the cushion’s perimeter.

Knock-down:  Furniture that is sold unassembled or partially assembled.

Lumbar pillow:  A small rectangular pillow designed to support the lower back. Often used on armchairs and sofas.

Mid-Century Modern:  A decorative style first popularized in the late 1940s characterized by clean lines, the use of modern materials such as plastic and aluminum, and a sleek, minimal profile. The style reached its apex in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but continued to be popular into the early 1970s. In the past few years the style has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with several books, websites, and contemporary knockoffs.

Monochromatic:  A color scheme built around one hue, with several of its shades and tints.

Mullion:  The wood or metal dividers used between the different panes of glass on multi-paned windows. Modern windows often feature faux decorative mullions.

Newel post:  A vertical post found at the end of a staircase railing that stabilizes the horizontal handrail.

Objet d’Art:  A small object of artistic value, often used as a decorative element.

Ottoman:  An upholstered stool or hassock, designed to go at the foot of a chair. Often used in contemporary interiors in place of a coffee table.

Parson’s table:  A sturdy square or rectangular table with block legs and an apron of equal widths. Designed in the 1950s at the Parson’s School of Design.

Platform bed:  A low, self-contained bed frame that features slats or webbing for suspension, eliminating the need for a box spring.

Primary colors:  The three basic colors of which all other colors are comprised of: Red, Yellow, and Blue.

Queen-sized bed:  One of the standard sizes for North American mattress manufacturers. 60” wide by 80” long (the depth varies greatly depending on the style and type of cushioning).

Return:  The distance from the face of a curtain rod to the wall casing where the rod bracket is attached.

3D Rendering:  The process or product of converting two-dimensional (length/width) images into three-dimensional images (length/width/depth) using sophisticated computer software. This creates a photorealistic image in which the viewer can “move” around and view the scene from different angles.

Runner:  A long narrow area rug designed to go in a hallway or foyer.

Sconce:  A wall-mounted light fixture (usually hard-wired).

Sectional Furniture:  Modular furniture, often seating pieces that can be combined into different combinations.

Settee:  A long wooden or upholstered bench with a back, designed to seat two or more people.

Shade:  Any color mixed with black (most rich, ultra-dark colors are shades)

Sideboard:  A long storage chest often used for serving and storage in a formal dining room.

Sisal:  Strong fiber from the leaves of the sisal plant used to create area rugs and broadloom floor coverings.

Sleigh bed:  A wooden bed with a large headboard and footboard that resembles the shape of a horse-drawn sleigh.

Slipcover:  A removable fabric cover for a chair, sofa, or loveseat. Either custom-tailored or adjusted with ties and fasteners.

Slipper chair:  A low armless chair, often found in bedrooms.

Table runner:  A long, narrow, decorative strip of fabric running down the middle of a table.

Tallboy:  See Highboy

Task lighting:  A lighting source directed to a specific purpose within a room. Reading lights in a living room or under-counter lighting in a kitchen are examples of task lighting.

Throw pillow:  A small square or round decorative pillow usually found on sofas, chairs, or beds.

Tint:  Any color mixed with white (i.e. all pastel colors are tints).

Toile:  Also known as Toile do Jouy, is a type of fabric decorating pattern usually on a white or off-white background that features a repeating landscape or pastoral pattern in a single color.

Tone:  Any color mixed with grey (most warm-looking colors are tones).

Torchere:  A floor lamp that directs light upward to provide ambient room lighting.

Track-arm:  A straight, squared off arm, usually found on more contemporary sofas and armchairs.

Trompe l’oeil:  “Fool the eye”. Using paint techniques to imply a realistic, 3-dimensional scene on a flat surface.

Tufting:  The upholstery process of tightly gathering fabric over a padded base and securing the gathered portion to a fixed backing using stitching or buttons. This process creates small quilts of fabric, known as “tufts”.

Upholstery:  The process of fitting furniture, usually seating, with padding, springs, and webbing, with a fabric or leather cover.

Valance:  A decorative window treatment mounted across the top of a window (outside the casing). Usually combined with blinds, curtain panels, or sheers.

Vase:  A decorative container or urn, often used to display floral arrangements.

Velvet:  A plush fabric with a short dense pile.

Veneer:  A thin layer of wood created by peeling the trunk of a tree on a roller to produce long sheets with a consistent grain pattern. This layer is then applied to a solid or fiberboard backing to create a more uniform appearance. Often mistakenly considered a sign of “inferior” quality, veneer has been used since ancient Egyptian times and is featured on many of the most expensive heirloom-quality furniture pieces, as well as lower-end mass-produced items.

Verdigris:  The greenish-blue patina that forms on oxidized copper, brass, or bronze surfaces.

Vintage:  Furniture and decorative elements that are between 10 and 100 years old. Often found at flea markets, garage sales, and specialty “vintage” retailers.

Vitrine:  A glass-doored cabinet for display.

Wainscotting:  Paneling on the lower half of a wall that differs from the upper half. Usually separated by a chair rail.

Wardrobe:  A tall enclosed cabinet with doors, used for storing clothing and linens. Also see Armoire.

Wing-back chair:  A high, traditional chair that features projections on either side at head level.

X-base: A crossed frame supporting a table, chair, or bench that spans diagonally from both sides.

Xenon:  An elemental gas used in flash lamps and arc lamps.

Yin and Yang:  Chinese philosophy terms used to describe how polar or contrary forces are interconnected in the natural world. In the design world yin and yang are often used to explain the motivation behind Feng Shui principles.

Zebrawood:  Wood that resembles the striping of a zebra, with dark stripes on a light background. Found on contemporary furniture pieces and decorative wall paneling.

Living In Koh Samui

Koh Samui’s enduring appeal as one of the world’s top holiday destinations has inspired many people to relocate to the island, either choosing to make it their permanent home or spending extended amounts of time living what those in less blessed locations would understandably consider an idyllic lifestyle.

In the last 10 years, the island has developed into a full service destination and the range of facilities, amenities and services has therefore expanded considerably, making Samui one of very few places in the world where you can literally choose your preferences, both in terms of the way you pass your days and nights, and also the amount of money you want to spend.

Although the island’s tourist and residential worlds often collide, they can also be very distinctive. But in terms of choice, both groups benefit from the island’s incredibly diverse and eclectic offerings, whether in terms of accommodation, retail, dining, entertainment, health or adventure. As a long term resident on Samui, if you stop to consider the sheer extent of comfort and convenience on offer around the island today, it is sometimes difficult to remember that you are living on a small island in the Gulf of Thailand.

As soon as you leave the beach, you are spoilt for choice – shopping malls such as Tesco Lotus and Big C stock all the daily necessities and more. Specialist outlets like Tops Supermarket and Villa in Lamai offer indulgent imported goods, while 7Elevens, Family Mart outlets and local shops make impulse buying an easy option even at 3 in the morning. A selection of fresh food markets also cater to an ever growing Thai community with everything from rice by the kilogram to fresh Tiger Prawns sold by the kilogram at what are very reasonable prices when compared to the deli counters of most western supermarkets.

For those who prefer to dine out, Samui has developed a deserved reputation as a gourmet paradise with an enviable choice of restaurants, their menus often created by chefs of international repute and wine lists that rival those in some of the world’s top city bistros. Excellent Thai food is also readily enjoyed, either roadside at one of the island’s many affordable local eateries or in more opulent surroundings accompanied by 5 star service and stylized, cultural designs and entertainment.

The Samui party scene has also developed in leaps and bounds in the last few years, sophisticated Beach Clubs like Beach Republic and Nikki Beach serve top class food and beverage choices in chic poolside surroundings. They also host regular parties with international DJs and performers. Western style pubs and nightclubs line the popular tourist strips, with sports bars like The Islander and Bondi in Chaweng showing live international sporting events.

Those in search of a more healthy, green lifestyle on Samui can easily avoid the tourist bustle. The quiet beaches on the island’s south coast still feel relatively untouched by development and many small residential communities have emerged in places like Baan Taling, Ngam and Lip Noi, where the pace of life is slow and the tropical landscape still untroubled by crowds and commerce. Spas and wellness centers offer a wide range of treatments and therapies to rejuvenate tired soul, while yoga, meditation and other more spiritually inspired activities can be studied and practiced at various centers around the island.

Families are increasingly well catered for on Samui and the island now boasts its very own International School, as well as several other learning institutions catering to both Thai and expatriate students. The island’s clubs and organisations often organize family friendly gatherings, regular Walking Streets offer festival style outings and there are also several restaurants that cater for children’s parties.

With so much on offer to residents, Samui has now become as much a place to live as it is a place to visit. It is now a multi-faceted residential island with an enviable range of services and facilities to choose from, all of which combine to offer permanent and long stay Samuians one of the most appealing and diverse tropical lifestyle experiences on the planet.

Living in Koh Phangan

Stunning beaches, an affordable lifestyle and an appealing island environment have drawn a growing number of visitors and residents to Koh Phangans’s tropical shores. Many of the island’s visitors choose to stay longer than they originally planned and this has led to the establishment of a sizeable foreign community of long stay tourists, working residents, business owners and retirees. The number of foreign investors choosing Koh Phangan as their second home is increasing every year, with easy transport access, a fast developing infrastructure and a range of lifestyle and hospitality services all adding to the island’s growing appeal.

Koh Phangan is a rare island escape just a short boat ride from Koh Samui’s more developed and commercial environment. This means residents and visitors can enjoy the unspoiled beauty of some of Thailand’s finest beaches while still having access to the comforts and benefits of a modern lifestyle. The recent growth in the number of luxury hotels and private villas on the island has prompted the emergence of more upmarket retail, dining and entertainment choices, with cool nightspots and restaurants opening in the more popular beaches like Haad Rin and Thong Nai Pan. As Koh Phangan evolves from a backpacker haven into a full service destination, the island is attracting those with the spending power to combine natural escape with a sophisticated island lifestyle.

The Thai government and its tourism authority has long been promoting Koh Phangan as an eco-destination in order to transform the island’s reputation from party venue to tropical escape, promoting Koh Phangan’s natural beauty and untainted environment to the world. Eco-adventures and marine based activities are widely available to visitors and residents with mountain biking, diving, wake boarding and jungle treks all on offer to encourage a more sensitive approach to island life that also minimizes the impact on the island’s ecosystem.

On a practical level, the opening of a modest Tesco Lotus Supermarket, combined with a significant increase in the number of foreign run businesses has had a real impact in terms on the ease of living on the island. Designer boutiques, international cuisine, real estate agents and developers are all gradually changing the island landscape, yet the laid back lifestyle has thus far survived and the local people are known for their commitment to preserving their traditional culture. Whether selling the daily catch from their boats, chatting with friends in the shade of the village sala or celebrating weddings with dances and local music, local people remain distinctively Thai in many ways. As for the foreign residents, the ease of life, natural beauty and diversity of lifestyle choices make Koh Phangan a unique destination as either a permanent or second home.

Koh Phangan’s real estate sector has grown as the island has developed and become more popular with visitors from around the world. Investment opportunities abound, whether it is raw beach and mountain land, off plan residential purchases or completed luxury villas for sale. Prices are considerably lower than they are on Koh Samui, which often attracts adventurous investors looking for an affordable slice of paradise. Restrictive ownership laws in Thailand however mean buyers are advised to go through reputable law firms when considering any purchases on Koh Phangan. As in the case on Koh Samui or Phuket, it is important for anyone considering an investment to thoroughly research the laws and regulations, as well as to ensure that any land titles are thoroughly checked and that the most secure method of purchase if found to guarantee a trouble free, long-term investment. It is advisable to research construction firms employed to guarantee that their reputation is solid and that any previous projects have been successfully completed.

Land Title Deeds In Thailand

There are 2 main types of land ownership in Thailand which we should explain:


Firstly there is the right of possession, for example, land that has been used by a family for generations to the benefit of the land and they have possession rights of the land under the civil and commercial code. Such titles are SOR KOR 1, TOR BOR 5, 6 or SOR POR GOR 4. These titles basically are only family possession rights and generally only used for farming. These titles cannot be bought or sold and no building rights or legal acts would be allowed on the land. There have been cases where families being in possession of certain pieces of land for generations have been able to upgrade them to regular land title deeds, but this is not generally the case and any serious investor would not normally give any credibility to these titles of possessions.


Usually we are looking for land title deeds giving right of ownership and not possession. Here there are basically 3 title deeds: CHANOTE, NOR SOR 3 and NOR SOR 3 GOR. The most sought after titles are the Chanote and the Nor Sor 3 Gor as both these titles have legal documents of Rights of Ownership and can be sub-divided into smaller plots and planning permission and any such legal acts can be carried out immediately on the land. The only difference with the Nor Sor 3 is that although legal documents are issued for the land, it has not been accurately surveyed which can lead to problems in verifying actual land area. And if any legal act is to take place on this land it much be published for at least 30 days.

As we have been indicating all the way through, if it is not 100% clear, seek the advice of a legal professional in this field, as there are also many other issues that are important to consider such as servitude, access and rights of way.


Land in Thailand is measured in Rai, Ngan and Talang Wah.

  • 1 Wah = 4 square metres
  • 1 Ngan = 100 Wah or 400 square metres
  • 1 Rai = 4 Ngan or 1,600 square metres

In comparison to Western Standards:

  • 5 Rai = 1 Acre or 4,000 square metres
  • 6.25 Rai = 1 Hectare or 10,000 square metres

Building Regulations on Koh Samui

In order to build on Koh Samui, you must first obtain a building permit from the municipality office and your building must meet certain requirements, depending on the location of the land on which you wish to build.

There are 4 defined areas of land depending on its distance from the beach.

STAGE 1 Land up to 10 metres from the beach. The law states that no construction is permitted within this area

STAGE 2 Land up to 50 metres from the beach. Within this area you are permitted to construct a single storey building only. Its height cannot exceed 6 metres (including the roof) and the building cannot exceed the maximum allowed area of 75 square metres

STAGE 3 Land up to 200 metres from the beach. Within this area you are permitted to build up to a maximum height of 12 metres (including the roof). The maximum allowed size is 2,000 square metres

STAGE 4 Land located more than 200 metres from the beach. Within this area, building of up to 12 metres in height (including the roof) can be constructed.

In addition, all buildings must now be constructed with peaked roofs. Flat roofs are no longer permitted.

Environmental Regulations on Koh Samui & Koh Phangan

There are defined areas relative to the distance above sea-level (i.e. reference to height above sea-level rather than set-back from shore-line), pursuant to the Regulations of Resource and Environment, 30th May 2557 (2014) (“Environmental Regulations”).

Level 1 – Land less than 80 metres above sea level

In general, no additional rules apply in this level, subject to rules relating to hotels (50 percent of hotel land area must be left un-built on and “green”), residential projects consisting of 10 units (must have water and waste treatment facilities), in addition to rules relating to water-dams, golf courses and airports.

Level 2 – Land between 80 to 140 metres above sea level

Within this level, a single family home may be constructed on land that is 100 square wah (400 square metres) or greater (if the land is less than 100 square wah, construction is prohibited). Structures cannot exceed 6 metres in height and must leave 50% of the land un-built on and “green”; must have an architectural design based on traditional Thai, tropical or local aesthetics; must have a roof consisting of 80% of the total building area, and that matches the natural surroundings; and must include an approved water-drainage system, to prevent flooding.

Level 3 – Land greater than 140 metres above sea level

Within this level, the same rules apply as in Level 2; and in addition, structures in Level 3 cannot exceed 90 square metres.

Slope Rules

In all levels mentioned, where the land has a slope of between 35-50 degrees, only a single family home is permitted, which cannot exceed 6 metres in height and 80 square metres in area, and which must leave 75% of the land un-built on (50% of the un-built land area must be “green” with native trees). Furthermore, the land area must be 120 square wah (480 square metres) or geater, otherwise construction is prohibited. If the slope is greater than 50 metres, construction is likewise prohibited.