When building a custom home, a lot of different terms get thrown around. For someone who doesn’t have a background in design or construction, it’s easy to get these words confused. Here is a quick guide to commonly misunderstood design terms and what they actually mean.


Modern vs. Contemporary

These two terms are similar and are even interchangeable in many situations, but in design, they have very distinctive meanings. “Modern” refers to a specific design style that came about in the 20th century, Mid-Century Modern (MCM). Contemporary design isn’t a specific time period, but it’s a general term to refer to what is currently popular.


Chevron vs. Herringbone

People get these two patterns confused a lot, and it’s easy to see why as they’re both a “zigzag” pattern. The patterns are very similar, but once you know the difference it’s easy to spot. Chevron has a 45-degree angle at the end, so the zigzag pattern creates a continuous “V” shape. Herringbone, on the other hand, has a square end, so it has more of a broken zigzag shape.


Vintage vs. Antique

Did you know that there are very specific age requirements for items to be referred to as antique or vintage? While people often use these terms to refer to older items, they have some specific requirements. A vintage item has to be at least 20 years old, while an antique is at least 100 years old!


Carrara vs. Calacatta

If you’re interested in having marble in your custom home it’s important to know the difference between these two terms. These two marble materials are similar, and often confused, but Calacatta is rarer and Carrara is more commonly used. Carrara has a greyer hue and softer veining, and Calacatta marble is whiter with thicker veins.


Engineered vs. Solid Hardwood

When it comes to hardwood floors, there are different options out there. Engineered hardwood is real wood that has been manufactured in layers. It’s thinner than solid hardwood but it more stable in term of contraction and expansion. Solid hardwood is full pieces of wood that can be refinished many times.


Particle Board vs. MDF

If you’re planning a kitchen, chances are you’ve heard these terms before. Both materials are made from a combination of wood and resin. Particle boards are made from large wood particles while MDF (which stands for medium-density fiberboard) is made from wood dust. MDF is denser and more durable, so it’s more commonly used for kitchen cabinet doors while particle board is used for the cabinet boxes.


Quartz vs. Granite

Both quartz and granite are popular materials for countertops these days. While some look very similar, the two are actually pretty different. Quartz is actually an engineered stone consisting mainly of crushed stone with some resin. Granite is a natural stone cut from the Earth. Quartz is more durable and requires less maintenance than granite, but granite is generally cheaper.


Porcelain vs. Ceramic

These materials are very similar and are often confused for one another. Porcelain is made from denser and more refined clay. This makes it less porous and more durable than ceramic.