Ruth Spencer on the real meaning of home improvement.

Every industry has an arcane language that its experts use to dazzle you. Here are some of the home design terms you'll hear when you're doing up the place - and what they really mean.

Antiqueing: what the stress of living in a building site is doing to your face.

Builder: the person who picks the radio station you and the neighbours will be listening to from 7am for the next six weeks.

Conversation piece: an ugly substitute for eclectic taste.


Credenza: nobody knows what this is. A type of fish soup?

Curated: the home as the heavily-edited gallery exhibition of the self. If you expect your friends to pretend to admire it, serve wine and cheese at the opening.

Fitted kitchen: old industry joke. If it's fitted, it won't. You haven't felt this rubbish about sizing since the Topshop dressing rooms.

Fixture: a terrifying word to hear from a tradie, as in: "I've fixture toilet," when - as far as you were aware - it wasn't broken.

Flashing: what the plumber's heavy toolbelt is responsible for.

Flock wallpaper: already over. Get the flock out of here.

Greige: grey-beige, the most popular interior colour because it matches all your possessions once the plastering dust settles on them permanently.

Incandescent: what you'll be when you get the final bill.

Hardware: something the doors need, so called because it costs the same as a new computer.

Minimalism: Great if you like clean lines and a slight echo. You'll need a storage unit for your knick-knacks because the designer threw up a little when you used the word knick-knacks.

Moulding: either ornate plasterwork on your ceiling or what they find when they open up the bathroom gib. Confusingly, your moulding can be moulding.

Paint sample chart: a torture device. None of those paint colours actually exist; Half Tea is the only one they really make because that's what you'll choose when it all gets too overwhelming.

Open plan: the ongoing changes to the supposedly approved design. Requires an Open Wallet.

Shabby chic: the furniture, the rugs, the walls and the inhabitants are distressed.

Splashback: what the shower does since you went for the waterfall showerhead.

Suite: what you say with deep satisfaction when you hear the unfixable cracking sound your old bathroom units make hitting the skip.

Test pot: what you'll be tempted to do to make the renovation process more enjoyable.

Throw pillow: the safest way to express mid-project frustration.

Waste: what you'll feel about the project manager's fee when you realise you haven't seen him in weeks.

Vanity unit: an interior designer.