As with fashion and food, the influences of home decor span the globe. So it’s no surprise that some design terms can be a linguistic nightmare. The good news is, you don’t need a French degree to get these words right, because you’ve got us. We’ve created an easy pronunciation guide for the most commonly mispronounced words. With a little practice, they’ll be rolling off your tongue in no time — and you’ll impress even your most highbrow friends.
For the following terms, we’ve included the phonetic spelling of their native origin.
1. Armoire: (French) arm-WAAR
A tall wardrobe or moveable cabinet that dates back as far as the 16th century. Today, armoires fulfill a variety of storage needs for today’s homeowner that have nothing to do with its original purpose: storing a king’s robe. A common mispronunciation is: arm-WAH.
2. Bergère: (French) bur-ZHAIR
An armchair with exposed wooden framing and upholstered back and seat. Bergère chairs became popular in 17th century France amongst nobility, and were often made out of gilded walnut or beechwood and upholstered in jacquard silk.
3. Cachepot: (French) CASH-poh
An ornamental vessel used to hold flowers and often used to conceal a flowerpot. A common mispronunciation is: cash-POT.
4. Chaise Longue: (French) shez lawng
An upholstered sofa in the shape of a chair that is long enough to support the outstretched legs. A literal translation is “long chair.” A common mispronunciation is: shayze lounge.
5. Faux bois: (French) foh-BWAH
The artistic imitation of wood or wood grains in various media. This craft has roots in the Renaissance. The translation is “false wood.”
6. Foyer: (French) foy-YAY
The front entrance hall in a home or building. A common mispronunciation is: foy-yerr
7. Ikat: (Indonesian) EE-kaht
A fabric in which the yarns have been tie-dyed before weaving. A common mispronunciation is: EYE-cat.
8. Kilim: (Turkish) KEY-lim
A flat-woven, reversible rug. A common mispronunciation is: KY-lim or key-LEEM
9. Settee: (French) set-TEA
A long seat with back and arms that is made for more than one person. A common mispronunciation is: set-tay
10. Thonet: (German, Austrian) toe-net
A German-Austrian furniture maker who invented bentwood furniture. Also a reference name for bentwood furniture. A common mispronunciation is: tho-NAY.
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Armoire is pronounced “arm Wa” – the 2nd r is silent. This is according to my French grandmother. She would roll her eyes and say, “Mais non” when she’d hear people mispronouncing this word.
Don’t forget jabot…
So… foy-YAY is the new mispronunciation of Foyer. The correct way to say it would be Fwah-yih (like yippee)
Thank you for sharing this information. It’s very enlightening.
Thanks for the chuckle, Ballard’s. Arrogance aside, your resources appear somewhat inaccurate, but I suppose attitude is everything. As a young woman, I found an established dictionary (i.e., Oxford, Webster) the most reliable method of ensuring correct pronunciation, I highly recommend it today.
Most enjoyable and entertaining! I think you did a great job and would not think of correcting you even if I thought I was right!
I enjoyed this idea ! However in order to teach, the teacher must know the subject. Some words were spelled wrong or country of origin were wrong. Please keep this going, it will be fun to learn more.
BERGÈRE: (FRENCH) BUR-ZHAIR
No, no, no, no, no!
It is pronounced BARE (to be naked) or BEAR (as in the animal) —ZHAIR.
Sonya is right! “Lounge” is definitely not French! Neither is “settee” which is a variation of the old English word “settle”. You might also have added “palette” which many decorators mispronounce and even spell ”pallet”…
I had never heard of a “madalene” chair but if, as I suspect, it is French, it should be “madeleine”.
Chaise longue is French for long chair, not chaise lounge. Hence the common mispronunciation.
Ballarddesign.com hasn’t corrected the spelling yet from “chaise lounge” to “chaise longue”. They need to show people how to spell it correctly, as well as pronounce it. This is really going to confuse people even more.
I do see a comma between German and Austrian, indicating two distinct countries, I believe.
Very helpful. Never took the time to learn French and it’s definitely not pronounced as it is spelled!
Lots of fun, you should research the thonet more, as a genealogical back ground you are either German or Austrian but not German austrian
These are all good—could also add chinoiserie and etagere.
Caroline @ How to Decorate
Great idea. Thanks!
Wow! Sure did find it helpful. I had at least four of them wrong! Thanks for the definitions too.