Design Terms Glossary


Customer’s Own Material (COM)

When we select an upholstered piece of furniture we often select a fabric from that furniture vendor. The cost of the item includes their fabric. If we don’t like their fabric selections, most companies will allow you to use another company’s material — known as customer’s own material. The cost of the item itself is usually slightly less if you use COM, but you have to purchase the fabric and have it shipped to the vendor so there are additional costs to this option. When working with custom furniture companies that don’t have their own fabrics we only use COM and it allows us to pull from a wide range of vendors to create a unique look for our clients.


 A memo is a sample of a fabric. When a designer is selecting fabrics for a design project he/she collects memos of each fabric to present to the client. It’s always important to see a sample versus selecting a fabric from a website. This enables a designer to know how the fabric is made and really see the color and texture. These are collected to present to a client at the final design presentation.

Cuttings for approval

Once a piece of furniture has been approved for purchase by the client the designer places a hold on the fabric needed to upholster that furniture and requests a cutting of the fabric held. This is important because the color of fabric can vary from bolt to bolt. Once the cutting is received approval is sent to the vendor and the fabric is ordered. The cutting is held in the file to confirm the proper fabric is placed on the item. This can add more time to the ordering process, but saves in headaches down the road.


This file contains a line item list of the furniture selections for your project including pictures of the items, fabrics and wood or metal finishes. All costs associated with the items are included as well as the details of each item. It’s presented to you at the final design meeting for review and approval. Total costs are shown and payment is due in full to proceed with all orders.

Purchase order (PO) 

An order to purchase each item is created for each vendor on your proposal. The PO is sent electronically to the vendor from our purchase management software and they must acknowledge receipt and send us an invoice for the items. The PO contains the details of each item and the ship to address for our receiver. This is our paper trail for each item we purchase and is a key part of our purchase management service. This ensures all items are tracked with the goal of reducing errors and surprises.


In the design industry, the word “vendor” means a supplier of an item. This could be a manufacturer or a seller. Vendors offer fabrics, furniture, art, materials, paints and accessories. The relationship between a designer and a vendor requires great communication. Designers work to build great vendor relationships so when challenges come up they are handled quickly. Many vendors are “to the trade” only, which means they offer competitive rates to vetted designers only, which translates to better value for my clients.


When I say “my workroom” I mean the fabric workroom where custom fabric treatments are made. This may include draperies, roman shades, pillows or bedding. I have worked with the same workroom for almost 10 years and have developed a trusted relationship with this service provider who I know I can rely on. This enables me to provide great custom fabric treatments to my clients. 


In the design industry this is the warehouse where our furniture deliveries are sent. The receiver I work with caters to the design industry. When a project’s items are shipped to them, I provide an itemized list of all pieces on order so they know what to expect and from which vendors. The receiver opens and inspects each piece and contacts me immediately if there’s a problem with a piece. Often we can fix the problem and keep the project on track without the client having to worry about anything. They are a trusted vendor that delivers all of my items to my clients’ home for their one day installation.