A classification system to organise product literature and samples for use in an interior design product library, filing system or for online bookmarking.

If you have not yet found a good product filing system or you have one with too many or too few categories to be useful then here is a classification system that is both comprehensive and concise. With only 45 product genres it is easy to use and remember for interior designers, library managers and researchers. A separate fabric classification system is also given.


Ease of reference

In interior design it is essential to be able to refer speedily to a genre of product and then search for the relevant supplier. What is the best way to break down the list of thousands of products? Over the years practising as interior designers the following list, refined a few times, has been the best and most useful. The list is not so extensive that you have too many categories to sensibly use or too few to be useful.

All of us in the interior design practice – designers, admin folks and researchers – found this system useable. It is always possible to create further sub-categories within any given category – we have done this with furniture however you, for example, might like to sub-categorise Contractors or lighting further.

The first, larger list is for printed literature and websites. Your printed literature may occupy a few shelves or a whole dedicated room. The websites you “save” might be bookmarked in the despised-as-archaic but still massively useful (in my opinion) Google Bookmarks. The great thing about the Google Bookmarking is that, unlike paper literature, you can bookmark a website under several categories.

There is a separate sub-classification for fabric samples given at the end of the main list.

There is another classification genre, not included here, which we called “Multiples” meaning “multiple – or mixed -categories” – this was for suppliers who would not/could not separate their products into genres and insisted on presenting them in a lump. So, a message for any suppliers reading this – beware lumping your products together! The product classification “Multiples” will get looked at last if at all. As a designer, you might ask what type of supplier would present their products like this? We find that product designers, turning their hand to lighting, furniture and tableware present their products all together. Also, consumer- facing retailers can often rely on their brand being the unifying theme and do not break their products down into useful genres.

As you will work out, many items can be found in more than one classification genre. For instance against Architectural Mouldings we would have a note “See also Ceiling products, partitioning and wall cladding”. And you can guarantee that “Tiles” will overlap with “Stone, marble and concrete” so against each category we would have a note saying “See also…”. You might think it is obvious but to have a note, or prompt, just makes life easier when one is under time pressure to find a product and one’s brain might not be working as laterally as usual!

We found Magazine files essential in creating our product library. Most literature won’t stand up on a shelf on its own unless you have a completely inspired supplier that provides their literature in a branded and clearly labelled magazine file of their own.

Download a pdf of this classification list ›

  • Accessories, plants, ornaments, candlesticks, objet d’art, photo frames Accessories, plants, ornaments, candlesticks, objet d’art, photo frames
  • Architectural ironmongery, door furniture, window furniture, balustrades Architectural ironmongery, door furniture, window furniture, balustrades
  • Architectural mouldings, architrave, doors, skirting Architectural mouldings, architrave, doors, skirting
  • Art Art
  • Bathrooms, showers, bathroom hardware & taps Bathrooms, showers, bathroom hardware & taps
  • Bedcovers and accessories Bedcovers and accessories
  • Blinds and shutters Blinds and shutters
  • Ceiling products, partitioning and wall cladding Ceiling products, partitioning and wall cladding
  • Contractors Contractors
  • Curtain poles and tracks Curtain poles and tracks
  • Curtain and upholstery trimmings and tiebacks Curtain and upholstery trimmings and tiebacks
  • Cushions Cushions
  • Display, shelving, signs, planting and clocks Display, shelving, signs, planting and clocks
  • Electrical accessories Electrical accessories
  • Fabrics; contract Fabrics; contract
  • Fabrics; domestic Fabrics; domestic
  • Fireplace surrounds, fires and accessories Fireplace surrounds, fires and accessories
  • Flooring; entrance matting Flooring; entrance matting
  • Flooring; general including carpet Flooring; general including carpet
  • Flooring; rugs Flooring; rugs
  • Flooring; wooden and laminate Flooring; wooden and laminate
  • Furniture; antiques Furniture; antiques
  • Furniture; beds Furniture; beds
  • Furniture; contract Furniture; contract
  • Furniture; domestic Furniture; domestic
  • Furniture; fitted including kitchens and associated kitchen products Furniture; fitted including kitchens and associated kitchen products
  • Furniture; gardenFurniture; garden
  • Furniture; pine, painted Furniture; pine, painted
  • Furniture; reproduction Furniture; reproduction
  • Furniture; screens and storage Furniture; screens and storage
  • Glass Glass
  • Joinery, panelling and marquetry Joinery, panelling and marquetry
  • Laminates and hard surfaces Laminates and hard surfaces
  • Lighting"" Lighting
  • Lighting; lampshades Lighting; lampshades
  • Lighting; table-lamps Lighting; table-lamps
  • Metals Metals
  • Mirrors and picture frames Mirrors and picture frames
  • Paints, stains and coatings Paints, stains and coatings
  • Radiators and heaters Radiators and heaters
  • Staircases and Lifts Staircases and Lifts
  • Stone, marble and concrete Stone, marble and concrete
  • Street furniture and public installations Street furniture and public installations
  • Tiles Tiles
  • Wall-coverings Wall-coverings

A useful Fabric classification system for interior designers

Fabric samples need a classification system of their own! We spend many an hour going through crates of fabric samples, some become old friends.

Not being resellers of fabric, we never order fabric books but only myriads of samples which we organise into our fabric library. We also soon stopped ever seeing fabric reps, unless we needed to open an account, who leafed slowly through their books for our edification which is unbelievably boring. Instead we ensure we make a pal in customer service at the fabric company and always ring them up to make sure our sample order is being processed. These pals are invaluable if fabric ranges are not online as we can call them and say “send us all your red chenille samples ..or floral prints.. or orange tweed.

This is the classification system we found most useful. If you have a lot of contract fabric to specify you can have the whole system again under the Contract although some categories will not apply – for instance fine and fancy! As contract fabrics are now generally superb, we always look at contract fabric for domestic although obviously not the other way around.

Many fabrics will fit into more than one classification – so having duplicate samples with which you can populate all relevant categories is a nice idea if you have the space.

The One Colour section is for fabrics that are either plain or self-patterned in a uniform or similar colour. In this section, aquamarine and turquoises obviously will cause some debate as to whether they are more green or more blue. Yellows have their own category as their range is enormous as they will roam into orange, beige and brown.

Download the Fabric classification list as a PDF ›

  • Checks and stripes Checks and stripes
  • Contract Contract
  • Damasks Damasks
  • Fine & fancy fabrics Fine & fancy fabrics
  • Leathers, suedes, fur – fake (please), horsehair Leathers, suedes, fur – fake (please), horsehair
  • Prints Prints
  • Velvets and chenilles Velvets and chenilles
  • Voiles and lace Voiles and lace
  • Washable fabrics Washable fabrics
  • Weaves Weaves
  • Weaves - small designs Weaves – small designs

One Colour

  • Blues, lilacs Blues, lilacs
  • Brown, taupe, beige Brown, taupe, beige
  • Creams, whites, neutrals, black Creams, whites, neutrals, black
  • Greens Greens
  • Reds, oranges, pinks, burgundy Reds, oranges, pinks, burgundy
  • Yellows Yellows
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