A ACACIA A group of trees similar to the locust. Some varieties from Australia and the Sandwich Islands yield beautiful veneers ranging in color from yellow brown to red and green.
ACANTHUS Classical ornamental device based on leaves of the Acanthus Spinosus plant growing in Asia Minor. It is found as the basis of all foliage ornamentation in Classic Greek and Roman decoration. Romanesque and Byzantine Acanthus were stiff and spiny. The Renaissance revived its use in graceful designs for every purpose. Every succeeding style has used the Acanthus in an exuberant or restrained manner according to its type. It is the most widely used of all decorative motifs.
ACORN TURNING Ornament resembling an acorn. Used as finials on chair and bedposts, as pendants, and as feet in table legs.
ACROTERION Pedestal intended to support carved flowers, busts or urns on the center or lower points of a pediment.
ALABASTER Finely granular variety of gypsum, often white and translucent used for ornamental objects such as sculptures and vases.
AMARANTH Purplish wood used for veneering since the 18th Century; also called "violet wood" and "purple heart."
AMBOYNA An East Indian wood, used as veneer and inlay. The burls are light reddish brown, highly mottled and curled. Known and used in furniture since Roman times.
AMORINI Carved figures of boys, particularly used on furniture of the 17th century and later.
AMPHORA Classical two-handled jar for transporting wine or oil, revived in the 18th century as a decorative motif in the repertoire of neoclassical design.
ANAGLYPTA The Greek word for raised ornament. Raised ornaments have been made in gesso and plaster compounds. They are now being produced of rag stock which is liquefied, then poured into a form and molded. The molded pieces are then applied to walls and ceilings to simulate a carved, bas-relief effect. It is, in effect, similar to the technique used by the Adam brothers in the 18th century, a technique of "composition ornament" or "carton-pierre" a kind of papier-maché imitative of stone or bronze.
ANDIRONS Metal stands, usually of iron or brass, used for holding logs in a fireplace.
ANILINE A transparent dye used to color fine leather hides.
ANTHEMION Stylized flower motif based on the honeysuckle flower and leaves conventionalized to radiating cluster, and derived from a classical Greek ornament. Used in the 18th and 19th centuries on furniture, silverware and in decoration.
ATHENIENNE Basin on a tripods stand copied from an example found at Pompeii. Popular French Neoclassical and Empire form.
ANTIQUE A work of art, a piece of furniture, or any other decorative object which, according to United States law, must be at least 100 years old. The term “antique” is often loosely applied to all old furniture that has value.
ANTIQUING The process of treating wood or finish on furniture and other decorative objects to make it look old. Wood may be simply worn off at the edges and corners; it is sometimes scratched, gouged, planed, etc. (Called "distressed finishes"). Even fine birdshot and nails are used to simulate wormholes and other ravages of time. Wood is also subjected to various acid treatments, bleaches and stains to suggest age. Paint finishes are glazed with washes of dirt colors to reduce the brilliance and to provide an uneven surface.
APPLIED DECORATION See applied ornament
APPLIED ORNAMENT Carved or shaped decoration, usually of wood or metal, glued or nailed to furniture; appears on elegant 18th Century French and European furniture and a succession of 19th century styles.
APPLIQUÉ See applied ornament.
APRON A structural element of furniture. In tables, it is the piece connecting the legs, just under the top; in chairs, it is beneath the seat; in cabinets, etc, it is the lower framework along the base. It is sometimes called a "skirt".
ARABESQUE Literally “Arabian”, a scrolling and interlacing pattern of branches, leaves, flowers and scrollwork of Moorish origin. Originally found on 16th and 17th century Spanish and Portuguese furniture, it later spread to Northern Europe. Painted, inlaid or flat carved designs, it is usually framed within a simple shape such as a rectangle.
ARCADE In furniture, a carved decoration representing a series of arches; also, a chair back in this form.
ARCADING See arcade.
ARMCHAIR A chair, often overstuffed, with armrests.
ARM PAD The upholstered part of a chair arm.
ARM STUMP The front vertical support of a chair arm.
ARMOIRE French term for a tall moveable cupboard or wardrobe with doors and shelves for storing clothing. Seen most often in a two-door style, but also designed with four doors, divided horizontally at the armoire center by a pull out shelf. Originating in late 16th century France, Gothic style armoires are massive in size and are decorated with elaborate iron hinges and locks. Used in cathedrals since the 17th Century used to store the bible and holy vases. It is thought that early armoires were painted and used for the storage of armor.
ARROW Decorative theme used in revivals of classic styles. Renaissance and later, especially Directoire and Empire.
ART NOUVEAU A revived interest in the decorative arts flowed over Europe beginning around 1880. This gave rise to a concerted rebellion against the stale eclecticism of the time. A conscious effort to create along new lines inspired this Art Nouveau, literally, "new art." It drew on various motifs - Gothic and Japanese to create a new vocabulary based natural plant and animal forms and frequently incorporating the figure of women. The typical line is long and slightly curved, ending abruptly in a whip-like sharp curve.
ASH WOOD A family of trees, the woods of many of which is used for furniture. The European ash belongs to a group that includes olive, lilac, privet, and jasmine. The olive ash burls of both England and France are exquisitely figured, and capable of beautiful veneer matching. The color varies from a from a grayish hue to a light honey to a deep brown.
ASTRAGAL Small half-round or convex bead molding; molding on overlapping doors. The reverse of scotia, and smaller than torus.
ATLANTES Supporting columns in the shape of male figures.
ATTRIBUTES Symbolic objects, often used in the eighteenth century; palm fronds are an attribute of victory, rifles and game are attributes of the hunt.
AUBUSSON A type of tapestry originally woven at Aubusson, France, a town in central France. It also refers to a rug woven with a flat weave like a tapestry with no pile.
B BACKGAMMON BOARD AND TABLE The game goes back to the Middle Ages, and furniture for its play appeared as soon as specialized tables appeared in the 17th century. Fine examples occur in French and English work.
BACKSPLAT A slat of wood in the middle of a chair back.
BAIL Metal loop or ring forming a handle or drawer pull, which hangs down from pins attached to a back plate. Usually made of metal.
BALL-AND-CLAW FOOT A form of ornamental carved foot depicting a talon, grasping a ball. Originating in China, it is found mostly on English Chippendale designs.
BALL FOOT A turned foot shaped like a ball. Usually quite large in diameter, and found on early styles of chests and chests-of-drawers. Same as bun foot in England.
BALLOON BACK Chair back style originally developed by Hepplewhite in England, extensively used in Victorian work.
BALUSTER Turned, small curving column consisting of several parts: a base, a swelling known as the poire (pear) or panse (belly), a neck immediately above this, above which, in turn, is a culminating capital. Balusters often used on legs for tables and chairs. Small column, turned, squares, or flats, supporting a rail; it also formed chair backs in architectural forms.
BALUSTER LEG A style of leg, shaped like a baluster, used on chairs and tables in the 17th century.
BAMBOO A wood turning to simulate natural bamboo that originated during the 18th century.
BANDING Narrow inlay or marquetry of a color or grain, which contrasts with the surface it decorates used as a narrow edging or border of veneer. Narrow decorative strips of veneer or inlay usually forming a border. A contrasting band of inlay. Also refers to other long, narrow ornamentation (painting, carving, etc.).
BANQUETTE Long upholstered seat or bench, often built-in.
BARLEY SUGAR An alternative name for Twist-Turned legs such as those on some late 17th century tables. See Barley-Sugar Twist.
BARLEY-SUGAR TWIST or Barleytwist A wooden detail on furniture, created by turning, the end result of which is a spiral or twisted effect; used on legs, columns or for decoration. Often used as a support on Victorian furniture.
BAROQUE From Spanish 'barrueco', meaning an irregularly shaped pearl. A style of decoration and architecture and also the period from the 16th to the mid-18th century. The whole tendency of European design in the 17th century was toward exaggeration; over emphasized brilliance. Motion is the essence of the Baroque, large curves, fantastic and irregular, are explosively interpreted, reversed, and ornamented. Twisted columns, distorted and broken pediments and over-sized moldings sacrificed the structural sense to a tremendous theatrical effect. The style is characterized by large scale, bold detail and sweeping curves marked by exaggerated scale, curves, and movement. The style originated in Rome, Italy during late 16th Century and spread to other areas of Europe. It was followed by the rococo style.
BAS-RELIEF Sculpture and ornamental carving which projects only slightly from the background. Another name for low relief. Contrast Haut Relief.
BASSETTE (French) Literally, "low armoire"
BATTEN Strips of wood used as a brace across one or more boards.
BEAD A narrow half-round convex molding whose surface is either flush with the adjacent surface or raised above it.
BEAD AND REEL A carved molding of classical origin, in which the ordinary bead is interrupted at regular intervals.
BEAUVAIS A type of tapestry originally made at Beauvais, France. Designs and subjects depicted are usually flowers, fruit, pastorals and landscapes.
BED-BOLT COVER A small brass ornament used to cover the head of a bed bolt.
BEECH A hardwood which lacks a pronounced grain often used to make chair frames.
BELLE ÉPOQUE (French) Literally "the beautiful epoch." Period between 1871 and 1914 in France, characterized by marked advances and productivity in the arts, literature, and technology.
BELLFLOWER A floral ornament, carved, painted or inlaid, with bodies of three or five pointed, narrow petals arranged vertically.
BENTWOOD Lightweight or laminated wood that has been bent into curved shapes by steaming or soaking in hot water and bending it while pliable.
BERGERE Comfortable upholstered wing armchair with exposed wood frame from French designs circa 1725. Early models were caned, later ones were upholstered. By the late 18th century, the style spread to other European countries. Closed arms, a wide seat and concave back with a straight or cabriole leg define the Bergere style. Popular in the Louis XIV and Louis XV periods.
BEVEL A sloping edge, of various angles, applied to any material, wood, glass, metal, etc. The angle or edge that one surface makes with another when they are cut at a slant. Similar to Chamfer. A sloping edge planed or chiseled on the edge of any surface.
BIBLIOTHEQUE French term - literally library. In furniture terms, it is a bookcase.
BIEDERMEIER A style of furniture produced in Austria and Germany during the first half of the 19th century chiefly based on French Empire forms. Also inspired by German painted peasant work. It is essentially a style of lesser nobility and the middle class imitating the Paris Empire furniture of grander houses. The name was borrowed from an imaginary cartoon character called Papa Biedermeier, an uneducated country gentleman who considered himself a connoisseur of fine and industrial arts. Simple marquetry patterns were used with pressed brass ornaments of Greek inspiration as well as painted motifs of wreaths, urns and floral, animal and human forms. Woods used were mainly fruitwoods, maple, mahogany and birch.
BIRCH Close-grained yellow wood used for chairs and case furniture.
BIRD'S-EYE or Bird’s Eye Maple Mottled wood, principally in maple, but occasionally in other woods in which the grain forms rings around small dark knots; pattern suggests a bird’s eye. Cutting tangentially through the knots and annual rings produces the pattern.
BISCUIT or Bisque Unglazed porcelain that has been fired once, usually left entirely undecorated.
BISCUIT TUFTING See Tufting.
BLACKAMOOR A negro figure usually dressed in a colorful costume, used as a support or a decoration during the Italian Renaissance; later revived in the Victorian period.
BLANKET CHEST Low storage chest with a hinged lid and (often) a lower drawer. Frequently doubles as a bench.
BLIND TOOLING The process of decorating leather with heated tools, often creating bands of running decoration, but without the use of gold metal in the process. The result is a pattern embossed to give shadow and texture to the leather.
BOBBIN TURNING A series of wooden spheres turned on a lathe, used on 17th century and 18th century chair and table legs and stretchers.
BOBECHES A glass ring paced at the base of a candle to gather wax or dangle crystals.
BOIS D’ORE Ornamental coating of gold leaf or gold dust over wood.
BOISERIE French term for woodwork and sculptured paneling, especially that of French architecture in the 18th century.
BOMBE French term - literally “blown out”. Swelling or convex surface; bulging fronts and sides, as found in period furniture of Louis XV. Also used to describe the bulging forms frequent in late 18th century Italian and other Baroque work.
BONHEUR DU JOUR A small lady’s writing desk with a central drawer in front, tiered shelves and pigeonholes in back, and sometimes a shelf between the legs. Introduced in France in the mid 18th century.
BONNETIERE A tall, narrow cupboard with a single door used to store the elaborate bonnets favored by ladies in the Normandy and Brittany regions in the 17th and 18th centuries. Smaller armoire style cabinet that was used for storing woven goods.
BONNET TOP When the broken pediment of tall case furniture (such as a highboy or secretary) covers the entire top from front to back, it is termed a bonnet top. Sometimes called a Hood or a Hooded Top. In cabinet work, a top with a broken pediment or arch, or a curved or scroll top with a central finial motif in the shape of a flame, urn, etc.
BOOK MATCHING Two adjacent sheets of veneer that are opened like a book and glued side by side to produce a symmetrical pattern.
BOULLE or Boulle Work After André-Charles Boulle, most famous French furniture maker of Louis XIV's reign. Unique style of marquetry perfected by Andre-Charles Boulle utilizing inlays of tortoise shell, brass, silver or pewter. A sheet of metal and a sheet of tortoise shell were glued together, and a design was cut out of both at the same time. The cut-out piece of one material was then reinserted into a corresponding opening in the other material. Sumptuous furniture style with tortoiseshell or brass marquetry, known as Boulle work.
BOULLE, ANDRE-CHARLES André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732). Most recognized French furniture maker and designer of the Louis XIV period who developed a special style of marquetry inlay technique called Boulle Work. His designs were known for their massive size, brass and tortoise shell ornament, and costly extravagance.
BOWFRONT Convex shaped front of a chest, buffet, etc., characteristic of 18th century work.
BOX EDGE See Knife Edge.
BRACKET Right-angled fitting acting as support to a horizontal member. A small ornamental shelf. Also, any wall lighting fixture. A supporting member between the leg and the seat of a chair or table. Pierced brackets of many designs are characteristic of Chippendale work.
BRACKET FOOT Simple base on 18th century chests and case furniture in which the foot runs two ways from the corner, in more or less simple shapes. Although usually simple in design, the style is sometimes highly ornamented. A foot extending from each side of a corner to a center point at the base. often shaped or carved.
BRANCHING SCROLL See Rinceau.
BRASS Metal alloy consisting mainly of copper and zinc.
BRAZILIAN ROSEWOOD One of the most prized furniture and tone woods of all time, Brazilian rosewood is now rare and tightly controlled on the world market. The heartwood is shades of dark brown with black streaks, and the sapwood is white. The wood looks and feels somewhat oily or waxy. It is mostly straight grain with medium to coarse texture, a slight luster and a rose-like fragrance when worked. Used for veneers on fine furniture and marquetry inlays.
BREAKFRONT or Broken Front Furniture in which the front line is interrupted. Usually, the central vertical section projects slightly in front of the side sections. Commonly found on 18th century bookcases and cabinets. Front formed on two or more planes. Specifically, the word is now used to describe a bookcase or cabinet in which a center section projects forward from the two end sections.
BROCADES A woven fabric with a raised pattern that resembles embroidery.
BROKEN PEDIMENT or Broken Arch Referring to a pediment whether straight, swan-neck, or gooseneck, the side lines or scrolls of which do not meet or come to a point. A straight, swan neck or gooseneck pediment whose side lines or scrolls do not meet at the apex. The pediment is interrupted or "broken" by an opening that highlights a carved detail such as an urn or a flame.
BRONZE Metal alloy consisting mainly of copper and tin, the tin content not exceeding 11 percent.
BRONZE D’ORE Ornamental coating of gold leaf or gold dust over bronze. Also known as gilding.
BUFFET French term referring to a sideboard (usually the bottom part of a china cabinet) used to store china, silver, linens and other articles not immediately wanted at the table. The top surface used as a counter in self-service informal dining having no hutch or storage cabinet on top. Side-or serving-table used from medieval times. In sixteenth-and 17th century England, buffet was synonymous with court cupboard. Towards the end of the eighteenth century sideboards replaced buffets in the dining-room, although the buffet enjoyed renewed popularity during the nineteenth-century Gothic revival.
BUFFET-DEUX CORPS (French) Literally, "buffet two bodies;" buffet with upper storage section that sits on top of the lower buffet. A two-tiered buffet with the top cabinet being shallower in depth than the bottom. Doors on the taller, top cabinet can possess wood or glass panels.
BUFFING A mechanical process which removes scars and scratches from wood or leather.
BULL'S EYE MIRROR Round ornamental mirror, often with convex or concave glass.
BUN FOOT Round, turned and sometimes ‘squashed’ foot commonly used on William and Mary case furniture. A flattened, gloved, or bun shaped foot, with slender ankle above.
BUREAU Desk popular in late seventeenth-century England and France distinguished by its sloping fall-front. The flap is hinged at the base and rests on lopers when open, folds up at an angle when closed. Base often contains drawers. Low chest of drawers usually for a bedroom, often with a mirror, originally a desk or table with drawers. Originally a writing desk or table with drawers. Now a low chest of drawers, generally with a mirror, used in a bedroom used to store clothing.
BUREAU AU CYLINDER Popular late 18th century desk with curved lid which slides beneath the underside of the top when opened. Also known as a roll-top desk. Occasionally the cylinder is of tambour form, i.e. made from slats of wood joined by a canvas backing.
BUREAU PLAT (French) Flat writing-desk in the form of a large elongated table, often with two or three drawers underneath. Introduced at the end of the seventeenth century. Flat writing-desk in the form of a large, elongated table, often with two or three drawers underneath. May have slides above the drawers to provide more writing space.
BURL An abnormal or diseased growth appearing on trees, often from an injury to the bark. When sliced into fine cross sections for veneer, they produce beautifully figured patterns. Wood cut from a domelike knot on a tree; often beautifully marked and saved for use in special veneers. Term also refers to the veneer created from this wood. Beautiful mottled veneer, produced by slicing cross-sections of abnormal tree growths. Abnormal excresence on a tree that produces mottled or speckled patterns in wood, which is much prized in veneers. A tree knot or protruding growth that shows up as a pattern in the grain when sliced. Used for inlays and veneers
BURL WALNUT A veneer cut from a cross-section of the gnarled grain at a trees base.
BURR (British) See burl.
BUTTERFLY HINGE Hinge with two flared plates on either side of the join resembling butterfly wings. These replaced butt hinges on high-quality walnut furniture.
BUTTERFLY WEDGE Cleat, shaped like wings of a butterfly, used to fasten to fasten adjoining boards.
BUTLER’S TRAY TABLE A tray with four, flip-up handholds that can be removed from the table legs on which it stands. An oval tabletop is created when the sides are down.
BUTT HINGE A square or rectangular hinge of brass or iron, whose two halves are connected by a pin.
BUTT JOINT A joint on which the squared end of one member is butted against the side or the end of another member.
C “C”-SCROLL Decorative devise based on the letter C, a popular design element on rococo furniture.
CABINET WOOD Fine quality wood that is used for exterior surfaces.
CABLE or Cable Molding A molding design of closely twisted reeding, resembling nautical rope; often used on Regency furniture.
CABOCHON Decorative device; a carved round or oval raised decoration popular in 16th century strapwork. The name comes from that given to rounded, uncut gem stones; the furniture ornament resembles one of these. Also in the mid-18th century, a similarly convex and smooth rounded asymmetrical shape, resembling in form a cashew nut, sometimes used as a decorative element of Rococo style. Often used in conjunction with formalized acanthus leaves or shell work, it became a popular motif on the knees of cabriole chair legs.
CABRIOLE See Cabriole Leg.
CABRIOLE LEG A decorative and sinuous “S”-shaped chair or table leg, which curves outward at the knee, then tapers inward at the ankle into a foot, which swings out again. The foot may be a club, a claw-and-ball, a paw or scroll, and there may be a carved ornament on the knee such as the scallop shell or the lion motif. The name springs from the root, Capragoat though the Spanish "cabriole" and suggests its resemblance to the bent leg of an animal. It is found on Louis XV furniture among other European styles. Cabriole legs were popular in late 18th and 19th century Europe.
CACHE POT A French term used to identify a decorative china or metal jardiniere designed to hold a small potted plant or cut flowers.
CALAMANDER or Coromandel A valuable furniture wood from India and Ceylon, of a hazel-brown color, with black stripes, very hard in texture. It is a species of ebony, and is obtained from the Diospyros Quaesita.
CAMEO See Relief.
CANAPE’ Type of 18th century French sofa.
CANDLE STAND Portable stand intended to support a candle or lamp and small objects. Made in various styles from the Middle Ages onward, candle stands generally took the form of a very small platform, resting on either four legs or a center column. Usually a small table, tri- pod pedestal.
CANE Flexible split rattan woven in open patterns for chair seats, backs, etc.
CANOPY 1) Covering or hood over bed or throne, suspended from wall or ceiling or carved posts. 2) The frame or tester over a high four-poster bedstead, with or without its covering material.
CANT A tilt. Often used when describing a bevel or chamfer, as on an edge.
CANTED A beveled or chamfered surface; used to refer to furniture legs inclining outwards. A piece with an oblique surface, slanting backward at the sides from the central section.
CANTERBURY Mid-eighteenth-century low supper trolley more commonly known in its late-eighteenth-and nineteenth-century form; a stand with vertical compartments to hold sheet music.
CAPITAL The uppermost part of a column or pilaster; the head or crowning feature on the shaft of a column or pilaster, often decorated.
CAPPING A square or pear-shaped piece at the top of some heavy 17th century chair and table legs.
CAQUETOIRE or Caqueteuse Armchair of 16th century French design, with a high narrow back and a trapezoidal seat.
CARCASE or Carcass A body of joinery, or cabinet work. The main body or understructure of a piece of furniture, over which a layer of veneer or other covering is applied.
CARTONNIER Eighteenth-century cabinet of French design.
CARTOUCHE A carved, ornate Rococo framing motif with curved or rolled edges suggesting a scroll shape or a piece of paper with curling edges. Its’ escutcheon-like round or oval field, sometimes blank, was often used for crests, inscriptions and painting devices.
CARVER A dining chair with arms, which is also often called an elbow chair.
CARYATID Derived from Greek architecture, an ornament in the form of a female figure used as decorative support or as a mount. Caryatids were adapted to form legs of tables, chairs, stands of cabinets, etc., and as pilasters for beds, cabinets, mantels, paneling, etc. They enjoyed particular favor in the Rococo and Neoclassical periods and in all the more decorative architectural styles of furniture, such as the later Italian Renaissance, Jacobean, Francis I, Louis XlV and Empire. Male caryatids are less common and are called telamones or atlantes.
CASE or Case Piece 1) Any furniture not associated with upholstery and fabric. 2) Furniture (as bureaus or bookcases) which provides interior storage space. 3) Dining room and bedroom furniture sold as sets. Also known as
CASEGOODS See Case or Case Piece.
CASKET Small box or chest, often of value and beauty, made of precious woods and metals; inlaid, carved or painted, they were used to hold money, jewels, papers, and other valuables.
CASSAPANCA A Long, wooden seat with wooden arms and back, the lower portion used as a chest with hinged lid.
CASSONE Italian dowry chests often enhanced with carved, gilt, inlaid or painted decoration.
CASTER or Castor A small, swiveling wheel or roller, made of wood, china, brass or leather, attached to the feet or the base of furniture to facilitate moving.
CAVETTO MOLDING or Cavetto A concave molding having a curve, which approximates a quarter circle in cross-section, also known as hollow chamfering; opposite of ovolo molding. Often found on cornices.
CELLARETTE or Cellaret 1) A deep, lockable box either free-standing or incorporated in a sideboard dating from the 18th century used for dry storing wine bottles. 2) A case or sideboard for holding bottles of wine or liquor.
CERTOSINA Inlaying light colored material (bone, ivory, metal, etc.) in elaborate designs on a dark ground.
CHINA CABINET or China Closet Important cabinet, often with glass front and sides, for the storage and display of fine china.
CHAIR RAIL Wall molding applied horizontally at the height of a side chair.
CHAMFER Grooved, splayed, or beveled corner of a post or a molding.
CHAISE FUMEUR (French) Literally, “smoker's chair.” A small chair for a man to straddle while resting his forearms on the chair back. Often had a compartment for keeping tobacco and playing cards.
CHAISE LOUNGE (French) Literally, "long chair,” and pronounced shayz long. An upholstered armchair with the back and seat lengthened for reclining. A form of sofa or daybed with upholstered back, for reclining also referred to as a fainting couch.
CHAISE NOURRICE (French) Literally, "nursing chair." A country chair with a low seat used while nursing babies near the fireside.
CHAISE PONTEUSE (French) Literally "Presentation chair." A small lady's chair used in the 19th century for receiving visitors.
CHAMFER 1) A canted surface produced by beveling off an angle. 2) Grooved, splayed or beveled-off corner of a post or a molding.
CHANNEL 1) Groove or fluting cut into a surface as a decorative accent. 2) In upholstery, term applied to vertical tufting.
CHARLES X King of France (1824-1839). Period of Bourbon Restoration, furniture of late Empire, Louis XVI and eclectic Rococo and Renaissance detail.
CHASING Ornamentation of metal by etching, engraving or incising.
CHAUFFEUSE (French) "Fireside chair."
CHENETS Ornamental pieces placed in front of a fireplace.
CHERUB Winged child figure used in decoration from the Renaissance and afterward; also called Amorini. In Italian and French work the whole figure is usual.
CHEST A piece of furniture with stationary top and drawers (in which case it's called a chest of drawers) and/or doors in front. Originally referred to a trunk-like box with hinged lid.
CHEST-ON-CHEST A chest of drawers in two sections, in which the smaller chest usually sits atop the larger one.
CHESTERFIELD Overstuffed couch or sofa with deep button tufting and large rolled arms in mostly leather. From the Victorian period.
CHEVAL GLASS or Cheval Mirror A full length free-standing mirror swung between two footed posts anchored by a crossbeam. Smaller versions, often with drawers in their base, are used atop chests or dressers.
CHEVET (French) Literally, "night stand."
CHEVRON A “V” shaped decorative design or pattern of Anglo Saxon derivation, used for inlay and other decoration. Often used on medieval, Gothic revival and Art Deco pieces. Any “V” shaped pattern.
CHIFFONIER French term for a tall, narrow chest of drawers, often for the bedroom.
CHINA CABINET or China Closet Cupboard with glass sides and front, used to store and display china and/or plates.
CHINESE LATTICE BACK The name given to a particular Chippendale design for a chair back in the Chinese taste ('chinoiserie'). It was supposed to resemble Chinese fretted work and is an example of the highly romanticized vogue for Far Eastern styles and objects which swept fashionable circles in the mid-18th century.
CHINOISERIE 1) French word referring to things Chinese, or in the Chinese taste or manner. 2) General term for the European adaptation of Oriental designs popular during late 17th century, Rococo and Regency periods. Since then there has been a recurrence roughly every fifty years. Motifs used include pagodas, fretwork, Chinese-style finials, mandarins, coolies, birds, landscapes and rivers. 3) Lacquered and/or painted decoration which grew out of Europe's fascination with the Orient in the 17th and 18th century and again in the early 19th century to a briefer extent. The style of ornamentation is characterized by the use of elaborate decorations, intricate patterns and an extensive use of Oriental motifs.
CHINTZ Printed cotton fabric, often "polished" or glazed, frequently used in country or casual rooms.
CLASSIC or Classical Of or relating to the ancient Greek, Roman, and (to a lesser extent) Egyptian world and especially to its literature, art, architecture, or ideals. In design, particularly refers to the period roughly 200 BC - AD 200.
CLASSIC Design inspiration derived from the ancient styles of Greece, Rome and Egypt called Classic or Classic Antiquity.
CLASSIC REVIVAL See Louis XVI.
CLAW AND BALL A style of chair or table foot of Oriental origin composed in the form of a dragon’s claw grasping a ball. Its earliest form in Chinese bronze shows a dragon claw holding the cosmic jewel. The dragon’s claw was replaced by a lion’s or eagle’s claw in Europe and gained increasing popularity throughout the first half of the 18th century. The cabriole leg terminating in the ball and claw was a favorite motif in Chippendale's earlier work but ceased to be fashionable with the classical revival of the later 18th century. However, it enjoyed several revivals since and has been commonly used on many reproduction pieces.
CLEAT Strip of wood fastened to a flat surface to brace it or to prevent warping.
CLOISONNE Enamelwork in which colored areas are separated by thin metal bands.
CLOVEN FOOT Table or chair leg ending in the form of an animal's cleft foot. English and Continental work, chiefly 18th century.
CLUB FOOT A very plain turned foot resembling a club used on many chairs and tables, and in general on much 18th century furniture. Also known as a pad or spoon foot, the term is usually applied to the flat, round pad, found at the bottom of a cabriole leg.
CLUSTERED COLUMNS Three or more small wooden columns clustered together to form a single support. Used decoratively for bedposts, table legs, chair legs, etc.
COCK-BEADING A beaded molding dating from the early 18th century that projects from the surface of a piece of furniture; most common on drawer fronts.
COCKTAIL TABLE A low short-legged table usually positioned in front of a sofa or chair or within an arrangement of chairs and a sofa or loveseat. Intended for serving cocktails, but often holds accessories.
COFFEE TABLE A low table used in front of a sofa or chair intended to hold coffee service but often used as a utility table. See also Cocktail Table.
COFFER Chest or strongbox in use since the Middle Ages that served as seat, table, trunk, or for storage of valuables; one of the earliest forms of furniture in Europe, when unsettled conditions make it imperative that furniture and contents be readily transported together. The coffer can be covered in leather with nail heads ornamenting the edges and handles on both ends. Coffers frequently had domed or lipped tops to allow rainwater to run off. Now, any hinged top chest used as seat, table, or trunk.
COIFFEUSE Small cabinet with lift-up top that was used for storing hair ornaments, brushes and combs.
COLLAR A band or ring shaped decorative molding around a leg.
COLUMN A supporting pillar; especially: one consisting of a usually round shaft, a capital (if Greek or Roman) or an ornamented bracket (if Oriental), and a base.
COMBING A decorative paint technique in which a comb (often made of plastic or cardboard) is pulled across wet paint to create a wavy pattern.
COMMODE 1) French form of low, small chest-of-drawers raised on legs with a wood or marble top and doors or drawers introduced toward the end of the 17th century; generally used against a wall. Originally intended for the drawing-room as a receptacle, bureau or chest, it became very popular during the 18th century. Literally, "comfortable" or "convenient." Commode became a term for bedroom cupboards in the 19th century. 2) A movable washstand with a cupboard underneath. 3) A cabinet used for a form enclosing a chamber pot.
COMPOSITE When describing a column, one that combines the Corinthian leaf pattern with Ionic molding.
CONCERTINA MOVEMENT Folding mechanism used in card tables and dining tables for expansion. The back half of the frame or apron is cut hinged two or more times under the extended top leaf, to fold in upon itself.
CONCH Inlaid or painted ornamentation resembling such a shell.
CONFIDENT "S" shaped chair meant to seat two people facing in opposite directions. Used in the 18th and 19th centuries in the French salons for intimate conversations. Also referred to as a tête-à-tête, a French term with the literal meaning of "head-to-head."
CONFITURIER (French) Jam cabinet
CONSOLE Architectural term for a large bracket of any kind used to support cornices or shelves. The bracket is usually of scroll form. Currently, the term "console" is also applied, incorrectly, to any grouping consisting of a table or cabinet with a mirror hung above it fixed to the wall and supported only at the front legs.
CONSOLE TABLE A form of side-table table sometimes fixed to a wall with brackets and supported by two front legs only. See also, Console.
COQUILLAGE Decoration incorporating a scallop shell motif which became popular during the Baroque and Rococo periods.
CORESTOCK or CORE The center layer of a veneered wood or the sturdy foundation upon which veneer is applied.
CORINTHIAN Most elaborate of the Greek architectural orders: a column whose capital consists of scrolls and acanthus leaves.
CORNER BLOCK A bracket used on the inside corners of chair seats and similar structures to reinforce the joints.
CORNER CUPBOARD Late 17th century three sided china cabinet or cupboard either hanging or free-standing designed to fit into the corner of a room, often with a curved front.
CORNER TABLE A table shaped to fit into a corner, often made in pairs and frequently decorated with marquetry or lacquer work and fitted with a marble top; also called an encoignure.
CORNICE or Corniche 1) From French 'corniche', glacier overhanging. The horizontal finishing molding or group of moldings at the top of a piece of case furniture or a column. 2) A framework from which draperies are hung. 3) Highest part of three principal members of the entablature.
CORNUCOPIA Carved, inlaid, or painted classical motif in the shape of a goat’s horn out of which spill fruit, vegetables and flowers, often appearing on furniture of the Empire style. A symbol of fertility and abundance popular during the Baroque and Rococo periods. Also called horn-of-plenty.
COROMANDEL Wood native to various parts of the far east, used for furniture and often treated with a lacquered pattern.
CORRECTED GRAIN All hides feature natural blemishes, but in corrected grain leather these marks are buffed out (and an artificial grain is then embossed into the hide). Corrected grain leather offers the sturdiest finish and is the most economical leather cover.
COUCH An armless, backless lounge or sofa for daytime resting. Generally has a headrest at one end.
COUNTERSINK Conical boring in wood, which receives a screw head so that the surface of the screw is lower than the wood surface.
COURTING CHAIR See Love Seat.
COVE A concave molding.
COWHIDE In upholstery terms, the entire hide of a cow, which averages 45-55 square feet.
CREDENZA or Credence (Italian) Sideboard with doors often surmounted by drawers. A term commonly used to describe Victorian side cabinets. Originally, a table or shelf in a church to hold the sacraments. now any sideboard or buffet. In office furniture, a horizontal filing cabinet often placed decoratively behind a desk.
CRESCENT STRECHER See Crinoline Stretcher.
CREST RAIL or Cresting Rail The top rail of a chair back. The top rail of a chair back, settee, or any other seating form.
CRESTING Carved ornament on top of furniture, i.e. a mirror frame or the top-rail of a chair, headboard or footboard of a bed or along the back-rail of a day-bed.
CROCKET A popular carved, projecting ornament, of curved and bent foliage, used on the sloping edge of spires and gables in Gothic and Gothic Revival furniture styles.
CROSSBAND Layer of wood between the core and the face ply of a veneer. Its grain is at right angles to the grain of the face ply in order to strengthen the veneer.
CROSS BANDING or Crossbanding Thin strips of decorative veneer banding in which the grain runs crosswise. See also Crossband.
CROSS FIRE Regular mottled pattern across the grain of some wood, which yields a brilliant transparency. Most often seen in some mahogany, walnut, satinwood, and other tropical woods.
CROSS-MEMBER Horizontal, supporting rail.
CROTCH The wood from the intersection of a branch with the trunk of the tree has an unusual V-shaped figure when cut into veneers. The matching of these veneers produces striking patterns much favored by cabinetmakers.
CROWN The carved top of a chair (often seen in early styles), or a molding found at the top of a cabinet.
CUP AND COVER Bulbous, turned-wood decoration found on legs of furniture and on bedposts in Elizabethan and 19th century revival styles.
CUPBOARD Cabinet or box with doors; used for storage. There are many special types of and names for cabinets, which derive from their particular uses and locations.
CURIO CABINET A shelved case with glass doors and panels, used to display small objects.
CURL MAHOGANY Wood cut from the fork in branches of a mahogany tree prized for its mottled or feathery grain. Known as crotch mahogany in America.
CURL VENEER Veneer cut from the fork where a branch joins the trunk of a tree, valued for its decorative grain.
CURULE CHAIR A chair with a cross base support, termed “Grecian Cross” legs, derived from the folding stool of an ancient Roman magistrate.
CUSP A Gothic ornamental detail, consisting a point or knob frequently carved, projecting from the intersection of two curves.
CYMA CURVE From the Greek for "wave." A distinctive “S” shaped curve, double or compound, incorporated into regency and Louis XV furniture.
CYMA REVERSA A reverse curved cyma recta.
D DADO 1) Paneling or other specially decorative treatment fixed on the lower half of the wall. 2) A rectangular groove cut into wood to make a joint, specifically across the grain.
DAMASK A firm, flat woven, patterned, reversible drapery and upholstery fabric made in a satin weave. Made of silk, linen, wool, cotton, nylon, or combinations.
DAVENPORT Chest-of-drawers with a sloping desk on top which became increasingly popular from 1830. Drawers open on one side, with sham-fronted ones on the other.
DAVENPORT DESK Small English writing desk. Characteristically there are drawers that pull out sideways and it will have a lift lid.
DAYBED Originally, a seating piece with low head and footboards, which also can serve as a bed.
DECK The surface directly under the cushions of an upholstered chair or sofa.
DEMI-LUNE Type of table in the shape of a half moon commonly placed against the wall, as in a console or commode. A smaller table shaped in a half-circle with a flip top and pull out supports that opens the table top into a full circle.
DENTIL or Dentil Motif Decorative moldings or inlay patterns consisting of a series of equally spaced projecting squares or rectangles resembling teeth (hence, the name) usually underneath a cornice molding. A feature of classic architecture which became a popular motif in 18th century architecture and design and furniture, derived from Greek architecture.
DENTILS MOLDING See Dentil.
DEVICE An emblematic design, used especially as an heraldic bearing (usually as a coat of arms).
DIAMOND MATCHED VENEER Woods with straight grains cut diagonally and put together in quarters to produce one or more diamond pattern(s).
DIAMOND TUFTING See Tufting.
DIAPER MOTIF Trellis of repeated square or lozenge shapes sometimes enclosing carved decoration.
DIRECTOIRE A period of design in France (1793-1804) following the French Revolution named after the group of five officials who governed France from 1795-1799, the Directeur, when royal decoration was replaced by classic ornamentation. Simple, graceful furniture characterized by Greek and Roman motifs was popular during this period.
DISTRESSING A treatment sometimes called antiquing, designed to make new woods look old by means of markings. Creating a marred surface on furniture deliberately to give an aged look.
DIVAN Large upholstered couch without arms or back often designed to be used as a bed. Originated from the Turkish habit of piling rugs for reclining.
DOCUMENT DRAWER Small vertical drawers, often ornamented, in secretary desk inserts, usually found one on each side of the central compartment in the interior or writing section.
DORIC A type of Classic column. It was massive, fluted, without a base, and had a plain capital with little carving, of the oldest and simplest Greek architectural order.
DOUBLE DRESSER Low chest with two side-by-side tiers of drawers.
DOVETAIL 1) Method of joining boards at right angles by interlocking fan-shaped mortises and tenons which fits tightly making an interlocking joint. Often used in drawer construction. 2) A butterfly shaped inserts used to join boards in tabletops and floors. From the eighteenth century, lapped or secret dovetails were often used on high-quality furniture to conceal construction.
DOWEL A headless pin usually made of wood fitting into a hole in an abutting piece to prevent motion or slipping. Used to secure mortise-and-tenon joints in furniture construction.
DRAPE The way a fabric hangs; this influences its ability to shape well, particularly in an upholstery skirt.
DRAPED URN Carved, inlaid, or painted ornamentation of a classical urn shape draped with a simulated swag of fabric.
DRESSER From the French term, dressoir, originally a table used to dress meats that evolved into a cupboard for storing utensils and dishes. In the United States, the term applies to a chest of drawers or bureau with a mirror.
DRESSING BUREAU See Dressing Chest.
DRESSING CHEST A piece of furniture designed to contain a set of drawers, the top one fitted with compartments for cosmetics; sometimes also fitted with a mirror or a writing slide; also called dressing chest of drawers.
DRESSING GLASS Wood framed tilting mirror, usually mounted atop a miniature chest with one or more tiers of drawers. Originally used as a shaving mirror.
DRESSING TABLE See Dresser.
DROP FRONT Desk whose hinged front or top leaf lowers to a horizontal position to form a writing surface. See also Fall Front, Slant Front.
DROP LEAF A table with one or more hinged extension leaves which lower when not in use. When raised, they extend its top surface.
DRUM DYEING A leather dyeing process in which the hides are immersed in dye and tumbled in a steel drum. Also known as vat dyeing.
DUCHESSE BRISEE (French) Literally, "broken duchess." A set of two hand-carved armchairs and an ottoman or one hand-carved armchair and an ottoman in the Louis XV style that nest together to form a sort of chaise lounge. Popular in the 18th and 19th century.
DUMBWAITER TABLE A serving table, consisting of three or four circular trays on a central shaft with the samallest being at the top and the largest at the bottom. Also known as a tier table.
DUSTBOARD Thin panel used between cabinet doors to eliminate dust.
DUST PANEL or Dustproofing See dustboard.
DUTCH BELLY A type of desk originating from Holland (18th Century) with a typical round (belly) front shape.
DUTCH CUPBOARD Large cabinet or buffet with open shelves. Used for displaying plates, etc.
DUTCH FOOT A type of pad foot used on the legs of chairs.
E EAGLE HEAD FOOT Terminal of the leg of a table, sofa, or case piece, carved to resemble the head of an eagle.
EBENISTE (Ebenist) lat. Ebenaceae. French term for a cabinetmaker specializing in luxury case furniture. A woodworking master specialized in inlay decoration and marquetry with veneers of numerous precious woods, generally desks, tables, commodes and chests-of-drawers. French ebenistes of the 18th Century were obliged by law to sign their work.
ECHINUS See Ovolo.
ECLECTICISM A style of decoration characterized by furnishings and accessories of various styles from different countries and periods, all of which are harmoniously combined.
EFFECT COAT A treatment, which gives certain leathers a smoky, marbled, duo-tone look, and which adds surface interest both in coloration and dimension.
EGG-AND-DART or Egg-and-Dart Molding A classic carving motif of ornamental molding in which an egg shape alternates with a dart and leafy arrowheads. Sometimes called egg-and-anchor or egg-and-tongue. See also Ovolo.
ELM A fine-textured wood with a uniform grain having a light brownish-red color tinged with darker brown ring marks.
EMBOSSING 1) Manufacturing technique that imitates carving by compressing the wood around what is to be a raised, decorative area. 2) (Leather) The process in which permanent artificial grain patterns are added through heat and pressure to corrected grain hides.
EMPIRE Napoleonic (French 1804-1815) style based on classic Greek, Roman, and Egyptian designs. A period of Neo-classic design during the reign of Napoleon I characterized by heavy looking designs, classical design elements and combines straight lines and curves, as in sleigh beds.
ENAMEL 1) A paint made of finely ground pigments and varnish. Used as an over glaze. 2) A hard, glossy wood finish that is achieved through brushing and rubbing.
END TABLE A small table usually placed at the end of a sofa.
ENDIVE A carved leaf motif, resembling a leaf of endive (the crown of the chicory plant).
ENFILADE (French) Literally from the French word "enfiler" meaning "to run along." An extra long buffet that runs down a long wall.
ENGRAVING Print from a copper or wooden plate upon which a drawing or design has been made by a metal tool.
ENTABLATURE Refers to components surmounting a column: the architrave, frieze and cornice.
ENTASIS From a Greek word meaning, "to stretch." A slight swelling at the middle of a column designed to eliminate the optical illusion of hollowness that appears in a perfectly straight column.
ESCRITOIRE French term for a writing table or desk. Sometimes called a secretary.
ESCUTCHEON A shield with a coat of arms on it but the word is most commonly used for a protective or ornamental plate surrounding a keyhole on furniture. It is usually made of metal, but sometimes-found in ivory, bone, or inlaid veneers; also a carved shield on a pediment.
ESTAGNIER A Provencial shelf hung on the wall used for displaying plates. Often hung above a pétrin in a kitchen or dining area.
ETAGERE From the French, a series of open shelves for displaying books or objects often with a marble top. Sometimes with doors or drawers.
ETCHING See Engraving.
EVOLUTE A repeating outward curving wave pattern used to decorate friezes and bands. An inward curving pattern is called involute.
F FAÇADE In furniture parlance, the front of a cabinet or piece.
FACING The strip of fabric that is sewn to the raw edge of a fabric and folded back to the wrong side.
FALL FRONT A piece of furniture, such as a desk or piano, possessing a drop front or drop lid. See also Drop Front, Slant Front.
FANCY FACES Veneers cut and spliced into an exotic pattern, usually used on highly visible surfaces (doors, drawer fronts, etc.).
FAT WRINKLES "Beauty marks" in the grain of leather caused naturally by fat deposits.
FAUTEUIL French term for a form of open-armed chair with upholstered back and seat.
FAUX French, meaning "false." Describes something made to look like something it's not (e.g., faux grain).
FAUX BAMBOO Literally, "false bamboo."
FAUX PAINTING Literally, "false painting." Painting technique intended to give the illusion that the surface is made of another material
FEATHERED Describes a pattern in wood grains that looks like a feather's plume. Found particularly in mahogany and satinwood.
FERRULE Metal band put around a slender shaft (such as the base of a wooden chair leg) to strengthen it or prevent splitting.
FESTOON or SWAG Renaissance and Neoclassical motif in the shape of a suspended loop of drapery or a garland of fruit and flowers. Carved, molded, or painted ornamentation representing a decorative chain (such as a garland, scallops, a floral chain, a rope or drapery, etc.) hanging between two points. See also Swag.
FIGURE In wood, certain characteristic marking, patterning or design other than the customary straight grain created by the growth of the tree. Abnormal growths produce unusual figures described as curls, burls, mottles, feathers, crotches, burls, waves, crossfire, etc.
FILIGREE 1) Lace-like ornament work, especially of fine wore of delicately curled and twisted gold, silver or copper wire. Chiefly applied to gold and silver surfaces. 2) Ornamental openwork of especially delicate or intricate design.
FILLET 1) Small band or strip used for separating molding. 2) A small cleat or ledge for supporting loose shelves. 3) The space between two flutings on a column or shaft.
FILLING Step in furniture finishing in which wood pores are filled with a fine substance (typically, powdered soil), causing the surface to be smoother, flatter, and more reflective when complete.
FINIAL Carved, turned or metal decorative ornament which crowns a vertical structural feature, such as a bedpost, in the opening of a broken pediment or topping a lamp. Projecting ornament which can take many forms, including those of a ball, flame, flower, acorn, pineapple or vase.
FINISHING 1) Adding stain, lacquer or sealer to furniture as a topcoat. 2) (Leather) Any treatment or process performed after tanning (antiquing, dyeing, glazing, lacquering, pigmenting, embossing, etc.).
FLAME A finial carved to resemble the flame of a torch.
FLEMISH From 'Flanders', the northern Dutch speaking region of Belgium known for its 17th Century golden age baroque furniture.
FLEUR-DE-LIS or Fluer-De-Lys Heraldic bearing of the royal family of France. The iris flower or plant.
FLITCH Any part of the log which is sliced into veneer. Also describes the bundle of consecutive sheets of veneer when cut.
FLUSH Describes a surface set level with an adjacent surface, to form an unbroken plane (e.g., flush paneling).
FLUTE Semicircular concave groove cut perpendicularly in columns, pilasters, legs, friezes, aprons, etc. The ridge between adjacent flutes is a fillet. See also Reeding.
FLUTING Decoration formed by making parallel, semicircular concave grooves, usually cut vertically; used for columns and legs on furniture since the sixteenth century. In classical architecture fluting is often seen on column shafts and runs in a vertical direction. See also Flute and Reeding.
FOLIATED Ornamented with leaf forms.
FOOTBOARD Panel in the lower end of a bed, or the entire end of the bed.
FOUR POSTER A bed with posts tall enough to hold a canopy.
FRENCH CABRIOLE This is a very light, slender version of the cabriole leg, much used on 18th century furniture in the rococo taste and later used on Victorian chairs.
FRENCH DOOR A door with rectangular panes of glass extending the full length. Usually hung with a pair of doors in one frame, with both doors opening outward.
FRENCH EMPIRE See Empire.
FRENCH POLISH Process of giving furniture a high-gloss, somewhat brittle, finish by applying successive layers of shellac.
FRENCH PROVINCIAL Rustic versions of formal French furnishings of the 17th and 18th Centuries, particularly the Louis XIV and Louis XV styles. See Provincial.
FRETWORK or FRET 1) Interlocking geometrical decorative trim designs cut from thin wood, either pierced or cut in low relief, used on furniture. Without contrasting backing is open fretwork and with backing is blind fretwork. 2) Tracery on glazed doors and windows. See also Openwork.
FRIEZE 1) On a column, section under the cornice (can be plain or decorated). More commonly, any sculptured or ornamented band on buildings or furniture.
FRUITWOOD The woods of various fruit trees, particularly pear, apple, and cherry, have long been used for small furniture, especially Provincial style. Fruitwood is usually hard and durable, and it polishes well.
FULL GRAIN Leather in which the natural grain has not been mechanically altered, and which features the genuine texture of the hide.
GLOSSARY G - M GLOSSARY N - T GLOSSARY U - Z