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Furniture Glossary

ABS: A material similar to PVC that is used for computer component housings to provide additional scratch and impact resistance.

Accent colors: Contrasting colors used to enliven room schemes.

Adaptation: Furniture capturing the flavor of the original design or period, but differing in some details.

Acanthus Leaf: A decorative wood carving based on the acanthus leaf, used in 18th century design.

Aniline: Finishing process in which leather is dyed with a translucent finish to make the leather softer.

Anneal: Heating glass then cooling it to remove stress and toughen it.

Antique: Any furnishing or other object that is 100 years old or older.

Apothecary Chest: A low chest with small drawers originally used to store herbs for medicinal and cooking purposes.

Apron: The wooden panel connecting the surface and legs of a table or chair.

Armoire: A tall wardrobe with doors and shelves for clothing, more recently adapted for use as an entertainment center or at–home computer work station.

Art Deco: A streamlined style of architecture and home furnishings popular in the 1920s and 1930s featuring rounded or waterfall fronts, wood furniture with chrome hardware and⁄or glass tops.

Art Nouveau: A decorative style developed in France between 1890 and 1910. Tiffany lamps are an outstanding example of its ornate, flowing lines. Some American manufacturers have replicated the style, though with less ornamentation.

Arts and Crafts: Used interchangeably with Mission style and popular from the late 1800s through the 1920s. It was a reaction against mass–produced, ornate Victorian furniture. The furniture is blocky and rectangular, made of prominently grained oak.

A.S.I.D.: American Society of Interior Designers, an association of designers who have passed stringent examinations to qualify for membership.

Bachelor's Chest: A small low chest originating in the 18th century.

Backsplat: A slat of wood in the middle of a chair back.

Ball and Claw foot: A carved chair or table foot that resembles a ball held in a bird's claw.

Balloon Chair: A rounded–back Hepplewhite chair modeled in the shape of a hot–air balloon.

Balloon shade: A poufed fabric shade that forms billowy folds when raised.

Banquette: Long upholstered seat or bench, often built–in.

Baroque: A highly ornate European design style of the early 18th century, characterized by flowing and irregular lines.

Bauhaus: A style of 20th–century design taking its name from the German school of architecture founded by Walter Gropius early in the century. The minimalist and functional style has had a profound effect on modern architecture and furniture design.

Beading: Decorative detail resembling a row of flattened beads.

Beidermeier: A German design style from the first half of the 19th century. Identifying features are based on the Empire style of simple lines and light woods that feature black enamel or lacquer accents.

Bentwood: A process of steaming wood for shaping into furniture parts.

Berber carpet: Usually made of tweedy, heathered yarns, berber carpets have a distinctive large multilevel–loop construction with no uncut pile to crush or mat. Berbers are popular in contemporary interiors.

Bergère: An upholstered French arm chair with open or closed arms, exposed wood frame, wide proportions and a loose seat cushion.

Bezel: A grooved ring or rim that holds a gem or watch crystal in place.

Bishop's sleeve: A drapery treatment with lightweight fabric side panels tied back slightly above the midpoint to form a poufy drape above, a flowing effect below.

Block Foot: A square vertical foot at the base of a straight leg.

Block Front: An 18th century American furniture form, used primarily in chests. The front is divided into three vertical segments: a concave panel in the center and convex panels on either side.

Bobeche: A glass or crystal ring on a candlestick to catch melting wax or a decorative piece for a lamp.

Bombe: A low, baroque–style chest with bulging, convex sides.

Bonnet Top: An enclosed, hooded top, usually on a secretary or china cabinet.

Boss: A round or oval ornament applied to a surface.

Boston rocker: A generous–sized wooden American rocker with spindle back and wide top rail, which often is painted or stenciled.

Bow Back: A type of Windsor chair.

Bow Front: Rounded curve on the front of a piece of wooden furniture.

Bracket Foot: A low foot running both ways from the corner of case goods to form a right angle.

Breakfront: A china cabinet divided vertically into three segments, with the middle segment projecting forward.

Broken Pediment: Ornamental crest running across the top of a tall 18th century piece such as a high boy or chest. The pediment is interrupted or "broken" by an opening that highlights a carved detail such as an urn or a flame.

Buffet: A sideboard with no hutch or storage cabinet on top.

Bun Foot: A round ball used as a foot on a chest or seating piece.

Burl: Wood cut from a large, rounded growth on a tree. Burl has strong, distinctive grain and is used as a special veneer.

Bureau: A dresser used to store clothing.

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.

Butterfly Table: Small drop–leaf table with wing brackets to support the leaves; opens into a narrow oval shape.

Cabriole Leg: A decorative S–shaped chair or table leg that curves outward at the knee then tapers at the ankle. Found on Queen Anne and Chippendale furniture.

Camelback Sofa: An 18th–century style distinguished by a curve (or camel back) along its back.

Canopy: A fabric covering attached to a frame at the top of bed posts.

Captain's Chair: A Windsor chair with tall legs and a low, round spindle back.

Casegoods: Furniture designed to provide storage space. The designation includes bedroom and dining room furniture, desks, bookcases and chests.

Chair Rail: Wall molding applied horizontally at the height of a side chair.

Chaise Lounge: An upholstered armchair with the back and seat lengthened for reclining. Styles ranges from 19th century formal to contemporary.

Chesterfield: Sofa style with deep button tufting and large rolled arms.

Chest on Chest: A tall chest with a larger chest of drawers supporting a slightly smaller chest.

Charles of London: A style of sofa or chair with a low, rolled arm.

Cheval Glass: Standing mirror in a freestanding vertical frame.

Chintz: Printed cotton fabric, often "polished" or glazed, frequently used in country or casual rooms.

Chinoiserie: Decoration inspired by Chinese art, painted or laquered on furniture or used as themes on wallpaper and fabric.

Chippendale: The elegant, formal late 18th century furniture style following Queen Anne. Its design is more rectangular and heavier than Queen Anne, features include cabriole legs, ball and claw feet, and highboys with broken pediment tops. Newport, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania were centers for some of the best American Chippendale design.

Colonial: American furniture from roughly 1700 through the Revolutionary era. Formal styles are usually mahogany, cherry or walnut with simpler furniture in pine, oak and maple; ornamentation can be simple or rich. Queen Anne and early Chippendale are sometimes included in the category, although the term is sometimes used for furniture that is high–backed, bulky and casual.

Colonial Revival (also known as Revival): Reproductions of classic 18th century American styles, although not always accurate in detail. Revival pieces were popular from the 1870s through the period following World War I.

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: Small, low chest with doors or drawers.

Complementary colors: Colors opposite each other on the color wheel, such as blue and orange.

Contemporary: A term covering several styles of furniture that developed in the latter half of the 20th century; an updated look that softened and rounded the lines of stark modern design. Cornice: Molding that crowns or runs along the top of a cabinet.

Credenza: A sideboard or buffet. In office furniture, a horizontal filing cabinet often placed decoratively behind a desk.

Cut–and–loop carpet: Subtly multicolored and informal; achieves its sculptural pattern with varied–level pile of uncut low loops and sheared top loops. The texture and variegated color helps disguise soil and traffic wear.

Dado: Paneling or other decorative treatment fixed on the lower half of the wall.

Daybed: A seating piece that also can serve as a bed.

Dentil Molding: Rectangular, tooth–like blocks spaced at equal intervals along a cornice molding. Found in 18th century architecture and design.

Dhurrie: A traditional woven carpet from India of cotton or silk, noted for soft colors and varied designs.

Diamond Coat®: A laminate work surface with a UV–cured top coat for greater durability and beauty.

Directoire: Furniture designed during the era of the French Revolution, it bridges the more formal Louis XVI and the more restrained Empire style.

Documentary pattern: Wallpaper or fabric pattern printed with a historical design based on an original sample or "document".

Drop Front: The hinged front of an upright desk which drops down to provide a writing surface.

Drop Leaf: A dining or occasional table with hinged leaves that can be lowered when not in use.

Dustboard (Dust Panel): A board placed between drawers in a chest or dresser to eliminate dust.

Duncan Phyfe: A furniture style popular in the American Federal period (late 18th to mid–19th century), characterized by feet with a graceful outward curve on both tables and sofas. Seating pieces often have lyre–shaped backs, rolled top rails and arms.

Early American: American furniture design of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, adapted from such heavy European styles as Jacobean or William and Mary. The look is characterized by straight lines and minimal decoration. Tables are gateleg and trestle styles, chairs include ladder and slat backs. The style merged into what is now called Colonial, featuring Queen Anne and Chippendale design.

Eclectic: A decorating style harmoniously combining furniture and accessories of various styles and periods.

Egg and Dart: A classic design of alternating oval and dart shapes, applied to cornices.

Empire: A design style inspired by the Napoleonic Empire, it includes heavy looking designs, classical design elements and combines straight lines and curves, as in sleigh beds.

Escutcheon: The shaped metal fitting behind a drawer pull or surrounding a keyhole.

Etagere: A freestanding open cabinet with shelves for displaying accessories.

Faux: A simulation of something else. Faux marble, for example, is a marble–like surface painted onto walls, furniture or other surfaces (see trompe l'oeil).

Federal: The design period following the American Revolution and running roughly through the 1820s. Federal style incorporates the neo–classic influences of Hepplewhite and Sheraton including straight and delicate lines, tapered legs, inlay and contrasting veneers.

Fiddleback: A backsplat in the shape of a violin or fiddle seen on Queen Anne chairs.

Finial: A carved or shaped decorative detail used to ornament the top of an upright such as a bedpost, in the opening of a broken pediment or topping a lamp. Motifs include flames, urns, pineapples and other vertical motifs.

Four Poster: A bed with posts tall enough to hold a canopy.

French Provincial: Rustic versions of formal French furnishings of the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly the Louis XIV and Louis XV styles.

Fretwork: Open or pierced wood carving with an oriental influence, used as a decorative element in Chippendale and Chippendale–style furnishings.

Frieze: Carpet with twisted–fiber pile; it has a plush look but yarns are uncut tight twists are locked in by a heat–set process.

Gallery Rail: A small, slender railing, usually brass, bordering a table or sideboard.

Gateleg table: A type of drop–leaf table with leaves supported by extra legs that swing out like gates.

Georgian: Elegant 18th century design, generally heavier and more ornate than Queen Anne. Features include highly carved cabriole legs, ball and claw feet, ornate carvings and pierced backsplats.

Gesso: Gilded or painted bas–relief plaster decoration.

Glazed tile: Clay shaped into a tile, fire–hardened, then covered with a matte or high–gloss glaze or sealant to make it resist moisture better than regular tile.

Gothic Revival: A style influenced by medieval and Gothic influences popular in the mid–1800s, characterized by lines flowing up to a pointed arch and other Gothic architectural features.

Halogen: Incandescent light source that uses metal halides in compact, highly efficient bulbs, tubes or reflectors; special fixtures are required for their use.

Harvest table: A rectangular table with narrow, hinged drop–leaf sides; a popular colonial design.

Hassock: Oversized upholstered ottoman large enough to be used as seating.

Hepplewhite: Related to the Federal style in the United States, a neo–classic furniture style that followed Chippendale from the late 1700s to roughly 1820. It overlapped with Sheraton style and shares restrained design, tapered legs and classical ornamentation like urns and shields (including shield back chairs) or American carved eagles and stars.

Highboy: A tall chest of drawers, developed in 18th century. Usually composed of a base and a top section with drawers, often topped with a decorative broken pediment crown.

Hitchcock Chair: A black–painted chair with a stenciled design on the backrest, named after its American designer.

Hooked rug: Derives its pattern from yarns or strips of fabric pulled through mesh backing.

Hoop Back Chair: Queen Anne or Hepplewhite chair with a top rail curving directly into the arms.

Huntboard: A type of sideboard used for serving food and drinks after a hunt. Designed to be light and portable so it could be moved outdoors.

Hutch: Enclosed cupboard with shelves resting on a solid base.

Hutch top: A storage unit with shelves, often sitting on a desk or chest.

I.D.S.: Interior Design Society. A professional affiliation for design professionals who have achieved a high level of capability in the design field.

Inlay: Wood ornamentation using exotic woods or ivory, set into the surface of wood furniture.

Intaglio: A design or illustration cut into a surface.

Jabot: Fabric that hangs on either side of a swag or valance.

Jacobean: Early 17th century English furniture with a medieval appearance and dark finish. Furniture from this period can be extremely simple or covered with carvings.

Lacquer: A hard varnish applied in several layers, then polished to a high sheen.

Ladder–back: A country style of chair with a back resembling a ladder.

Lawson: A sofa or chair with a trim, lowered arm accented with a slight roll.

Louis XIV, XV and XVI: Classic French furniture design, roughly from the mid–17th century to the late 18th century. The styles grew progressively simpler and more refined: Louis XIV style is large and ornate; Louis XV is simpler but with curved lines and some ornamentation; Louis XVI has straight lines, geometric shapes and minimal ornamentation.

Love Seat: A smaller, two–seat version of a sofa.

Lowboy: A low or short chest or table with drawers, often on short legs.

Marble: Flooring with very hard surface and elegant appearance; it stains easily and needs regular waxing.

Marquetry: Decorative patterns made of inlays, usually applied on veneered surfaces.

Mission: A heavy, dark–oak style with spare, rectangular lines popular in the early 20th century. The style grew out of the English Arts and Crafts movement and was a reaction to the excesses of Victorian furniture.

Modern: Clean, architectural and streamlined 20th century furniture with roots in the German Bauhaus School of architecture and Scandinavian design.

Modular: Units of furniture that can be stacked or rearranged in different configurations.

Molding: Shaped ornamental strips applied to and projecting from a surface.

Mosaic tile: Ceramic tiles made of natural clay or hard porcelain, glazed or unglazed; mounted on a backing.

Motif: A decorative theme, element or component.

Motion furniture: Reclining chairs or sofas with mechanisms allowing the user to extend their legs and/or lean back.

Neo–classic: Design featuring elegance and simplicity, with motifs borrowed from ancient Greece and Rome. The look was seen throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries and relates to the Empire, Sheraton, Hepplewhite and Federal periods as well as the later Beidermeier style.

Occasional table: A generic term for small pieces like end and coffee tables.

Oriental rug: Handwoven or hand–knotted rugs native to the Middle or Far East. Numerous variations in color and motif are available.

Ottoman: A low upholstered seat used as a footstool.

Parsons table: A simple, squared–off table with legs and apron of equal widths. The name is taken from the Parsons School of Design, where the table was developed during the 1950s.

Parquet: Inlaid geometric patterns of wood; used primarily in flooring.

Patina: The softening effect which age, use and care impart.

Pedestal table: A table supported by a single, center base.

Pediment: An ornamental crest running across the top of tall 18th century piece such as high boy or chests.

Pembroke Table: A drop leaf table with leaves that drop almost to the floor.

Pencil–post Bed: A bed with four slim posts rising six to eight feet. Design is generally simple with straight lines; the beds can be used alone or with a canopy.

Pharmacy lamp: Developed in the 1920s, this adjustable floor lamp has a tent–shaped shade.

Pickled finish: The result of rubbing white paint into previously stained and finished wood.

Piecrust Table: A round occasional table set on a three–legged pedestal base, ornamented with a edging resembling a crimped pie crust.

Pier Glass: A large, window–height mirror suspended above a table.

Piercing: Carved or cutout decorative detail seen in chair splats and other 18th century furniture.

Pilaster: A flattened column–like detail applied to furniture, bookcases, etc. for decorative purposes.

Pleated shade: An accordion–pleated fabric shade that raises and lowers on a pull cord much like a venetian blind.

Plinth: The base of a chest of column that rests solidly on the floor, as opposed to sitting on legs.

Plush carpet: Luxurious eve with velvety evencut pile; shows footprints and shading easily.

Quarry tile: Glazed or unglazed; made by an extrusion process from natural clay and shale. Usually in squares and often terra–cotta in color.

Queen Anne: A major furniture style of the 18th century, a period rich in innovative design. Graceful and elegant, the style (named after the 18th century English monarch) is characterized by curved lines such as cabriole legs, broken scroll pediments and rounded aprons in tables and lowboys.

Rail: The horizontal member running across the top of a chair back.

Rag rug: Sturdy, handwoven cotton rugs.

Recamier: An elegant sofa or chaise popular in the Empire and Victorian eras. Sometimes called fainting couches, Recamiers have a sloping back not much higher than the seat at one end, with the other end rising to meet a high and often rolled, arm.

Reproduction: New furniture that is an authentic copy of an antique.

Restorations: Antiques or collectibles that have been brought back to original condition through reconstruction and/or replacement of missing parts and refinishing.

Return: The element of an L–shaped desk that is perpendicular to the main desk, providing extra working surface.

Rice Carved Posters: Tall, heavy bedposts carved with decorative details such as rice and tobacco plants, symbolic of the wealth of plantation owners in the Carolinas and northern Georgia, where the style originated.

Rococo: Very elaborate European design style, originating in early 18th century France.

Rococo Revival: An especially florid Victorian style popular from the 1850s–70s, best known for elaborately carved rosewood parlor furniture, triple–crested sofas and balloon–backed chairs.

Roll Top Desk: A desk with a curved, slatted panel that rolls down to hide its writing surface.

Roman shade: A flat fabric shade that folds into neat horizontal pleats when it is raised.

Rush Seat Chair: A rustic French or American chair with seats woven of rushes.

Rustic: Simple style typical of country life.

Sabre Leg: A leg with a sabre–like curve.

Saxony carpet: Noted for its elegance and array of solid hues. Yarn loops are clipped for a soft, dense pile with well–defined individual tuft tips.

Scale: Refers to the size of objects in relation to one another and the human body; in decorating, good scale is the result of an eye–pleasing relationship between furnishings and other objects and the space they are used in.

Secretary: A drop–leaf desk sitting on a base of drawers, usually with cubbyholes and slots for organizing papers and bonnet tops reflecting their 18th century origins.

Serpentine Front: A waving curve on the front of a chest or desk. Serving Table: A long narrow table with drawers for silver, linens, etc.

Settee: A long seat or bench with a back and arms seating two or more people.

Shaker: American religious sect in the 18th and 19th centuries that practiced simple living and fostered a genius for excellent design combining functionality and beauty. Design features include straight, tapered legs, and woven–strap chair seats.

Sheraton: A formal style that developed from Hepplewhite, Sheraton features delicate straight lines, tapered legs (usually turned rather than square) and expert veneer and inlay. The period is known for handsome sideboards and neo–classical decorative elements including small urns and fluted columns.

Shield Back: A chair with a back in the shape of shield.

Sideboard: A serving piece with drawers and/or open shelves for displaying plates and silver.

Slat–back: An early American chair form incorporating horizontal slats.

Slate: Natural flooring that resists stain and hold heat well...

Sleigh bed: A 19th–century American adaptation of a popular French Empire design. The sleigh bed has a high, scrolled headboard and footboard resembling the front of a sleigh.

Slipper chair: A low, armless upholstered chair, often with a skirt.

Slip seat: A removable, upholstered chair seat. Splat: A flat, vertical support piece in the middle of an open chair back, often carved or ornamented.

Spattering: A decorative paint technique produced by tapping or flicking a paintbrush loaded with paint onto a plain background.

Sponging: A paint technique involving the application of a layer or layers of opaque or translucent paint colors with a sponge.

Stretcher: A horizontal brace in an H or X shape, often decorative, connecting the legs of a table or chair.

Strip flooring: The most popular wood flooring, made of long, narrow tongue–and–groove boards that are end–matched.

Tea Table: A small portable table, frequently used in place of a coffee table. Table top often has raised edges resembling a tray and side pullouts for candles.

Terrazzo: Smooth flooring made of marble or stone chips embedded in a cement binder, then highly polished for a multicolored effect.

Tester: Wooden frame supporting a canopy or draperies at the top of a poster bed.

Threading: Process of putting lines of color onto a hot object by winding a thin trail of glass around it .

Ticking: A striped cotton or linen fabric used for mattress covers, slipcovers and curtains.

Tieback: A fastener made of fabric, ribbon or braid that is attached to the sides of a window and is used to hold back curtains or draperies.

Tilt Top: A small table with a hinged top that can stand vertically when not in use.

Tint: A color white has been added to; a pastel.

Torchiere: A floor lamp that directs light upward with a flared shade.

Track lighting: "Cans" with bulbs or spotlights clipped into wall– or ceiling–mounted tracks that contain electrical components.

Transitional: Design that blends influences from various style categories.

Trestle Table: A long, narrow table with two T–shaped uprights that are joined by a single stretcher; usually used in country–style schemes.

Trompe l'oeil: French for "fool the eye"; a two–dimensional painting designed to look like a three–dimensional object.

Turning: The shaping of legs or trim on a lathe.

Tuxedo: A style of sofa or chair with a square frame created by arm and back rests of equal height.

Upholstery: Fabric–covered sofas and chairs, with most wood construction features hidden under layers of padding and fabric.

Uplight: A light fixture that directs light toward the ceiling; it can be freestanding or mounted on the wall.

Uprights: The outer vertical posts of a chair.

Urethane foam carpet padding: The most popular type of padding, made in a continuous flat sheet; offers both comfort and support.

Valance: An overdrapery treatment made of fabric or wood; designed to conceal hardware and fixtures while providing a decorative touch.

Veneer: A thin layer of wood permanently bonded to a thicker core. The most beautiful grain patterns are used for the outermost layer (or face veneer) of furniture piece, greater strength is achieved by bonding woods at right angles to each other.

Victorian: A furniture style popular from the middle to end of the 19th century, named for England's Queen Victoria. Furniture is usually walnut, mahogany and rosewood in dark finishes, often highlighted with elaborate, carved floral designs. Oval chairbacks are common, as are marble tops on tables and dressers.

Vitrine: China or curio cabinet with glass doors.

William and Mary: This style, named for the 17th century English King and Queen, came to America in the early 1700s. Innovations included high–backed, upholstered armchairs, highboys and lowboys. Design elements include curved lines, bun or ball feet, marquetry, inlay and oriental lacquerwork.

Windsor Chair: A popular 19th century wooden chair with spindle backs shaped in fans, hoops or combs.

Wing chair: A high–backed upholstered lounge chair with wings on either side of the chair back.