ACANTHUS LEAF - Popular Greek decorative motif adapted from the acanthus plant. Found in almost all classic design, notably the capital of the Corinthian column.
ACORN TURNING - Knob, pendant or foot shaped like an acorn, popular in the Jacobean period.
ADAM STYLE - British neoclassical style that predominated from about 1760 to 1790. It was established by architect Robert Adam and his brother, James. A reaction to the more fanciful rococo style of the 1750s, it is characterized by slender, graceful lines, refined shapes, and restrained ornamentation.
APRON - Strip of wood adjoinng the base of cabinets, seats and table tops extending between tops of legs or bracket feet.
ARABESQUE - Decorative scrollwork or other rather intricate ornament employing foliage, vases, leaves and fruits, or fantastic animal and human figures. Arabedque won its highest triumph in the Loggia of the Vatican.
ARCADE - A series of arches, with supporting columns or piers.
ARMCHAIR - Seating that has both a backrest and armrests (see bergère and fauteuil).
ARMOIRE - Tall, upright cupboard or wardrobe that does not contain drawers and may or may not contain shelves. It closes with a door or doors at the front.
ART DECO - Derived from an historic Paris exposition in 1925 that celebrated the marriage of art and industry in denunciation of Art Nouveau. It introduced simple, streamlined forms that were majestically interpreted in exotic woods and materials. American designers of the 1930s took this look further, using asymmetry, arcs, sleek lines, and geometric shapes not only in furniture, but also in architecture and a wide range of household objects.
ART NOUVEAU - Style based, literally, on the "new art" of Europe in about 1875. Flowing, nearly freeform shapes from nature were carved and painted on furniture. An elongated, slightly curved line that ends in a more abrupt, nearly whiplike second curve is its most characteristic design.
ARTS AND CRAFTS - Both a furniture style and a movement that emerged in England toward the end of the 19th century in reaction to the excesses of the Victorian era and the Gay Nineties. It glorified craftsmanship in deliberately simple shapes with exposed joinery and spare ornamentation. William Morris and John Ruskin were among its proponents in England. Based on their beliefs and designs, Gustav Stickley pioneered a similar movement in America, before it waned with the onset of World War I.
BAGUETTE - A small, convexmolding with semicircular contours.
BALL AND CLAW FOOT - ACarved-foot motif that depicts a crane's claw gripping a ball or an egg. While it is most associated with 18th-century English and American furniture, it originated in China as a dragon's claw clutching either a crystal ball or a pearl or other jewel.
BALUSTER - Small turned, square, or flat column that supports a rail; also used to form chair backs.
BANDING - Inlay or maquetry which produces a color or grain contrasting with the surface it decorates.
BANDY LEG - American colonial term for the cabriole, or curved leg.
BANISTER-BACK CHAIR - Generally maple, often ebonized with vertical split-banisters in theback. Widely used in rural America from 1700 until the end of the century.
BANQUETTE - An upholstered bench or settee, also the ledge at the back of a buffet.
BAROQUE - Name given to the 17th-century exaggerated style that originated in Rome. Massive and heavily decorated, it is an extension of ornamental Renaissance style and is characterized by a lack of restraint manifested in large, irregular, even fantastic curves, twisted columns, elaborate scrolls, and oversize moldings.
BARREL CHAIR - A chair shaped like rustic chairs which were originally made from half of a wine barrel. The back is usually upholstered in vertical ribs. Seat has loose cushion.
BAS-RELIEF - Sculpture or carving whose figures project only slightly from the background.
BEAD - A small, convex molding of a nearly semicircular section.
BEDSIDE CHEST - A small bed-high chest with drawers.
BELL FLOWER - Conventionalized hanging flower-bud of three, somethimes five, petals carved or, more often inlaid one belowthe other in strings. Used down the legs of a table, chair or sometimes a chair splat.
BENTWOOD - Wood that is bent while wet into curved chair parts. Michael Thonet (1796 - 1871) of Vienna is the best-known producer of bentwood furniture and a pioneer in mass production. Bentwood is not related to molded plywood, a 20th-century innovation.
BIBLIOTHEQUE-BASSE - A low cupboard fitted with shelves for books and doors often of glass but somethimes fitted with grilles.
BIEDERMEIER - A furniture style of German derivation in the first half of the 19th century and named after "Papa Biedermeier," a cartoon character that represented the well-to-do, uncultured middle class. The furniture is often plain and blocklike in form and borrows freely from many styles, particularly French Empire, adding strength and comfort at the expense of grace and refinement.
BIRD'S EYE - A marking of small spots often found in certain wood. Used and much prized from the earliest to present times.
BLANKET CHEST - Colonial storage chest often used as a bench.
BLOCK FRONT - A chest composed of a concave center panel flanked by two convex panels.
BOMBÉ - Chest or commode with a bulge or swollen, convex shape on the front and sides.
BONNET TOP - When the broken-arch pediment of tall case-furniture covers the entire top from front to back, this hood is called a bonnet top.
BUFFET - Sideboard or "dresser" for the dining room, designed to hold platters and serving dishes.
BOWBACK - One of the types of Windsor chairs popular in America in the 18th Century.
BOW FRONT - A front that curves outward to appear convex
BRACKET FOOT - Low foot on case goods. Runs both ways from corner, forming a right angle.
BREAK FRONT - A bookcase or china cabinet made of three sections, the center one projecting forward beyond the two end sections. In bookcases, the lower part of the center section sometimes as a desk.
BREWSTER CHAIR - Wooden chair with large turned psts and spindles. First made in American colonies and named for governor Brewster of Massachusetts.
BUFFET - The French definition of the word is a sideboard, a place for keeping dishes. Today, more often the chest which supports a china cabinet of the same width.
BUN FOOT - A flattened ball, or bun shape, with a slender ankle above. Popular in William and Mary period.
BUREAU - The French word (from the Latin, burras, red) originally designated as a red cloth covering for writing desks. Later the desk itself. In America the name designates the commonly known dresser.
BURL - A tree knot or protruding growth which shows beautifully patterened graining when sliced. Used for inlay or veneer.
BUTTERFLY TABLE - Small folding table with splayed legs, generally turned. The top has wing brackets underneath to support drop-leaf wings on either side.
BYZANTINE CHAIR - A three cornered chair originated in the orient and later used in Italy.
CABINET - Originally a glass fronted cabinet intended for the display of objects d'art.
CABLE - A molding design resembling intertwined rape.
CABRIOLE - Curved shape that resembles the leg of an animal, such as a goat ("cabriole" in Spanish). Its double curve turns in at the "knee" and flares out at the foot. It came into widespread use in the late seventeenth century.
CAMEL BACK - Triple-curved chairback frame with a raised central curve. A pierced-shield design, such as honeysuckle or anthemion, spans the back from the seat to the high curve.
CANDLESTAND - A small (usually pedestal) and lightweight table with a round top built to chair height. Once used as a portable surface for candles.
CANE CHAIR - First produced in England. It was very popular because it was cheap, light and durable. It was first used in America about 1690.
CANOPY - A covering, attached to tops of bed posts, consisting of wood frame covered with fabric.
CANTED - Sloping at an angle.
CANTERBURY - A portable magazine rack named after the Bishop of England.
CAPITAL - The top part of a column.
CAPPING - A tuned ornament used to make furniture more decorative.
CARD TABLE - Folding table that originated in late-17th-century England to accommodate the nobility's passion for gambling.
CASEGOODS - Pieces made largely, but not necessarily wholly, of wood and having certain storage facilities.
CAST IRON FURNITURE - Very popular throughout the 19th century in varying forms from garden furniture and plant stands, to umbrella racks and doorstops. The cast iron bed was manufactured nto the 20th century and remains popular today.
CEDAR CHEST - A rectangular storage chest with hinged lid and made of solid cedar or cedar veneer surfaces to prevent moths invasion of woolens. Also, a bride's hope chest in 20th century. Still very popular.
CHAISE LONGUE - Literally, "long chair," a sofa or daybed with an upholstered back, designed for reclining. Today it is usually a single piece, but early versions encompassed a bergère with a large stool or two armchairs and a center stool.
CHANNEL BACK - A chair back with grooves or fluting as decoration.
CHEST-ON-CHEST - Chests of drawers in two sections, one on top of the other.
CHEVAL GLASS/MIRROR - A full-length mirror mounted on swivels in a frame capable of being locked in various positions. Traditionally cheval mirrors had candle holders mounted on each side and were used in dressing rooms.
CHEVRON - A V-shaped ornament borrowed from military lexicon.
CHINA CABINET - Cabinet with glass fronts, created to display and store fine china. The sides may or may not be of glass.
CHINOISERIE - Painted or lacquered Chinese designs in furniture.
CHIPPENDALE - English rococo style of the mid-18th century, named after Thomas Chippendale. The graceful proportions and delicate decoration of this furniture were refined adaptations from late Baroque, rococo, Louis XV, and Georgian periods. Two variations, Chippendale Gothic and Chinese Chippendale, attest to the famous cabinetmaker's influence and ability to borrow styles.
CINQUEFOIL - Five petal design.
CLAW & BALL - Foot of carved animal or bird claw clutching a ball, generally terminating a cabriole leg.
COAT OF ARMS - Heraldic insignia, as on a family escutcheon.
COFFEE TABLE - Long, low table used in front of a sofa.
COLONIAL - In America this style dominated from the earliest settlements to the Revolution of 1776. Here as elsewhere it represents styles that are rooted in mother countries but adapted to the materials and uses of the colonies, primarily Africa, India, the Americas, and the Caribbean.
COMMODE - Initially a French chest of drawers on legs; now loosely defined as any type of low chest containing doors or drawers.
CONSOLE - Term originally applied to a bracket that supported cornices or shelves and later used to describe tables that were affixed to a wall and supported with legs only at the front. Today it describes all types of tables used along a wall.
CORBEL - A piece of stone, wood, etc. projecting from a wall, to support a cornice, arch, etc.
CORNER CUPBOARD - Triangular cupboard made to fit into a corner. It is usually a dining room china cabinet but may also be a curio cabinet for any room.
CORNICE - The top or finishing molding of a column or piece of furniture.
CORNUCOPIA - The horn of plenty, symbolizing peace and plenty, used as design motif.
COTTAGE FURNITURE - A term used in the Victorian period for mass produced simlified forms, frequently painted with decorative designs; often ornamented with spool turnings.
COUCH - A 17th and 18th century term for daybed. Not used as a term for sofa or settee until recent times.
CREDENZA - Serving table with a cupboard below the surface. It originated in the 15th century; in the 16th century, an upper, recessed tier was added.
CROFT - A small filing cabinet of the late 18th century, it had many small drawers and a writing surface.
CROSS STRETCHER - X-shaped stretcher in straight or curved lines. Found on tables, a few chairs and in America on highboys and lowboys.
CUPID'S BOW - A term used to describe the typical top rail of a Chippendale chair back with curves up at the ends and dips slightly in the center.
CURULE LEGS - X-shaped legs used on a folding chair with no back.
DAVENPORT - An upholsterer in Boston, named Davenport, made such handsome and luxurious overstuffed couches that people began to speak of these couches as Davenports. This word has been replaced by the word sofa.
DAVENTRY - A small chest of drawers with a sloping top for writing.
DAYBED - Any type of elongated seating, including the chaise longue, designed for resting rather than sleeping. It usually has a raised end.
DENTILS - A classic, decorated design consisting of rectangular blocks with spaces between.
DIAPER-WORK - Surface decoration consisting of a system of reticulations each of which contains an ornamental unit, as a flower or leaf.
DIRECTOIRE - Style of French furniture that spanned the end of the French Revolution and Napoleon's conquest in 1799. It is named for the Directory government that replaced Louis XVI and called for designs of smaller scale and less ostentation along with the elimination of regal references.
DISC FOOT - A flat, disc-shaped foot used on tables or chairs.
DISTRESSED FINISH - Intentionally marred or faded to convey an antique or used look. Common teqniques include top finish rubbed through to undercoat, intentional light denting, application of worm holes and fly speck painting.
DOLPHIN - One of the heraldic fishes represented as either embowed, counter embowed or extended. Symbolic of love and diligence.
DOVER CHEST - Early American hope chest, usually made of maple or oak.
DOWEL - headless pin, usually made of wood, used in the construction of furniture.
DOWERY CHEST - Made to store the trousseau of a prospective bride. American examples include the hadley chest, the Connecticut chest, the painted Pennsylvania-German chest and the Lane Company cedar chest.
DRESSER - A species of a sideboard. Also for the service of food or the storage of dishes. The term used today indicates a chest for the storage of cosmetics or clothing.
DROP FRONT - Hinged front of desk which lowers to form a level writing surface.
DROP LEAF - Hinged flap or panel that can be raised, then supported in order to increase the surface area of a table. The term now applies to such a table.
DRUM TABLE - Circular top table on a tripod base with a deep skirt that may contain drawers.
DUMB WAITER - A dining room stand with normally three circular trays increasing toward the bottom. Also, a pulley type elevator that brought food up from the basement kitchen to the first floor dining room.
DUTCH DRESSER - A cabinet with oopen shelves on upper portion, drawers or cupboard below.
ECLECTIC - Work coined last half of the 20th century; infers artful mixture of decorating styles.
ELIZABETHAN - Large furniture of severe form and style that emerged initially during the reign of Elizabeth I in England from 1558 to 1603. It was revived in the 1820s and is characterized by heavy carving as well as massive size.
EMPIRE - Neoclassical style dictated by Napoleon in France between 1804 and 1815. It is based on imperial forms from Greece, Rome, and Egypt and was designed to draw parallels between Napoleon's realm and the great ancient empires. Furniture was consciously majestic, made of rich woods and metals, and decorated with emblems, including bees, crowns, laurel leaves, mythological figures, and the letter N.
ÉTAGÈRE - A series of open shelves supported by slender columns and used to display curios.
FAN PANERN - Description of the back of a chair when fitted with ribs somewhat resembling the stalks of a half-open fan.
FARTHINGALE CHAIR - An armless upholstered chair for ladies wearing enormous skirts of early Stuart era.
FAUTEUIL - Upholstered armchair, originally French, with open sides (see bergère).
FEDERAL - American furniture style from 1780, following the Revolution, to 1830. It began by echoing and often amalgamating the neoclassical styles of such English masters as Adam, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton, and later took on influences from France. Duncan Phyfe is among its most notable craftsmen. It is refined and rectilinear, often with veneering and inlay. Brass feet and casters and brass-ring drawer and door pulls are common on casegoods.
FESTOON - A garland or length of foliage, flowers or branches entwined or bound together, usually hanging in a curl between two points.
FIDDLE-BACK - A chair splat shaped in manner of the violin's contour.
FINIAL - A decorative finishing device, usually foliated, for the terminals of projecting uprights.
FIRE SCREEN - First made to give protection from the intense heat of large open fires. Two kinds were made. The pole screen with the screen on a tripod base and the horse or cheval screen which consisted of two uprights, each on two legs, enclosing a panel.
FLAMBEAU - A carved decoration in the shape of a flaming torch.
FLEMISH SCROLL - A baroque form with the curve broken by an angle.
FLEUR-DE-LIS - A French emblem in the form of a conventionalized floral design.
FILIGREE - Interlaced wirework decoration of scrolls and arabesques.
FLUTING - A grooving on any horizontal or perpendicular surface.
FLYING DISK - A flat disk with two outspread wings. A prominent Egyptian motif.
FOIL - A Gothic term denoting the intersection point of the junction of circular areas, as in trefoil.
FOLIATED - Decorated with leaf designs of an intricate pattern.
FOUR POSTER - A colonial bed with posts extended upward, may or may not hold a canopy.
FRENCH BED - A bed in which the ends roll outward. It has no posts.
FRET - A kind of Greek ornament formed of bands or fillets variously combined. A piece of perforated ornamental work.
FRIEZE - In architecture, the entableature is between the architrave and cornice. The term is applied to the broad border which sometimes runs around the top of a room between wallpaper and cornice.
FUNCTIONALISM - Furniture design based on use rather than on ornamentation alone.
GADROON - A carved molding of alive or ruffle form used in the edges of table tops and chairs.
GARGOYLE - A grotesque carved figure or head, which originally carried rainwater from the gutters.
GARLAND - An architectural ornament representing foliage, flowers or fruits plaited and tied together with ribbons.
GATELEG TABLE - A table where the folding leaf is upheld by a leg swinging out lake a gate. A development of the Jacobean period, it was popular in Colonial America.
GEORGIAN - Refers to furniture styles that evolved during the long reign of England's three Georges, I, II, and III, from 1714 to 1795. At first it retained earlier Queen Anne forms, with an increasing use of decoration and diverse ornamentation. Popular motifs were eagles' heads and claws, leaves, satyrs' masks, and lions' heads and claws.
GEOMETRIC PANELS - Forming or consisting of regular lines, curves and angles.
GESSO - A bas-relief decoration, made out of plaster, which, after hardening is painted or gilded.
GIRONDOLE - A round, convex mirror used as a wall ornament.
GLASTONBURY CHAIR - An X-framed, ecclesiastical Gothic seat with sloping paneled back. Arms had a drooping curve in which a priest's vestments rested.
GOTHIC - Late medieval furniture forms derived from the cathedrals of Europe. Heavy, large pieces were generously carved in architectural motifs. Chests banded with decorative wrought iron, large trestle tables, and such symbols of status as "beds of estate" and X-framed chairs are characteristic.
GLYPH - A short, vertical groove or channel. It was common in Doric architecture.
GOBELIN - Name of a French tapestry and the Parisian factory which produced it.
GRIFFIN - A chimerical beast employed in decoration in early Georgian times.
GRILLE - Metal lattice work used in a great many 18th century bookcases.
GUERIDON - A small table or tabouret, with round top for holding candles or small articles.
GUILLOCHE - An ornament formed by two or more intertwining bands or interlacing figure eights frequently enclosing rosettes or other details.
HADLEY CHEST - A colonial chest with a drawer. Sometimes used as a hope or dowry chest.
HANDKERCHIEF TABLE - A single leaf table with leaf and top triangular in shape. Closed, the table fits in a corner, opened, it is a small square.
HASSOCK - Large upholstered cushion used as ottoman. Circular or square.
HEPPLEWHITE - Style named for cabinetmaker George Hepplewhite, whose furniture drawings were published after his death in 1786. They exemplified the Adam and neoclassical styles, but had slimmer, lighter lines and less angular shapes. Hepplewhite often used the Prince of Wales's feathers motif on chair backs.
HIGH RELIEF - This term refers to deep carving of any plane surface of any material.
HIGHBOY - Tall chest of drawers, usually consisting of two sections. An upper chest sits on either a tablelike structure or a lowboy with long legs. (See chest-on-chest).
HITCHCOCK CHAIR - American chair, 1820-1850, made with oval top rail and cane seat. Named for designer Lambert Hitchcock.
HOOD - A shaped top on cabinet work. It usually overhangs the vertical lines.
HOPE CHEST - Colloquial American term widely used for dowry chest.
HUSKS - Ornamentation of flowers or foliage usually used in pendant manner.
HUTCH - Enclose structure, often raised on uprights, or an enclosed structure of more than one tier.
IMBRICATIONS - Ornaments which take the form of fishes' scales or the segmented edge of tiles that overlap.
INLAY - Design formed of contrasting woods, grains, metal, tortoiseshell, mother of pearl, or other material inserted to be flush with the furniture surface.
INTAGLIO - A design or illustration made by cutting into the surface of the material.
INTARSIA - An italian type of decoration, similar to marquetry where a design is sunk into an entire surface.
INTERNATIONAL STYLE - Modern, functional furniture developed in Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. Its most important origin is Germany's Bauhaus, with such practitioners as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Simple lines and an absence of decoration are its hallmarks. New materials, such as chrome and glass, along with factory production, signify its departure from earlier furniture traditions.
IONIC - Designating or of a Greek style of architecture characterized by ornamental scrolls of the capitals.
JACOBEAN - Style of English furniture during the first half of the 17th century, named for King James I, who reigned from 1603 to 1625. Italianate carving, especially cupboards with arabesques, and the common use of upholstery typify the robust and comfortable style, which continued through the reign of Charles I, from 1625 to 1649.
JEWELLING - Ornamental carving in the shape of jewels. It was common during the Renaissance.
KAS - An early American cabinet, of Dutch origin, made with painted or paneled wood.
KD or KNOCKED DOWN - Applied to pieces shipped unassembled or only partially assembled.
KIDNEY DESK - A desk or a table with curvedfront and a top shaped like a kidney bean.
KLISMOS - Ancient Greek chair form with saber-shaped legs, splayed at the front and back. The back legs continue up to support a shoulder-high, curved back.
KNOB TURNING - A turning resembling a series of knobs or bosses.
LACCHE - The word lacche is used in Italian to cover all painted decoration applied to furniture whether or not it has the hard glass of Oriental lacquer.
LADDER-BACK - A chair-back in which horizontal cross-rails, used instead of a splat, give a ladder effect.
LAMBREQUIN - A short piece of hanging drapery, often imitated in metal or wood for decorative purposes.
LAURELING - A decorative feature using the laurel leaf motif as its basis.
LAZY SUSAN - A revolving tray or stand of wood or metal.
LINENFOLD PANEL - A design for a panel consisting of a combination of straight moldings in the shape of folds of linen.
LINTERS - Short cotton fibers clinging to cotton seed after it has been ginned. Used for early mattress filling.
LOTUS - The conventionalized Egyptian water lily as found in classic ornamentation.
LOUIS XIV - Baroque furniture that accompanied the reign of Louis XIV in France from 1643 to 1715 was a somewhat reserved version of that style, featuring modest rather than exaggerated curves. Furnishings and decoration reflected formal grandeur. Decorative motifs, often boldly carved, included beasts from mythology, garlands of fruit and flowers, animal forms, and the fleur-de-lis in particular.
LOUIS XV - The more feminine rococo style evolved during Louis XV's reign, from 1732 to 1774. It was exemplified by diminutive scale, rounded edges, flowing lines, and freeform ornamentation. Oriental lacquer and porcelain plaques were sometimes incorporated into veneers.
LOUIS XVI - Neoclassical style came to the fore during the reign of Louis XVI, from 1774 to 1792, and with this revival, furniture became more rectilinear and geometric. Cabriole legs, for example, gave way to cylindrical or square ones. Also in reaction to earlier rococo styles, decoration, though opulent, was restrained. Floral themes, for instance, were replaced by architectural motifs.
LOVE SEAT - Double chair or small sofa, originally associated with Queen Anne style.
LOWBOY - English low chest or table with drawers.
LOZENGE - A diamond-shaped decorative panel. It was the Middle English word for stone.
LUNETTE - An ornament or mural decoration shaped like a half moon.
LYRE - A stringed instrument of the harp class. Its form was used as a decoraive motif by Ouncan Phyfe and others.
MARLBOROUGH LEGS - A heavy, straight leg used by Thomas Chippendale and others.
MARQUETRY - Inlay of contrasting wood, inserted flush with the furniture's surface.
MEDALLION - A decorative plaque made of wood or metal.
MELON-BULB - Jargon and comparatively modern term for the swollen member on legs or posts of furniture.
MENUISIER - The term corresponds roughly to the English crpenter or joiner.
MIRROR STAND - An adjustable mirror mounted on a shaft and tripod base, resembling a pole-screen; popular at the end of the 18th century.
MISSION - Simple, rectilinear furniture, primarily of oak, in which the construction techniques are often exposed. It represents America's version of the English Arts and Crafts movement and is principally associated with Gustav Stickley and the Roycroft Community of upstate New York in the early 20th century, from which it spread to other regions.
MODERNE - American style of furniture in the 1930's that derived from Europe's Art Deco and International Style. It is characterized by polished surfaces, sleek shapes, curves that contrast with straight lines, and asymmetry, and utilized new materials and manufacturing processes adapted from industrial design. The architecture of skyscrapers was also influential.
MODILLION - An enriched block or horizontal bracket used in series under a Corinthian or composite cornice and sometimes, with less ornament, under an ionic order.
MOLDING - Ornamented or shaped strips, either sunk into or projecting from a surface. Used mostly for decoration.
MORRIS CHAIR - A large, easy chair with arms usually extending beyond the back and adjustable beyond the back and adjustable to various angles. It was named for its inventor, William Morris.
MOTHER-OF-PEARL - Inlay of nacreous shell slices, often used on early 19th century American fancy chairs, tables, mirrors, etc.
MOTIF - A dominant feature or theme in artistry or craftsmanship.
NEO-CLASSICAL STYLE - Revivals of interest in ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian themes, which occurred during the Renaissance, Adam, and Empire eras, and especially in the late 18th century, when appetites for it were whetted by archeological discoveries.
NEO-GOTHIC - Revivals of aspects of Gothic detailing, which took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the former, circa 1745, references to Gothic arches and tracery were applied to rococo furniture. Later, Gothic ornamentation was added to neoclassical forms.
NESTED TABLES - Three or four identical lightweight tables sized from small to largest, each one nesting under the next.
NIELLO - The art of decorating metal plates by incising designs on them and filling incised lines with alloy.
NULLING - A projecting detail of a carved ornament, similar to gadrooning.
OBJECT D'ART - A small object of artistic value.
OCCASIONAL TABLE - A term applied loosely toany small table.
OGEE - A compound curve, the directions of which are opposite tothose of the Cyma curve.
ONLAY - ornament applied to the surfaces of woods or other inds of material.
OPEN STOCK - Individual pieces which can be sold separately or grouped (correlated) to form sets to the buyer's taste.
ORMOLU - A metal resembling gold. Used as mounts and decorative effects on furniture.
OTTOMAN - Upholstered bench or seat with no arms or back, named after the Turkish influence of the early 18th century.
OVOLO - A continuous ornament in the form of an egg which generally decorates the molding called quarter-round. Eggs are often separated from one another by pointed darts.
OXBOW, OXBOW FRONT - Often used in the finest 18th century New England case furniture such as chests of drawers, secretaries, etc.
PALLADIAN STYLE - Based on designs by mid-16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio, which featured very large and dramatic pediments, cornices, and sculptural decorations of eagles, scallop shells, acanthus leaves, and other motifs, rendered in massive scale. Windows and columns in this style carry the name today.
PALMETTE - A carved or painted ornament resembling a palm leaf; an anthemion.
PAPIER MACHE - Molded paper pulp used for many small articles and particularly suitable for japanning and polishing.
PARQUETRY - Furniture inlaid with a geometrical cube design in the manner of a parquet floor.
PATERA - A dish like ornament often worked in bas-relief on a frieze.
PATINA - A surface texture produced by age, wear or rubbing.
PEDESTAL TABLE - A table on a round center support.
PEDIMENT - The space or structure above a cornice. The classic pediment, seen in the conventional Greek temple, was triangular in shape. It is found on the tops of secretaries and grandfather's clocks, usually as a broken pediment.
PEMBROKE - Small rectangular drop-leaf table with a drawer, named after England's Earl of Pembroke, circa 1771.
PENDANT - A hanging ornament, usually.
PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH - The name applies to German settlers in Pennsylvania. Their furniture is distinctive since their cabinet makers worked in soft woods, which they painted and often decorated with floral patterns and other motifs from the vocabulary of peasant design.
PIE CRUST TABLE - A table so named because the edge is finished off in a series of serpentines or curves, as cooks crimp the edges of a pie.
PIER GLASS - Large, window-height mirror suspended above a table between two windows.
PINEAPPLE - Carved pineapple-shaped ornament found frequently in early 19th century American bed posts.
PINNACLE - A carved ornament at the top or crest of a piece of furniture.
PLAQUE - A flat, thin ornament, usually made of metal or porcelain and inserted into wood.
PLINTH - Square or octagonal base of a chest or other column, solid to the floor. Primarily, a stand for a plant, sculpture or other 3-dimensional item.
PILASTER - Flat column superimposed on any plain surface to serve as a support for a cornice or a pediment.
POPPY-HEAD - Decorative finial of a bench or desk end as in ecclesiastical woodwork.
PORTIERE - A curtain hung in a doorway.
POUDRESSE - Small table with mirrored lid covering space for cosmetics.
PRESS - Broadly, a tall, enclosed and doored structure comparable to a wardrobe.
PRIE-DIEU CHAIR - A high-backed chair of Italian origin with a narrow shelf, rail or pad upon which the user may rest his arms while kneeling in the seat.
PROVINCIAL - Furniture from the hinterlands that is inspired by designs from the major centers of a country but adapted to local materials, tastes, and ways of living. Location not only influenced alterations in design and materials, but also spawned useful pieces, such as the cobbler's bench, that were not needed by the cities' royals or nobles.
PULL-UP CHAIR - A term for a small light arm chair. Sometimes called an occasional chair.
QUATREFOIL - An ornamental figure, foliation, perforation or panel divided by cusps or featherings, into four foils, leaves or lobes.
QUEEN ANNE - Style that arose in England during the reign of Queen Anne, from 1702 to 1714, in a break from French influences. Veneering in walnut was popular, and gentle, subtle curves added grace. This period marked the development of secretaries and china cupboards and a maturing of the cabriole leg, serpentine arms, and soft, rounded frames and shapes.
QUIRK - A narrow groove channel molding sometimes called a sunken fillet.
RAIL - The horizontal piece in framing or paneling. In a chair back the top member supported on the stiles.
RAKE - The angle or slant of a chir back or of a non-vertical table leg.
RÉCAMIER - Daybed shaped like a Roman reclining couch. It was named after Madame Récamier of Parisian society in the early 1800's and has a curved headboard and shorter curved footboard.
RECLINING CHAIR - An upholstered chair or rocker that reclines.
REEDING - The reverse of fluting. A decoration consisting of parallel lines formed by beaded mountings projecting from the surface. Sheraton, Adam and Phyfe used it.
REFECTORY TABLE - A long, narrow table originally used in dining rooms of religious orders. It was later shortened in length and provided with under-leaves.
RÉGENCE STYLE - Spanned the transition between the death of Louis XIV in 1715 and the ascension of Louis XV in 1723, when France was ruled by a regent. The furniture style was a parallel transition from massive straight lines to graceful curves.
REGENCY - Neoclassical style of British furniture that was popular during the first four decades of the 19th century. It is named for the Prince of Wales, who, as regent, stepped in to rule from 1811 to 1820 because his father, King George III, went insane. It spawned adaptations and faithful reproductions of Greek and Roman furniture, such as the saber-legged Klismos chair, and coincided with Directoire and Empire styles in France.
RELIEF - Any ornamentation raised above the surface or background.
RESTORATION - A proper renewal of a piece by a candid replacement of hopelessly damaged or mssing parts.
RIBBAND-BACK - A chair with an entwined ribbon motif ornament.
RINCEAU - A classic ornamental device composed of intertwining stalks of acanthus or other foliage.
RISING SUN - When a fan-shaped ornament is carved half-circle and the resulting spray of stalks suggest sunrays.
ROCOCO - Style of 18th-century European furniture made of rich woods with elaborate scrollwork and curved forms. Its origins are from the Régence style of France, and its influence was widespread. It is considered a daintier, more refined version of earlier Baroque style.
ROLL-TOP DESK - Similar to a cylinder-top desk but the writing table and fittings are enclosed by a curved slatted panel.
ROMANESQUE - Decorative scroll work or other intricate ornamentationderived from triangles, circles and other geometric figures. It sprang from the round arch and general massiveness of Romance architecture and reached its highest form in the 12th century.
ROMAYNE - Renaissance ornamentation featured by human heads on medallions.
ROSME - An ornament resembling the rose. A painted or sculptured architectural ornament with parts circularly arranged like rows of leaves in a circle around a bud.
ROUNDABOUT CHAIR - Corner chair with triangle front and usually a circular back.
ROUNDEL - Circular ornament enclosing sundry formal devices on medieval and later woodwork.
RUNNER - The curved rocker of a rocking chair. Once made solely of wood but now largely of metal.
RUSH SEAT - A seat woven of rushes. Used in America from the earliest times, generally with simple furniture.
SABRE LEG - A term used to describe a sharply curving leg in the classical style which has also been called scroll shaped. It is generally reeded.
SADDLE SEAT - A chair seat hollowed out to resemble a saddle.
SALTIRE - A straight, X-shaped stretcher used on chairs or tables.
SAWBUCK TABLE - A table with an X-shaped frame either plain or scrolled.
SCALLOP - A carved ornament in the shape of a shell used widely on rococo pieces.
SCONCE - A general name for a wall-light consisting of a back plate and either a tray or branched candleholders, usually metal.
SCOOP SEAT - A chair with a seat which has been hollowed or formed to fit the body.
SCROLL - A spiral or convoluted line used for ornamentation.
SCROLL FOOT - A foot in the form of a spiral line; not fully articulated with part above it.
SECRETARY - Slant-top desk on top of a chest of drawers that became popular in America and England during the 18th and 19th centuries.
SEGMENTAL - A less than semicircular, unbroken pediment with an abruptly ending curve.
SEIGNORIAL CHAIR - An imposing highback seat for the master of a house.
SERPENTINE FRONT - Front of a commode, desk or bureau shaped in a waving curve.
SERRATED - A saw tooth or zigzag ornament that is one form of a notched dentil.
SERVING TABLE - A long, narrow table with drawers for silver, napery and crystal.
SETTEE - An elongated armchair that accommodates two or more people. It was developed in the 17th century, was often upholstered, and predates the sofa.
SETTLE - Colonial all wood bench or settee with solid arms. The pilgrims brought it from England.
SHAKER - Furniture designed and made by Shakers, an American religious, communal sect founded in the 19th century, that believed beauty derived from usefulness and impractical objects were sinful. The unadorned furniture features clean, spare, elegant lines, exemplified in the slim, tall, Shaker ladder-back chair.
SHERATON - British neoclassical style named after Thomas Sheraton, who published designs in the early 1700s that reinterpreted Adam style by diminishing ornamentation. Sheraton pieces are more delicate than Adam, yet more severe and linear than Hepplewhite. Many contain inlay, painted decoration, and bands of contrasting veneer. Openwork with urn, swag, or lyre motifs is characteristic of his chair backs.
SHIELD BACK - A chair back shaped like a shield.
SIDEBOARD - Table with a wide drawer at the center flanked by drawers or cupboards on the sides and made to be used against a dining room wall for storing and serving food.
SIDE CHAIR - Small-scale, armless chair, designed to stand against a wall when not in use.
SKIRT - A wood or fabric flounce at bottom of a furniture piece.
SLANT-FRONT DESK - A frame or chest of drawers with a top section as an enclosed desk for writing, the hinged lid sloping at a 45-degree angle when closed.
SLAT BACK - Type of back, used in early American chairs and settees, composed of horizontal slats attached to back parts.
SLEEPY HOLLOW CHAIR - Large upholstered chair with hollowed seat, high back and solid low arms.
SLEIGH BED - Bed with a high headboard and slightly lower footboard. It resembles the shape of a horse-drawn sleigh, and it was developed in America in the early 19th century.
SLIP-SEAT - A removable upholstered seat for a chair, used especially in dining and light pull-up chairs.
SLIPPER CHAIR - High-backed, usually upholstered chair with short legs, developed in America in the 18th century for bedrooms.
SOFA - An extension of the armchair, less formal and longer than a settee. It was developed in the mid-18th century and became very popular by the early 1800s when it gained springs to aid comfort.
SOFA TABLE - Long, narrow table with drawers and drop-leaf ends, typically used to store and use gameboards.
SPADE FOOT - A rectanglarly shaped tapered foot resembling a spade.
SPINDLE - Slim length of turned wood, often used in a series for chair backs.
SPINET DESK - A writing desk designed after a small musical instrument of the colonial period. When the instrument wore out, the keyboard was removed and the cabinet used as a writing desk, for which the recessed space, formerly housing the keys, was happily adapted.
SPLAT - The central member of a chair back, also called a spald.
SPLAYED - A pitched spread or slant; a surface canted outward, beveled or angled.
SPLINT SEAT - A seat made of oak or hickory strips interlaced. Used in furniture through the 18th century.
SPIRAL LEG - A leg carved in the shape of a rope twist or a spiral.
SPOOL BEAD - A continuous turning having the form of a series of connected beads.
SPOON BACK - A chair back which is spooned or shaped to fit contours of human body.
STAMPS - Various names and letters are often found stamped on French furniture made in the 18th century or later. These stamps are a most important means of identifying the makers of individual pieces of furniture.
STEP TABLE - A table resembling a sone-step stair commonly used at the end of a sofa. The top shelf being shorter and higher.
STRAPWORK - A narrow band folded, crossed and sometimes interlaced. Also an ornament consisting of a narrow band in convolutions similar to those of a leather strap thrown at hazard.
STRAW-WORK - A method of decorating furniture with tiny strips of bleached and colored straws to form landscapes, geometrical patterns, etc. in the 17th century.
STRETCHER - The underbracing of chairs and tables taking an H or X diagonal form.
SUITE - A complete set of matched furniture.
SWAG - A festoon of flowers, fruit or draperies resembling a garland.
SWING LEG - A hinged or folding leg used to support the drop leaf of a table.
SWIVEL CHAIR - A chair which revolves on a stationary platform or on legs.
T-CUSHION - A T shaped back or seat cushion made to fit around arms of a chair, love seat, or sofa.
TABOURETTE - A stool or small seat, usually without arms or back, used as a stand.
TAMBOUR DESK - Rolltop desk that is most notable for its use of a flexible, draw-down cover made of "tambours," a succession of narrow strips of flat wood glued to stiff cloth. The edges fit in grooves at the edges of the top frame of the desk, allowing the length of tambours to slide up and down.
TAPER LEG - A leg which diminishes in thickness as it approaches the foot.
TAVERN TABLE - Sturdy, rectangular table on four legs, usually braced with stretchers. Much used in 18th century taverns.
THERM LEG - A square or four cornered tapered leg used on chairs or tables.
TIER TABLE - An occasional (usually pedestal based) table with 2 or 3 tiered round tops of graduated size.
TILT-TOP - A small table, with the top hinged to a pedestal base permitting it to hang vertically when not in use.
TORCHERE - A floor lamp designed to throw light upward. In early times, it was any stand that held a light.
TRESTLE - A braced frame, forming the whole support for a table top.
TRIPOD - A three legged stand for a pedestal table. Adam and Chippendale favoured it.
TRIPTYCH - A three part, hinged mirror or small screen inspired by alter pieces.
TRIVET - A three legged stand or small table normally flanking a fireplace. It now often refers to a wall decoration or a heat-resistant stand for hot objects.
TROMPE D'OEFL - A French phrase meaning fool the eye. Usually a realistically painted surface which gives a three-dimensional effect.
TRUMPET LEG - A leg shaped like a trumpet and having its characteristic flared profile.
TRUNDLE BED - A low bed of colonial days which, during the daytime, was rolled under a larger bed. Just as popularin 21st century.
TUCKAWAY TABLE - A hinged leaf gate-leg table with cross legs which fold into each other as compactly as if tucked away.
TUDOR ROSE - A decorative motif compounded of the White Rose and the Red Rose.
TULIP - A design in the shape of a tulip, carved or painted, on American furniture, especially Shaker.
TURNING - The shaping of legs or trim obtained by using a lathe. It is one of the most venerable wood working processes.
UPRIGHTS - The outer vertical posts of a chair.
URN - A vase-shaped receptacle also used for ornament, especially on sideboards, or as finial of a broken pediment.
VANITY - A low, drop-center ladies' dressing table with an attached mirror and drawers and matching pull-up bench.
VENEER - Thin sheet of fine wood or other material attached on top of and flush with an underlying layer that is usually of lesser quality, for decoration. As a verb: the act of adding this type of decoration. (See inlay, marquetry, and parquetry).
VICTORIAN - Style named for England's Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901, applied to English and American furniture of that time, particularly in the mid-years of her reign. That furniture takes its cue from and elaborates on rococo and Louis XV style, with exaggerated curves and size, lush upholstery (often in complicated curves and shapes), ellipses, spools, and carvings. Among its hallmarks is horsehair cushioning.
WAINSCOT CHAIR - An Elizabethan oak chair, the back of which is paneled like the wainscoting of a wall. These chairs are massive, ornately carved with strap work.
WARDROBE - Tall, upright cabinet with a door or doors. Designed for storing clothing, it sometimes also contains a chest of drawers.
WASH STANDS - Specially adapted for bedroom use after 1750. A cupboard or chest of drawers on four legs with a basin sunk in the top.
WHEAT - Carved ornamentations representing three ears of wheat. It was extensively used by hepplewhite.
WILLIAM & MARY - Named for the joint reign of England's King William III and Queen Mary II in the late 17th century, this style carried William's Dutch influence, particularly in floral marquetry and oyster veneer. It was elegant in scale and shape. In America, it represented a provincial or country American Baroque style.
WINDSOR CHAIR - Style of chair that originated near Windsor castle circa 1710 and is thought to have originated with wheel-makers. It has a bentwood back frame, usually with a chair back that has a pierced slat flanked by spindles.
WING CHAIR - High-back easy chair with upholstered "wings" or panels that project from both sides of the back and curve down to upholstered arms.
X-STRETCHER - A crossed stretcher at the bottom of a chair or table.