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.
ADELPHI (Greek brother) Trademark of the 18th century furniture designer brothers named
AMORINI Cupid ornaments on Italian Renaissance furniture.
ANTHEMION Conventionalized honeysuckle design from a classic Greek decorative motif. (Any conventional flower or leaf design.)
APRON Strip of wood adjoining 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. Arabesque won its highest triumph in the Loggia of the Vatican.
ARCADE A series of arches, with supporting columns or piers.
ARCHITRAVE In a classical building, the beam resting directly on the tops of the columns.
ARMOIRE A large movable cupboard or wardrobe, with doors and shelves for storing clothes or other large items. Also called wardrobes.
ASTRAGAL A small convex beaded molding usually placed at the junction of a piece of glass and a door.
BAGUETTE A small, convex molding with semicircular contours.
BAIL Half-loop metal pull, hanging from metal bolts. First used in America about 1700.
BALL FOOT End of a turned leg, shaped round and with a hooded effect.
BALLOON BACK Chair style developed by Hepplewhite early in his career.
BALUSTER A turned, supporting column, generally slender, used as a pillar.
BANDING Inlay or marquetry which produces a color or grain contrasting with the surface it decorates.
BANISTER-BACK CHAIR Generally maple, often ebonized with vertical split-banisters in the back. Widely used in rural America from 1700 until the end of the century.
BAROQUE The Italian equivalent of French rococo. Irregularly shaped, overly fantastic design. Used as a general term to denote a style of furniture common in the early 18th century. The word comes from a 16th century Italian architect who was called Barrochio.
BAS-RELIEF Sculpture or carving whose figures project only slightly from the background.
BEAU BRUMMEL Georgian dressing table for men, named after an English fashion arbiter.
BEDSIDE CHEST A small bed-high chest with drawers.
BELL FLOWER Conventionalized hanging flower-bud of three, sometimes five, petals carved or, more often inlaid one below the other in strings. BERGERE Comfortable French arm chair with upholstered back and sides and squab cushions. Popular in Louis XIV and Louis XV periods.
BIBLIOTHEQUE-BASSE A low cupboard fitted with shelves for books and doors often of glass but sometimes fitted with grilles.
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 FOOT Square, vertical foot at base of any straight, untapered leg.
BLOCK FRONT A chest composed of a concave center panel flanked by two convex panels.
BOISERIE Carved panels used on French pieces of the Ilth century. BOMBE (French) An outward swelling on the furniture. Applies to commodes, bureaus, armoires.
BONHEUR-DU-JOUR A small writing table usually on tall legs and sometimes fitted to hold toilet accessories and bibelots.
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.
BOSS A circular or oval protuberance for a surface ornament. BOSTON ROCKER An American rocker (19th century) with curved seat, spindle back, and a wide top rail.
BOULLE Celebrated designer of the Louis XIV period noted for his inlay of metals and tortoise shell. Boullework is a descriptive phrase.
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 has a desk.
BREWSTER CHAIR Wooden chair with large turned posts and spindles. 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 patterned 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 A type of leg which swells outward at the knee and inward at the ankle.
CAMELBACK A sofa back of irregular, curved shape characterized by a large central hump. 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 in about 1690.
CANOPY A covering, attached to tops of bed posts, consisting of a wood frame covered with fabric.
CANTERBURY A portable magazine rack named after the Bishop of England.
CANTONNIERE A bed hanging used in France from the middle of the 16th century. It hung outside the bed curtains to prevent drafts.
CAPPING A turned ornament used to make furniture more decorative.
CARLTON TABLE An 18th century writing table with an adjustable top.
CARTONNIER A piece of furniture which took various forms. It usually stood at one end of a writing table to hold papers.
CARTOUCHE An elliptical tablet or scroll containing the name of a king, queen or deity. Also a sculpture or back ornament in the form of an unrolled scroll.
CARVER CHAIR Modern term for a 17th century Dutch type armchair made of turned post and spindles.
CARYATID The top member of a pedestal or leg, used as a support, in the form of the human figure conventionalized.
CASSAPANCA A wooden bench with a built-in chest under the seat.
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 into the 20th century and remains popular today.
CAUSEUSE A small settee popular in early French furniture.
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.
CELLARET A case on legs or a stand for wine bottles.
CERTOSINA Ivory inlay, of Italian origin, no longer in wide usage.
CHAISE LOUNGE A French long chair. A double chair. Also referred to as a fainting couch, it is often used in bedrooms. CHAMFER A beveled, angled cutting away of the top portion of any edge.
CHANNELING A grooved or furrowed effect in wood.
CHASED A metal surface ornamented by embossing, engraving, or carving.
CHESTERFIELD Applied to furniture, it denoted a type of sofa. This is a common term in England and Canada.
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.
CHIFFONIER A French word denoting a lady's worktable, derived from chiffons, meaning rags. It is also used to designate a highboy.
CHINA CABINET Seldom found in America before 1790. A bookcase used for displaying china.
CHINOISERIE Painted or lacquered Chinese designs in furniture.
CINQUEFOIL Five petal design.
CLAW AND 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.
COFFER A chest or box covered in leather or some other material and banded with metalwork.
COLONNADE A range of columns connected by a horizontal entablature, or cornice, at top.
COMMODE A chest with doors.
CONNECTICUT CHEST Low chest, on legs, usually containing a double set of drawers.
CORBEL A piece of stone, wood, projecting from a wall, to support a cornice or arch.
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.
COURT CUPBOARD A small cupboard used for storing silver, china, or other precious goods.
CREDENCE An early Italian cabinet used for carving meats or displaying plates. It was the forerunner of the sideboard.
CREDENZA A sideboard or buffet with drawers or doors.
CRESTING Shaped and sometimes perforated ornament on the top of a structure, as in the cresting of a chair.
CROFT A small filing cabinet of the late I8th 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 which curves up at the ends and dips slightly in the center.
CYMA CURVE A curved molding with a reversed curve as its profile.
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.
DENTILS A classic, decorated design consisting of rectangular blocks with spaces between.
DISC FOOT A flat, disc-shaped foot used on tables or chairs.
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, oak.
DOWEL Headless pin, usually made of wood, used in the construction of furniture.
DOWRY CHEST Made to store the trousseau of a prospective bride. American examples include the Hadley chest, the Connecticut chest, the painted Pennsylvania-German chest, the Lane Company cedar chest.
DRAUGHT CHAIR Early English equivalent of a wing chair.
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 Table built with hinged extension leaves which lower when not in use.
DROP SEAT A concave seat the middle and front of which are lower than the side.
DRUM TABLE Circular top table on a tripod base with a deep skirt that may contain drawers.
DUCK FOOT Webbed foot attached to a table leg which curves outward.
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.
DUSTBOARD Horizontal board placed between drawers of a commode or similar piece to exclude dust.
DUTCH DRESSER A cabinet with open shelves on upper portion, drawers or cupboard below.
DUTCH FOOT A simple pad used as the foot on cabriole legs. Sometimes confused with a duck foot.
EBENISTE An ordinary French term for a cabinet maker
EBONILE To stain wood to look like ebony.
ECLECTIC Word coined last half of the 20th century; infers artful mixture of decorating styles.
EGG AND DART A classic design, consisting of alternating eggs and darts, used mostly in cornices.
ENCARPA A festoon of fruit and flowers commonly used to decorate friezes, other flat spaces.
ENDIVE A carved leaf design following the lines of the endive plant. ESCRITOIRE A writing desk containing, with other drawer compartments and pigeon holes, one or more secret ones. The English word secretary was derived from this.
ESCUTCHEON Name applied to a shield upon which a coat of arms or other devices are emblazoned.
ETAGERE Original a small work table consisting of shelves or tray sets one above the other. More recently, an open shelf for what-nots. May be of varying heights.
EVOLUTE Recurrent wave motif for a band, frieze or cornice.
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 A French arm chair which, unlike the Bergere, has open spaces between the arms and seat.
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.
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 piece of perforated ornamental work.
FUNCTIONALISM Furniture design based on use rather than on ornamentation.
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 like a gate. A development of the Jacobean period, it was popular in Colonial America.
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.
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.
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.
HIGH RELIEF This term refers to deep carving of any plane surface of any material.
HIGHBOY A high chest of drawers, deriving its name from haut bois, which in French means high wood.
HITCHCOCK CHAIR American chair, 1820-1850, made with oval top rail and cane seat. Named for designer, Lambert Hitchcock. HOPE CHEST Colloquial American term widely used for dowry chest.
HUSKS Ornamentation of flowers or foliage usually used in pendant manner.
HUTCH Enclosed 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 A design of contrasting woods, ivory, or other materials, set into a 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.
IONIC Designating or of a Greek style of architecture characterized by ornamental scrolls on the capitals.
JAPANNING European and American version of Oriental lacquering often substituting paint for the layers of varnish.
KIDNEY DESK A desk or a table with curved front and a top shaped like a kidney bean.
KLISMOS A Greek chair design featuring a concave back and legs. 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.
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.
LOW RELIEF This term refers to shallow carving of any plane surface of any material.
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 decorative motif by Ouncan Phyfe and others.
MARLBOROUGH LEGS A heavy, straight leg used by Thomas Chippendale and others.
MARQUETRY Inlay work. Decorations formed by patterns of woods, metals, ivory or tortoise shell sunk into the surfaces of furniture.
MENUISIER The term corresponds roughly to the English carpenter or joiner. 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.