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 Learn About Wood Furniture

glossary

Glossary of Wood Furniture Terms

Acanthus - a decorative woodcarving based on the acanthus leaf, a prickly Mediterranean plant
Apron - the wooden panel that connects the surface and legs of a table or chair
Armoire - French name for a linen-press, wardrobe, or a large cupboard
Art Deco - a style characterized by geometric forms and bright, bold colors, popular from c. 1918 to 1940.
Art Nouveau - a movement and style of decoration characterized by sinuous curves and flowing lines, asymmetry, and flower and leaf motifs. See Style Guide

Bachelor's chest - a small, low chest-of-drawers
Baker's rac
k - open slatted back with shelves used for storing goods in the kitchen
Baluster - an upright, such as a table leg or rail, shaped like a vase or urn
Banding - veneer cut into narrow strips and applied to create a decorative effect, usually found around the edges of tables and drawer fronts
Baroque
- an extravagant and heavily ornate style of architecture, furniture, and decoration that originated in 17th century Italy.
Beaded molding - a molding style consisting of convex half-cylinders running the length of the molded piece
Bentwood - wood that has been steamed and bent into a curvilinear shape
Biedermeier - a 19th-century style originating in Germany, characterized by lack of ostentation
Blanket chest - a chest used for general storage, usually kept in the bedroom
Block foot - a cube-shaped foot found at the base of square-legged furniture
Blockfront chest - a chest of drawers in which the center is concave and the end panels are convex
Bombe - bulbous, curving form; convex fronts and sides of chests
Bonnet top highboy - highboy with a full dome or hood over the top of the piece
Bowfront chest - a chest-of-drawers with a convex front
Bracket foot - a squared foot used on furniture in the 18th century
Braganza - an inscrolled or knurled foot, sometimes called a "Spanish foot"
Breakfront - a cabinet divided vertically into three sections, with the middle section projecting forward
Bun foot - a round ball acting as a foot used on furniture in the 17th century
Bureau - a writing desk with a fall or cylinder front, enclosing a fitted interior, with drawers below
Burl - a knot or variation in wood displaying a unique pattern when thinly sliced

Cabriole leg - elongated furniture leg with gently curving S-shape
Carcase - the basic structure of a piece of furniture; often forms the foundation for veneering
Case furniture - furniture that includes chest, coffers, bureaus, and cupboards
Casegoods - non-upholstery furniture pieces such as dressers, chests, and tables that are used for storage or function
Cassone - Italian chest, often highly decorated with carving and inlay
Chamfer - a corner or edge that is cut at an angle or beveled
Chest-on-chest - tall chest-of-drawers in two sections, one mounted on another slightly larger chest; also known as a tallboy
Chest-on-stand - tall chest-of-drawers on a stand, also known as a highboy
Chiffonnier - side cabinet with or without a drawer and with one or more shelves above
Chifforobe - a combination of wardrobe and chest-of-drawers
Claw-and-ball foot - a foot modeled as a ball gripped by an animal's claw or bird's talon
Cockbeading - bead molding applied to the edges of drawers
Cocktail table - a table positioned in front of the major seating units which provides a surface for serving
Coffer - multi-functional traveling chest with handles and a domed lid but without feet, usually made of oak
COM - Furniture industry term for "Customer's own material".
Commode - French term for a chest-of-drawers
Console - a table intended to stand against a wall, between windows
Cornice - horizontal top portion on a piece of furniture
Credence table - a type of small table used for storing food before serving; generally a semi-circular table with a hinged top
Credenza - a long side cabinet used for serving and storage with shelves on the ends
Crossbanding - veneered edge to tabletops and drawer fronts, at right angles to the main veneer
Crown molding - transitional, or terminal element that contours or outlines the edges and surfaces on a projection or cavity, such as a cornice, architrave, capital, arch, base, or jamb; the surface of a molding is modeled with recesses and reliefs, which either maintain a constant profile or are set in rhythmically repeated patterns
Curio - a cabinet for storing collectibles and knick-knacks
Cushion drawer - a convex drawer below a cornice that runs the full width of a piece of furniture


Davenport - a British term describing a small writing desk
Daybed - a seating piece, which can also serve as a bed
Dentil molding - a molding style consisting of a row of equally spaced carved rectangles or "teeth"
Double-doweled - a method of joining two pieces of wood which uses two dowel pins instead of one to ensure no shifting
Dovetailing - series of interlocking joints used to join sections of timber together
Drawer-lining - term referring to the side of a drawer
Dresser - a low long chest of drawers used for storing clothes
Drop handle - a pear-shaped handle made popular in the late 17th century
Dropleaf table - a type of table with a pivoted leg to support the extended leaf but without understretchers
Drop lid desk - a desk with a hinged panel that covers the inner compartments
Dumb waiter - type of furniture with a central shaft and circular trays, which often revolves to enable those who are dining to help themselves to additional plates

Egg-and-dart molding - a carved molding resembling ovals, or "eggs," alternating with triangular arrowheads, or "darts"
Encoignure - an 18th-19th century casework piece similar to a corner cabinet. Its front is typically rounded or diagonal, and it rests on three or four feet. Often, the top portion contains shelves in graduated sizes.
Escritoire - a cabinet with a fall front that lowers to form a writing surface
Escutcheon - the brass plate that surrounds and protects the edges of a keyhole
Étagère - a two- or three-tiered table intended for displaying objects or serving food

Faceted - decorative surface cut into sharp-edged planes in a criss-cross pattern to reflect light
Fall front - the flap of a bureau or secrétaire that pulls down to provide a writing surface
Feather banding - two narrow bands of veneer laid in opposite diagonals
Federal style - the American version of the Neo-classical style, popular from c. 1789 to c.1830. See Style Guide
Ferrule - an often metal cap attached to the end of a slender shaft for strength or to prevent splitting
Figuring - pattern made by the natural grain of wood
Finial - decorative turned knob
Flare - the outward curving shape of a furniture leg
Frame - the wooden skeleton of an upholstered piece of furniture
Fretwork - ornamental carving, often interlaced or pierced in appearance

Gadroon molding - a rounded molding that is carved in convex curves
Gallery - wood or metal border around the top edge of a table
Gateleg - hinged leg that pivots to support a drop leaf on a table
Georgian - Historical period dating from c.1714 - c.1790; Style of the period reflects the British interpretation of Palladianism (early), the Rococo (mid) and Neo-classicism (late)
Gothic - decoration style featuring such motifs as pinnacles, crockets, and trefoils; popular from the 1820s in Europe and from the 1840s in North America. See Style Guide
Gueridon - a small, elaborately carved stand or table

Harvest table - a narrow rectangular table with hinged drop leaves
Hepplewhite - an 18th-century English style originated by George Hepplewhite, and characterized by delicate forms in the neoclassic framework. See Style Guide
Highboy - American term for a tall chest-on-stand
Huntboard - a light, portable sideboard used for serving food and drinks

Inlay - setting of one material in another (e.g. marble in wood)

Kneehole desk - desk with a recessed central cupboard
Knife edged - loose or attached cushion treatment which uses a single horizontal welt or seam in the middle of the front edge of the cushion

Lamination - a method of gluing together sheets of wood with the grain in different directions to produce a material that is thinner and lighter than solid wood
Linen-press - a cupboard with shelves for storing linen and clothes
Loo table - a large Victorian card or games table
Loper - a pullout arm used to support the hinged fall of a bureau
Lowboy - American term for a small dressing table

Marquetry - the use of veneer and other inlays to make decorative patterns in wood
Married - term referring to an item of furniture that has been made up from two or more associated pieces, usually from the same period
MDF - medium density fiberboard; made from compressed particles of wood and used in the construction of furniture
Modernism - style of the 1920s and 1930s, which rejected ornamentation in favor of geometric forms and smooth surfaces
Mortise-and-tenon joint - a carpentry joint formed by inserting a tab or tenon into a closely fitting slot or mortise. Dovetailing is one variation
Motion furniture - furniture containing a mechanism or mechanisms, such as reclining backs or extending footrests, which allow it to adjust to your body for increased comfort
Mule chest - chest with drawers in the base; forerunner of the chest-of-drawers
Muntons/Muntins/Muttons/Mutons - dividers over glass panels in windows and china cabinets

Neoclassic - Mid to late 18th century of architecture and decoration based on the ancient forms Greece and Rome.
Nest of tables - a set of occasional tables that slide one beneath the other when not in use

Ogee - descriptive of an edge or foot consisting of two curves, the top convex and the bottom concave, forming an S-curve
Pad or club foot - a rounded foot that sits on a circular base; used in conjunction with cabriole legs on furniture
Parquetry - geometric marquetry made from veneers of various woods
Parsons leg - a long fully upholstered leg
Pedestal desk - a flat desk, usually with a leather top, that stands on two banks of drawers
Pedestal table - a table supported by a single central base
Pediment - equivalent in Classical architecture of a gable; a triangular head or topping
Pegged furniture - early joined furniture constructed by a system of slots and tenons, held together by dowels
Pembroke table - a small two-flap table that stands on four legs
Pencil-post bed - a bed with four slim posts; used alone or with a canopy
Pie-crust top - an ornately carved decorative edge of a dished-top tripod or tea-table
Pilaster - a false column used for decorative purposes
Platform base - three- or four-cornered flat table bases supporting a central pedestal and standing on scrolled or paw feet
Plywood - form of laminated wood with the grain of the alternate layers set at right angles
Post-modernism - a reaction against Modernism that began during the 1950s and promoted the reintroduction of bright colors and decorative components

Reeding - decoration created by narrow, convex moldings in parallel strips and divided by grooves
Rocaille - ornament style from the rococo period consisting of an abstract shell or leaf motif
Rococo - decorative style that evolved in the early 18th century partly as a reaction to the Baroque; featured asymmetrical ornament and flamboyant scrollwork. See Style Guide.
Rule join - type of join on furniture contrived in such a way that, when open, no separation shows between the two joined parts
Runners - strips of wood on which doors slide

Sabot - French term for the gilt-bronze "shoe" at the bottom of furniture legs
Sabre leg - outward-curving leg that became fashionable on late 18th century Empire and Regency chairs
Seat rail - framework that supports the seat of a chair and holds the legs together
Secretary/Secrétaire - writing cabinet with a fall front that lets down to provide a writing surface; often has bookshelves above and drawers below
Secrétaire à abattant - type of writing cabinet with a fall front and resting on a chest-of-drawers or small cupboard
Serpentine - possessing a compound curvature
Shellac - resinous varnish obtained from the lac insect and used in japanning
Sideboard - a serving piece with a long, flat top and a lower section used for storage
Sleigh bed - a bed in which the head and footboards are scrolled
Sofa table - a rectangular table with two hinged flaps at the ends designed to stand in front of a sofa
Spade foot - tapering foot of square section

Table ambulante - French term for a small, portable occasional table
Tallboy - see chest-on-chest
Teapoy - a small piece of freestanding furniture designed for holding tea
Thumbpiece - flange attached to a hinged lid, which, when pressed by the thumb, raises the lid
Transitional - a style created from the fusion of Neo-classical decoration with Rococo forms
Trestle table - a long narrow table with two uprights joined by a single stretcher
Tripod table - a small table with a round top supported by a three-legged pillar, originally made for serving tea
Triptych - a large, three-part hinged mirror, panel, or screen
Veneer - thin slice of expensive and often exotic timber applied to an inexpensive secondary timber using glue
Vitrine - china or curio cabinet with glass doors

Wardrobe - a large cabinet or cupboard for hanging clothes
Wellington chest - a tall, narrow, relatively plain type of chest named after the Duke of Wellington
Whatnot - mobile stand with open shelves
Worm holes - small holes found in wood, considered a defect in many instances and a character-providing element in others

 
 
 

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