Furniture Glossary

Acanthus carving  – A leafy carving typically found on period furniture

Arts & Crafts Style – This was a movement popularized in the late 1800’s by such well know figures as Stickley, Morris and Hubbard. The furniture was also known as Mission or Craftsmen style and is distinctive by the parallel, repetitive slats used on tables and chairs.

Bergere – An upholstered arm chair with closed arms and a loose cushion

Canterbury – A small book rack typically on wheels with a handle

Chamfer – A bevel that is cut across a square edge

Cheval – A free standing mirror that is typically rectangular or oval and is supported by columns.

Crest rail – The top back of a chair

Damask – This is a fabric weave originated by the Byzantine and Islamic empires that is a reversible fabric now commonly found in table linens

Dentil molding  – A dentil is one of a series of closely spaced, rectangular blocks that form a molding.

Distressed – This is a finish that is or can be recreated to give an antique appearance to furniture. The variations of colors, wood grains and sanding techniques help create the custom look from a subtle aging to a time worn character.

Escutcheon – A decorative plate that surrounds a keyhole or lock.

Étagère – A piece of furniture consisting of a set of open shelves for displaying small objects and sometimes having an enclosed cabinet as a base.

Fauteuil – An upholstered arm chair in which the arms are open      

Ferrule – A metal casing that envelopes the bottom of a chair or table legs. Antique furniture utilized this for strength. Now it is more decorative.

Finial – A decorative ornament frequently found at the top of a bed post, china cabinet or clock

Fluting – Parallel concave groves found on columns and pilasters

Fretwork – An ornamental geometric design frequently made out of wood or metal. It is a grid or lattice used on furniture. Elements cut from a scroll saw or jig saw are considered fretwork

Gadrooning –  A decorative motif found on the edge of a table usually convex and appears vaguely reminiscent of flower pedals.

Gallery –  The raised open fence found around the top of a table or bookcase. This can be made from wood, metal and used to keep items from falling off the back of the piece        

Gesso – A plaster type of material used to make elegant carving seen on many old picture frames. Gesso is also used as a layer between sculpted wood and gold leaf.

Gimp – This is a trim material that is used to cover upholstery tacks.

Gold leaf  – This is a gold that comes in various karats and is hammered in very thin leafs. Layering this over a surface is called gold leafing.

Gilding –  The process of applying a thin layer of real or imitation gold to a surface. The process is employed on wood, metal, ivory, leather, paper, glass, porcelain, and fabrics and is used to embellish decorative elements.

Hoosier Cabinet – These kitchen cabinets were popular during the first two decades of the 20th century. The typical cabinet was used as a bakers cabinet and many had flour bin sifter and a tin hopper beneath. It consisted of 3 parts. The base normally has a large compartment. There was a metal slide out shelf and the top had the racks and bakers material, along with doors over a couple small compartments.

Lyre table – The Greeks adapted the lyre, a string instrument into a furniture design. Tables and chairs from the renaissance period have bases and pedestals in this motif.

Muntin – A strip separating panes of glass.

Ogee – A double curve, one convex, one concave that is a popular edging on furniture.

Ormolu – A metal casting used extensively in the 1700’s made from brass, copper or tin and sometimes gilded with a gold leaf. Many of these castings can be found on Empire and Federal feet.

Patera – Similar to a rosette, but is typically an oval or round flush carving. This can be found on many of the skirts and legs of Federal tables.

Patina – Patina on metals can be the oxidation that causes the item to turn color over time. On wooden furniture, it is the sheen that is produced by age, wear and polishing or any acquired change of the surface that is produced through age and exposure.

Pediment – The top of a cabinet formed by an arch or crown. When this peak doesn’t meet at the top, and is open, it is referred to as a broken pediment.

Pendant – An ornament that hangs upside down and can be in the shape of a finial or sphere.

Post & Bail – Hardware that is usually brass. It comes in 6 pieces, 2 threaded posts, 2 nuts, and a ball with a handle.

Rail – It is the horizontal piece that is above/below a drawer or the 2 pieces on top and bottom of a 5 piece door.

Reeding – Convex parallel groves on a column or pilaster. This is the opposite of fluting.

Settee – A long seat with a back or a medium sized sofa with arms and a back..

Skirt – Most people think fabric wrapped around a table is the skirt. Us woodworkers think of the wood perpendicular to the table top a few inches in from the edge that may or may not be on the table leaves.

Splat – That vertical center piece of wood on a chair. It could be a slat shape, violin shape, harp or about any other shape.

Stile – The vertical support that typically connects to the rail. A cabinet or door frame would normally have a stile.

Stretcher – A stretcher is a brace that strengthens two vertical legs of a chair or table. These can be found on the lower legs or centered between the stretchers on chairs.

Tilt top table – A table, the top of which is hinged to a center pedestal in such a way that it can be turned from a horizontal to a vertical position. This would allow the table to take up less space and be positioned against a wall.