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Glossary of Furniture Terms
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  • Apron - part connecting legs; directly under table tops, chair seats, cabinet bases. Also called "skirt."
  • Armoire - from the French, a cabinet originally used for storage of armor; now a tall wardrobe, often painted or carved.

  • Bachelor's Chest - small scale chest with drawers or doors.
  • Bail - reverse arch handle or drawer pull hanging downward from pins attached to a backplate.
  • Bambook Turning - a wood turning to simulate natural bamboo that originated during the 18th Century.
  • Beading - classic ornamentation using small, half-round molding.
  • Bentwood - wood softened by steam for bending into curved shapes.
  • Bergére - a French armchair with closed upholstered sides and back.
  • Bombé - a surface that swells outward; typical of French chests and commodes of Louis XV.
  • Bouile - a French cabinetmaker who developed a special inlay technique called Boulle Work, utilizing tortoise shell, silver, brass or pewter. A sheet of metal and a sheet of tortoise were glued together, and a design was cut out of both at the same time. The cut-out piece of one material was then reinserted into a corresponding opening in the other material.
  • Bracket Foot - right angled foot, with each inner end curved.
  • Buffet - French term that refers to a sideboard for china, silver, linens, with a top surface used as serving counter.
  • Bunching - Furniture pieces that fit flush with each other to create unified wall arrangements.
  • Bun Foot - a foot that resembles a slightly flattened ball.
  • Bureau - low chest of drawers usually for a bedroom, often with a mirror, originally a desk or table with drawers.
  • Burl - beautiful mottled veneer, produced by slicing cross-section of abnormal tree growths.

  • Cabinet Wood - fine quality wood that is used for exterior surfaces
  • Cabriole Leg - an S-shaped curve, bowing out at the knee and in at the ankle.
  • Campaign Chair - from British chairs used by officers, a sling seat supported by a collapsible scissor structure.
  • Campaign Chest - from originals used on fields of battle, a fairly low, small chest with metal corners and flush hardware.
  • Canted - a piece with an oblique surface, slanting backward at the sides from the central section.
  • Casegoods - non-upholstered furniture such as tables, dressers and bookcases.
  • Chest-on-Chest - a chest of drawers in two sections, usually a smaller one on top.
  • Cheval Mirror - free-standing mirror swung between footed posts.
  • Claw-and-Ball Foot - a bird or dragon claw grasping a ball.
  • Club Foot - a flat, round pad, usually at the bottom of a cabriole leg; also known as a spoon or pad foot.
  • Cocktail Table - a short-legged table usually positioned in front of a sofa or within an arrangement of chairs and a sofa or loveseat.
  • Commode - a low, small chest, usually with drawers or doors.
  • Corestock (or Core) - the center layer of a veneered wood.
  • Credenza - in the home office, a long piece used behind the desk with a knee hole space; often used for a computer and monitor.
  • Crossband - layer of wood between the core and the face ply of a veneer. Its grain is at right angles to the grain of the face ply in order to strengthen the veneer.

  • Deck - the surface directly under the cushions of an upholstered chair or sofa.
  • Director's Chair - named for its long use by Hollywood directors, a folding armchair with sling seat and back.
  • Distressing - a treatment sometimes called antiquing, designed to make new woods look old by means of markings.
  • Drape - the way a fabric hangs; this influences its ability to shape well, particularly in an upholstery skirt.
  • Drawer Guide - strip of wood, plastic or metal under a drawer that serves as a guiding track for opening and closing.
  • Dresser - from the French term, dressoir, originally a table used to dress meats that evolved into a cupboard for utensils and dishes. In the United States, the word describes a chest of drawers with a mirror.
  • Dry Sink - a low, Early American two-door cupboard with a sink or with an open top lined with zinc or copper.

  • Etagére - from the French, a series of open shelves for displaying books or objects.
  • Egg-and-Dart - a classic carving motif of ornamental molding in which an egg shape alternates with a dart.

  • Figure - the pattern or design in wood created by the growth of the tree; abnormal growths produce unusual figures.
  • Finial - terminal decoration used on upright posts, often of metal.
  • Flitch - any part of the log which is sliced into veneer.
  • Fluting - parallel channels, usually cut vertically; used for columns and legs.

  • Gesso - a plaster-like material used to make a raised design on furniture; it is often painted or gilded.
  • Gilding - ornamenting with gold leaf or gold dust.
  • Grain - the fiber arrangement in wood, giving the appearance of markings.

  • Hand - the way a fabric feels, refers to its resilience, drapability, and flexibility.
  • Hardwood - a general term for wood from broadleafed trees.
  • Highboy - very high chest of drawers, taking its name from "haut bois" meaning "high wood" in French.

  • Inlay - a design is cut out of the surface and a piece of another material cut exactly the same size is inserted.

  • Ladder Back - back posts joined by horizontal cross-rails in ladder effect. Also called Slat Back.
  • Laminate - the process of bonding or gluing together layers; the final product may also be referred to as a laminate.
  • Linenfold - a carved motif that looks like a scroll of linen.
  • Low Relief - a form of decoration in which the design is only slightly raised from the surface.

  • Man-Made fibers - this term refers to all synthetic fibers.
  • Marquetry - a decorative pattern made by inlaying unusual woods, mother of pearl, etc., into a veneered surface.
  • Modulars or Modular System - a collection of multi-purpose units.
  • Molded Components - sections of furniture such as decorative panels or legs that have been molded of plastic.
  • Molding or Moulding - a narrow, decorative strip, recessed into or projecting from, a flat surface.
  • Motive or Motif - the theme or dominant feature of a design.

  • Natural Fibers - all fibers that occur in fiber form in nature.
  • Nesting Tables - set of occasional tables, in graduating sizes so that one slides under another.

  • Overlay - decorative veneer that is appliqued rather than inlaid.

  • Patina - soft, mellow color and texture of a wood surface resulting from age, wear or rubbing.
  • Pedestal Table - top supported by one or more heavy, wide-based columns.
  • Pie Crust Table - a small table with carved or molded scalloped edges.
  • Pile - a fabric with a surface of upright ends, cut or looped, like velvet.

  • Reeding - close, parallel rows of convex moldings. The opposite of fluting.

  • Scroll - spiral-shaped ornamentation.
  • Secretary - combination slant front desk and bookcase.
  • Serpentine Front - chest, dresser, etc. with undulating front surfaces.
  • Settee - the forerunner of today's sofa, a long with side arms and back, sometimes upholstered.
  • Slub - a thick, uneven nub in yarn for a textured effect.
  • Sofa Table - a long table as tall as the sofa to place behind it.
  • Softwood - a general term for the wood of trees that remain green all year.
  • Spade Foot - rectangular, tapered Foot seperated from the rest of the leg by a slight projection.
  • Stacking Furniture - pieces designed so they work together and can be super-imposed on each other for unified wall systems.
  • Stretcher - crosspiece connecting and bracing legs of tables, chairs, chests, etc.
  • StriZ - a streaked or striped effect produced with yarns of varying tones.
  • Synthetic Fibers - manufactured fibers resulting from chemical synthesis.

  • Texture - the feel and appearance of a surface; also refers to the grain of wood.
  • Turning - an ornamental or structural part of furniture made by rotating a cylindrical piece of wood on a lathe and shaping it with cutting tools.

  • Veneer - a thin slice of decorative wood applied to another wood surface.

  • Welt - a strip of fabric, resembling a cord, sewn between two pieces of upholstery fabric to give a more finished appearance to the seem; usually made by covering a cord with a tube of fabric.
  • Windsor Chair - a country-style chair with a solid, shaped seat connected to the legs and chair back with round or flat shaped spindles.