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Antique Terms Glossary

– A –
Acanthus – Ornament based on the leaves of the acanthus plant. It became popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Apron – Horizontal piece of wood below a seat, tabletop, or case piece. (skirt)

– B –

Ball and claw foot – A ball foot with a claw grabbing it. Good form.
Baluster – A turned vertical post or upright support, resembling a column. (banister)
Banister back chair – A chair with a back made of turned upright banisters usually topped by a crest rail and supported by a lower cross rail above the seat.
Baroque – 17th century European design that stressed exaggerated and brilliant form. Influenced William and Mary and Queen anne styles.
Bat wing – 18th century hardware that resembled a bat’s wing.
Bird-cage – Supporting section of a tilt-top table made up of 2 blocks with columns between the top and base that allow the top to tilt and pivot.
Block-front – The three section front of a case piece. Center section is concave and the outside sections are convex.
Bombe – Rounded case pieces with bulging sides.
Bonnet top – A pediment that covers the top of a case piece.
Boullework – Elaborate inlay of wood or other materials used to embellish the surface. Often brass.
Bun foot – A round foot that is slightly squashed.
Butterfly table – A drop leaf table with winged brackets that support the leaves

– C –

Cabriole leg – A leg with a outcurved knee and an incurved ankle.
Case pieces – A piece of furniture with storage space.
Chest-on-chest – A case piece with a chest placed on top of another chest to form one unit.
Chinoiserie – Raised – painted decoration of oriental design adorning furniture.
Chippendale – A period of furniture 1754-1790. Based on the designs of Thomas Chippendale.
Commode – A low chest of drawers based on French form.
Corner chair – A chair with offset legs that fits in a corner. (roundabout)
Cornice – Decorative molding on the top of a case piece.
Cornucopia – A horn shaped container with fruit and or flowers in it. Often on Empire and Victorian furniture.
Crest rail – The top horizontal rail on chairs and sofas.
Cupboard – A case piece for storing various items.

– D –

Dental molding – Decorative trim in alternating rectangles and spaces.
Dovetail – Method of connecting parts of furniture with interlocking flared tenons that resemble a dove’s tail.
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– E –

Easy chair – A wing chair.
Empire – The furniture period 1810-1840.

– F –

Federal – The furniture made from the early 19th century and coinciding with the formation of the federal government.
Finial – A turned or carved ornament used to embellish furniture.
Fluting – Parallel concave channels used as a decorating device. If the channels are convex, it’s called reeding.
Fretwork – Decorative trim of open cut patterns formed by the fret saw or carved.

– G –

Gate-leg table – A drop-leaf table on which the legs are connected by stretchers. The legs act as swinging gates and extend to support the top. The same without stretchers are called swing leg tables.
Gothic – A style with pointed arches and foils. often mixed with Chinese and Rococo elements.

– H –

High chest – A tall chest of drawers or a highboy.
Huntboard –

– I –

Inlay – A decorative treatment set into the surface of the wood that uses wood or other materials to form bands of color (string) pictorial images (marquetry) or geometric shapes (parquetry).

– J –

Japanning – The western practice of imitating Oriental lacquerwork. A wood base is covered with paint, and designs are built up with gesso and guilded or silvered.

– K –

Kas – A large wardrobe with heavy panels. Usually somewhat squatter than a wardrobe.

– L –

Lolling chair – An arm chair with a high upholstered back and seat and open arms. (Martha Washington chair)
Lowboy – A low case piece on high legs.
Lyre – A stringed instrument used as design on Empire pieces.

– M –

Marlborough leg – A straight square leg ending in a block foot.
Mortise and tenon – A system of joinery that fitted a tenon from one piece of wood into a mortise (rectangular hole) on another piece. Usually secured with a round peg.

– N –

Nest of tables – A group of tables that stack largest on top to smallest on bottom.

– O –

Ogee – An S shaped molding.
Ormolu – Bronze or brass decorative mounts covered in gilt used to decorate furniture, mostly in the Empire and Victorian periods.
Oxbow front – The reverse of a serpentine front.

– P –

Pad foot – An oval foot, usually with a pad on the bottom.
Patina – The color brought on by years of dirt, wax, and oxidation on a piece of antique wood.
Paw foot – A foot carved to represent an animals claw.
Pedestal table – A table with a columnar base.
Pediment – The crowning top of bookcases or chests.
Pembroke table – A small drop leaf with the leaves longer that the top. Good form.
Piecrust table – A table with a circular top and scalloped edges in the shape of a piecrust.
Pier table – A table built to stand against a wall, usually with a mirror at the bottom.
Pilgrim – Furniture built in the 17th century.

– Q –

Queen Anne – A period of furniture 1725-1755

– R –

Rail – A horizontal piece of wood that joins two vertical pieces.
Reeding – The opposite of fluting.
Ribbon back – A splat that resembles gathered ribbons on a chair back.
Rococo – A style of furniture composed of lively free form organic ornament and curvilinear form.
Rose-head nails – Hand forged nails made in the 18th century. The heads somewhat resemble roses.

– S –

Saber leg – A leg that curves inward to form an S shape.
Scroll foot – A foot shaped like a rolled up scroll.
Serpentine – A double curve. Opposite of oxbow.
Settee – A small sofa with a back and arms.
Shield back – The back of a Sheraton or Hepplewaite chair in the shape of a shield.
Sideboard – A low wide chest of drawers and compartments used in a dining room. Generally starting with the Federal period. In the Victorian period, they often had large mirrors and shelves on top.

– T –

Tall Chest – See high chest.

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