Furniture Glossary

For other decorating terms, see our General Decorating Glossary.


+ enlarge image Armoire

Adaptations: Furnishing that capture the flavor of the original but are not authentic.

Antique: An object 100 or more years old.

Armoire: A tall, freestanding wardrobe devised by the French in the 17th century; originally used to store armor.

Banquette: A long benchlike seat, often upholstered, and generally built into a wall.

Barcelona chair: An armless leather chair with an X-shaped chrome base; designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1929.

Bergere: An armchair with upholstered back, seat, and sides and an exposed wood frame.

Breakfront: A large cabinet with a protruding center section.

Cabriole: A style of furniture leg where the top curves out, the center curves in, and the foot curves out.

Case goods or case pieces: Furniture industry terms for chests and cabinets.

Chaise lounge: Pronounced shez long; literally, a "long chair," designed for reclining.

Chippendale: Name applied to Thomas Chippendale's 18th-century furniture designs, including the camelback sofa and wing chair.

Commode: French word for a low chest of drawers, often with a bowed front; in Victorian times, it referred to a nightstand that concealed a chamber pot.

Console: A rectangular table usually set against a wall in a foyer or dining room; a bracketed shelf attached to a wall.

Credenza: A sideboard or buffet.

Down: The fine, soft fluff from the breasts of geese or ducks; considered the most luxurious filling for seat cushions and bed pillows.

Drop-leaf table: A table with hinged leaves that can be folded down.

+ enlarge image Modular Furniture

Eames chair: A classic lounge chair and ottoman made of molded plywood and fitted with down-filled leather cushions; designed by Charles Eames in 1956.

Etagere: An open-shelved stand used for display of decorative objects.

Fauteuil: A French-style chair with open arms, upholstered back and seat, and small upholstered pads for resting the elbows.

Fiddleback: A chair with a center splat shaped like a fiddle.

Futon: A Japanese-style mattress placed on the floor and used for sleeping or seating.

Gateleg table: A table with legs that swing out like gates to support raised leaves.

Gimp: Decorative braid used to conceal tacks and nails on upholstered furniture.

Grandfather clock: A wood-encased pendulum clock that measures 6-1/2 to 7 feet high; shorter versions are called grandmother cloths.

Highboy: A tall chest of drawers, sometimes mounted on legs.

Hitchcock chair: A black painted chair with a stenciled design on the backrest; named for its creator, an early American cabinetmaker.

Hutch: A two-part case piece that usually has a two-doored cabinet below and open shelves above.

Jardinere: An ornamental plant stand.

Ladder-back: A chair that has horizontal slats between its upright supports.

Modular furniture: Seating or storage units designed to fit many configurations.

+ enlarge image Pedestal Table

Occasional furniture: Small items such as coffee tables, lamp tables, or tea carts that are used as accent pieces.

Parsons table: An unadorned square or rectangular straight-legged table in various sizes; named for the Parsons School of Design.

Patina: The natural finish on a wood surface that results from age and polishing.

Pedestal table: A table supported by one central base rather than four legs.

Pembroke table: A versatile table with hinged leaves at the sides; one of Thomas Sheraton's most famous designs.

Pickled finish: The result of rubbing white paint into previously stained and finished wood.

Refectory table: A long, narrow dining table; originally used in monasteries for community dining.

Shoji screens: Japanese-style room partitions or sliding panels usually made of translucent rice paper framed in black lacquered wood.

Slipcovers: Removable fabric covers for upholstered furniture.

Ticking: A striped cotton or linen fabric used for mattress covers, slipcovers, and curtains.

Veneer: A thin layer of wood, usually of fine quality, that is bonded to a heavier surface of lesser quality wood. Most new furniture is made of veneer construction.

Welsh cupboard: A large cupboard with open, wood-backed shelves on top and a cabinet base; generally used in dining rooms for the display of china.

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