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Furniture Glossary


Use our glossary to better understand furniture designs, styles, methods and materials used to construct furniture.


Furniture Glossary

Glossary of Furniture Related Terms
Our furniture glossary features an editorial compilation of related terms and acronyms to help you better understand furniture styles, design and construction.




Abattant - A French term used to describe a drop front secretary desk, usually with drawers or cabinet doors below; Secrétaire à Abattant.

Acanthus - A carving of the acanthus leaf used to decorate furniture.

Alder - A light brown hardwood from the Birch family.

Aliphatic Resin Glue - A popular yellow woodworking glue.

All Wood Furniture - Constructed of wooden components; includes solids, veneered and engineered woods.

Antique - An item according to U.S. law that is at least 100 years old.

Antiquing - A decorative process to treat furniture in order to make it appear older than it is.

Applique' - Term used to describe an applied ornamental piece.

Appraise - The process of estimating or assessing the value of a piece.

Apron - The board placed below the underside of a chair seat, table top or shelf usually for support; also referred to as the skirt.

Arm Chair - A chair with arm rests attached to each side.

Armoire - A tall wardrobe which originated in France during the 16th century.

Arrow Foot - A cylindrical tapered foot.

Art Deco - A style period from the 1920's and 1930's featuring basic geometric patterns and lines.

Ash - A light colored hardwood used in furniture and cabinet construction.

Astragal - A small molding used to overlap or seal the joint where a pair of doors meet.



Bachelor's Chest - A small chest of drawers; typically from the 18th century.

Bail - The hanging loop or ring which forms a handle.

Baize - A woolen fabric similar to felt; commonly used on gaming tables.

Backrest - The back of a chair which supports a person's back while seated.

Back Splat - Vertical slat of wood in the center of the back of a chair.

Baker's Rack - Open, slat back shelving unit with or without a cabinet below used for storing goods in the kitchen.

Ball Foot - A full round turning used as a foot on furniture items.

Ball and Claw Foot - Carved or cast furniture foot of a claw holding a ball.

Barrel Chair - Semi-circular or barrel shaped low back chair.

Barstool - A high stool used at a bar or high counter.

Bas-Relief - A sculpture or carving that projects minimally from the background.

Bentwood - Wood that has been steam bent into curved shapes; commonly seen on rocking chairs.

Bevel - An edge which is cut at a slant to that of a main area such as that of a beveled mirror.

Biedermeier - A style of furniture commonly produced in Austria or Germany during the early 19th century; features simple marquetry patterns.

Birch - A close grained light colored wood used in furniture and plywood construction.

Bird's Eye - A decorative feature common to Maple features small concentric circles resembling that of a bird's eye.

Blanket Chest - Low storage chest with hinged lid often referred to as a hope chest used during Colonial times.

Blockfront - A three section chest with the center section set back from the end sections.

Bombe - An item of furniture such as a commode or chest with a pronounced outward or convex bulge towards the base.

Bookmatched - A veneering technique where two slices of veneer are glued next to each other so that grain patterns mirror each other.

Bowfront - A convex front of a chest or buffet.

Box Joint - An interlocking joint commonly used to construct cabinet drawers

Bracket Foot - Decorative or plain right angled foot shaped like a bracket placed at each corner of the piece.

Brass - An alloy used for furniture handles, knobs, hinges and fasteners; also used to construct headboards and footboards.

Breakfront - A cabinet with the front center section that protrudes forward or outward from the end sections.

Buffet - A sideboard used in the dining area for serving food or the storage of silverware and dishes.

Bun Foot - A flattened ball foot which resembles the shape of a bun.

Bureau - A chest of drawers typically used in a bedroom.

Burl - An abnormal growth on trees usually near the base of the trunk or crotch which is usually cut for veneer because of it's figured pattern.

Butler's Table - An oval table with four sides hinged upwards that fold out flat when in use.

Butt Joint - A simple but weak joint used to join two boards together at right angles.



Cabinet - A cupboard with doors, shelves and or drawers used for storage or display.

Cabriole - Furniture leg which curves outward from where it's attached descending in a reverse curve into an ornamental foot.

Camel Back - The broad curve and rise of the center section of a sofa back.

Cane Webbing - Pre-woven cane machine made from individual strands of chair cane available in various widths and patterns. Held in place using a tapered reed spline pressed into a groove.

Caning - Weaving or interlacing of narrow strips of the skin of the rattan palm to form chair seats, backs or sides.

Captain's Chair - A short backed, rounded arm chair with spindles.

Carnauba Wax - Wax obtained from the leaves of the carnauba palm used in waxes and polishes

Case Goods - Storage pieces typically made of wood such as dressers, bookcases, hutches, chests and desks.

Caster - Small wheel designed to allow furniture to be moved; used on chairs and antique case goods.

Catalyzed Lacquer - A highly durable reactive film finish; a lacquer with an added catalyst to accelerate a chemical reaction during evaporation.

Chaise Lounge - Long chair; sofa with one or two arm in the shape of an elongated chair for reclining.

Cherry - Hardwood obtained from the cherry tree used in furniture construction.

Chest on Chest - Tall chest consisting of two stacked chest of drawers with the upper chest being narrower than the base chest.

Cheval Mirror - Freestanding full length mirror supported by uprights on each side allowing the mirror to pivot.

Chiffonier - Tall. narrow chest of drawers commonly used to store lingerie.

China Cabinet - Display cabinet placed upon a buffet used to display or store dishes.

Chintz - Brightly colored and polished fabric.

Chippendale - Ornate, carved style of furniture from the 18th century.

Claw Foot - Carved furniture foot resembling an animal's claw.

Club Chair - Low back upholstered chair with arms.

Coffee Table - Long, low table placed in front of seating.

Coil Spring - A conical coiled spring used in rows for seating support.

Commode - Low chest of drawers or cupboard; originally referred to a nightstand that concealed a chamber pot.

Console Table - Small or narrow table designed to be placed against or fixed to a wall.

Contemporary - Modern look or style of furniture.

Corner Blocks - Small blocks of wood glued in place to reinforce or strengthen adjoining pieces of wood.

Corner Cabinet - Triangular shaped cabinet designed for use in a corner.

Couch - Modern adaptation of a daybed; provides seating for more than one individual.

Credenza - Sideboard or buffet with doors used for storage; commonly found in an office behind a desk.

Cross Banding - Veneer applied to the edge of table tops or drawer fronts at a right angle to the face veneer.

Curio Cabinet - Tall, slender, sometimes lighted cabinet with glass doors and panels used to display collectibles.



Dacron - Common trade name for polyester fiber; used as a wrap on seat cushions.

Damask - A reversible fabric with design.

Davenport - Compact writing desk features a sloped top above drawers.

Daybed - Seating unit that can double as a bed.

Deck - The foundation of a chair or sofa where the loose cushions are placed.

Density - Reference to the weight of foam used for seat and back cushions; either low density or high density.

Dentil Molding - Decorative molding utilizing evenly spaced blocks.

Dining Chair - Chair used at a dining table; available with or without arms.

Dining Table - A table where meals are served and eaten.

Distressing - A finishing technique to make the wood appear aged or old by adding rub marks, small holes and indentations.

Dovetail Joint - Common interlocking joint noted for it's resistance to pulling apart; typically used on drawer sides.

Dowel - Round wooden pin; usually spiral fluted or reeded used to join pieces of wood together and strengthen the joint.

Drawer - An open top box or compartment for storage that slides in and out in a cabinet.

Dresser - A chest with drawers for the storage of clothing.

Drop Leaf - A table having hinged extension leaves that are supported by a bracket when in use and hang vertically against the table when not in use.

Dust Cover - The material or fabric used to cover the bottom of a sofa or chair; also called cambric.



Ebonized - Wood stained dark and polished to simulate ebony.

Embossed - A low relief raised design such as an ornamental piece made through pressure rather than carving.

Engineered Wood - Man made sheet goods made from wood chips and glue under pressure; commonly referred to as particle board.

Entertainment Center - Cabinet or shelving unit used to store a television, video and audio components.

Epoxy - A high strength two part adhesive consisting of a resin and hardener.

Escutcheon - A decorative or plain plate that protects the area around a keyhole.

Etagere - An open shelving unit used for display purposes.



Fabric - Cloth produced by weaving natural or synthetic textile fibers together.

Fall Front - A hinged door of a secretary desk that drops down to create a writing surface.

Faux Finish - Decorative finish used to imitate the look of a natural material.

Feather Banding - Narrow bands of veneer inlaid in opposing diagonal directions.

Fiberfil - Polyester filling material or cushion wrap.

Fiddle Back - The back splat of a chair that resembles the shape of a fiddle or violin.

Figuring - The natural grain patterns of woods such as curly maple.

Finger Joint - Used to join short pieces of wood at the ends to make a longer one; provides strength through increased glue surface area.

Finish - The protective coating applied to furniture to protect the substrate; common finishes include paint, lacquer and polyurethane.

Fleur De Lis - A French floral emblem or carving in the shape of an Iris or Lily.

Footrest - The brace or bar at the front of a stool for your feet.

Formica - Registered brand name of plastic laminate material.

Frame - The basic structure of an upholstered chair or sofa; usually made from a hardwood.

Front Rail The front cross piece of wood between the legs of a piece of furniture such as a chair.

Four Poster Bed - A bed with posts at each corner; may vary in height.



Gallery Rail - Small or low railing used around a shelf or table top.

Gateleg table - Drop leaf table with leaves supported by legs that swing out from the side like a gate.

Gilding - Decorative effect of applying gold leaf or powder to a surface.

Gimp - A fabric fold used to hide upholstery fasteners or tacks.

Glazing - Finishing step of applying and wiping off stain used to highlight wood grain and features such as carvings.

Glide - Applied to the bottom of furniture legs to protect the floor surface and make the piece easier to move around; commonly made from metal, nylon or felt.

Glue Block - A small block of wood used to reinforce a joint.

Gold Leaf - Thin leaves of gold used in gilding.

Grain - The natural patterns in wood created by the direction of fibers.



Hand Rubbed Finish - An oil finish applied to a piece of furniture by hand.

Hardwood - The wood from deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves during winter).

Harvest Table - A narrow, rectangular drop leaf table

Headboard - The upright structure attached to the head of the bed frame.

Hepplewhite - An 18th century furniture design.

Highboy - A tall or high chest of drawers upon a lowboy (base) raised on long legs; a two part case piece.

Hope Chest - A hinged top chest for the storage of items in anticipation of marriage.

Huntboard - Originally used to serve food and refreshments after a hunt; light or portable sideboard.

Hutch - An upper cabinet consisting of shelves; with or without doors placed upon a chest, desk or buffet.



Inlay - Decorative technique of inserting contrasting wood veneers or materials to create a feature or design.

Intarsia - A form of inlay similar to marquetry; decorative inlaid panel or dimensional image.



Jacquard - Woven fabric with intricate patterns created on a loom.

Japan Drier - A drying agent or solvent used to speed up the drying time of oil based finishes.

Japanning - A finish imitating oriental lacquer work.



Kiln Dried - Lumber dried in a kiln to a specified uniform moisture content.

Kneehole Desk - Desk with a recessed central area for a person's knees.

Knock Down Furniture - Unassembled furniture that a consumer assembles after purchase; also known as RTA (Ready to Assemble).

Knot - A hard cross grained piece in a board generally from a branch protrusion; may loosen over time and fall out of the board.

Koa - Acacia koa; a hardwood endemic to the Hawaiian Islands. Commonly used to construct furniture and musical instruments.



Lacquer - A synthetic, durable fast drying coating used to finish and protect wood.

Ladderback - A style of chair back with horizontal cross rails resembling a ladder.

Laminate - Composite material used on counter or table tops; provides a heat resistant, wipe clean surface.

Leather - Made from tanning animal hides and used for upholstery.

Linen Press - A cabinet with shelves or shallow drawers behind doors designed to store sheets, tablecloths, napkins, textiles and clothing.

Lingerie Chest - Tall narrow chest designed to store women's undergarments.

Loper - A pullout arm or slide that provides support for a fall front desk or hinged table leaf.

Loveseat - A small version of a couch designed to seat two persons.

Lowboy - A low table or chest with cabriole legs; often used alone or as the base of a Highboy.



Maple - Hardwood with a tight grain and blond color popular in furniture construction.

Marble - A crystalline rock used on various surfaces of furniture such as table tops or desk tops.

Marquetry - Decorative technique of inlaying veneers to create a pattern or picture in furniture.

MDF - Medium Density Fiberboard; engineered wood panel made from wood fibers and adhesive exposed to heat and pressure.

Mission Style - American version of English Arts and Crafts which emphasizes simplicity.

Miter Joint - A joint that forms a corner with both pieces usually cut at a 45 degree angle when forming a 90 degree corner.

Modular - Interchangeable upholstered sectional seating units used to create different seating arrangements.

Molding - Decorative strip covering transitions or used for ornamentation.

Morris Chair - An early to mid 19th century version of a reclining chair with an adjustable back.

Mortise and Tenon - Furniture joint utilizing a projection (tenon) on one piece of wood inserted into a cavity (mortise) on another to join the pieces together.

Motion Furniture - Mechanized furniture allowing for the adjustment of seating position such as a recliner or rocker.

Mule Chest - A chest with drawers in the base with cabinet doors above.


Nesting Tables - Multiple tables graduating in height allowing one to be stored under another; usually in sets of three.

Night Stand - A low bedside table or small cabinet for use next to a bed.

Nu-kane - A man made cane manufactured from durable wood pulp based material. Used in place of natural cane.



Occasional Tables - Generally refers to small tables such as an end table, coffee table, console or side table.

Ogee - A double curve or S shaped molding or edge detail.

Ottoman - An upholstered low stool or footrest.

Outdoor Furniture - Furniture designed specifically for outdoor use.

Ovolo - Convex molding referred to a quarter-round molding.



Pad Foot - Rounded foot with a thin circular base found on cabriole legs.

Particle Board - Engineered wood product manufactured by bonding small wood particles with an adhesive and pressed into shhets.

Pedestal Desk - A desk with the top supported by two pedestals or small cabinets with drawers.

Pedestal Table - A table featuring a central pedestal or column support instead of legs.

Pembroke Table - A rectangular table with small drop leaves or flaps on each of the longest sides and drawer in front of the short side.

Pie Crust Table Top - A round table with ornamental edging resembling the crimped edge of a pie crust.

Plinth - The squared base or pedestal that supports a cabinet or piece of furniture instead of legs.

Plywood - Manufactured wood made from a series of alternating layers of wood veneer with the grain perpendicular to each other for strength.

Poplar - A softwood from the Birch family often used as a secondary wood in furniture construction.



Quarter Sawn - Wood cut from a log which has been quartered lengthwise sometimes exposing distinctive grain patterns such as tiger striped oak.



Rattan - The stem of a vine like climbing palm used in the manufacture of wicker and rattan furniture.

Reeding - Carved parallel convex or beaded lines used on bed posts, table and chair legs.

Reproduction - A replica of an original piece.

RTA - (Ready to Assemble) Finished furniture items which require assembly by the consumer.

Rule Joint - A joint used between a table top and drop leaf which leaves no open space between the top and leaf when open.

Runners - Strips of wood on which drawers slide.

Rush Seat - A woven chair seat using twisted stems of marsh grass known as rush.


Saddle Arm - Chair or sofa arm style which looks like a saddle profile.

ScotchGuard - Trade name for a product to protect fabric from staining.

Seat Rail - Horizontal support directly under the seat connecting the front legs with the back of a chair.

Secretaire - French term for a free standing writing desk with a drop down writing surface with shelves or drawers below; may also have a bookcase above.

Sectional - Modular seating units used in various combinations.

Semainier - A narrow but tall chest of drawers with seven drawers; one for each day of the week.

Serpentine Front - Horizontal compound curve used on the front of case pieces or drawers where there is a center convex section between two concave sections.

Settee - A long seat or bench with a back and arms at each end to accommodate two or more people.

Shellac - A natural resin refined and dissolved in alcohol and used as a wood finish or sealer.

Sideboard - Used in the dining area for serving food or the storage of silverware and dishes.

Side Chair - A traditional dining chair without arms used at the sides of a dining table.

Slat Back - The back of a chair which utilizes vertical slats for the back rest.

Sleeper Sofa - A sofa with a pull out mechanism converting the sofa into a bed.

Sofa - Also known as a couch; an upholstered long seat with back and arms.

Sofa Table - A slender high table placed against the back of a sofa.

Softwood - Wood or lumber from conifers or evergreen trees such as pine or fir.

Solid Wood - Generally refers to furniture that is constructed using solid wood and does not include the use of engineered wood products.

Spindle Back - A chair back consisting of multiple turnings or spindles stretching between the seat and top rail.

Steam Bent - Wood for furniture components that are bent using steam such as a chair back.

Stretchers - The horizontal braces which connect and reinforce the vertical elements together such as chair or table legs.

Swatch - A sample of upholstery fabric.

Swivel Rocker - A rocking chair that also revolves.



Tambour - Flexible sliding doors or pull down front for a roll top desk; constructed from narrow pieces of wood glued to a fabric such as canvas.

Tapestry - Fabric with a woven pattern or decorative pictorial design.

Teak - Tropical hardwood popular for ship building and outdoor furniture construction.

Tempered Glass - Glass treated with heat during manufacture which breaks into pebble like pieces instead of shards or sliverso often used for glass table tops.

Tenon - A projection at the end of a piece of wood which fits into a mortise to join the pieces together.

Trestle Table - Table supported by uprights at the ends with a stretcher between them.

Trundle Bed - A low pull out bed on wheels stored below another bed.

Trim - A decorative molding used on case goods.

Tweed - A medium to heavy woolen fabric which may feature a design such as herringbone or houndstooth.

Twill - A fabric woven with a diagonal pattern or ribs.



Unfinished - Furniture that has not been stained, painted or had a finish applied to it.

Upholstery - The covering including padding, springs, webbing, foam and fabric on furniture.



Vacuum Press - Use to apply pressure when veneering or gluing together uneven or odd shaped furniture parts.

Varnish - A solvent based transparent film finish used to coat furniture.

Veneer - A thin slice or slices of decorative or exotic wood glued to an inferior wood to create panels, doors and cabinet sides.



Walnut - A medium to dark hardwood used for furniture construction and veneering.

Webbing - Strips of elastic or woven fabric used to provide support for upholstered arms, backs and seats.

Wicker - Term given to furnishings woven from willow, reed and rattan.

Windsor Chair - A wooden chair with a bentwood curved top and spindle back pegged into a solid, shaped seat.

Wing Back - High back upholstered chair with wing like protrusions extending above the arms from the sides near the top of the chair.



Zig-Zag Spring - A sinuous or S shaped upholstery spring used in chair, ottoman and sofa seats and backrests.

This resource last updated on August 8, 2011
Comments or suggestions welcomed.

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