Furniture Terminology

Interior design and Furniture Manufacturing Terms


  • Accent Furniture - Any piece of furniture placed to add decoration to a room or to compliment another piece (or pieces) of furniture. Accent furniture may be placed simply for aesthetics or the piece may serve a practical purpose, such as an accent chest may store items such as blankets.
  • Alder - A light brown hardwood from the Birch family.
  • Antiquing - A decorative process to treat furniture in order to make it appear older than it is.
  • Apron - The board placed below the underside of a chair seat, table top or shelf usually for support; also referred to as the skirt.
  • Armoire - Another name for a tall, wide wardrobe usually having two large doors behind which clothes can be hung or stored. Armoires originated in France where they were used for the storage of armor.
  • Art Deco - A style period from the 1920's and 1930's featuring basic geometric patterns and lines.
  • Art Decor - Any type of artistic medium used to decorate a room. One of the most popular forms of art décor is wall art. Both framed and unframed pieces can add feeling and personalization to a home. Tapestries are also a type of art décor, as are sculptures, bowls, vases, and even chinaware.
  • Ash - A light colored hardwood used in furniture and cabinet construction.
  • Attached Back Pillow - A pillow treatment which cannot be removed from the upholstered piece.
  • Baize - A woolen fabric similar to felt; commonly used on gaming tables.
  • Baker's Rack - Open, slat back shelving unit with or without a cabinet below used for storing goods in the kitchen.
  • Ball and Claw Foot – A furniture foot having the form of a bird’s claw grasping a ball. Some sources believe the design was derived from Chinese mythology and a dragon’s claw grasping a crystal ball.
  • Bamboo Turning - a wood turning to simulate natural bamboo that originated during the 18th Century.
  • Barrel Chair - Semi-circular or barrel shaped low back chair.
  • Baseball Stitching – A double row of sewing which runs along both sides of a seam. It is used for a decorative effect but also strengthens the seam.
  • Beading - Classic ornamentation using small, half-round molding.
  • Bergére - A French armchair with closed upholstered sides and back.
  • 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 that features small concentric circles resembling that of a bird's eye.
  • 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.
  • Bow Back - A chair back formed by a bent piece of wood fitted with vertical spindles (as in a Windsor chair). The bow or hoop is continuous down to the arms or the seat.
  • Bowfront - A convex front of a chest or buffet.
  • Box Joint - An interlocking joint commonly used to construct cabinet drawers.
  • Breakfront - A cabinet with the front center section that protrudes forward or outward from the end sections.
  • Buffet - French term that refers to a sideboard for china, silver, linens, with a top surface used as serving counter.
  • Bun Foot - A flattened ball foot which resembles the shape of a bun.
  • Bunching - Furniture pieces that fit flush with each other to create unified wall arrangements.
  • Bureau - Low chest of drawers usually for a bedroom, often with a mirror, originally a desk or table with drawers.
  • Burl - An abnormal growth on trees usually near the base of the trunk or crotch which is usually cut for veneer because of its figured pattern.
  • Butler's Table - An oval wooden tray on legs whose four sides are hinged to fold out flat when set down.
  • Butt Joint - A simple but weak joint used to join two boards together at right angles.
  • Butterfly Table - A small drop-leaf table whose leaves are supported by a swinging support which resembles a butterfly wing on a rudder.
  • Button Tufted - Fabric covered buttons are sewn through the upholstery surface and tied down. The placement of buttons and the resulting folds produce geometric patterns.
  • Cabriole - A furniture leg that curves outward from the structure which it supports and then descends in a tapering reverse curve terminating in an ornamental foot. Often used in Queen Anne and Chippendale dining chairs.
  • Camel Back - Double curved back, shield shaped; characteristic Hepplewhite style.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Casting - The art of forming metal objects by pouring the molten metal into a mold and allowing in to harden. After hardening, the castings are finished by hand.
  • Catalyzed Lacquer - A highly durable reactive film finish; a lacquer with an added catalyst to accelerate a chemical reaction during evaporation.
  • Chaise Lounge - A type of sofa or daybed designed for reclining and resembling an elongated chair.
  • Cherry - Hardwood obtained from the cherry tree used in furniture construction.
  • Chest On Chest - Primarily English and American 18th and 19th Century pieces composed of two stacked chests of drawers. The upper chest usually being smaller than the lower.
  • 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.
  • Chifforobe – A piece of furniture having both drawers and space for hanging clothes.
  • China Cabinet - A cabinet which is used for the display and storage of fine china. It is often massive with front and side glass panels.
  • Chinoiserie - Painted or lacquered Chinese designs.
  • 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.
  • Club Foot - A flat, round pad, usually at the bottom of a cabriole leg; also known as a spoon or pad foot.
  • Commode - Low chest of drawers or cupboard; originally referred to a nightstand that concealed a chamber pot.
  • Console - A table that is fixed to a wall and supported by one or more carved legs. Also any table meant to be placed against a wall.
  • Contrasting Welts – When welts are either a different color or material than upholstery material.
  • Corner Blocks - Blocks of wood that are placed at major joints in a furniture frame. Usually glued and screwed into place. Triangular blocks which strengthen important frame joints.
  • 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.
  • Cupboard - A cabinet, box or closet with shelves designed to hold cups, dishes or food.
  • Curio - A case piece which has glass doors, panels and shelves, which is used to display collectibles. Derived from "curiosity" cabinet.
  • Dacron - Common trade name for polyester fiber; used as a wrap on seat cushions.
  • Damask - A reversible fabric with design.
  • Deck - The surface directly under the cushions of an upholstered chair or sofa.
  • 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.
  • Diamond Tufting - An arrangement of tufting buttons to yield a diamond shaped pattern on the back of an upholstered piece.
  • 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 its 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.
  • Down – Duck or goose (or any water fowl) feathers used for padding.
  • 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.
  • Dressmaker Skirt – A skirt than extends the base of the cushion to the floor on upholstered furniture. Also known as a waterfall skirt.
  • 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.
  • Eglomise – Made of glass on the back of which is a painted picture that shows through.
  • 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.
  • Etagére - From the French, a series of open shelves for displaying books or objects.
  • 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.
  • Finger Joint - A joint made with interlocking finger-like projections in two boards.
  • Finials - The curved cast, turned or stamped decorative piece that adorns the top of bed posts.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gallery - A small ornamental barrier or railing around the top of a table, cabinet or buffet, etc.
  • Gilding - Ornamenting with gold leaf or gold dust.
  • 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.
  • Gold Leaf - Thin leaves of gold used in gilding.
  • Grain - The natural patterns in wood created by the direction of fibers.
  • Hand - The way a fabric feels, refers to its resilience, drapability and flexibility.
  • Hand Tied - Single coil springs that are attached to the webbing with links and then "hand tied" to each other and the frame with twine to achieve differing amounts of elasticity in the seat. Two, four, and eight way hand ties are commonly used. The more ways the spring is tied, the harder the seat.
  • Hardwood - Wood derived from angiosperms (broad leafed trees such as oak, beech, maple, mahogany, and walnut). The category consists of some woods that are actually much softer than "softwoods."
  • Hardwood Frames - Frames which are made from hardwoods such as ash, oak, or birch. These woods are usually kiln dried and resist splitting.
  • Hepplewhite - An 18th century furniture design.
  • Hoop Back - A chair back formed by a bent piece of wood fitted with vertical spindles. In Windsor chairs a bow back.
  • Horseshoe Back - The outward sweep at the base of the bow in the back of a Windsor chair.
  • 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 - Wood or other materials which are set into corresponding carved out recesses often producing a pattern.
  • Jacquard - Woven fabric with intricate patterns created on a loom.
  • Kick Pleat – Tailored pleated skirt on the bottom of upholstered pieces.
  • Kiln Dried - Kiln drying reduces the moisture content of the lumber, a process which inhibits checking, splitting and strengthens the finished product.
  • 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.
  • Lacquer - A synthetic, durable fast drying coating used to finish and protect wood.
  • Ladder Back - A chair back which has horizontal cross rails or slats that resemble a ladder.
  • Laminate - the process of bonding or gluing together layers; the final product may also be referred to as a laminate.
  • Lawson - An overstuffed furniture design that has a square seat cushion, short square shaped back rests and high square or rolled arms. Variations of the Lawson sofa are often called transitional.
  • Left-Facing – The left hand side of a piece of furniture when looking at it from the front.
  • Lingerie Chest - A tall, narrow chest of drawers originally designed to hold women's undergarments.
  • Loose Pillow Back - A pillow treatment which can be removed from an upholstered piece.
  • Lost Wax Casting (Metallurgy) – A method of casting bronze in which a mold is formed around a wax pattern which is subsequently melted and drained away.
  • 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.
  • Marlborough Legs - A heavy straight leg used by Chippendale and others.
  • Marquetry - A decorative pattern made by inlaying unusual woods, mother of pearl, etc., into a veneered surface.
  • Marshall Unit - Coil springs which are inserted in separate pockets and then joined together to form cushions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Motive or Motif - The theme or dominant feature of a design.
  • Nap – Raised fibers in a pile fabric such as velvet.
  • Nest-of-Tables - Small occasional tables which are graduated in size so that they slide beneath one another.
  • Overlay - Decorative veneer that is appliquéd rather than inlaid.
  • Parquet Top - A table top made by using joinery or inlay which has geometric or other patterns usually made from different colored woods.
  • Parson's Leg - A relatively long fully upholstered leg.
  • Patina - Soft, mellow color and texture of a wood surface resulting from age, wear or rubbing.
  • Pedestal Table - A table which has a central supporting column or pillar.
  • Pediment - The usually triangular or rounded structure above the cornice often seen in tall case pieces.
  • 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.
  • Pile - A fabric with a surface of upright ends, cut or looped, like velvet.
  • Piping (fluting) - Used on barrel back, fan back, kidney shaped and hollow backed upholstered pieces. Individual upholstered pockets (pipes) are stuffed separately to give a comfortable soft curve in the back.
  • Poly Dacron Wrap - A cushion construction method in which a soft resilient polyester material is wrapped around a polyurethane core.
  • Poplar - A softwood from the Birch family often used as a secondary wood in furniture construction.
  • Pressboard - A strong, highly glazed board sometimes used for case backs, dust proofing or as the underlying structural base for veneers, engraving or vinyl wrap. Also known as composition board or particle board.
  • Punch-out Back - Entertainment centers are designed to hold many pieces of equipment. To allow these unit's wires to connect with each other, entertainment centers either have fully or partially open backs or backs with removable panels that can be "punched out."
  • Quarter Sawn - Wood cut from a log which has been quartered lengthwise sometimes exposing distinctive grain patterns such as tiger striped oak.
  • Rail Joints - The places where the horizontal members of an upholstered frame meet. These joints are often screwed, glued and doubled doweled for extra strength.
  • Refectory Table - A long narrow table with heavy stretchers positioned close to the floor which was originally used by religious orders in the middle ages. Modern adaptations are shorter and have underleaves.
  • Right-Facing – The right hand side of a piece of furniture when looking at it from the front.
  • Rolled Arms - Arms which flare out, then down and return to meet the sides of a chair or sofa - appearing to have been rolled.
  • RTA - (Ready to Assemble) Unassembled furniture that a consumer assembles after purchase; also known as knock down furniture.
  • Ruffled Pleat (Sheer Pleat) - A skirt treatment in which unlined fabric is gathered to achieve a ruffled effect.
  • Rule Joint - A knuckle joint as between a table top and drop leaf that leaves no open space when the leaf is down.
  • Runners - Strips of wood on which drawers slide.
  • Rush Seat - A woven chair seat using twisted stems of marsh grass known as rush.
  • Saddle - A chair seat which has been hollowed to the sides and back to resemble the pommel of a saddle. Often used in American colonial styled seats.
  • Saddle Arm - Chair or sofa arm style which looks like a saddle profile.
  • Scoop Seat - A chair with a seat that has been hollowed out to fit the body.
  • Scrolls - Scrolls (curls) are the supportive and decorative members shaped like a scroll or curl which are connected to posts, rails, and each other on many brass (especially traditional) headboards and footboards. Scrolls can either be solid or made from hollow tubing.
  • Secretary - Combination slant front desk and bookcase.
  • Sectional - Furniture made up of modular units capable of use separately or in various combinations.
  • Self Storing Leaves - Leaves that store within an extension table.
  • 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.
  • Serving Table - A long narrow side table with drawers used in dining rooms for silver storage.
  • Settee - The forerunner of today's sofa, a long seat with side arms and back, sometimes upholstered.
  • Side Glide - A drawer located on the vertical side faces on the drawer.
  • Silver Leaf – Silver that has been beaten into a very thin sheet, suitable for applying to surfaces as a decoration.
  • Sinuous Spring – Construction element of some upholstered furniture that uses a running S-shaped spring along the length of the deck for support.
  • Slat Back - Often used in American colonial styled chairs. This treatment uses horizontal rails across the back and looks similar to a ladder back.
  • Sleigh Bed - The sleigh bed has a high, scrolled headboard and footboard resembling the front of a sleigh.
  • Slip Seat - An upholstered "loose seat" insert that is dropped into the frame of a dining chair and can be removed for reupholstery.
  • Slub - A thick, uneven nub in yarn for a textured effect.
  • Soft Woods - Wood from a conifer (cone bearing tree). Pine, cedar and redwood are common examples.
  • Spiral Leg - A leg having the shape of a spiral or twisted rope.
  • Spoon Back - To hollow out chair seats as in Windsor chairs. See also Saddle.
  • Spooning - A curved chair back designed to fit the sitter's form. Common in Queen Anne styled chairs.
  • Steam Bend - A method of bending a single piece of wood (bowback chair, bowed splat, etc.) into a furniture part. Since the wood grain is bent instead of cut, this method yields exceptional strength.
  • Stretchers - The horizontal braces which connect and reinforce the vertical elements together such as chair or table legs.
  • Swatch - A sample of upholstery fabric.
  • Swing Leg - A hinged table leg lacking a lower stretcher (as in a gate leg) which swings out to support a drop leaf.
  • Table pad - Dining table pads are covers used for protection of a dining table. On one side they are covered in felt and on the other side covered in a heat resistant vinyl. Made with seams to allow folding for easy storage when you don’t have it on your table. They can be ordered custom made.
  • Tapered Leg - A chair leg whose thickness is reduced as it approaches the bottom.
  • Tapestry - Fabric with a woven pattern or decorative pictorial design.
  • Teak - Tropical hardwood popular for ship building and outdoor furniture construction.
  • Tee Seat Cushions - A loose seat cushion whose outside front edges laterally in the front of the arm of an upholstered piece.
  • 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.
  • Texture - The feel and appearance of a surface; also refers to the grain of wood.
  • Tight Seat Bed - Fully upholstered back designed not to have a cushion.
  • Trestle Table - A table top supported by a braced frame (divided foot, horse), often consisting of two posts with feet, joined by a connecting member.
  • Trundle Bed - A low or collapsible bed which is stored under another bed.
  • Tufting – The process of drawing a cord through a deep cushion giving high puffs of padding and small low valleys where the cord is drawn. Names are given to describe the shape of the tuft such as “diamond”, “biscuit”, or “square”. Buttons are often attached to cords to highlight the design.
  • 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.
  • Tuxedo Arms - Slightly flared arms that are the same height as the back.
  • 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.
  • Varnish - A solvent based transparent film finish used to coat furniture.
  • Veneer - A thin decorative layer of wood which is applied to underlying wood solids or particleboard. Veneers are used to match and balance grain, create inlay and banding effects.
  • Wall Units - Large free-standing or wall hung units which can have drawers, shelves, cabinets, desks, bar units, entertainment centers or a variety of other features.
  • Walnut - A medium to dark hardwood used for furniture construction and veneering.
  • Webbing - Interwoven 3.5 inch wide jute (or synthetic) strips that provide a foundations for many upholstered arms, backs, seats and wings.
  • Welt - A strip of fabric, resembling a cord, sewn between two pieces of upholstery fabric to give a more finished appearance to the seam; usually made by covering a cord with a tube of fabric.
  • Wicker - Term given to furnishings woven from willow, reed and rattan.
  • Windsor Chair - A country-style chair with a solid, shaped seat connected to the legs and chair back with round or flat shaped spindles.
  • Wing Back Chair - A comfortable large chair with side pieces (ears, wings) attached to the sides of the back, usually overstuffed.


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