Furniture Terms Explained

French Style DesksBachelor chest – A small straight front chest of drawers with a fold-over top. The name derives from bachelors having small sets of rooms where limited space allowed the fold-over top to be used for writing.

Blind door – The doors of a bureau cabinet that has wooden panels and not mirror plates.

Bobbin turned – Sections of turning, used on tables and chairs, that are ball or bobbin shaped.

Bole – A clay in liquid form that can be used over gesso before gilding. Bole can vary in colour from red, yellow and grey.

Bonheur du Jour – A small late 18th Century ladies writing table often with a superstructure fitted with drawers.

Boulle Work – A process of inlay that derives from a technique perfected by the Parisian cabinet maker Andre Charles Boulle (1642-1732). This decoration is a form of marquetry in brass and tortoiseshell or horn, the patterns are cut out of the two materials previously joined together in one operation. Earliest examples date from areound 1680 in France. Very little Boulle was made in England, however many reproductions of this type work were made in 19th century France. Generally speaking ormulu mounts are associated with Boulle work.

Bunfoot – As the name implies, a foot in the shape of a ball or bun. Originally of Dutch or German origin, its use spread to England in the late 17th century. It is still used today as replacement feet primarily on chests, either period or reproduction.

Cabriole leg – A form of chair or table leg which appeared in England from France in the early 18th century. It is in the shape of a long slow “S”, the outward curve of the knee sometimes decorated. Many of the earlier examples ended in stylized goat feet with later examples ending in pad feet, slipper feet or claw and ball feet.

Candleslides – Small rectangular wooden slides found below the mirror or blind doors of bureau cabinets. Candlesticks placed on these slides provided light for working and extra reflected light into the room.

Canted – The term used to describe a right angle comer that has been cut off. Canted comers are often fluted.

Cheval Mirror – A free-standing adjustable mirror standing on a four legged frame. The mirrors first known as “horse dressing glasses” first became possible in the late 18th century when technical advances made it possible to cast single plates of glass six feet in length so that it was possible for a mirror to reflect the full height of a person standing close to the mirror. The French gave the name “cheval”, their word for horse, to this type mirror.

Commode – A French term used to describe an important piece of cabinet furniture with drawers made to go against the wall. The commode was first seen in England during the reign of George II and illustrated in the Director in the mid-18th century. Commodes that were japanned, inlaid and painted were a feature of late Georgian furniture.

Crossbanding – A decorative treatment to the main veneer. The banding is laid with -the grain at right angles to the main veneer. Originally as a protection to the expressive main veneer, it later became a decorative device.

Drop-in seat – A padded seat upholstered with horse hair (17th and 18th Centuries) and overlaid with hessian and a final cover. The wooden framework that forms the base of the seat has webbing nailed across it. The seat pad then rests on strips of wood fitted to the inside seatrails of the chair.

Feather banding – A decoration edge to a plain veneer. Often used with a crossbanding, the narrow veneers are laid in the form of arrow feathers or chevrons.

Finial – Normally a turned tapered spire found on the top of bureau cabinets. Placed at the front comers they are often made of the predominant timber which is lathe turned. Other examples can be found that are carved and gilded.

Gesso – A preparation of chalk worked into a paste with a binder used as priming before gilding wood to be used in furniture or other decorative work.

Giltwood – A soft wood, normally carved or decorated, that is covered with gesso, bole, size and overlaid with thin gold leaf.

Japanning – The European imitation of oriental lacquer. Gesso is used to create raised surfaces overlaid with shellac.

Joint stool – So called as the elements are joined together with mortice and tenon joints. Ile plank top and joints held in place with pegs. The legs are turned on a lathe.

Kettle stand – A small table, circular or square for holding a tea kettle or hot water urn.

Lacquer – The sap from the RHUS VERNICIFENA tree which is collected like rubber and purified; colour is added, and when dry is waterproof and can be carved.

Library Chair – Also called a “Gainsborough”. Easy chairs with square padded-backs, padded arms and seats. The arm supports and legs are in polished wood.

Lyre End – The support for a sofa or writing table of the Regency period in the form of a classical stringed instrument.

Mahogany – (Swietenia Mahogani) A hard durable wood with close straight grain, -light red to dark brown, almost black at times. Originally from the Spanish West Indies and later from Honduras. Popular from circa 1720.

Marquetry – The process of veneering with shapes, often scrolls, leaves, flowers, birds and insects. This process was perfected by Dutch and German craftsmen and became popular in England from the middle of the 17th Century reaching its height during the reign of William and Mary throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Mortice and tenon – A joint in which the projecting tongue (tenon) is inserted into a rectangular cavity (mortice) and held in place by pegs.

Moulded front chest – Influenced by the Dutch these chests have applied sections of mouldings to the front often in geometric shapes.

Needlework or needlepoint – Made with cotton, wool or silk thread. The pattern is drawn onto a canvas backing and the threads drawn up and through the canvas and the reverse.

Oyster veneers – Small branches are cut across the grain to produce roundels of veneer which are laid in patterns often outlined with boxwood stringing.

Parcel gilt – Gilded decoration used in conjunction with plain timber, ie part gilded.

Parquetry – Small sections of square or rectangular shapes of veneer; ie parquet flooring.

Patera – Paterae in the plural, are round or oval inlaid or overlaid panels of classical origin, often made in different coloured timbers or carved and painted.

Patination – The effect on furniture of waxing and handling. A rich, mellow, deep -shine which is found and valued on antique furniture. DO NOT REMOVE IT.

Pembroke Table – A small centre standing table of rectangular or rounded form. Usually with two flaps above a drawer they are supported on turned tapered or square tapered legs, often on castors.

Pier Table – A semi circular or rectangular table, the height of the chair rail placed on the pier wall between two windows.

Refectory table – A dining table with the top made of sawn planks. The legs are normally turned on a lathe and often carved.

Robert Adam – 1728 – 1792. Born in Fife, Scotland he was influenced by his travels abroad and became a leading architect and designer in the Neo Classical style.

Shellac – Lac is produced by insects who secrete the resin. It is collected from the small branches of trees and called “stick lac”. After cleaning it is called “seedlac,” further refining creates shellac. Shellac is also the basis of french polish.

Side hung drawer – A groove in the side of the drawer allows it to move in and out as its weight is held by a rectangular piece of wood fixed to the inside of the chest.

Splat – The section of the back of the chair between the upright supports. Splats can be in the solid form, sometimes curved, pierced and carved.

Stretcher – Stretchers are turned or squared pieces of timber that join the legs of chairs, tables, and cabinet stands.

Stringing – Thin lines of contrasting wood inlaid around or between other veneers.

Tripod table – The circular or square top, carved or with a gallery on a turned stem supported by three legs.

Veneer – The method of decorating the exterior of furniture with a thin slice of a quality timber. Veneer cutting was a skill developed on the continent of Europe and became fashionable in England from circa 1650. Veneer was originally cut by hand using a saw, later, during the 19th Century it was cut by machine.

Walnut – Walnut has been used for European furniture making since the 16th Century. A rich golden brown, it was valued by furniture makers in England from circa 1650. Virginia walnut, also called black walnut or red walnut was used as a substitute for mahogany, circa 1730.

Given an elegant form honoring the style preferences of Louis XV, this bureau plat was painted in the black lacquer fashion popular during the second half of the 19th century, then highlighted with foliate flourishes in various shades of gold. Next, cast bronze ormolu mounts were applied to add decoration and protect the corners and legs. Finally, a leather top was applied for the ultimate in writing surfaces. As is usually the case, the leather has not survived the decades, and will be replaced with newly tooled sheepskin for an opulence without compare!

Breathtaking ebonized antique French 3 hand-dovetailed drawer commode with a striking, rich and sassy black finish, original polished brass hardware and trimmings, while retaining it’s original marble top, too. This exquisite chest of drawers would be awesome utilized most anywhere. Elegantly storing couture from a recent voyage in the master suite, keeping necessities near the front door in a grand entry foyer, or in the parlor cleverly stowing games, photos, and other family mementos. The clean lines of this commode give it plenty of options, mixing well with other styles from classic to modern quite easily. The top drawer gives the illusion of being three however, it is one, neatly divided within. This commode offers timeless appeal, smooth functionality, and overall stunning good looks, making it a perfect choice wherever you choose.

Phenomenal Petite Ebonized French Louis XVI 4 Drawer Commode

Truly amazing this petite antique French Louis XVI 4 drawer commode steals the show with its stunning finish, polished brasses, and original marble top. Although petite in size, this fine chest has oodles of charm and personality the size of a Greyhound bus. Perfect in any room of the home this commode would be welcoming in a small urban foyer, a spectacular nightstand in a master bedroom retreat, or storing fine toiletries within easy reach but, out of sight in the opulent guest bath. This chest has so much to offer, I’m surprised the last owner let it go. Don’t be that person; buy this exquisite treasure before someone beats you to the punch.

Outstanding Ebonized Antique French Louis XVI Commode Marble

Phenomenal antique French Louis XVI ebonized commode with original polished brasses and contrasting marble top. This fine commode has 3 full width drawers providing ample storage, showing that it isn’t just another pretty case. Though petite in size, this awesome commode demands attention with its contrasting brasses against the dark black finish. Exuding charm and character from the moment your eyes see it, this commode exudes quality and workmanship second to none. Perfect many places, this fine chest would work well as an end table in the parlor, a nightstand in the master bedroom, or even as a entry console in a much to small foyer. However you deem as fit, don’t miss this glamorous commode.

Antique French Louis XVI Ebonized Mahogany 3 over 3 Commode

Absolutely breathtaking antique French Louis XVI style 3 over 3 commode retaining it’s original dark marble top. The black ebonized mahogany finish is deep and rich, providing an elegant contrast to it’s polished original brass trim. Storage abounds in this fine commode making it perfect for use in a bedroom storing linens and clothes, in the living parlor keeping necessities close at hand but out of sight, or in the entry foyer as a console by hanging a marvelous mirror up top. This dynamite commode will take your breath away with it’s stunning good looks and perfect proportions.

This is a beautiful commode is made by EJ VICTOR from North Carolina. Combining traditional French design with modern simplicity is what this piece is all about. Oversize solid brass carved hardware adorn the commode and go perfectly against the matte contemporary grey finish. It is classic yet modern and perfect for today’s decor. Place it in a foyer, living room, or hallway as its vast drawer space and clean design will lend the piece to any part of your home. And of course, this piece is made with quality and care from start to finish with solid wood construction, English dovetail joinery, and a hand-rubbed coloured lacquer finish.  Sold By Carrocel-antiques

Antique Louis XVI secretary, 1783 ~ by Jean Henri Riesener (French, 1734–1806). Oak veneered with ebony, black and gold Japanese lacquer, tulipwood, holly and black stained holly, amaranth, gilt-bronze mounts, white marble — made for Queen Marie Antoinette at Versailles

French Desks

Louis XV French Style Antique Desks Sultane Antiques Ebay

Photography-by-Marina-FaustPhotography by Marina Faust

French Painted Deaks Carrier and Company Photo Credit Mudrick

French Furniture – Natalie Portman Vogue Jan 2011

Natalie Portman graces the January 2011 cover spread for Vogue, on stands nationwide December 21st, promoting her new movie Black Swan. She plays Nina who is an obedient workaholic and her life is ruled by ballet and her mother. She tortures herself in every way to be perfect. I think those who truly enjoy the classic gray Swedish interiors will enjoy the stage which her Vogue pictures were taken for the layout for January’s Vogue.

French Furniture – Natalie Portman Vogue Jan 2011

French Furniture – Natalie Portman Vogue Jan 2011

Natalie Portman appears in British VOGUE October 2005

Louis XV Style Antique Rosewood Brass Mounted Side Sofa Hall Table c. 1900-10- Silla Fine Antiques

This fine Louis XV table features the most elegantly executed brass mounts in a tasteful array to accent the piece while maintaining the delicate clean lines. The tooled leather top is gilt highlighted around the perimeter with a Fleur-de-lis repeating motif finely executed in the leather, framing a finely patinated original leather surface. The top is fully serpentine with a brass rim completing the edge, incised with a fine gallery of lines around the exterior. The body of the table is veneered in a fine cross banded Rosewood, creating a beautiful symmetry throughout. The brass mounts are acanthus inspired and perfectly recreate the spirit of the Rococo period, each cast with inordinate care and attention to detail, while the drawers and sides are framed in wrapped-vine brass mounts flowing to match the serpentine of the apron. The legs are thin with a perfect cabriole, tapering slowly into hooved feet, or Sabot de Biche, transforming from acanthus leaf designs into the hairy hooves seamlessly. The table secondaries are primarily pine and oak, the drawer being hand dovetailed front and back. The frame is incredibly thick from the underside, lending to a perfect balance despite years of shrinking and expanding in the wood. A fine glowing finish completes the table and brings shine throughout every square inch.

This is an absolutely stunning find for any serious collector of Louis XV designs of the early 20th century. It is precise and clean, with a conscious attention to space and form in the overall design that is unprecedented. With an unlimited number of design scenarios, this is a piece that will be absolutely be treasured in your home for generations to come.


C. Mariani Antiques uploaded a easy to read antiques chart which can help you sort out the styles and how they related to each country.


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