Glossary of Terms

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ACANTHUS: Leaf design used in decorative carving.


ACRYLIC: Synthetic polymer fiber made from natural materials, such as coal, air water, petroleum and limestone. Fibers are strong, durable and resistant to strong sunlight. They make soft, bulky, wool-like fabrics and carpets.


ARM PAD: Upholstered part of wooden arms of chair, serving as armrests.


ARM RAIL: Curved horizontal part of a chair, continuous across back and arms.


ATTACHED-BACK SOFA: In upholstered furniture, a pillow treatment that cannot be removed.


BALL-AND-CLAW SOFA: A furniture foot resembling a bird or animal claw grasping a ball.


BARREL BACK: Upholstered chair or sofa with arms and back forming continuous curve


BASE RAIL: Wood trim at bottom edge and above legs of chair or sofa. Also wood trim at bottom edge of dresser, chest, or other piece, directly above legs or flush to floor.


BATTING: Padding used to wrap springs or foam slabs before stuffing them into cushions. Quilted polyester often is used.


BENTWOOD: Wood steamed and bent to form structural members of chairs, etc. First developed in the early 19th century and popularized in the 20th century.


BLOCK-FRONT: Technical method of constructing the fronts of case furniture, such as chests or cabinets. Featuring three flattened curves, the concave flanked by convex. Developed in America, especially in New England in the 18th century.


BOMBE: Marked by convex or bulging lines, descriptive particularly of Rococo case furniture with outward-swelling front and sides.


BOX-EDGED: Square seat front with welting or sewn seam on top and bottom.


BOX PLEAT: In upholstery, a fold of fabric to the left, followed by a fold to the right, stitched in place.


BRACE BLOCK: Piece of wood or metal fitted into an angle of a piece of furniture to add strength or rigidity, as at corners under a table top or between a leg and a seat of a chair.


BROCADE: Rich jacquard-woven fabric with interwoven design of raised patterns. It has an embossed appearance, sometimes with contrasting surfaces, colors, gold or silver threads.


BUTT JOINT: Type of joint where wood ends meet perpendicularly at right angles without overlapping or notching.


CABRIOLE: A double-curved furniture leg that flares outward at the top (knee), inward near the foot (ankle), and swings out again at the foot.


CAMEL BACK: Chair back with top rail curved up at center. Also a curved-back sofa with hump in the center.


CANE: Rattan and other reed-like plants split into thin strips and woven for chair seats, backs and side panels; elastic and comfortable. Also used for decorative insets.


CASE GOODS: A furniture industry term for pieces made of wood (not upholstered), especially those used in the dining room and bedroom.


CHANNEL BACK: Type of upholstered back for sofa, with rows of vertical tufting.


CHENILLE: A yarn with short, cut fibers protruding from it, giving a "fuzzy" appearance.


CHESTERFIELD: Large, overstuffed sofa with closed, upholstered arms that are usually rollover arms of same height as back.


CHINTZ: Plain-weave cotton fabric with glaze finish giving a soft, lustrous appearance. Usually has printed design.


CLUB CHAIR: Low-slung lounge or easy chair with squared back and arm, loose seat cushion. May or may not be skirted. Type of arm may vary with period or style.


COIL SPRINGS: Tapering, cone-shaped, resilient wire springs used in quality construction of upholstered furniture, mattresses and boxsprings (also called cone springs).


CORNER BLOCK: In furniture-making, a triangular wood block used for added strength, in concealed structure under table tops, inside cases and at points of stress on upholstered furniture frames.


COTTON: Popular natural fiber that is versatile and makes good upholstery cover. Blends well and lends durability, absorbency, abrasion-resistance and excellent pilling-resistance to other fibers in the mixture. Often blended with rayon, Dacron, or wool.


CROWNING: Building center of a mound of stuffing higher than its perimeter.


DACRON: Trademark name for a polyester fiber manufactured by DuPont. A crisp, strong, resilient fiber that combines well with cotton, linen and wool.


DAMASK: Firm, glossy, patterned fabric with jacquard weave in one- or two-color design. Similar to brocade, but fatter.


DECKING: Fabric used as substitute for expensive covering under cushions or other platforms hidden from view.


DOUBLE WELTING: Two parallel cords wrapped in fabric and used to trim upholstery seams and places where fabric meets exposed wood.


DOVETAIL: Woodworking joint in which fan-shaped tongues projecting from one member fit into corresponding fan-shaped slots cut in second member.


DOWEL: Round wooden pin, peg or rod fitted into holes in two pieces of wood to strengthen joints.


DOWN: Soft, fluffy feathers from very young birds, or from under ordinary feathers of older birds or fowl. Used for stuffing pillows, cushions and upholstered chair backs.


EDGEWIRE: Spring-based decks are surrounded by this single, stiff wire, to which outer springs are attached.


FIBERFILL: Soft, synthetic material used as cushioning in upholstered furniture, bedding and comforters. Usually wrapped around foam for upholstery.


FINIAL: Knob, often vase-shaped, used as crowning ornament on furniture. Also found at intersection of stretchers joining legs of chairs, tables, etc.


HAND: Touch or feel of a fabric to the hand; its tactile qualities including softness, resilience, firmness and delicacy.


HAND-RUB: Process of using cloth, pad or felt with rottenstone or pumice and oil to smooth top coat wood finish by hand.


HAND-TIED: In upholstery construction, the process by which single-coil springs are hand-tied to each other and the frame to control seat elasticity. The more ways the spring is tied, the higher construction quality, with eight-way tie being prevalent in quality construction.


INTARSIA: Italian term describing inlay or marquetry.


JAPANWORK: Term used to describe lacquer made in imitation of oriental lacquer.


KNOCKOFF: Expression used within the furniture industry to refer to an obvious copy of a popular design that has been reproduced for sale at a lower price than the quality original.


LAWSON: Simple, straight-back seating piece with rollover arms usually positioned midway between seat and top. Usually skirted.


LOOSE-PILLOW BACK: A pillow treatment that can be removed from an upholstered piece.


MARQUETRY: Decorative veneer of wood or other materials, cut into delicate patterns and applied to furniture for decorative effect.


MITER JOINT: Corner joint of moldings framing a panel; each edge of the joint at a 45 degree angle.


MORTISE: Opening into which projecting tenon is fitted to join two pieces of wood (mortise-and-tenon joint).


OCCASIONAL FURNITURE: Industry term applied to small furniture items such as cocktail tables, end tables, night stands and pull-up chairs.


OGEE MOLDING: Molding of double curvature, concave below and convex above.


OPEN STOCK: Furniture regularly kept in stock and often available for quick delivery. Does not include custom-made or specially finished furniture.


ORMOLU: Term used to describe decorative objects and furniture mounts of cast and gilt bronze or brass.


PARQUETRY: A form of veneer creating a geometric pattern.


POLYFOAM: Synthetic resin simulating latex foam rubber. Used for upholstered furniture, pillows and mattresses. Also called polyurethane foam.


REPEAT: In fabric, a single complete unit of pattern as it repeats on a fabric.


ROLLED ARMS: Arms that flare out, then down, returning to meet sides of chair or sofa, appearing to have been rolled.


SELF-COVERED SEAT DECK: In upholstered furniture, using cover fabric to cover area under loose cushions. Also called self-covered deck.


SERPENTINE FORM: Profile made up of convex curve flanked by two concave curves.


SPLAT: Vertical piece between the uprights of a chair back. Often shaped.


TAMBOUR FRONT: Roll front or shutter made of narrow strips of wood glued to a flexible backing. Used on desks and cabinets.


TIGHT SEAT: In upholstery, a fully upholstered seat or back designed not to have a cushion.


VENEER: Thin sheet of wood glued to piece of furniture for decorative effect.


WELTING: Fabric-covered cord sewn into upholstery edge seams to firmly define edge. Adds strength and finished appearance to seams.