What are some of the parts and pieces of vintage furniture?

Slipper feet, veneer and leafs are a small selection of some of the parts of a piece of vintage furniture that you will run across when you are looking at furniture.  You never know what you might find when you are out at an auction, estate sale or even an antique mall.  Here are a couple of pieces that you may run across:

Top rail—this is the horizontal rail at the very top of a chair back.  There are as many designs of a top rail as there are designer.

This photo is courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Manchette—this is an upholstered arm that is found on a wooden-frame chair.  This portion of the arm will be upholstered with the same material that the seat has.

This photo is courtesy of Wikipedia.com

Stretcher—this is a horizontal support piece that is found on a table, chair or other item of furniture.  This piece ties vertical elements of the piece together.  A stretcher can be seen in the bottom of the photo:

This photo is courtesy of Wikipedia.com

This is only a small portion of what you will run across.  What have you seen?

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Take a seat and look at some chair designs!

When it comes to furniture, there are quite a few different designs and forms out there—there’s more than enough to make your head spin.  This is also very true for chairs—take a seat and look at several of the designs that you will run across when you are out at your favorite place to shop:

Fauteuil—this is an upholstered armchair that has open sides, and this type of chair has also been referred to as an elbow chair.

*Picture courtesy of Wikipedia*

Adirondack chair—this is a very distinctively styled chair for the outdoors, and it is usually made out of wood.  Originally, the chair was made with a flat seat and a flat back composed of 11 flat wooden boards (it also featured wide armrests that are parallel to the ground).

*Picture courtesy of Wikipedia*

Ladderback chair—this chair gets its name from the horizontal slats that serve as the back support.  The design of the chair is reminiscent of a ladder.  Some of the other names of this chair are ladder-back chair, slatback chair or even fiddle back chair.

*Picture courtesy of Wikipedia*

This is just a few of the designs that you will see.  What have you run across?

Vintage furniture pieces that you may not run across everyday

When you are out and about shopping for vintage items, you will run across some vintage furniture that you may not know what it is.  Here’s a couple of pieces that you might run across:

Tallboy—this is a piece of furniture that incorporates a chest of drawers with a wardrobe on top.  The tallboy was considered to be the wardrobe of the 1700’s.

Highboy—this is a piece of furniture that consists of a double chest of drawers (it’s also known as a chest-on-chest).  This piece of furniture has a lower section that is usually wider than the upper section.

Pie safe—this is also referred to as a pie cabinet, pie safe cupboard, or even a pie chest.  It is a piece of furniture that is typically used to store pies.  The cabinet will have sections that consist of either pierced metal or screen to help the pies cool.  In the past, some people also stored meat, perishables, and other items inside of their pie safes.

Hoosier cabinet—this is also known simply as a “Hoosier”.  It is a type of cupboard (or even a free–standing kitchen cabinet) that also serves as a workstation.  It was popular in the first few decades of the 1900’s.  This was because most of the houses did not have built–in kitchen cabinetry.

This is just a few of the vintage furniture pieces that you may not run across everyday.  What other pieces have you run across?

Different names of furniture that you might run across

There are many different names of a certain furniture item (or a certain part of that piece of furniture) that you will run across.  There will be times that it will literally make your head spin on what the word could mean.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that furniture definitely has its own vocabulary.  This is especially true when you are dealing with items from overseas.  There are many places in Europe that have made furniture, so you will run across words that are from another language.

You never know what you may run across, and here are some of the words that you may scratch your head over:

Pietre Dure—this is decorative work that uses inlaid, semi-precious stones to depict scenes.  These scenes are geometric patterns, floral motifs, farm scenes, and many more.  More often than not, you will see this on a table top.

Lit de repos—this is a day-bed.

Gueridon—this is a small, round table. It was made to support a candlestick or even a candelabrum.  It could almost get away as being called a side table.

Gesso—this is made from a composition material, it’s often made with chalk and parchment.  It’s made in a size that is commonly applied to furniture, picture frames and even mirrors.  This is a base upon which gilding (or even silvering) was applied to.

Coquille—this is a seashell or scallop shape.  The shape will often be seen on the top of a table or chair leg.

This is just a small sample of the vocabulary words that you might hear.  What have you heard?

What to remember before you refinish a piece of furniture

You finally found that piece of vintage furniture that would look great in your house or apartment.  There are some things that you need to remember before you refinish the piece.

The first thing to remember is that you could be messing with the value of the piece.  With antique furniture (like items in the Chippendale era for example), there is a sizable chunk of the value of the piece invested in the original finish.  I’ve seen the value drop up to 50% when the piece of furniture was refinished.  A good rule of thumb on valuable pieces of furniture is to refrain from doing anything major yourself (dusting it off is more often the way to go).

The second thing to remember is how much it will cost to refinish and repair the piece.  I have seen furniture at auctions, flea markets and estate sales that need a good amount of repair work to go along with the refinishing.  Replacing legs, chair seats or even table tops could drive up the cost quite a bit.

The last thing to remember is how much time it will take to do the refinishing.  Over the years, I have seen a refinishing project take up to a week because of the number of steps in the process.  If you don’t have much time to begin with, you may want to stick with just stripping the old finish off and putting on some new stain.

What types of furniture have you refinished?

Furniture terms that could make you think they mean something else

Like pretty much every area in the vintage and collectible world, furniture has its own vocabulary.  There are even words and phrases out there that would make you think they mean something completely different.  Here’s a few of them:

Dovetail—this is a term in wood working that’s used to designate a method of joinery. This is used a lot to join corners of drawers and cabinets.  It’s a series of cuts to make a tenon or tongue that looks the shape of a dove’s tail that interlocks with alternating similar cuts piece of wood.

Vitrine—this is a French term for display or china cabinet.  This type of cabinet has large sections made out of glass so that you can show off the items stored inside.

Escutcheon—this is an ornament plate that surrounds a keyhole on a piece of furniture or a door.  These plates come in a wide variety of motifs.

This is only a tiny amount of what is out there.  What have you heard?

There are many different types of tables to consider decorating with

Dinner tables, coffee tables and even side tables can be seen in pretty much every house nowadays.  Did you know there are many, many different types of tables that you can decorate your house or apartment with?  Here’s a few for you to consider:

Flip-top table—This is a table that has two leaves, and the leaves are one on top of the other.

Pie-crust table—This is a small, round table having a top with its edge carved or molded in scallops. This type of table is common in 18th-century English furniture.

Gate-leg table—A gate-leg table is a type of table that was first introduced in England in the 16th century. The table top has a fixed section and one or two hinged leaves on the sides.  This type of table also has two legs that swing out to hold the leaves up.  When the leaves are not in use, the legs fold in and the leaves fold down below the fixed section and hang vertically.

This is just a small sampling of what’s out there.  What kinds of tables have you run across or have used?

What style is that?

When I started to sell vintage and antique items, I immediately heard some names of the styles of design that have been used over the years.  The first area that I found out that this applies to is furniture.  Here’s a brief explanation of some of the styles:

Queen Anne—this is a period in English furniture design that dates from 1702 to 1714.  This style is characterized by the adaptation of the Baroque style and the extensive use of the cabriole leg.  Walnut was the dominant wood used by furniture makers.

Renaissance—this is a revival of interest in classical design.  This style had it’s beginning in Italy during the 14th century, and it continued to spread throughout Europe until the 17th century.  The design is simple in structure—it has a generous use of classical ornament (such as the acanthus leaf, animal forms, and pilasters).

Georgian—this is a period of design in English furniture that was used right after the Queen Anne style, and it ran from 1714 to 1795.  Some of the better-known designers were Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Chippendale, and even the Adams Brothers.  Mahogany and walnut were the chief woods used by furniture makers (but other woods have been known to be used).

This is only a small sample of the styles that are out there.  What types of styles have you heard about?

Antique furniture parts and pieces

There are many different parts and pieces of furniture, and it can get confusing (especially when you first start to buy and sell it).  Here are some parts and pieces of what I have run across over the years:

Cabriole—This is a double-curved form used in legs (and even feet). The upper portion of the leg curves outward while the lower part curves inward.  This makes an S shape on the legs and is very distinctive.

Bombé—This is a French term for the outwardly curving shape of a piece of furniture.  The most thought of form is that of a chest.

Armoire—This is a clothes cupboard, and this can be a pretty sizable piece of furniture.  In most cases, an Armoire is a type of wardrobe.

Marquetry—This is a decorative technique in which different woods are inlaid into the body of a piece to create an image.  Flowers are a common motif; other images are used though.  Most of the time the inlay work is done with various woods—other materials like mother-of-pearl, ivory, and even tortoiseshell, have been used.

What types of parts and pieces terms have you run across?

What are some different parts of furniture?

When I first started selling vintage items, I quickly found out that there’s a name for just about every piece out there-even for furniture.  I quickly started to learn the names of these pieces when I started to do some basic repairs to the furniture that I bought.

Here’s a few of the terms that I have learned over the years:

Bracket foot–a bracket foot is used on a chest, a chest on chest or even a cabinet. This is a foot that has a straight corner edge and curved inner edges.  Sometimes I hear these curved inner edges “scalloped edges”.

Caning—caning is a wood piece that consists of rattan (or even sugar cane) that is made into wicker.  There are a wide variety of ways this is used including seats of chairs, patio furniture, etc.

Partner’s desk—a partner’s desk literally looks like two desks that were put together to make one.  It’s a desk large enough to seat two people that are facing each other.  Each side has their own drawers or cupboards.

What are some of the terms that you have either run across or heard?