An architectural ornament that imitates the spiny leaves of the acanthus plant. This motif was used extensively in North America and elsewhere as a decorative feature on furniture from the late 1700s to about 1850.

à la capucine

An expression of uncertain origin, perhaps based upon the unadorned and simply constructed straw-seat chairs of convents, monasteries and country homes in France. Or it may be a reference to an order of Capucin monks.


A type of chair where the verticals forming the back are shaped like flattened arrows.


turned column or cylinder with swells, hollows and rings. The style was modelled on a classical architectural treatment of supports used for railings on terraces and balconies.

bracket feet

Feet that are shaped like a bracket, found on cabinet furniture. The bracket shape is usually visible on two sides (such as from the front and side) and the feet often feature a scroll design.


A twisted, knotted growth found on some trees. A burl often creates beautiful and fanciful patterns in the grain of the wood itself, and it also has greater density and durability than normal.


Legs of chairs, tables and other furniture that are shaped in an S curve, often with feet in imitation of a variety of common objects, such as scrolls, hoofs, pads or claw-and-ball carved shapes.

case piece

A furniture form such as a cupboard, chest of drawers or sideboard, used in a domestic setting to store and protect dishes, linens, cutlery, etc.


Describes square structural elements of a piece of furniture, such as chair or table legs, that have one or more corners partially angled or bevelled to lighten the visual profile of the object.


A style named after Thomas Chippendale (1718–1779), who was a British cabinetmaker. His high-style furniture was popular in Britain from about 1760 to the 1780s, and his designs were characterized by a graceful outline and often ornate decorative carving.


A horizontal strip of trim or moulding projecting over the top, front and sides of a cupboard, armoire or chest of drawers.


A type of coverlet created by weaving two layers of fabric together to create the pattern. Doublecloth coverlets were generally made by professional weavers on larger looms.


A type of furniture joint. Dovetails are formed by one or more tapered projections in one piece of wood that interlock with corresponding notches or recesses in another. The projections, or tenons, are shaped like the tail of a dove.


A style of furniture and decoration in France that was promoted by Napoleon I when he became Emperor. Adapted from classical models, the style is characterized by stiff curves and uniform, decorative elements in solidly constructed furniture.


The metal, ivory or bone plate that surrounds and protects the keyhole in a piece of furniture.


A painted surface imitating wood graining to suggest a more valuable wood, such as tiger maple or mahogany. It can also be used to conceal flaws, repairs and less prized materials.


A style of American architecture and decorative arts popular during the late 1700s and early 1800s that features neoclassical elements. This style was described in Britain and its colonies about the same time as Regency.


Describes wood with a grain that is distorted with tight swirls, twists and curls that create a decorative effect. Examples can include bird’s-eye, curly and wavy maple.


A technique associated with Pennsylvania German folk art and the black letter typeface used in German printing until the mid-1900s. Fraktur (literally meaning “broken”) combines printed or handwritten text with traditional images of flowers, birds, animals, etc.


A horizontal, decorative band below the upper moulding on cupboards, armoires, chests, etc.


A mixture of whiting (plaster) and diluted glue used either to prepare a ground material for painting or for modelling and shaping decorative details in shallow relief.

harvest ring

A traditional circular ceramic flask or container for holding liquids, which has a centre opening to allow it to be carried on someone’s arm.


A style named after George Hepplewhite (1727?–1786), who was a British cabinetmaker. Hepplewhite chairs can be recognized by their shield-shaped backs, square tapered legs and spade-like feet.


Where small pieces of one material are set into the surface of another material (woods of a different colour, for example) to create a decorative design.


A term describing a door or drawer having an edge that extends over the opening into which the door or drawer fits.


A diamond shape used in furniture and textiles. Lozenge motifs are flat, as opposed to the pyramid-like top of a diamond.


A technique using paint to create a mottled surface with irregular coloured veins in imitation of marble. Marbleizing is sometimes used on furnishings and furniture to enhance a material of lesser value and social distinction.


A style of design and decoration that draws its inspiration from Greek and Roman objects discovered in archaeological digs during the 1700s. The neoclassical style is characterized by linear, symmetrical structure.


A type of coverlet that generally has geometric patterns woven with a common four shaft loom. Four shaft looms require only basic weaving skills.


Shallow carved or turned circular or oval shapes in wood or plaster derived from ornamental models discovered in archaeological digs in Italy and the Mediterranean region. Paterae became a frequent motif on interior furnishings in Britain and North America.


An architectural term used to describe a shallow, rectangular pillar or column — more decorative than functional — projecting from a wall. Pilasters are sometimes used as decorative features on cupboards and other furnishings.

Queen Anne

A dominant style of the early 1700s, linked in England to the reign of Queen Anne (1702–1714). Common features of this style of furniture include a slightly curved back with a single urn-shaped vertical support; curved legs with a knee close to the seat; and pad, club or hoof feet.


A decorative neoclassical ornament formed by narrowly spaced straight line grooves cut together. Reeding was often used at structural points of interest to enliven and give texture to plain surfaces.


A reference to the popular formal styles of the early 1800s (for example, the Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles) in Britain and parts of North America. The term refers indirectly to the Regency period and reign of George IV (1811–1830).


The period from the late 1300s to the 1700s, which encompasses the rediscovery and influences of classical antiquity upon the arts, literature and learning in Europe.


A circular disc that, among other uses, may be incorporated into furnishings for decorative effect.


The technique of scratching a design through a layer of plaster or glaze on a wall or piece of pottery to reveal an under layer of a different colour.

shaft loom

A large loom used by professional weavers, with up to 20 shafts. The shafts are the mechanical components that allow the warp threads to move up and down, making it possible to create complex patterns in the woven fabric.


A style named after furniture designer Thomas Sheraton (1751–1806). Sheraton furniture and objects are noted for their delicacy of line and decoration, turned or tapered legs, and stringing (line inlay along the edges of drawers, tabletops, etc.).


Shaped in part by a lathe and characterized by swells, hollows and rings. Both decorative and functional objects could feature turned components.


Describes the designs popular during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), which are diverse in nature and include influences from classical antiquity and revival adaptations of historical styles. The Victorian style comprises widely differing combinations of form, ornament and source.


A type of chair or armchair with a shaped wooden seat into which the legs and back are inserted and wedged in place. Windsor chairs can take a wide variety of forms, including rod backed within a hoop or with a comb back extension.