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Antique Furniture Terms - Part 1

Posted by Laurence Lok on

Picking out the right antique reproduction furniture for your home is a challenging task. Faced with confusing terms like “mortise and tenon joinery” and “cartouches,” it’s easy to become completely lost within minutes.

To help eliminate some of the confusion associated with the furniture buying process, we’ve created this glossary of the seven most misunderstood terms. Familiarize yourself with these terms, and you’ll quickly find yourself marching down the path to furniture enlightenment.

Chippendale ball and claw legs

Hand carved ball and claw feet

1. Ball and Claw Feet: Characteristic of Chippendale furniture, this is a hand carved styling on the foot of chairs and tables that have the appearance of an animal claw grasping a ball.

2. Escutcheon: An escutcheon is a metal plate, usually made of brass, that surrounds a key hole to prevent scratches to the surrounding wood. They can be very ornate and add a distinct flair to certain furniture.

3. Mullion: A mullion is an architectural feature which divides window panes. In the furniture world, mullions are commonly used to decorate the glass panes on display cabinets.

Laurel Crown Chaise Lounge with Swan Carvings

Laurel Crown's Empire Swan Chaise Lounge

4. Chaise Lounge: Disambiguated from the french word “chaise longue”, literally meaning “long chair”, this is a type of upholstered sofa that has a sloping back on only one end. It was very popular in the 18th century and adds an old-world touch of class to any room.

5. Cartouche: This is a hand carved embellishment common in antique French and Italian furniture. It an ornately carved frame usually oval in shape and surrounded with scrollwork.

6. Mortise and Tenon Joinery: A tried and true woodworking joint that is used in many pieces of Laurel Crown furniture. A rectangular “tongue” or “tenon” is inserted into an interlocking hole or “mortise” and to make this one of the sturdiest joints used in furniture making.

Acanthus Leaf carvings on Laurel Crown demi-lune table

Classic Acanthus leaf pattering

7. Acanthus Leaf: This is a floral styling originating in ancient Greece that is popular in architecture and furniture design, particularly that of Thomas Chippendale’s work.