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Dictionary Of English Furniture And Accessories
Barometers. The barometer was invented and came into use during the seventeenth century and until the introduction of the modern 'Aneroid' type it consisted of a tube of mercury standing in a cup of the same metal. The pressure of the atmosphere on the surface of the mercury in the cup caused it to vary in height in the tube, and the level could be read off against a scale. Alternatively, the rise and fall could be shown on a circular dial and indicated by a movable pointer. The earliest barometers were made by the eminent clockmakers of the day, were often enclosed in cases of walnut and are very rare and valuable. In the later eighteenth century many were made in mahogany cases and included a thermometer and a damp-detector (hygrometer). These are not hard to find, and their price varies today according to condition and whether or not they are in working order.
Beds. In the past, people spent more money on their beds than on any other article of furniture. The wood framework which was usually of four-poster type, was only a part of the expense, the majority of the time, labour and money going on the elaborate hangings which enclosed it and kept the occupant warm and draught-free. The oldest to survive in any numbers is the Elizabethan carved four-poster, with its elaborate headboard and carved roof (tester), and of these the best known is the Great Bed of Ware. This was mentioned by Shakespeare in Twelfth Night, and has found a final home in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Mahogany beds were made in much the same form as oak ones had been, although taller and more graceful in appearance, and it was not until 1850 that the four-poster went out of fashion and the brass bedstead took its place.
Buckets. Buckets made of mahogany bound with brass and with brass handles were made from about 1760. They were used to carry plates to and from kitchen and dining-room, and have a long vertical opening from rim to base so that the plates could be removed easily. Rare examples were made with flat sides decorated with fretwork. Brass-bound buckets without the vertical opening are described as Peat Buckets.
Bureaus. A bureau is a form of writing desk, and has a number of names: including escritoire, scriptor and secretaire. The earliest type, dating from about 1675, was a cabinet on an open stand, with a hinged front that let down to make a writing surface. Shortly after that date came a similar piece, but with the top sloping instead of upright. Later again, drawers were used in place of the stand, and the pattern that is still made came into being. Many sloping-top bureaus were made in the form known as a bureau-bookcase; that is, with a bookcase above the bureau.
Another variety is in the form of a straight-fronted chest, the front of the upper dummy drawer (or upper two drawers) hinged and falling to reveal a writing-space with pigeon-holes and smaller drawers. This type is called generally a secretaire.
Bureaus and secretaires, with or without upper bookcases, were made in one form or another from about 1700 onwards, and not only in walnut and mahogany but also lacquered. It is important to make sure that a bureau- or secretaire-bookcase remains as it was made, and has not been `married' subsequently. Often, a straightforward bureau has had a bookcase, more or less fitting and matching, placed on it and the value falsely increased.
Butler's Trays. A large oblong tray on a folding X-shaped stand, usually of mahogany, was used by the butler as an extra and movable sideboard. Late eighteenth-century examples are of various types: plain, brass-bound at the corners, and with all four sides of the tray hinged to fall flat, Another type has the rimless top hinged across the centre and in one with the base, and the whole article folds up. These are sometimes known as 'coaching tables'.
Cabinets. Cabinets with hinged doors, with or without drawers inside, were made in the later seventeenth century, and much attention was paid to their decoration. They were veneered with rare woods, inlaid with marquetry and embellished with plates of embossed silver. They were placed on stands of turned wood, and later on elaborately carved giltwood bases. Many lacquered cabinets were imported from the Far East, and placed on similar stands for use in English rooms.
Cabinets on stands did not retain their great popularity in the eighteenth century, but their place was taken by book and china cases with glazed doors. About 1800 low cabinets standing on the ground came into fashion, and many of these had marble tops and the doors were inset with panels of silk or with gilt brass trellis.
Caddies. The caddy owes its name to a Chinese weight, a catty or kati, which equals about one and a third pounds. Much of the tea coming from the East was doubtless packed in amounts of one catty, and the name of the quantity became corrupted into that of the box to hold it. Although tea-caddies were made from different materials, many were of wood and it is proper therefore to mention them under the heading of Furniture. Few, if any, survive from before about 1740, but in 1752 Chippendale showed in his Director designs for a number of them, elaborately shaped and carved. Each succeeding designer influenced the shape, colouring and ornament of the tea-caddy, and the immense number of variations in pattern are too numerous to list. Many of them had silver containers inside a wooden outer case, others had removable wooden boxes. In the nineteenth century it was common to fit them with two boxes, one each for green and black tea, and a glass bowl; the latter described variously as for holding sugar and for blending the teas.
Canterbury. This is the name given to a low open stand with divisions, a drawer beneath and short legs, for holding music. They were made in mahogany from about 1800, and later in rosewood and walnut. No one knows how they got their name, but it is assumed that one was designed in the first instance for an Archbishop of Canterbury. They are very popular nowadays, not always for holding sheet music but for newspapers.
Card Tables. Playing-cards were introduced into England in the fifteenth century, and doubtless a special table for use with them followed shortly. None survive before walnut ones made in the reign of William and Mary, with the typical folding tops lined with needlework or cloth. They are rare, but later examples in mahogany survive in large numbers. Almost all are lined with cloth, and many have the inside corners recessed to hold candlesticks; others have oval sunken spaces to hold counters or coins. Late in the eighteenth century card tables were often made in pairs, and examples are found occasionally veneered in satinwood and of half-round shape.
After 1800 they were made on a pillar support with splayed legs and brass-capped toes.
Chairs. Before about 1500 chairs were a rarity, few homes had even one, and most people sat on benches, stools or chests. The chair, when one was to be found, was reserved for the use of royalty and the most noble. By the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, armchairs of various types had begun to be made in quantity, and quite a number survive now. They are made of oak, with a straight or nearly straight back, with turned legs and curved arms, ornamented with carving or inlay. They have plain wood seats, and were used with the aid of a cushion.
Single chairs (those without arms) were probably made at an earlier date, but being less strongly constructed, few have survived that were made before about 1600. Most are quite plain, with the upper part of the back and the seat covered in silk or embroidery. As the seventeenth century progressed, and walnut or painted beechwood replaced oak, a number of fresh styles came and went. Turning, either in the form of bobbins or barley-twist was popular, and the use of caning instead of upholstery was introduced from the Far East. Finally, came the fashion of tallbacked chairs, heavily ornamented with turning and carving, with seat and back caned. Many of these were imported from France and Holland, where a similar fashion reigned, and it is a matter of argument as to where many of these chairs actually originated.
Gradually, caning lost favour, and its place was taken by elaborate upholstery in velvet or figured silk, but in either case with deep-fringed and coloured edgings. Although many of the single chairs were upholstered on both seat and back, others-still with the high back-featured a tall carved and pierced back panel and the first use of cabriole legs. By 1715 the cabriole leg was in general use, and the back of the chair had started to become square in shape: no longer was it the characteristic tall and narrow feature of the previous century. The centre of the back, called the 'splat' was usually a panel of solid or veneered wood and of shaped outline, and the top of the back was rounded. Most chairs showed some carving, especially in the form of the claw and ball foot. Some very finely carved chairs have feet in the shape of lions' paws, with lions' heads on the knees; others have arms which finish in heads of eagles.
By 1740, with the coming of mahogany, the use of carving on chairs was widespread, the back continued to get lower until it was more or less square, and the cabriole leg remained popular. The top of the back was usually of a cupid's bow shape, the seat nearly square and often of generous size. Probably the most famous English chairs are, those for which Chippendale shows designs in his book, The Director, where they are called 'ribband back chairs'. These have the back carved and pierced in an intricate pattern of ribbons with a central bow. A number of these masterpieces have survived the wear and tear of two hundred years.
The last quarter of the eighteenth century saw a further number of different fashions come and go. Robert Adam designed chairs, many of them with oval backs, shaped seats and turned legs, and in carved and gilt wood; an integral part of the decoration and furnishing of the room for which they were created. His suites often ran to a dozen armchairs, with large settees and stools, all covered in tapestry or figured silk. With other designers, backs varied greatly; shield, heart, round, or square, were among the shapes used. Towards 1800 came a fashion for beechwood chairs, many with shield-shaped backs, painted in colours with flowers and other subjects. At about this date, too, satinwood chairs were made, and these also were painted.
In the earlier years of the nineteenth century, chair backs were almost all nearly square, and the legs were curved forward-the `sabre' shape. Mahogany chairs of this type, much smaller in size than those made in the years before, are very popular today, the most decorative, eagerly sought and, therefore, the most expensive, being those inlaid with brass lines. Rosewood was also a wood used for chair-making at this time, but it was imitated closely in painted beech.
Hall chairs were made during the eighteenth century and later. They were more for display than for comfort, with wood seats, and the backs were usually painted with the coat-of-arms or crest of the owner.
The Windsor chair was first made in the eighteenth century, and is still being turned out in large numbers. The arched back and shaped wood seat appear much the same in chairs of 1760 as in those made two hundred years later. They owe their popularity to their strength and lightness, and to the fact that they can be made cheaply. About 1770 they cost five or six shillings apiece, but they are dearer now.
Chests. The chest is agreed to be the most ancient form of furniture, and surviving examples go back in date to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Many of these extremely old ones are simple in design, and bear very little in the way of ornament. Others, however, are carved liberally, with strong iron bands to protect the contents from thieves. As long ago as 1166, Henry II commanded that a chest should be put in every church to collect money for fighting the Crusades, and that each should be fitted with three locks; each lock should be different, and each key held by a separate official. In 1278 a similar order related to the safe keeping of church books and vestments. In the same way, chests were used in houses for the storage of clothing and other property.
The early chests are seldom seen outside churches and museums, but later ones, dating from 1650 or thereabouts, are much less rare. Usually they are made of oak, the front and lid divided into recessed panels, and decorated with carving or inlay or both. By the end of the seventeenth century few were being made, and their place was taken by more complicated and useful pieces such as chests of drawers and cabinets. Occasionally, in the eighteenth century, chests of mahogany and of giltwood were made, but not in large numbers. Today chests are much less popular than they once were; partly because of the inconvenience of a piece of furniture with a lifting top.
Chests of Drawers. The chest of drawers was evolved from the simple chest, noted above. Drawers were added underneath the chest, and before very long the entire piece of furniture became the casing fitted with drawers as we know it today. The earliest were made about 1650, of oak, inlaid, and later with the fashion for walnut they became very popular in that wood. Many were decorated with marquetry and with lacquer, and plain walnut examples were veneered to show the grain of the wood at its best. About 1720, small chests of drawers, called for no recorded reason `bachelor's chests', were made, these have tops that fold over and rest on bearers that pull out from the body of the piece. Being no more than about thirty inches high, two feet in width and a foot from back to front, it is no wonder they are much in demand and very expensive. When old walnut furniture was enjoying a vogue in the 1920's examples of it were dear and labour cheap; many fakes were made. Now, forty years later, some of these have had a lot of wear and tear, and careful examination is needed to distinguish between old and new.
Chests of drawers continued in popularity throughout the eighteenth century, and very fine examples were made in mahogany. Some were of serpentine shape, the top drawer fitted as a dressing table with divisions for combs, brushes and toilet accessories, and with the front corners heavily carved. Simpler ones were of straight outline, and relied on gilt metal handles for their ornament.
Inlaid mahogany chests of drawers came into fashion about 1780, and were made with straight or bowed fronts. They continued to be made with slight variations in design for many years more.
Chiffonier. A small bookcase or cupboard with an upper part of open shelves. A decorative piece of furniture that was first made about 1800, and continued to be popular throughout the nineteenth century.
Coasters. Wine-coasters are stands for bottles or decanters for use at the dining-table. Some took the form of wooden trays with rims, others were of japanned papier-mache, silver or plate. Cheese coasters were usually made of mahogany and date from about 1790. They are boat-shaped with a square base raised on small casters. Today, they are rarely used to hold the large round cheeses for which they were designed, but have a fresh lease of life as fruit containers.
Coffee Tables. While any small and low table can be, and is, called a coffee table, the term is applied particularly to the sets of three or four tables made from about 1790; of which the latter were called 'quartetto tables'. As their name implies, they were made in sets of four, and were so designed that each slid into the other. When so placed they took up no more room than the largest. Made in mahogany and in rosewood, they have been in production almost continuously and old sets are scarce.
Commode. This is a French word describing a type of chest of drawers made in that country. In England, it was applied in the eighteenth century to pieces of furniture designed in the style of Louis XV or Louis XVI, and fitted with drawers or with doors to form a cupboard. Such pieces were highly decorated with carving, marquetry, lacquer or inlay, and would have had pride of place in the most important room of a house.
Console Tables. Tables made for fixing against a wall and having no legs at the back. They came into fashion early in the eighteenth century, and were made often in pairs.
Cradles. These small beds for children were usually made to swing; achieved either by mounting them on rockers, or suspending them in a framework. Early ones of oak are rare, but eighteenth-century specimens made of mahogany are sometimes to be seen.
Cupboards and Wardrobes. Cupboards for the storage of clothes and linen were made from the fifteenth century onwards; until the late seventeenth century they were usually of oak and with the doors divided into panels. They are rare, as are the walnut ones made about 1700. Mahogany cupboards and wardrobes are more plentiful, but being large in size they are not greatly in demand for use in the smaller rooms of present-day homes. The eighteenth-century wardrobe often had the upper part with sliding shelves enclosed within doors, and the lower part with drawers. In this form it is called today a Gentleman's Wardrobe, and in many instances the insides of the drawers and the upper shelves have been removed to make hanging-space for clothes. In the later years of the century, the mahogany cupboards were inlaid, and others were veneered with satinwood or made of pine and painted.
Court cupboards of oak were made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They consist of open shelves with supports at the corners; the front ones carved. Hall or livery cupboards were made during the same years, and have doors to the upper and lower parts. For many years there has been confusion between court and livery cupboards, but at the moment of writing the above descriptions are the accepted ones.
Corner cupboards of three-cornered shape and with flat or bowed fronts, were made in the eighteenth century. They exist in oak, walnut, mahogany and pine; the latter painted or lacquered. Many are decorated with inlay, but rare specimens have carved and gilt ornament.
Davenports. First made at the end of the eighteenth century, the davenport is a small desk. It has a sloping-top which is hinged, and a series of drawers down one side. They were made in both rosewood and mahogany; early examples have short square legs, later ones are turned.
Desks. Like the davenport, above, a desk is a piece of furniture with a sloping-top for writing. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century examples were small, portable sloping-top boxes which would contain pen, ink and paper and provide for their use. Some early eighteenth-century examples were fitted with stands, but in Victorian times the original box-type returned to favour. These latter were of mahogany or rosewood and bound with brass. Nowadays the term desk is applied to almost any piece of furniture at which writing can be done, including what was once called a writing table. These have a leather-covered top and tiers of drawers below, often with a central knee-hole recess for comfort. Large, double-sided versions of this type are called partner's desks.
Dining Tables. The first dining tables of which survivors remain are the type known as refectory tables. They are made usually of oak, and one of the earliest, at Penshurst Place in Kent, has a typical thick top of joined planks supported on three separate trestles. Later, came a lower part in one piece with heavy legs united by stretchers at their bases and rails at the tops. The Elizabethan dining table, also of oak and constructed in this manner, was often carved and inlaid, the legs being turned into strikingly large bulbous swellings. An alternative type at this period was the draw table, which extended by means of leaves at either end sliding in and out from below the principal top.
Refectory tables stayed in use throughout most of the seventeenth century, but towards 1680 came large circular tables on gate-leg supports. Many of these are four feet or more in diameter, and it seems probable that their use was for dining.
Mahogany dining tables survive in large numbers, and are of many types. Early ones, of about 1740, have falling side-flaps supported by swinging outwards the hinged legs; others are in sections and become as many as four separate tables when taken apart. Late in the eighteenth century came the type with each section supported on a central pillar with splayed legs and brasscapped toes; a type that is very popular today for the practical reason that the legs are out of the way of the diners.
Dressers. A piece of furniture on which china or silver was displayed. In the seventeenth century it was a long table with drawers, usually raised on legs, and made generally of oak. In the eighteenth century came the fashion of fitting a superstructure of shelves, sometimes with small cupboards at either end, and these are often called Welsh dressers. Rare examples are made of yew wood.
Dumb Waiters. A set of revolving trays of different sizes supported on a central pillar, and used beside the dining table. Eighteenth-century mahogany examples had circular trays and tripod bases, some nineteenth-century rosewood ones were oblong and had four-legged supports.
Foot Stools. These came into use at the end of the eighteenth century, and continued to be popular from then onwards. The upholstered tops were often covered in needlework.
Gate-leg Tables. These tables, which have the distinctive feature of a gate-like hinged leg to support the top flap, have been made continuously in one form or another from at least the seventeenth century until today. The earliest were made of oak and are rare, but those of the middle and later years of the seventeenth century can be found sometimes. They vary in size from a large dining table some seven feet in length to small tea tables about three feet in diameter. In most instances the supports are turned. Somewhat similar tables were made also of walnut, but these are scarce. Small mahogany gate-leg tables are often of a type known as `spider leg', because of their thin supports. Many gate-leg tables were made in Victorian times, when this method of construction was very popular.
Gout Stools. Stools that have adjustment to raise or lower their tops were made from about 1790 for the relief of sufferers from gout. Another pattern, of 'X'-shaped construction, with thick padding, was made at about the same date.
Knife Boxes. Cases, with hinged lids, for holding knives, spoons and forks, were made of wood or of wood covered in shagreen (fish skin). Although existing from the middle of the seventeenth century, most of the surviving examples are of eighteenth-century date and made of inlaid mahogany. The most popular type had a sloping top and serpentine-shaped front, but others in the form of a vase on a foot are sometimes seen. Some of the latter were made from satinwood, inlaid or painted.
Lanterns. We do not usually think of a hall-lantern as a piece of furniture, but Chippendale has designs for them in his Director, and one made to his pattern is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Old wood ones are very rare, but gilt metal examples, especially of Adam design, are to be seen. Many of them date from long after the eighteenth century.
Mirrors. The first mirrors to be used in England were flat plates of highly polished metal-called 'steel', but actually an alloy of copper and tin-they were of small size and very heavy. Venice had a monopoly of making mirror-glass, and it was exported from there to the rest of Europe. In the seventeenth century Venetian workers began to make it in England, and the use of glass mirrors for personal use and for decoration became widespread.
At first they were framed in a similar manner to paintings, and it is difficult to decide whether a seventeenth-century frame was made for a picture or a mirror. Those known as 'cushion-shaped', with a deep rounded edge, veneered with walnut, carved, inlaid with marquetry or lacquered, were among the earliest made.
By the end of the century, very large mirrors had become fashionable. There was a limit to the size of a sheet of glass that could then be made, so a frame was filled sometimes with more than one sheet, and often bordered with a number of smaller ones. The mantelpiece in the principal room of a mansion would have a large mirror over it, and these overmantel mirrors were sometimes framed in walnut and gilt wood; the frame also incorporating an oil painting and filling the entire space above the fireplace. Overmantel mirrors continued to be made, and their styles followed those of wall mirrors down the years.
During the reigns of Queen Anne and George I, many small mirror-frames were made, and these were veneered with walnut sometimes enriched with gilt carving. Many of them survive today, but the greater proportion of so-called Queen Anne mirrors are little more than thirty years old.
Gilding continued in fashion, and mirrors appeared in frames of pinewood brightly gilt and carved flatly in gesso-a type of plaster composition which could be carved and smoothed and took the gold-leaf in a satisfactory manner. By 1735-40 taste had changed once more, and large mirrors of severe design with tall rectangular glasses were appearing on fashionable walls.
Mirror frames were the object of great attention from carvers and gilders throughout the eighteenth century; the most elaborate examples of their work came in the middle years. Then, fashion allowed them to incorporate what they pleased on the frame: shepherds and shepherdesses, Chinese gods, waterfalls, sea-shells, ruined temples and bouquets of flowers vie for attention on some of the extreme examples, which are masterpieces of the carver's art. Following these exuberances, came the more restrained style set by the Adam brothers. Frames were then often oval in shape, and embellished with honeysuckle, husks and winged seated griffins. At the end of the eighteenth century, the frame was even more plain, and the most popular ones had the glass flanked by a column at either side, and sometimes with a painting on glass at the top.
Although it had been known for many hundreds of years, the circular convex mirror was not widely popular until early in the nineteenth century, when many examples were made. Most of them had a moulding of ebony surrounding the glass, a deeply moulded gilt frame decorated with gilt balls, and an eagle with outstretched wings at the top. The eagle often holds a chain with a gilt ball at the end of it, and many of the mirrors have arms for holding candles, the best examples fitted with hanging cut-glass drops.
Small mirrors on stands for use on the dressing table-toilet mirrors-were framed in silver, and often with needlework. Those supported on uprights and a base fitted with drawers were introduced about 1700. Many were veneered with walnut, or lacquered. Mahogany examples, of late eighteenth-century date, are often inlaid and fitted with oval or shield-shaped mirrors. In about 1800, the mirror became oblong in shape, horizontal instead of upright, due to changing fashions in hairdressing, and the uprights supporting it were turned instead of square or moulded.
About 1790, cheval mirrors, large dressing mirrors on movable stands with casters, came into use. Most of them have frames of mahogany, but sometimes they are of rosewood or satinwood.
Pembroke Tables. These have folding flaps, which can be supported on hinged concealed brackets at each of the longer sides of the rectangular top. The legs of the earlier ones are square and tapered, but by about 1790 they change to round ones with turned ornament. They came into use about 1750, and are said to owe their name to a Countess of Pembroke who first ordered one. The Pembroke table was made in mahogany, satinwood, and sometimes harewood, and decorated with inlay and painting; frequently they show workmanship of the highest quality.
Pier Tables. Tables made for placing against the piers of a room: the areas of wall between windows. Originalty they had mirrors above them. They are sometimes called side tables.
Screens. These have two purposes; to keep away draughts from doors and windows, and to ward off the heat of a fire. Draught screens were first imported at the end of the seventeenth century from China, and they are made of lacquered wood with designs in gold and colours, or with the designs incised (Bantam or Coromandel Lacquer). Many are of eight or ten folding panels, and they stand up to eight or more feet in height. Screens of similar folding type, but not quite so large, were made with panels of painted or embossed leather.
Fire screens are small and portable, and date also from the late seventeenth century. The stands were of all styles, following the fashion of the time when they were made, and the screen itself often held a panel of tapestry or needlework.
Settees and Sofas. A settee is understood to mean a chair with space for more than one person to sit, and a sofa is a larger piece of furniture with room on it to recline. Neither of the terms seems to have come into general use until the early eighteenth century, but some settees with tall backs in the form of two chairbacks joined together date from about 1680. Shortly, they became very fashionable, and elaborately carved and heavily upholstered examples were made. Most of them reveal considerably more fabric and trimming than they do woodwork. In about 1730 there came a reversion to the first style, and the settee appeared again like an armchair but having the back in duplicate or triplicate, side by side. This type continued to be made throughout the eighteenth century, but the upholstered variety was made as well; each conforming in outline and detail to the fashion of the time when it was produced.
The love seat is a very narrow settee or sofa with only just sufficient space for two persons to sit on it; hence its name. Many early eighteenth-century armchairs were widened ruthlessly into love seats about thirty-five years ago, when the demand for them greatly exceeded the supply.
Settles. A settle is a bench with arms and a back. Many of them had seats that were hinged to reveal lockers. They date back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, but most surviving examples are of seventeenth-century make and are usually of oak. By about 1700 they were being made on legs and without lockers beneath the seats, and cannot be distinguished from settees.
Sideboards and Sidetables. The dresser, mentioned earlier, before it was fitted with shelves, was a sidetable. Early in the eighteenth century these were highly carved and often gilt, had no drawers, and were topped with a slab of coloured or white marble. By 1760, they were of mahogany with a top of the same timber, and Chippendale prints designs for several of this type. It was Robert Adam who added a pair of pedestals, one at either end of the table, but it was nearly 1780 before the sideboard was given drawers and became the article recognized today. One of the drawers was usually fitted with divisions lined with lead or zinc to hold wine-bottles. Until about 1800 they were supported on square tapered legs, but later these were turned. Great care was lavished by their makers on sideboards, and the choicest figured woods were chosen for veneering and inlay.
In the first quarter of the nineteenth century a further modification in design took place, and the sideboard comprised a pair of pedestals with a single drawer between, but unlike the earlier Adam type these were in one piece.
Sofa Tables. A sofa table is not unlike a Pembroke table, having similar folding flaps which are hinged and can be raised and held by concealed brackets. The flaps are, however, at the narrow ends of the top, and the supports of the table vary in design; they are never straight, as in the Pembroke. Those with supports in the form of a lyre are the most esteemed. The sofa table came into use about 1800, many were made of rare woods and were highly finished, and good examples fetch high prices.
Stands. A number of types of stands were made at all periods, and they include candle and lamp stands and urn stands. The first were made in pairs or sets, and varied in height from three to four feet. The urn stand was a small table on which a tea-urn was placed when tea was taken; tea being expensive and teapots therefore of small size, the latter needed refilling frequently. Thus, a kettle on a stand with a spirit-lamp beneath was a part of the tea service during the eighteenth century, and a small table on which it could stand was made for the purpose. Most have four legs, there is a low gallery or rim round the top, and a slide on which the teapot could rest while being filled. Circular-topped small tables on tripod bases were perhaps made for the same purpose, but nowadays are usually called wine tables.
Steps. Portable sets of steps were made in the eighteenth century for use in libraries. Many were ingeniously designed to fold away and be transformed into a table, others became a chair. Steps were made also for the purpose of climbing into a bed.
Stools. Stools are shown in illuminated manuscripts dating back to the twelfth century, but none survive that are older than about 1500. Those of the seventeenth century are the oldest usually to be met with outside museums and stately homes, and are of the simple pattern called coffin stools, or more recently, joint stools. They are supported on turned legs which splay outwards slightly and are united by plain stretchers, the tops usually having a moulded edge. The majority are of oak, and their sturdy dowelled construction has kept them intact for three centuries.
With the Carolean tall-back chairs came stools with carving to match the cresting and legs of the chair, and upholstery that replaced the hard wooden seat used previously.
Most of the stools made in the eighteenth century, whether in walnut or mahogany, follow the styles in fashion for chairs: from the cabriole leg with ball-and-claw or lion's-paw foot to the variety seen in Chippendale's Director.
In past years stools have received attention from furniture fakers, and many have been made from chairs; equally, the process has been reversed and stools have been transformed on occasion into chairs. The underneath framework will usually show what has happened if it is given a very thorough examination.
Tea Tables. Portable tables for holding tea-ware came into use with the introduction of the beverage late in the seventeenth century. The most familiar are the circular-topped mahogany examples made between 1740 and 1780, supported on tripod bases. These were often carved elaborately, and some had tops with shaped and moulded edges, known as 'pie-crust' from the slight resemblance they bear to that pastry. Tables of folding-top card-table type, but with the insides of the tops polished were used also for serving tea.
Trays. Eighteenth-century wooden serving trays were made in mahogany and other woods; inlaid oval examples in the Sheraton style replacing mahogany ones with pierced or brass-bound rims.
What-nots. Square tiers of open shelves, four or five in number, with corner supports and, usually, a drawer in the base, used for holding ornaments or books, etc. They were made principally in mahogany or rosewood from about 1800.
Wine-Coolers and Cellarets. A wine-cooler is a receptacle for cooling wine, a cellaret for storing a few bottles of it. The essential difference is that a cellaret usually has a cover and the cooler has not. They both came into use about 1730, and were made of mahogany with a lead lining. Some were inlaid elaborately or mounted in cast gilt metal, but the majority were bound with plain bands of brass.
Window Seats. Towards the end of the eighteenth century there was a fashion for wide stools with upturned ends, and these were then called window stools. Designs for them are shown by Hepplewhite in 1788, and they were made in mahogany and in gilt wood.
Work Tables. A small table with a hinged top concealing spaces for sewing accessories, which was introduced late in the eighteenth century. Many have a silk-covered hanging bag, and the top is sometimes inlaid with squares for chess. Many were elaborately made and highly finished with painting and inlay.
Writing Tables. There is confusion between writing tables and desks, but the latter are generally those with tiers of drawers to the ground, whereas a writing table is on tall legs. These were made throughout the eighteenth century, but became more popular towards the end of the period. About 1790, the Carlton House type was introduced; this has rounded ends at the back with low tiers of drawers facing the writer. Not a great number would seem to have been made, and surviving old examples are very rare. Mostly they are of mahogany, but a few are known in satinwood. Copies have been made since about 1900, and these may deceive the unwary.