Old And Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace
Antiques Digest Browse Auctions Appraisal Home

Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Furniture (B) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

[ A |  B |  C |  D |  E |  F |  G |  H |  I |  J |  K |  L |  M |  N |  O |  P |  Q |  R |  S |  T |  U |  V |  W-Z ] 

Other Encyclopedias: [Biography]  [Clocks And Watches]  [Furntiure]  [Glass]  [Metals]  [Pottery And Porcelain]  [Textiles] 




BALUSTER: (or Banister) A small, slender turned column, usually swelled outward at some point between base and top. Sometimes split vertically, it is used for the uprights of a chair back or for ornament on chests and cupboards. A characteristic of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.

BANDING: An inlay contrasting either in color or grain with the surface of the wood it is intended to decorate. In the second half of the 18th century banding became very decorative, a great variety of exotic woods being employed.

BANDY LEG: Another name for CABRIOLE LEG (q.v.).


BANISTER-BACK: Chair back made of vertical pieces of baluster shape. See CHAIRS, BanisterBack.


BAROMETER: An instrument for measuring the weight or pressure of the atmosphere, indicating changes of the weather and altitude of any place. The first barometer was made by Torricelli, an Italian, about the middle of the 17th century. The wheel or dial barometer, now most often seen, became popular second half of 18th century.

BAROQUE: A style of Italian origin, characterized by conspicuous curves, scrolls and highly ornate decoration. In general terms it exhibits an over-emphasis on detail. English furniture of the transitional late 17th-century period displays a tendency to baroque ornament, and it is to be seen in the carving of Philadelphia Chippendale furniture. Baroque is the Italian antecedent to the French Rococo (q.v.).


BAS-RELIEF: (Basso-RELIEVO) Carved work, the figures of which project less than half of their true proportions from the surface on which they are placed.


BEAD: A small molding of nearly semi-circular section, sometimes with rounds and ovals, used either flush with the adjacent surface or raised above it. Also called cockle bead.

BEAUFAIT: Variously spelled: beaufat, buffet, beaufett. In this country a corner cupboard extending to the floor and finished to correspond with the paneling of the room was usually called beaufait. They were usually built-in. See Cur' BOARDS, Corner.

BEDS: The bedstead, sometimes in England called bedstock, is the frame upon which the bedding is placed. Rooms set apart for sleeping were unknown in medieval times. Beds with their heavy framework and concealing curtains were, in effect, separate sleeping chambers. They were the most striking feature of the furniture of the Middle Ages. The tester, or roof, and the back were of paneled wood. The tester was supported in the front by two posts and the curtains depended from the tester. Beds of this description were succeeded by the four-post kind in the time of Henry VIII, which continued to be the vogue until the end of the 18th century. The four-poster beds of the Queen Anne period were all upholstered, posts, tester, headboard and base, with velvet or other textiles so that little of the woodwork was shown. In the Georgian period, the back posts were usually plain as they were concealed by the curtains. The front posts were ornamented by carving. In the 18th century the standard width of the bed was four feet and an extra charge was made for beds wider than that. Bedsteads in use in this country in the 17th century were usually made of oak, but in the 18th century maple, cherry, walnut, and mahogany were all used. The surest indications of an early style in bedposts are great height and slenderness.

Day Beds. The day bed came into use in England in the days of the Stuarts and it was the forerunner of the present-day reclining couch or lounge. The day bed corresponds to the French chaise-longue and was also known as settee and stretcher bed. They were usually made of walnut with carved stretchers and six or eight scroll or turned legs, and the head-rest was frequently adjustable. They were both caned and made for cushions. See Couches.

Field Beds. An American bed with light, curving bars overhead in place of heavy tester. This was called a sweep and when covered with draperies produced somewhat the effect of a tent. The posts were about six feet high, of a graceful design, made of native hard woods or mahogany. They came into use about the middle of the 18th century and were popular for a long time.

Folding Beds. In use in this country in Colonial times. The side rails were fitted with a hinged joint, and by this means the main part of the bed was folded up against the head and covered by curtains attached to the top of the head.

Great Bed of Ware. Presumed to have been made about 1570 for the Earl of Huntington of Ware Park. It is an example of monumental English Renaissance construction and it is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It is about twelve feet square and it figures frequently in the literature of the last three centuries.

Press Beds. Also a folding bed but designed so as to fold up into a closet made to fit the bed. The door was then closed or curtains drawn over it during the day. Sometimes called "Cupboard" beds.

Sleigh Beds. These beds of the Empire period had rolling curved head and foot beards and no posts. They were massive and plain and patterned after the French style.

Stump Beds. A bed without a footboard.

Tent Beds. See Field Beds.

Truckle (or Trundle) Beds. A small low bed, which could be pushed under the larger bed when not in use. A relic of the days when every nobleman needed a faithful and armed guard to sleep at his feet all night.

BEECH: A hard wood used in Tudor days for chairs. It was also used to some extent in this country in Windsor chairs. Sheraton and his contemporaries made use of it for chairs which were to be painted or gilded. It is comparatively soft, the color varying from white to pale brown.

BELLOWS: For creating a blast of air. The two boards and handles were often elaborately carved and gilded and the metal nozzle cast in various designs.

BENCH: In England known as "form." Here it was, in Colonial days, simply an elongation of the stool and used for seating at table. See FORMS.

BERGERE: A French arm-chair with a very wide seat, upholstered sides and solid upholstered back. It was a feature of the Louis XV period. See FAUTEUIL.

BIBLE-BOX: The Bible-box was common in cottage and farm in the days of oak and when the Bible was the only book owned. These boxes were usually about 28 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 10 inches deep, with a flat lid, although smaller ones are frequently seen. They were often carved and fastened with a strong lock with a large piped key. The so-called desk of the period was similar, although somewhat larger and made with a sloping lid.

BIEDERMEIER FURNITURE: A type of German furniture modeled after the styles of the Empire Period and in fashion from about 1815 to 1850. The materials used were inexpensive fruit woods with gilt and embossed metal decorations. Black horsehair upholstery was common.



BILSTED: The name given to the wood of the red sweet-gum tree, used in cabinetmaking, sometimes as a substitute for mahogany. It was much used in early New York furniture.

BIRCH: Birch wood is close-grained, generally hard, susceptible of high polish, and it was much used by early cabinet-makers in this country and in England. It was also sometimes used as a substitute for satinwood.


BLOCK FOOT: A square vertical-sided foot at base of straight, tapered leg. Swelling projections on drawer fronts and doors, the "block" and the surrounding lower parts being cut usually from one solid piece of wood. Although the block front is claimed as an American invention, there is evidence of its earlier use in Holland, but its perfection came at the hands of American craftsmen. The best and more ornate examples were made in the 18th century in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

BOG OAK: Oak preserved in peat bogs. Used as inlay with holly and other woods in Tudor times. See OAK.

BOLECTION: That portion of a group of moldings which projects beyond the general surface of a panel.

BOMBE: (French, to bulge, to jut out). Kettleshaped contour in furniture, frequently to be seen in Dutch furniture and English furniture of the William and Mary period.

BONNET TOP: A curved or scroll top or pediment which made its appearance in England in the Queen Anne period. See BROKEN ARCH and PEDIMENT.

BOOK-CASES: As a piece of domestic furniture their history cannot be carried back beyond the time of Charles II. The book-cases of Queen Anne's reign are marked by extreme simplicity, excellent in proportion. Chippendale and Adam, Hepple' white and Sheraton gave particular attention to their style and construction. The later ones were usually in three sections, sometimes quite large, and with a desk arranged in the center section, known here as a break-front secretary book-case.

BOSS: A circular or oval protuberance for surface ornament. It came into use in England by way of the Low Countries.

BOSTON ROCKER: It is derived from the Windsor chair and it was one of the most popular chairs ever made. See CHAIRS, Rocking.

BOULLE: (Also spelled, sometimes, Buhl). Tortoise-shell and metal inlay much used in France during 18th century, said to have been invented by Andre Charles Boulle (q.v., PART 6). That this form of decoration originated in Italy is claimed by some authorities.

BOW FRONT: A front that curves outward from side to side. Also called swell front.

BOX: One of the most primitive forms of furniture, coeval with the chest and differing from it in size only. The early boxes were made with a flat lid, and with a sloping lid, and they were used for a variety of purposes such as a Biblebox (q.v.) and for writing purposes (see DESK). The plain box eventually became the somewhat elaborate casket of the 17th century and the work-box of the 18th.

BOXWOOD: A yellowish-orange wood used for inlay and marquetry. It has a fine uniform grain.

BRACKET: The piece of wood, of bracket shape, used in the angle made by the top and the leg of a piece of furniture.


BRACKET CORNICE: A cornice molding supported by brackets attached to the frieze, a feature of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.

BRACKET FOOT: A two-way foot in bracket or ogee form succeeding the Bun Foot about 1690.

BRACKETS: Designed for supporting busts, candelabra or vases. These came into use in the 17th and continued throughout the 18th century, and many of them were elaborately carved and gilded. In this country they were often seen supporting the so-called Banjo clock. See CONSOLE.

BREAK FRONT: The term denotes the front line of a sideboard or other piece of furniture, broken by the center portion's being advanced or recessed. It is also applied to a broken pediment.

BROKEN ARCH: An arch in which the cornice is not complete but lacks the central section. It was very popular in England and in this country from about 1715 to 1800. The swan-neck form consists of opposed S curves, scrolling over at the top and finishing in patera (q.v. ). See PEDIMENT.

BUFFET: A heavy English table of the 17th century placed against the wall for the display of plate and for convenience in serving. It was evolved from the hutch and was probably also known as a cupboard. It usually had three open shelves supported by columns in front and at the back and some of the older ones contain small drawers.


BUN FOOT: Sometimes called ball foot. A flattened ball used last half of 17th century and replaced in England about 1690 by the braclset foot.

BUREAU: English and French term for the Desk (q.v.). In this country it is used to indicate a chest of drawers, usually for the bedroom. See CHESTS, Bureaus.

BURL: Name given to a veneer formed of transverse slices of the roots or excrescences on trees, caused by abnormal growth, such as large knots.