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Furniture (R) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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RABBETTING: A term in carpentry for the recess or rebate in or near the edge of one piece to receive the edge of another piece cut to fit it.

RACKS: Letter Racks. First appeared in England about the middle of the 18th century, sometimes quite decorative in form.

Pipe Racks. Various styles were made in England for the accommodation of the clay pipes with long stems in vogue in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some were vertical in form, others horizontal -all with spaces for several pipes and for the spill holders.

Spoon Racks. Racks for holding metal spoons date from the Elizabethan period. The common form was of oak, sometimes painted or carved, with two or three narrow shelves pierced or slotted for spoons, and a box, with or without a lid, at the bottom for knives and forks. They are considered as being of Dutch origin.

RAIL: A horizontal member of the frame of chairs or other cabinet work. The ends were formed as tenons to slide into mortises cut in vertical members.

RAKE: The angle or slant of chair or settee back.


REEDING: Wood carved in convex relief in parallel lines. Resembling the reverse of fluting, which is sunk or grooved.


RENAISSANCE PERIOD (1450-1650): A change in style of furniture followed the revival of classic form in architecture. The Renaissance had its birth in Italy and all Europe took its artistic inspiration from Italy. This period saw a tremendous increase in the art of comfort. In France, the styles from the beginning of the 16th century to the middle of the 17th (Louis XIV) shov a rapid assimilation of Italian design coupled with French ideas. England followed the lead of Italy and France more slowly, producing cruder and simpler but sound designs and the style was well established during the reign of Elizabeth. Construction was generally solid and massive, allowing bold carving and elaborate inlays. The honeysuckle, acanthus, bead molding, rosettes, medallions, etc., were used in place of the characteristic details of the Gothic period. There was a great increase in the quantity and variety of furniture. Chairs were more commonly used; the four-posted bedstead took the place of the paneled recess. The principal wood used was walnut, and the upholstery was largely of crimson velvet with gold fringe.

REPAIRS AND RESTORATION: The problem of deciding whether to purchase a piece of old furniture, in a condition requiring more or less repairing or restoration, may usually be solved if one gives consideration to three important principles: first, if the piece is of a rare or of a good, representative type, will it warrant making substantial repairs or restoration; second, if when restored, if it is not of an unusual or rare type, will it then become a useful piece for your home and third, if it will also fit in with your general scheme of furnishing. If it would not be useful or if it would be incongruous, it should be rejected. A piece of furniture is not always desirable simply because it is old. To combine the French or Italian styles in the same room with early American would be distinctly inharmonious. English and American furniture usually combine pleasantly.

REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD (American) (1775-1789): During the Revolutionary War, the production of the cabinet-makers was very much limited, but following 1780 their efforts were again directed to meeting the needs of the American people, whose supplies of furniture from England had been cut off by the war. The eagle was adopted as a national emblem, long before the eagle of the Empire period, and it began to appear as a design feature. Furniture of the Chippendale style was still popular, and the designs of Hepplewhite and Adam were treated with characteristic simplicity and with careful attention to structural details. The Philadelphia cabinet-makers, perhaps, were the leaders during this era.

RIBBAND'BACK: A chair back with ribbon motif, having its origin early in the 18th century and a favorite with Chippendale and cabinet-makers of his time. See CHAIRS, Ribband'back.



ROCOCO: French, Rocaille (rock) Coquille (shell). A florid style of ornamentation common from 1740, designed from rocks and shells and of Chinese origin. It followed the Baroque style and was much used by the French and by Chippendale in his adaptation of the French style in his furniture. It had its best expression in the work of the French ebenistes.

ROMAYNE WORK: A method of ornamentation, chiefly 16th century, in which heads in medallion are introduced. It was an early Tudor adaptation of Renaissance details.

ROSETTE: A rose-shaped pattern used on the opposing curves of a bonnet top, etc. The rosette with a foliated decoration above the rosette is found on some of the best Philadelphia highboys, secretaries and clock cases.

ROSEWOOD: A native of various tropical countries, of different species, but all having the same weight, depth of color and wormresisting qualities. It was popular during the Empire period and was first used in this country about 1825. It was too hard for the cabinet-maker to work readily, it was brittle, and it was difficult to repair because of its resistance to glue.


ROUNDEL: A small circular ground for ornamentation.

RUNNER: A member of rectangular section, sliding in a groove or slot, also applied to the narrow strips added along the bottom edge of drawer sides. The fall fronts of desks are supported on runners, called by cabinet-makers, "lopers."

RUSH BOTTOMS OR SEATS: These were used extensively in England and in this country in Colonial times, as a cheap and durable seating for chairs. Made from dried rushes, the weaving to cover a required space called for considerable skill and experience.

RUSH LIGHTS: Used by pioneers in America, made by braiding or binding together the cato'-nine-tails and soaking them in tallow or oil. They were held on either wooden or iron stands. Such lights were also used in remote districts in England. They preceded candles. See LIGHTS, PART 5.