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Furniture (S) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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SALTIRE, SALTIER: Stretchers in X-form of Italian origin, sometimes scrolled or in serpentine form with a finial in the center. Introduced into England toward the end of the 17th century.

SANDALWOOD: Yellow-brown in color, mostly used for making small pieces.


SATINWOOD: A hard, very close-grained light-colored wood obtained from both the East and West Indies. It takes a fine polish and was much used for inlaying by cabinet-makers from 1770 to 1820. Next to mahogany, it was a favorite wood in the designs of Robert Adam.

SATYR-MASK: The head or face of a satyr, much used in ornament of furniture, especially in England from 1730 to 1740.

SCAGLIOLA: An imitation of marble made in Italy from calcined gypsum, isinglass and glue. It was colored in red and white and black and gold and took a high polish. It was popular in England in the early 18th century.

SCALLOP: A carved design resembling the escallop shell, for edges or borders.

SCONES: The earliest type of wooden sconce as a support for candles dates from the middle of the 17th century, followed by carved and gilded patterns in early 18th century. See PART 5 for metal sconces.

SCREENS: Folding screens with two to six panels, the space within the frame of each leaf in panels of decorated wood, embroidered or painted textiles. See FIRE SCREENS.

SCROLL FOOT: A foot in the form of a double scroll. See FLEMISH FOOT.


SCRUTOIRE: French name for desk in 17th century, which later was called escritoire, and bureau. See SECRETARY, and ESCRITOIRE.

SEAT RAILS: The frame on which the seat is built.

SECRETARY: The form is evidently derived from the French escritoire. The secretary is a desk with a book-case or cabinet with shelves and doors sitting on top. It was one of the developments of the William and Mary period. The top of the earlier pieces was flat. Later, the broken arch came into fashion. The doors covering the upper section were either of paneled wood or were fitted with glass and the space behind was devoted to various purposes.

SEDAN CHAIR: A portable vehicle or covered chair, with side windows and an entrance through a doorway in front. Instead of being mounted on wheels, it was carried by means of poles on each side, passing through rings set in the body of the chair.

SERPENTINE FRONT: A front shaped with two concave curves with convex curve between, or vice versa.

SETTEE: Settees were in use from Carolean times onward. In the 18th century they usually took the form of a double chair back and were often referred to as a "love seat." They were also made to be upholstered on the back, the seat and the arms. In this country the settee of the Windsor type was produced and remained popular until well into the 19th century. See SOFAS.

SETTLE: Settles with arms and paneled backs were in general use all during Jacobean days. They seem to have been an evolution from the chest, and they were frequently carved in the same manner and design as the chests of the period. Early American settles were made with a high back and wing pieces at ends to ward off drafts, a drawer or locker underneath the seat, and sometimes with a shelf at the back for a candle. Occasionally they were carved, following the example of those made in England, but these carved American settles are rare.


SHAGREEN: A sharkskin of fine granular texture, but originally a species of untanned leather from the hide of a horse. Shagreen was fashionable in England in the 18th century.

SHAKER FURNITURE: The Shaker sect was founded in England and the founder and some followers settled near Albany, New York, in 1774, since which time they have spread into various states of the eastern part of this country. Wherever they settled, they carried with them the doctrine of simplicity in their household furnishings. All of their furniture is plain, but substantially made, with little or no attempt at decoration, but well adapted to the purpose for which it was intended. As time passed, chair- and cabinet-making became an industry, and much of their product was in use in other than Shaker homes.



SHELL ORNAMENT: A carved design in the form of a shell, either convex or concave. The shell was a favorite ornament in the Queen Anne period and with John Goddard on his block-front furniture. The scallop style of shell is to be preferred to the cockle shell.

SHERATON STYLE: While the styles of Sheraton and Hepplewhite overlap, and it is sometimes difficult to tell the styles apart, it must be conceded that Sheraton was the greater man of the two. His early furniture is distinguished by elegance of design, fine construction and graceful ornament. He was doubtless influenced by the designs of French cabinet-makers of the Louis XVI period, adapting them to English taste. Sheraton, in contrast with Hepplewhite, eliminated curves, working along straight lines almost entirely. Sheraton's chairs are the most original and most characteristic of all of his designs, the central panel usually rising slightly above the top rail. His arm-chairs have curved arms that flow into the back without a break. All of his chairs were very carefully planned to give strength where needed. He discarded the cabriole leg and used instead tapering or reeded legs. He employed the urn motive freely. His carving is generally applied in low relief. His sideboards are identified by the convex corner, while those of Hepplewhite are concave. He used mahogany and satinwood, delicate inlay and painted decoration. His preference was for inlay. The beauty of his style is its chaste.ness and the perfection of craftsmanship lavished upon it, and during the last decade of the 18th century and the earlier years of the 19th, Sheraton's influence dominated the style of English, and of course, of American furniture of the best type. His time is frequently referred to as the "Age of Satinwood." See THOMAS SHERATON, PART 6.

SHIELD-BACK: A feature of Hepplewhite style of chair backs.


SIDEBOARD AMERICAN: The sideboard at first was literally a board fixed against a wall for convenience: a shelf. To give it strength it had front legs; in time back legs were added and it became independent. It was then often called buffet. Sideboards as we know them are of comparatively recent origin, belonging to the latter half of the 18th century. The design is credited to Thomas Shearer, a contemporary of Hepplewhite. Both Hepplewhite and Sheraton followed his lead, but Sheraton carried the sideboard to fuller development than did Hepplewhite. Sheraton used the convex curve at the corners, while Hepplewhite's were concave. In other points they are often precisely alike. The sideboard with a straight front is usually of American make, as they were seldom made of that design in England. What is known as the hunters' sideboard, of plain construction and rather smaller in size than the usual sideboard, was characteristic of the southern part of this country early in the 19th century.


SLAT-BACK: A type of chair back much used in Colonial times with from three to five horizontal slats between the posts. It bears a strong resemblance to the ladderback of the 18th century. See CHAIRS, Slat-back.

SLATE: Slate had a limited use for mixing' table tops.



SPADE FOOT: A foot of a tripod table or stand, elongated to resemble a snake's head.

SNAKEWOOD: An extremely hard wood growing in Brazil, used for inlaying and veneering. It is reddish in color with black spats and marks.

SOFAS: The sofa differs from the settee (q.v.) and double chair. It is longer and it is entirely covered with upholstery, and did not appear in England until early in the 18th century. Those designed by Sheraton were in his usual good taste. After 1800, sofas, together with furniture of all kinds, followed the Empire style. The word "sofa" is derived from the Arabian word "suffah," meaning a couch.

SPANDREL: The irregular triangular space between the shoulder of an arch and the rectangular figure formed by the moldings over it. See SPANDRELS, PART 5.

SPANISH FOOT: A broad, hoof-like foot, turning slightly outward at the base and usually grooved. It dates from the 17th century and it retained its popularity for a long time.

SPANISH FURNITURE: The furniture builders of Spain never developed an exclusively national style. Roman, French and Moorish art fashioned Spanish furniture from the 11th to the 16th centuries, and in the 16th century Italian art provided the key note. Later, France and England were the dominating influences upon the Spanish craftsmen. Heaviness, massiveness and simplicity were the characteristics of Spanish furniture of the 17th and 18th centuries; walnut and oak were the woods used, and metal mounts were common. The upholstery was of velvets, heavily embroidered in gold. Leather was also much used for chair coverings, often finely tooled, gilded or painted. Cabinets, elaborately inlaid with ivory, bone, ebony or other colored woods, are typically Spanish.

SPINDLE: A slender turned vertical baluster or rod.

SPINDLE-BACK: Slender rods used on Windsor chairs.

SPINNING WHEEL: The spinning wheel had its origin in the Orient. It was brought to Europe about the time that Columbus discovered America. By use of it, wool, cotton and flax are converted into threads prepared for weaving. It was in early use in this country with the flax wheel. The wool-spinning wheel is larger in circumference than the wheel used for flax; it had no treadle and the spinner stood at her work. The flax wheel was an invention of the 16th century.

SPIRAL TURNING: A twisted form of lathe turning for legs in the Carolean period. There was also a hand carved spiral twist used at about the same time.

SPLAT: The central portion of the chair back, connecting the top and seat rail. It succeeded the carved wood and cane filling of the late 17th century. During the Queen Anne period it was plain and unpierced. Later, under Chippendale's designs, the splat became very elaborate.

SPLINT SEATS: This was a form of seating used extensively in Colonial times and later with slat-back chairs. They comprised thin strips of ash, woven basket-fashion and turned over the seat rails, as were the rush seats. The splint seat was cheaper but less durable.

SPOOL TURNING: Continuous turning of spool-like pattern.

SPOON-BACK: The shaping of the chair back to fit the contour of the occupant. This was a development of the Queen Anne period.


SQUAB CUSHIONS: Movable cushions for chairs and settes.

STANDISH: A dish or tray for a desk made of wood, sometimes of metal, in which were set boxes or stands for ink and sand.


STENCILED FURNITURE: Just who discovered that stencils could be used for the speedy decoration of furniture we do not know. Stenciled wall papers were produced from 1760 to 1785 and stenciling had been in use on cloth, plaster walls, pottery, wood and glass before its adoption for furniture, early in the 19th century. It soon became very popular, and not only chairs were decorated in this manner, but tables, clocks, beds and trays were included, and its use resulted in lower labor costs. Gold leaf was used with the various colors in the designs. Stenciled chairs were to the 19th century what Windsor chairs had been to the 18th. Modern stenciled work is made comparatively easy through use of stencils made of metal or of oiled cardboard.

STILES: The vertical members of frames of furniture or paneling. Upper and lower rails of furniture are set into the stiles with mortise and tenon joint, usually.

STITCHED-UP SEATS: The upholstery on these seats comes down to the lower edge of the seat frame, concealing it.

STOOLS: The stool was in common use throughout medieval times, and until the Carolean period it served the purpose in conjunction with the bench (form) for seats around the table. This stool was known as the joint (joyned) stool, indicating that it was put together with mortise and tenon joints, and made fast with dowel pins. They, were made with three or four legs and were made in England of oak; in this country, where they were much used in Colonial times, they were made of oak, maple or birch. These stools were gradually displaced by chairs during late 17th century. In England, in the 18th century, stools in Foot Stools. These lowly stools first came into use in Queen Elizabeth's time, to keep the feet off the cold and dirty floor. They were then made of oak, but since that time various other woods have been used in their construction. Their frame followed the styles of the successive periods and early in the 18th century they were covered with brocade or needlework, and since that time have usually been upholstered.

STRAP-WORK CARVING: A type of ornament consisting of a narrow fillet or band, folded, crossed or interlaced, generally in repeated patterns. It is of the Elizabethan period and later.

STRAW MARQUETRY A process of decorating objects of various materials, such as wood, papier' mache, glass, metal or bone, employed by the Italians and French in the 15th and 16th and 17th centuries. The invention of this straw work is credited to the Chinese.

STRETCHERS: This name is given to the under-braces connecting the legs of chairs, tables and other furniture. They were in general use through all the periods up to the time of Queen Anne. The adoption of the cabriole leg of that time gradually displaced stretchers, and they disappeared almost altogether about 1730. Later in the century they were revived by Hepplewhite and other cabinetmakers of that period. Sometimes the front stretcher was set back or "recessed," between the two side stretchers. Another form known as saltire (q.v.) was connected with the four legs in X-shape. Doubtless, one important use of the stretcher in early times was to rest the feet upon, to keep them from the cold and often dirty floors.

STRINGING: A narrow band of light-colored wood used as inlay to contrast with the surrounding veneer. During the Empire



SUNDIAL: For many centuries the sundial was mankind's only means of telling the time of day, but useful only when the sun shone. They were made both in stationary and portable form; some of the latter, in size for the pocket, were very ornamental.

SWAG: A festoon of drapery, leaves or flowers, used as a carved, painted or inlaid decoration on furniture. It became prominent in the 18th century.

SWAN NECK: Opposed S curves, scrolling over at the top and finishing in patera. It was a favorite with Chippendale.

SWEDISH FURNITURE: A few years ago, considerable quantities of old Swedish furniture were sent to this country, where it met with ready sale because of its resemblance to early American furniture. This was in part due to the woods used, and in part to the unsophisticated style common to both countries. Swedish authorities have since forbidden any further export of native antiques.

SWELL FRONT: A convexly curved front, sometimes called bow front (q.v.).

SYCAMORE: A variety of maple used as a base for decorative surfaces. See HAREWOOD.