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Furniture & Interior Design Glossary Terms - A

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Abacus: The topmost member of the capital of a column.

Abrasion Wear: Distress or wear marks on fabrics, wood or metal. Created when a furniture or accessory surface experiences friction in use or handling.

Abstract: Style of design that uses general forms verses detailed realistic representations.

Acanthus Leaf: A leaf decoration often used on furniture, particularly on brackets and legs.

Accent Colors: Contrast colors used to enhance room color schemes.

Accent Lighting: Controlled and specifically focused lighting for accenting interior decor elements or architectural details.

Accessible Design: Interior and exterior design that meets prescribed requirements for people with disabilities. Guidelines and laws related to accessible design include such issues as standard dimensions and features such as door widths, clear space for wheelchair mobility, countertop heights, audible and visual signals, switch and outlet height, and more.

Accessories: Objects such as books, plants, vases, lamps, and decorative pieces. Find home accessories.

Acetate: A synthetic fiber made from cellulose, which is a common material in the cell walls of many plants. It is usually combined with other fibers to add a luxurious feel and appearance.

Acorn (or Acorn Turning): Turned ornament resembling an acorn; common in Jacobean furniture as finials on chair posts and bedposts, as pendants and as the profile of leg turnings in Jacobean tables.

Acrilan: A synthetic fiber used in producing Wear-Dated® fabrics.

Acroterium: Originally an ornament on the roof corners of Greek temples. In classical furniture, similar ornaments applied to the top corners of secretaries, bookcases, highboys and other furniture.

Acrylic: A synthetic fiber that's derived from a plant or chemical resin. Acrylic's best properties are its moderate strength and acceptance of brilliant color dyes. Acrylic also has a plush loft that will not flatten.

Adam Style: British neoclassical style that predominated during the later half of the 1700's. This style developed out of reaction to the more fanciful rococo style of the 1750's, and is characterized by slender, graceful lines, refined shapes and restrained ornamentation.

Adaptation: Furniture that captures the feel of an original design or period, but differs in some details.

Adelphi: Greek term meaning brother, which was the trade name of the three brothers Adam. These brothers are famous for the Adam style of the 18th Century.

Afghan: A coverlet or shawl of wool, knitted or crocheted in colorful geometric designs.

Ageing: Decorative technique used to create the effect of wear-and-tear on a wooden, painted, plastic or other surfaces.

Air Bed: A vinyl or rubber mattress core that's filled with air for support. Can be upholstered and covered with cushioning and ticking and be used in combination with a foundation. Find beds and mattresses.

Alcove: Recessed part of a room. Bed alcoves exist in Pompeian rooms, and such placing of the sleeping quarters was common in northern Europe through the Middle Ages and later. In the 18th Century special beds were designed to fit such recesses. Alcoves are also used for bookcases and cabinets, dining groups, etc.

Almery: A cupboard for doles of pensioners, family retainers.

Ambry: In medieval churches a recess for the storage of goods. The addition of doors gave it the cupboard form. The English equivalent became a large cupboard with doors; the interiors were fitted with shelves for storage.

Ambulantes: A small portable table.

American Colonial: Term loosely applied to all American furniture used by the colonies prior to the American Revolution. This style includes rough handmade pieces of the early American frontier, New England versions of Jacobean and Puritan (Cromwellian), furniture imported by settlers from Europe and Americanized versions of formal English and European designs. There is no clear division of this period but most agree to group it into Early Colonial and Late Colonial (American Provincial).

American Country: Simple designs originating from the earliest settlers in America during the Early Colonial period (see above). These pieces are very simple and often rough in design. This charming style is still very popular today.

American Frontier (American Primitive): This style of late 1700's to 1800's was created to meet the demands of the western frontier. Noted pieces include wagon seat twin chairs, sinks without plumbing, cupboards and cobbler's benches. Woods primarily used included ash, hickory, maple, black walnut and pine. Pieces of this period were usually painted black or in primary colors.

American Oriental: A machine-made domestic rug with Oriental design and colors to resemble a hand-tied Oriental rug.

Americana: Objects and decor items that are characteristic of American history or culture.

Amorini: Cupid ornaments found on Italian Renaissance furniture.

Angel Bed: A bed with a canopy but no front support. Find bedroom furniture.

Angora: Soft long hair of the Angora goat, often called mohair. The animal is native to Anatolia in the Angora province of Turkey.

Aniline Dye: Term applies to dyes derived from coal tar, which are used to color fabrics and leather.

Aniline-Plus: Term sometimes applied to leather finished with an opaque pigmented dye. Find leather furniture.

Anthemion: A honeysuckle design from classical Greek decorative motifs. Term refers to any conventional flower or leaf design.

Antique: Could be anything ranging from a piece of furniture to art. The U.S. government considers any item over 100 years old to be an antique, whereas most collectors use 50 years as a benchmark.

Antique Finish (or Antiquing): A paint or stain finish applied to an object to give an aged look.

Antique Satin: A drapery fabric that has a lustrous effect, normally made of rayon/acetate blends.

Antron: A registered Trademark of DuPont for Type 66 nylon fibers, which are used in many applications including fabrics.

Apothecary Chest: A low chest with small drawers that was originally used to store herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes. Find home accessory items.

Apron: The wooden panel connecting the surface and legs of a table or chair.

Arabesque: Decorative scroll work or other intricate ornamentation consisting of foliage, vases, leaves and fruits, or fantastic human and animal figures.

Arcade: A series of arches, with supporting columns or piers.

Area Rug: A small rug or carpet which covers only part of the floor. Find an area rug.

Arm Caps: Coverings, usually crafted from fabric, to protect the top surface of sofa and chair arms.

Arm Chair: Seating that has both a backrest and armrests. Find an arm chair for your living room or dining room.

Armoire: A tall wardrobe with doors and shelves for clothing, more recently armoires have been adapted for use as an entertainment center or computer workstation. Find an armoire.

Arrow Foot: A cylindrical foot that's tapered and separated from the leg by a turned ring.

Art Deco: A streamlined, geometric style of home furnishings and architecture popular in the 1920's and 1930's. Characteristics include rounded fronts, wood furniture with chrome hardware and, or, glass tops.

Art Glass: Decorative glass - includes stained, beveled, fused, blown, etched, leaded and cut.

Art Moderne: The Paris Expedition of 1925 introduced a fantastically modern design called Art Moderne. This styling is familiar because of its angular and straight shape. Geometric patterns are the main decoration.

Art Nouveau: Decorative style developed in France between 1890 and 1910. Tiffany lamps are a great example of this styles ornate and flowing lines.

Art Print: A print that is a reproduction of an original piece of artwork. Find an art print.

Artisan Style: A style characterized by fine but not overly ornate workmanship that celebrates the maker's community identity or ethnicity.

Arts & Crafts: Also commonly known as Mission style. This style was popular from the late 1800's through the 1920's. The Arts and Crafts movement was a reaction against the mass-produced and ornate Victorian furniture of that time.

Asian Style: A general term referring to styles of the Far East. Such as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean designs for example. Furniture with Asian characteristics are popular as a subset of contemporary style.

Astragal: Small, semi-circular molding applied to the glazing bars on cabinets and bookcases.

Attached Back Pillow: A pillow treatment that can't be removed from the upholstered piece, commonly found on sofas, loveseats and chairs.

Aubusson: A scenic tapestry used for wall hangings and upholstery. Named for Aubusson, France. Find a wall tapestry.

Austrian Shade (or Austrian Blind): A decorative window treatment with a scalloped lower edge. When the blind is drawn up it maintains the scalloped edge, creating folds of ruched fabric. Find shades and blinds.

Note: Some furniture glossary terms may no longer be in common use and are posted for reasons of historical interest.

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