Antique Furniture Terminology


With the increasing popularity of antique furniture, many people are taking an interest in learning about these wonderful pieces for the first time. However, the list of antique furniture terminology is extensive, which can often be overwhelming for those new to antiques.

As such, we have curated an alphabetical list of some key antique furniture terminology that you may encounter on the Penderyn Antiques website and beyond, along with some short explanations and images to help you get to grips with the basics. So keep reading if you would like to learn more about antique furniture terminology!


An apron is a shaped wooden panel found at the base of a piece of furniture.


An armoire is a large, free-standing wardrobe or cupboard.



Antique Furniture Terminology

A bureau is a writing desk with a sloping fall-front. They typically have an angled top opening downwards, forming the writing surface.

Cheval Mirror

A cheval mirror is a full-length mirror attached to a base.



Antique Furniture Terminology

A coffer is a low chest with a lid.

Console Table

A console table is a small table intended to stand against a wall.

Drop Leaf


Antique Furniture Terminology

drop leaf hinges on the side of a table, dropping to the side when not in use.


Ebonized furniture is a piece that has been wood stained and polished black to appear ebony.


A finial describes an ornament at the end, top or corner of an object.


Fluting describes parallel, concave grooves.

Gateleg Table

A gateleg table has legs that pivot to support a drop-leaf. As such, they are a subset of drop-leaf tables.



Antique Furniture Terminology

Harlequin is used to describe a set of chairs that are similar but not identical.

Find out more about harlequin chairs here.

Kneehole Desk

A kneehole desk is a desk supported by two banks of cupboards with space for legs.



Antique Furniture Terminology

A lowboy is a small dressing table with four or six legs.

Nest of Tables

A nest of tables refers to a set of tables, with one large one housing one or more smaller tables.

Occasional Furniture

Occasional furniture refers to small pieces that can be made use of in different ways, depending on the occasion.


The word patina describes the mellow sheen seen on the surface of a piece of furniture due to hand-rubbing, exposure, age and wear.

Pedestal Desk


M 4091 Antique Oak Pedestal Desk 1 300x300 1

A pedestal desk is a free-standing desk with a rectangular working surface and two pedestals or small cabinets of stacked drawers with plinths around the bases (see below).


A plinth is a squared base or pedestal that supports a piece of furniture instead of legs.


A secretaire is an enclosed writing desk with drawers hidden by the writing surface.



M 3207 Antique Oak Settle with Panelled Back 1 300x300 1

A settle is a large, wooden bench. Typically, they have arms and a high back, with room to accommodate multiple seaters.


A sideboard is a large, flat-topped piece of dining room furniture with cupboards and drawers.


A tallboy is another word for a chest-on-chest. Essentially, it is a tall chest of drawers.


A whatnot is a mobile stand with shelves for small items.

If you’d like to learn more about other aspects of antiques click here to view our other educational blogs, and let us know if you’d like a part two of learning antique furniture terminology! If you’re looking for any specific pieces please get in touch we’re always happy to help!

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