Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What's in a Name?

How about a handy naming guide! I see some confusion around the web in terms of what names refer to what pieces of furniture. Since I handle antiques and furniture both in my full time job and in my hobby, I thought I'd share a little of what I've learned over the years. Below I've included pictures and the official terms for various pieces of furniture. This will probably be a multi-part series, but here's a good start.
Bonnet top Highboy
can also be called a high chest.
This is a two part piece. The top case of drawers can be removed from the bottom portion for transport. We often see these pieces separated from each other over the years, with the bottom portion being used as a server, and the top portion given feet and used as a tall chest. Also sometimes we see a top and bottom joined together that didn't start life together, we call this a marriage, and it greatly decreases the value. This is generally considered the highest form of furniture design, and garners a similarly high price tag, especially for an original 18th century piece.

Flat Top Highboy
Can also be called a flat top high chest.
This is in essence the same form of furniture as the bonnet top above, but without the added decorative element of the curved pediment that creates the bonnet top. These are a good option for folks with lower ceilings.

can also be called a dressing table
Not be confused with a separated highboy bottom. These are more petite in dimension and will have an original, sometimes shaped top board. These are rarer than highboys, and highly valued. Last year we had a matched Massachusetts highboy and lowboy-rare as chicken's teeth and truly spectacular!

Tall Chest
This is not a highboy. That's the most common naming mistake I see floating around the internet. The idea here is pretty standard- it's a chest, it's tall. It's a tall chest.

Can also be called a dresser or bureau
Chest is the most academically correct term for this piece, but it tends not to be descriptive enough so it can also be called a bureau, or at times dresser.

Slant Front Desk
There's a lot of common names for this- Governor Winthrop Desk, fall front desk, but the most correct name for it is slant front desk. 
Basically, this is a slant front desk with a a bookcase on top. As with highboys, these are in two parts, so beware of marriages, and also they can come in both the flat top and bonnet top versions. 
Wing Chair
Sometimes this is called a Queen Anne chair. That is not a correct term since Queen Anne describes a period of furniture, and wing chairs were made in the Federal and Chippendale periods as well. 

Drop Leaf Table
Because, as you can see, the leaves drop down. 

These a petite little side tables that were used to hold, you guessed it, candles. This version happens to have a dish top, a particularly nice feature. 

Tall Case Clock
Which is a more appropriate term than the less professional and more colloquial "grandfather clock"

Card Table
These were primarily made during the Federal Period - 1790-1820. This shape is called half round, five leg, though they come in other shapes as well. 

Stepback Cupboard
A more country piece of furniture, but none the less useful and charming. These can be found with glass doors, referred to a glazed top, or with open shelving.

 I hope this helps, and feel free to ask questions!!

1 comment:

  1. One of my favorite parts about your blog is the lessons!
    Thank you! That was great!