Design Glossary


Anasa means comfort, joy, luxury, marvel, pleasure, prosperity in Swahili.

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.

Antique Finish (or Antiquing)

A paint or stain finish applied to an object to give an aged look.


The discipline dealing with the principles of design and construction and ornamentation of fine buildings; “architecture and eloquence are mixed arts whose end is sometimes beauty and sometimes use”

Art Nouveau

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

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.


A highly ornate decorative style that originated in Italy in the 1600’s. The style is characterized by irregular curves, twisted columns, elaborate scrolls and oversize moldings. The Italian equivalent of French “rococo”.


A style of the early 1900’s taking its name from the GermanSchool of Architecture. This minimalist style has had a great effect on contemporary architecture and furniture design. Functional modern furniture style developed in Europe during the 1920’s and 1930’s. The most important origin of this style was Germany’s Bauhaus School. Simple lines and an absence of decoration are hallmarks of this design. Popular materials used included chrome and glass.

Chinese Style

Chinese art and furniture design heavily influenced European furniture periods, particularly during the 1500’s through the 1800’s. Styles especially influenced include Chippendale, Regency, and Louis the XV styles. All Chinese furniture is lacquered and usually features relief carving for decoration. Most pieces are small and simple and rely on decorative details for their beauty. Most common woods on authentic pieces were teak, sandalwood, and bamboo. Chinese rugs and wallpaper are famous throughout the world.

Chi or Qi or Prana

The “life energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow”. The ancient Chinese described it as “life force”. The chi (qi ) permeated everything and linked their surroundings together. They likened it to the flow of energy around and through the body, forming a cohesive and functioning unit. By understanding its rhythm and flow they could guide exercises and treatments to provide stability and longevity


A term covering many styles of furniture that developed in the latter half of the 1900’s. Contemporary pieces have an updated look that’s softened and rounded compared with the stark lines of modern interior design.

Early American

American furniture design of the late 1600’s to early 1700’s (still popular today), adapted from popular European styles such as Jacobean and William and Mary. The look is characterized by straight lines and minimal decoration. The style has merged into what is now called Colonial, normally featuring elements of Queen Anne and Chippendale design.


A style of decorating combining furniture and accessories of various styles and periods.

English Style

The period distinctions of English furniture are somewhat indefinite owing to the variety of labels according to monarchs, designers, typical woods and external influences. Changes were happening so rapidly that primarily the type of wood used distinguished the boundaries of the English style.

Feng Shui

The Chinese art or practice of positioning objects, , buildings, furniture, and in ancient days-especially graves, based on a belief in patterns of yin and yang and the flow of chi that have positive and negative effects. It comes from Chinese feng wind + shui water the Chinese art of determining the most propitious design and placement of a building, room, etc., so that the maximum harmony is achieved between the flow of chi of the environment and that of the user. It is believed to bring good fortune

Finnish Style

Finnish furniture designers used bent and laminated (layers of solid wood) woods to create organic, humanistic forms and lightweight open shapes. These designers were also the first to experiment with tubular steel in furniture design.

French Provincial

Rustic versions of formal French furnishings of the 1600’s and 1700’s, such as the Louis XIV and Louis XV styles. Early French Provincial pieces were considered as peasant furniture.


Pieces from this period (late 1100’s to early 1500’s) were large with straight lines, and very heavy in weight and scale. Production often took place in monasteries and pieces were usually decorated with shapes of religious figures and detailed carving. The Gothic era introduced the Trestle table, stools, and cupboards. A famous piece of this era is the box chair. The box chair had paneled sides and back with a storage space under the seat. The dominant woods used in producing this style were primarily pine and oak.

Hitchcock Style

Style created by Lambert Hitchcock of Connecticut from the early to mid 1800’s. Although most famous for the design of Hitchcock chairs, Lambert also produced stools, settees, rockers, cabinets and cradles. The Hitchcock chair is still reproduced to this day.

Interior Design

The art or process of designing the interior decoration of a room or building.

Italian Renaissance

Popular through the 1400’s to 1600’s. Italian Renaissance furniture features a very rich appearance and is decorated with carving, inlay, and marquetry. Chairs have a very straight construction and are built with flat runners. Chairs usually have very sturdy stretchers. Tables are very big and elaborately decorated. Tables have stretchers and are rectangular in shape. Most pieces are made of walnut.


This furniture period spans almost the entire first half of the 17th Century from James I to Charles I reign. Many furniture specialists claim that all furniture of the 17th Century is influenced and encompassed by this design. Pieces are large, square or rectangular. Carving is intricate and done in a tasteful low relief style. Seats of chairs are flat and stretchers sit low on the frame. Stretchers are usually rectangular and show up on most tables and chairs. Oak is the dominant wood.


A hard, protective varnish that is applied as a topcoat to furniture.


This style originated in counties of the North Mediterranean Sea, such as Spain, Greece and Italy. Mediterranean has been popular since the 1500’s and is often referred to today as Spanish Modern. Mediterranean furniture ranges from simply functional to extremely formal. The style is characterized by being built short and squat with ornately turned legs and feet. The hardware used is usually heavy and often burnished. Primary woods used include pecan, chestnut, mahogany and walnut. Mediterranean can often mix with contemporary, country and provincial pieces.

Mission (or Mission Style)

This style grew out of the English Arts and Crafts movement and was a direct reaction against the ornate Victorian furniture styles of the time. Original Mission furniture was produced between about 1895 to 1910. Its styling is rooted in Southern California. Mission has absolutely no decoration and has a very sturdy simple construction. Desks, tables, and chairs are straight and legs are attached with stretchers. Chair backs have a slat design. Seats are usually made of cane or solid wood. Mission has a very utilitarian design and is almost always made of oak. Currently there is a resurgence of popularity in this design. Its simple basic look blends well with Shaker and Danish pieces.

Neo-Classic (or Neoclassicism, Neoclassical Style)

A design style that’s elegant and simple, with motifs borrowed from ancient Rome and Greece. This style was widely popular during late 1700’s through the 1800’s and relates to the Sheraton, Hepplewhite, Empire and Federal periods.

Palladian Style

Furniture styling based on designs from the mid 1500’s Italian architect Andrea Palladio. This furniture and decor style features very large and spectacular cornices, pediments and sculptural decorations of scallop shells, eagles, acanthus leaves and other motifs. Windows and columns in this style of decor still carry the Palladian name today.

Pennsylvania Dutch

Furniture style produced through the late 1600’s to mid 1800’s by German families settled around New York and Pennsylvania. They were commonly miscalled Dutch for “Deutsch”. The styling is simple with a sense of rustic utilitarianism and is normally squared with minimal rounding or turning. Decorations predominately include paintings of flowers, fruit, animals, human motifs and German script. Most popular woods were walnut, maple, fruitwoods and pine.

Queen Anne

The major furniture style/period of the 1700’s, which is noted for being rich and innovative in design. This design is elegant and characterized by graceful curved lines such as cabriole legs and broken scroll pediments.


Change the structure or form of (something, esp. a building, policy, or procedure). To make over in structure or style; reconstruct.

Renaissance Style

This furniture design movement began in Italy in the 13th Century and continued through the 17th Century. It often features ornamentation inspired by Michelangelo and Raphael. The furniture is true to the purpose of the piece and often incorporates mythological or biblical figures. Walnut is often the wood of choice.


Antiques or collectibles that have been brought back to their original condition through reconstruction, refinishing, and/or the replacement of parts. Restoring a significant piece can considerably decrease its value, which is important to consider before doing, or when buying a piece of furniture that may have been restored.


A contemporary retrospective view, which reinterprets some of the best-loved furniture looks from the 1930’s to 1980’s. The mood of these pieces is playful and ironic. The classics have extra emotional punch because you recognize such items as exaggerated Hollywood sofas, 1950’s boomerang tables or wacky 70’s chairs.


A simplistic furniture design including features such as straight, tapered legs, and woven-strap chair seats. Style originated in the mid 1770’s from an American religious sect (Shakers). The Shaker style is renowned for exceptional design and craftsmanship combined with functionality and beauty.


Contemporary style which is highly influenced by Native American Indian traditions. Light-colored woods, light and bright color palettes, rich patterns and desert scenery characterize the style.

Toile (Toile De Jouy)

A plain-woven cotton fabric printed with a repeat pattern of country settings, animals, people or other objects printed on a solid background of one color in another color.


Traditionally styled furniture is available in both original antique pieces and quality reproductions. This type of furniture usually follows a particular period style such as Georgian, Tudor, Regency or Louis XV.


A style of design that blends influences from various style categories.


Furniture such as sofas and chairs covered in fabric, vinyl, leather or other materials.


A furniture style named after England’s Queen Victoria, which was very popular through the latter half of the 1800’s. Victorian furniture was usually constructed of mahogany, walnut and rosewood in dark finishes, which were often highlighted with elaborate carved floral designs. Common elements of this style include oval chair backs and marble tops on tables and dressers.

William & Mary

This style is named after the 17th Century English King and Queen. This style came to America in the early 1700’s. Common pieces of this style included high-backed upholstered armchairs, highboys, lowboys, etc. The elements of this design include features such as curved lines, marquetry, bun or ball feet, inlay and oriental lacquer-work.

Wrap Group

Bedroom furniture that’s usually designed for children’s bedrooms to go against the walls so it can wrap around a room. Wrap groups often include small chests, dressers, student desks and hutches. They make a great use of limited space and provide a lot of storage.

Yin and Yang

In Chinese philosophy, the concept of yin-yang (simplified Chinese;  which is often called “yin and yang”, is used to describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world; and, how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many natural dualities (such as male and female, light and dark, high and low, hot and cold, water and fire, life and death, and so on) are thought of as physical manifestations of the yin-yang concept. The concept lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Yin and yang are actually complementary, not opposing, forces, interacting to form a whole greater than either separate part; in effect, a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, (for instance shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation.