Furniture terms S - U

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Sabre Leg: A reeded curved leg, another term for a scrolled leg.

Saddle Seat:  A heavily scooped seat resembling a saddle.

Sapwood: The newest wood, growing farthest from the heartwood or center.

Scallop: Traditionally, this is a decorative carving that resembles a sea shell. The term may also apply to an edge that curves gently in, then out and then in again, usually at the corner of a table or the rail or slats of a chair.

Sconce:  A lamp or candle holder that is designed to hang from or be attached to a wall. Sconces have back plates to conceal the attachment point.

Scoop Seat: A chair seat that has been shaped to better fit the human anatomy. Also called a saddle seat.

Scribe:  A process of marking and shaping wood to fit up against another surface as tightly as possible.

Scroll: A decorative method of carving a backsplash or a chair or table leg which gives the piece the look of wrapped or scrolled paper.

Seasoning: The process of lowering the moisture content of wood. This is often done in a kiln where wood is stacked with spacers between each layer to allow dry air to flow past the wood.

Secretary Desk: A desk with a gallery of pigeon holes and small drawers with larger drawers under the desk. The lid to the gallery folds down to become the writing surface.

Serpentine Front: The front of a chest of drawers or other case piece that has a gracefully curved front.

Serving Table: Similar to a buffet, The serving table stands taller than a table top and has doors and drawers to hold linen, silverware and place settings.

Settee: The forerunner of the loveseat, the settee is similar in length but usually has a higher back.

Shaker Furniture: 19th century furniture made by the Shakers, it is exquisitely simple and well made.

Sideboard: Similar in appearance and function to a server or serving table.

Skirt: The boards that run around and are perpendicular to the bottom of the table top. Without a skirt, the mounting board and slides under the top would be visible. The term also may be applied to the trim running between the legs of a sofa or chair.

Slant Front Desk: Simply a desk with a drop front lid that folds down to a horizontal position to facilitate writing.

Slat Back Chair: A chair that has several horizontal boards running between the posts of a chair back. The boards, or slats, are usually curved outward from the rails to accommodate the sitter’s back more comfortably.

Sofa: A seating structure that is made long enough to accommodate three or more people. Sofa Table - An occasional table that is higher and usually longer than a coffee table that is designed to sit behind a sofa to hold lamps, decorations, mail or miscellaneous debris.

Spindle: Turned and shaped, usually, Spindles are most often used in chair backs.

Spiral Leg: Commonly called a rope twist leg.

Splat Back: A style of chair back that usually has one wider board running from the back of the seat to the bottom of the rail. The splat is usually shaped in some way to add visual appeal.

Splayed: A term usually applied to the legs of a chair or table. The term refers to legs that are angled outward from the center point of the furniture. Splaying generally adds stability to a chair or table by widening its base.

Spool Bead: A turning that resembles a string of beads.

Spoon Back: A chair back that is shaped to the contours of the human back.

Stretcher: The boards that run between the legs of a chair or table to strengthen the piece.

Stripping: The act of removing the old finish and stain from furniture.

Suite: A term meaning a matched set of furniture. Among the southern male dominated furniture industry the word is pronounced like suit.

Swag: This term, in the furniture industry, most often refers to the cloth draped on the rails between the bed posts. It may also refer to a technique of hanging a light fixture by a chain or cord and then looping the cord over a hook to bring the fixture to where it is needed, say, the center of a dining table.

Swing Leg: A leg that is hinged to swing out from the center of a table and support a leaf. The same as a gate leg.

Swivel Chair: A chair on a fixed base that turns freely 360 degrees.

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T-Cushion: A seat cushion that projects past the front of an arm on an upholstered piece of furniture.

Tack Rag: A piece of cloth that is coated with resin so it will pick up dust.

Tambour: On a rolltop desk the tambour is usually made from narrow half round pieces of wood, butted up against each other and backed with canvas. this slides up into the top of the gallery and down the back of the gallery.

Tang: The end of a file or chisel that goes into the handle.

Tapered Leg: This style leg is wider at the top than it is at the bottom. It may be plain or decorated.

Tavern Table: A solidly built rectangular table, usually with a very thick top and thick legs joined with stretchers.

Tenon: The tongue on a piece of wood that will fit into the mortise or opening, in another piece of wood to form a very strong joint. There are several versions of mortise and tenon joints.

Tester: The frame attached to the top of a high post bed that is used to hold a canopy or decorative cloth or garland.

Tier Table: Any occasional table that has three levels that decrease in size as they go up toward the top.

Tilt-Top Table: A table top that swivels from the horizontal to the vertical to save space when it is not being used.

Torchere:  A tall narrow floor lamp that gives off indirect lighting by means of casting the light beam upward toward the ceiling.

Trestle Table: A table that is supported by means of sturdy stretchers and legs with either a top rail or two canted boards that are joined in the middle of the tabletop bottom.

Trivet: A tabletop stand that is resistant to heat for setting hot pans or dishes on.

Trompe:  A very realistic painting that creates the illusion of being three dimensional.

Trundle Bed: A sofa-like bed that is mounted high enough for a pullout frame and mattress that can be raised to match the height of the frame bed.

Turning: Shaping a piece of wood by rotating or turning the block against a series of blades that are set up to achieve a specific effect.


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Urn: A decorative vase that cost a lot more than a vase.

Uprights: The posts on a chair back which hold the rail at the top of the back.

Upholstery: The cloth cover and padding used on seating.