American Empire (1800-1840)

American Empire is moderate in proportion with classical ornamentation, coarse carving, and a dark finish. It is patterned after French Empire with classical influences.



Graceful and Refined – Elegant appearance.(Federal style shown)

Chair Arms

Slightly Curved – Arms are slightly curved.

Chair Back Material

Upholstered – Cushioned and fabric covered.
Wood – Solid wood, horizontal slats, vertical slats, or vertical splats.

Chair Back Shape

Crosspiece – Single flat vertical slat.
Fiddleback – Fiddle-shaped central splat.
Solid – One piece or solid panel chair back.

Chair Leg

Reeded – Rounded decorative grooved or molding.
Restrained Cabriole – Cabriole leg with a rather straight shape.
Round – Round, usually shaped or turned leg.
Simple turning – Turned leg with a few types of turnings.
Splayed – Leg with a concave shape.
Straight – Straight leg, vertical to chair seat.
Tapered – Straight leg gradually decreasing in width.

Chair Seat Material

Cane – Woven rattan.
Rush – Woven rush.
Upholstered – Cushioned and covered with fabric.
Wood – Various types of wood.

Chair Seat Shape

Square – Square shaped seat.

Drawer Pull

Brass Knob – Mushroom-shaped brass knob.
Glass Knob – Mushroom-shaped or round glass knob, often clear or iridescent.
Loop Handle – Bail handle without a back plate, 3.5 to 4.5 inches wide.
Oval Stamped Brass Back Plate with Bail – Oval back plate of stamped brass with conforming handle. The size varies from 3 to 4 inches wide by 2 to 2.5 inches high.
Rectangular Plate with Bail – Rectangular back plate of solid stamped brass, often with canted corners and an oval bail handle. The size varies from 3 to 4 inches wide to 2 to 2.5 inches high.
Rosette – Round 2-inch knob in the shape of a flower, usually in brass or glass.
Wooden Mushroom-Shaped Knob – Mushroom-shaped wooden knob, often 1 inch high and 1.5 to 2.5 inches in diameter.


Brocade – Rich, heavily woven fabric with a raised design, often with gold or silver thread.
Damask – Medium weight, glossy fabric with a reversible pattern and a figured intricate weave, often of linen, cotton, silk, or wool.
Velvet – Woven pile fabric that is soft and sturdy, often made of silk with blends of cotton, nylon, and rayon.


Gilding – Gold leaf.
Oil Varnish – Clear finish that emphasized the grain of the wood.
Paint – Opaque, pigmented finish that obscures the grain of the wood.


Brass Paw or Claw – Animal paw or claw in brass.
Continuation of leg – Leg does not terminate into a foot.
Lion Paw – Carved lion’s foot.
Paw or Claw – Carved animal paw or claw.
Scroll – Inward curving foot with a loosely coiled appearance.

Hardware Material

Brass – Yellowish metal made from copper and zinc.
Glass – Transparent to translucent.
Wood – Various types of wood, carved or turned.


Dovetail – An interlocking wood joint in which a series of wedge-shaped projections fits into a series of alternating grooves.


Straight – Straight lines.


Acanthus Leaf – Conventionalized leaf.
Cornucopia – Horn with fruit or flowers.
Eagle – National emblem of the United States.
Pineapple – Oval-shaped tropical fruit.
Scroll – Form resembling a roll of parchment paper.
Star – Figure having five or six symmetrically projecting points.
Urn – Vase-shaped figure.


Carving – Cutting or chipping the surface of wood to create a shape or design.
Fluting – Carved or molded vertical channels.
Reeding – Parallel lines of rounded molding.
Stenciling – Painting through a template to create a shape or design on the underlying wood surface.
Supporting Column – Decorative column often fluted affixed to the front corners of case furniture, particularly bureaus.


Medium – Moderate dimensions.(Queen Anne style shown)


Moderate – Moderately proportioned stretchers.(William and Mary style shown)


Black Walnut – Dark brown American hardwood with a wide range of figures.
Cherry – Red-brown American hardwood.
Mahogany – Red-brown South American and African hardwood.
Maple – Golden to Red-brown American hardwood with a wide range of figures.
Maple Veneer – Golden to Red-brown American hardwood with a wide range of figures, used in thinly sliced sheets.
Rosewood Veneer – Purple-brown South American hardwood with black streaks that can be highly polished.