Federal (1780-1820)

The Federal style combines the neoclassic furniture style characteristics of Hepplewhite and Sheraton. It is characterized by graceful straight lines, light construction, tapered legs, inlay, and contrasting veneers.



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

Chair Arms

Slopes to front posts – Arms slope down to meet posts from the seat.

Chair Back Material

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

Chair Back Shape

Fiddleback – Fiddle-shaped central splat.
Rectangular or Square – Rectilinear design with a solid or central splat.

Chair Leg

Reeded – Rounded decorative grooved or molding.
Round – Round, usually shaped or turned leg.
Simple turning – turned leg with a few types of turnings.
Square – Flat surfaced leg on all sides.
Straight – Straight leg, vertical to chair seat.
Tapered – Straight leg gradually decreasing in width.

Chair Seat Material

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

Chair Seat Shape

Horseshoe – Horseshoe shaped seat with a rounded front.
Square – Square shaped seat.

Drawer Pull

Brass Knob – Mushroom-shaped brass knob.
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.


Damask – Medium weight, glossy fabric with a reversible pattern and a figured intricate weave, often of linen, cotton, silk, or wool.
Tapestry – Heavy weight fabric with decorative designs.


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.


Continuation of leg – Leg does not terminate into a foot.
French – Straight and slender bracket foot, usually used with case furniture.

Hardware Material

Brass – Yellowish metal made from copper and zinc.


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


Slight Curve – Gently curving lines.


Acanthus leaf – Conventionalized leaf.
Conch Shell – Spiral-shaped shell.
Eagle – National emblem of the United States.
Pineapple – Oval-shaped tropical fruit.
Shell – Fan-shaped shell.
Star – Figure having five or six symmetrically projecting points.


Banding – Thin strips of contrasting veneer used as a decorative border or edging.
Carving – Cutting or chipping the surface of wood to create a shape or design.
Fluting – Carved or molded vertical channels.
Inlay – Contrasting material set into the surface of wood to create a shape or design.
Marquetry – Combinations of veneer used to create pictures or patterns.
Reeding – Parallel lines of rounded molding.
Stenciling – Painting through a template to create a shape or design on the underlying wood surface.


Medium – Moderate dimensions.(Queen Anne style shown)


Limited Use – Limited use of stretchers.(Queen Anne style shown)


Black Walnut – Dark brown American hardwood with a wide range of figures.
Cherry – Red-brown American hardwood.
Fruitwood – Pink-brown American hardwood, including apple and pear.
Maple – Golden to Red-brown American hardwood with a wide range of figures.
Rosewood Veneer – Purple-brown South American hardwood with black streaks that can be highly polished.
Satinwood Veneer – Light yellow to golden brown Indian hardwood that is highly figured, has a close grain, and can be highly polished.