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French Dictionary of Interior Design

The French Dictionary of Interior Design is your French translator for commonly used French interior design terms.

  • Armoire: wardrobe.

  • Aubusson:  factory known for tapestries of pastoral scenes, & later rugs.

  • Baldachin: canopy.

  • Bas-relief: decoration which is slightly raised from the surface or background.

  • Beauvais: originally a tapestry factory.  During the reign of Louis XVI they produced seat covers & carpets.

  • Bergère: upholstered armchair with wood frame and closed arms.

  • Boiserie: elaborately carved wood paneling.

  • Bombe: commode with a bulging front.

  • Bouillotte: small lamp with narrow shade, arrow detail above the shade and tray base.

  • Bureau plat: large writing table.

  • Burl:  tree growth with interesting design and color pattern used for veneering.

  • Cabriole: legs which curve out from the seat & inward toward the foot in an S shape.

  • Canapé: sofa.

  • Cartouche: Roman inspired decoration used in Renaissance, Baroque & Rococo.

  • Chaise-longue: a reclining chair with a seat that extends for leg support.

  • Chinoiserie: lacquer furniture with oriental designs. Louis XIV favored black lacquer and established a workshop at his Gobelins factory.  Vernis martin (1730) gave a brilliant surface.  Most common now is black lacquer with a raised gilded decoration.

  • Credence: small table or sideboard.

  • Èbénistes: makers of veneered case furniture.

  • Eglomisé: glass panel painted gold, white or blue on reverse used in doors.

  • Enfilade: interconnecting suite of rooms

  • Escritoire: writing desk.

  • Espagnolette: bronze mount in female bust design (Régence & Louis XV).

  • Estampille: Stamp of cabinet maker.

  • Étagère: freestanding shelf unit open on all sides used for display.

  • Fauteuil: armchair with open arms.

  • Faux finish:  finish made to look like another, e.g., marble or wood.

  • Gilt-bronze:  bronze which has been gilded.

  • Gilt wood: gold finished wood.

  • Guéridon:  candle stand with tripod base.

  • Gobelins:  Louis XIV's furniture & tapestry workshops.  Production was for the king.

  • Inlay: contrasting wood, stone, metal, shell or ivory set into another material for a decorative effect.

  • Jardinière: plant container.

  • Lambrequin: deeply scalloped drapery or that effect carved into furniture.

  • Lit canapé: sofa bed.

  • Lyon silk: silk woven at Lyon (finest silks of the 18th c).

  • Magot: grotesque oriental figure on porcelain.

  • Marquetry:  inlay design glued into furniture or floors using a variety of woods (Boulle marquetry uses tortoiseshell & metal).

  • Mascaron:  head of animal, man or woman placed on the corner of apron.

  • Ormolu: embellishment for furniture made from a copper & zinc alloy which looks like gold.

  • Period style:  Entire room design referencing one historical time and place.

  • Poudreuse: small dressing table.

  • Ratchet: a sofa with movable arms that can be dropped down for sleeping.

  • Repoussé:  raised design on metal made by hammering the back side.

  • Sabot: metal fitting to protect leg bottom.

  • Savonnerie:  carpets produced  in workshops established by Henry IV.  Early designs were flowers on a dark ground.  Louis XIV introduced designs by Le Brun.  Also screens and covers for chairs and benches.

  • Sconce: light which is fixed on the wall. 

  • Semainier: tall chest for the bedroom with 7 drawers.

  • Sèvres:  porcelain made at the Sèvres factory starting in 1756 when it was moved from Vincennes.  It was sold to Louis XV in 1759 and remains state property.

  • Shagreen:  skin of dogfish, pale green, blue or yellow, used to cover furniture.

  • Singerie: design with a monkey motif.

  • Tabouret: foot stool.

  • Toile:  Toiles de Jouy is now a generic term for fabric with monochromatic prints of pastoral and allegorical scenes.

  • Tole: lacquered tin.

  • Torchère:  a tall lamp which casts light toward the ceiling used especially with art deco style.

  • Trompe l'oeil:  "to fool the eye," a 2 dimensional painting of real objects having a 3 dimensional effect.

  • Trumeau:  decorative treatment used over mirrors, windows, doors or mantels.  Used often in Louis XV & Louis XVI periods.

  • Vermeil: gilded metal.

  • Vernis Martin: French lacquer from the 18th c perfected by the Martin brothers.  They were given a Privilège by Louis XV.

  • X-frame stools:  has legs in an X shape.

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Last Modified: January 28, 2016

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