Furniture Glossary: Case Goods
Photo By: Courtesy of Wellborn Cabinet, Inc.
The word armoire is of French origin derived from the Latin word "armarium," which means cupboard. It is a freestanding tall cupboard with two doors that open outward. Many armoires have a drawer or two underneath the doors for extra storage. Unlike normal shelving, the contents in an armoire (which can range from clothing to linens to a flat-screen television) are hidden from view when the doors are shut. They are made of wood (with metal hardware) and used in bedrooms and living rooms. Their styles can vary from the simplest Shaker style to a more ornate carved look.
Perfect for a bachelor pad, or a woman's bedroom, this small, low chest of drawers provides a great place to store belongings. Bachelors chests contain three drawers and are typically seen flanking the bed like nightstands. They were given a masculine name because they are often dark in color and made of solid wood. Design by Erinn Valencich
The bombe chest gets its name from its rounded edges and shape. The function of this chest is similar to a bureau or armoire, but its structure differs with the sides and front bulging outward and then curving inward at the base. This swollen-looking chest is popular within the French Baroque style, having originated during Louis XV's reign in the 18th century. The chest often has two to three drawers and features ornamental hardware. Design by Alia Meyer
Rather self-explanatory, a bookshelf is a wooden piece of furniture with horizontal shelves to house books and other decorative items such as pictures or vases. The term is used interchangeably with bookcase though many in the latter term have glass cases to shield books from dust. The shelves can be fixed or movable depending on the style.
A breakfront chest is a cabinet that is divided into three vertical sections with the center segment projecting out beyond the rest. This protrusion appears to "break the front" of the chest, hence the name breakfront chest. In modern-day design, it is typically used as a china cabinet or bookcase. Image courtesy of Lexington Home Brands
Also called a sideboard, a buffet is an antique piece of wood furniture used in dining rooms to hold food dishes in a buffet setting rather than a more formal sit-down, served meal. The piece is used to display silver or china and as storage. It consists of a flat top, with cabinets and drawers beneath, supported by legs. The height of a buffet is waist-high to accommodate a diner.
Between Europe and the U.S., bureaus are used for two entirely different purposes. In Europe, a bureau is a writing desk. It has a fall-front writing flap that rests at a 45-degree slope when closed. When the hinged flap is open, it exposes pigeonholes, small drawers and a small cupboard. If you're in the U.S., a bureau is known as a chest of drawers, used for storing clothes. These bureaus often have several drawers and come in various heights. Image courtesy of Hooker Furniture
A box-shaped piece of wood furniture, cabinets can stand alone in a space, be built into a room or stand alone such as a medicine cabinet. Today a cabinet may be made of synthetic material and hold any number of items in the home. The pieces usually have one or two doors that open outward and may contain a lock on the door(s). Image courtesy of Wellborn
Chest of Drawers
Also called a dresser or bureau, this piece of furniture has multiple horizontal drawers stacked on top of one another that hold clothing items. The wooden pieces are rectangular in shape and typically have short legs that may be straight or curved. A chest comes in three-, five- or seven-drawer varieties. The height of drawers is waist high or shoulder high depending on the amount of drawers. Image courtesy of Sarah's House
Like the name suggests, this type of cabinet held fine china according to its history, blue-and-white china specifically. During the reign of King William and Queen Mary (1689-1702), Mary (hailing originally from Holland) was obsessively fond of the china imported in Europe. She commissioned a cabinet to be made to show off her own collection. Today the cabinets are typically tall, rectangular cabinets with a glass door to display its contents. Image courtesy of Sarah's House
A credenza is synonymous with a buffet or sideboard. It is a horizontal cabinet with closed shelves used for storage. It has a long, flat top that can be used for a work surface or as a display surface. Credenzas are often seen in foyers, dining rooms or home offices. Image courtesy of Lexington Home Brands
A cupboard is a type of cabinet and often made of wood. It is used to house any number of household items such as food, dishes or linens. As the name suggests, it was at one time a simple board or table that held cups or mugs. This piece dates back to the Middle Ages. In the past few hundred years, it has come to denote a storage space with doors. Image courtesy of Universal Furniture
While it shares the same basic lines and principles of a dining room sideboard, dressers hold clothing and accessories and are topped with dressing items such as combs, brushes and perfume. Made of wood, dressers typically consist of a series of drawers and support a mirror at the top for dressing. Image courtesy of Stanley Furniture
An étagère is the perfect piece of furniture for storing knickknacks and keeping a room clutter free. This is a unit with open shelving and includes multiple tiers, so there is plenty of space to display books and decorative accessories. Image courtesy of Broyhill
A hutch is an enclosed set of shelves or cabinets placed on top of a buffet or desk. You will typically see hutches in dining rooms, home offices and kitchens. Image courtesy of Camlen Inc
Every girl needs a nice place to house her jewelry, and a jewelry armoire is just the solution. This is a small and narrow upright chest that has room for all of your necklaces, rings and other fashion accessories. The multiple drawers and compartments make organization easy. Image courtesy of Hooker Furniture
A lingerie chest or semanier is a tall and narrow chest of drawers usually found in the bedroom. It typically features seven drawers and is used to store clothing, undergarments and lingerie. Image courtesy of Hooker Furniture
This piece of bedroom furniture is also known as a chest on chest because it looks like one chest stacked on top of another. It is very similar to a shoulder-high bureau with numerous drawers used for storing clothes. This type of chest is typically found in traditional-style bedrooms. Design by Sue Adams
Also called a night table or bedside table, this piece is almost always found next to a bed. Its purpose is to store items that may be needed by a person before, during or after the night is over. Before modern plumbing, the nightstand was the normal place to find a chamber pot. Because of its original purpose, the design was originally small cabinets (sometimes outfitted with a drawer) to hold the pot. Today they are used to hold books, an alarm clock or a glass of water. Image courtesy of Erinn Valencich
This piece of office furniture is made of a wide base of drawers topped by a hinged writing surface. The desk is topped by a bookcase typically enclosed by a pair of glass or solid wood doors. The three elements of the furniture piece appear as one tall structure but are detachable to make it easy to clean or move. Image courtesy of Thomasville
Sometimes called a buffet, a sideboard is a piece that is used in the dining room for serving food, displaying dishes or silver, and storing other items such as napkins, tablecloths and candles. Made of wood, it consists of a level surface, a set of cabinets or cupboards and one or multiple drawers. The height is waist-high to accommodate a guest serving him or herself at a buffet dinner. This type of furniture piece is also referred to as a server. Image courtesy of Erinn Valencich
A wardrobe is a large, upright cabinet with doors to conceal hanging clothes and drawers to hold folded clothes. Today many wardrobes have been refitted to be used as computer workstations or entertainment centers. Design by Lori Dennis
A writing desk is a piece of furniture that is typically found in a home office; it can aptly be called a compact office itself. Originally its purpose was for writing handwritten letters (today it could be for a laptop). It often features a top that can be closed to hide current work and protect the surface. This function can be achieved through a rolling apparatus or can be folded. The main surface can be folded down to provide more space in the room. Many styles have small drawers to store envelopes, pens and other necessities. Image courtesy of Revco