what's this furniture called

What’s That Thing Called? Furniture Items Have Their Own Language

April 16, 2024
furniture items own terms
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The other day we accidentally dropped a piece of mail under the stove. I am embarrassed to admit to what it looked like under there when we pulled out the appliance to get it back. OMG! How did it get so dirty? One of things we needed to do to fix this mess was to turn off the power, so that we could clean the area safely. Out to the fuse box I went and what I found inspired this blog. The breaker that I needed to throw was not marked “oven” or “cook top” or “stove,” but the breaker was marked with a word that my Grammy used, back in the day: “range.” Yup, you read that right, “range.” I kept picturing a 20-something buyer of my current home, lost at sea over this label. It got me thinking about words and terms and how furniture and household items have their own language. So today I present you some of the weird ones, for your edification and enjoyment. Here goes…

terms for furniture
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Furniture Items Truly Have Their Own Language – Is It A Sofa? A Couch? Or A Divan?

When I was growing up, we never once, in the history of ever, called that big upholstered thing you sit on to watch TV at night a sofa. It was always a couch. That is, except when my Grammy was speaking and then it was “the camel back” or the “divan.” As far as I can tell from my digging, couch and sofa are pretty much interchangable. But a divan is apparently “a long low sofa without a back or arms.” Not what my Grammy was talking about but words get mushy over time, I guess. And furniture items definitely have their own language.

Insider Tip: Consignment shops, like Consignments Ltd., are great places to score gently used couches, sofas or whatever it is that you call them.

furniture terms
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A Dresser? A Bureau? A Chest-of-Drawers? Are They All The Same?

Nope. One of these things is NOT like the others. A bureau and a dresser are bedroom storage pieces that have a mirror on the top, whereas a chest or chest-of-drawers simply contains drawers for storage. Dressers and bureaus are usually wider, where chests and chests-of-drawers are taller. In the same amount of floor space a chest can hold more stuff, as it has more vertical storage. Dressers and bureaus have more surface for lighting, jewelry boxes, trays, etc. There’s also a lingerie chest, which is a more narrow chest designed to store items for which it’s named. Too funny. Dresser, bureau or chest: just another example of furniture and household items that have their own language.

furniture terms
Photo by Max Vakhtbovycn on Pexels

Is A Sofa Table The Same As A Console?

You say tomato; I say “toe-ma-toe.” You say sofa table and I say console. A sofa table and a console are both long narrow tables. And they really are the same thing, it’s just a matter of where they are placed and how they are used. You place a console in your entry way, maybe with a mirror above, to warm the welcome for your guests. Or a console can be in the dining room to hold extra dishes, plates, candles, etc. You’ll find a sofa table, holding a lamp and perhaps some family photos, behind the couch, the sofa or what-ever you call it. Same thing, different terms.

For more on consoles and sofa tables, check out my previous blogs: The Drop Leaf Table: A Furniture Piece Everyone Should Own and Four Tips to Organize Your Entryway.

There are so many more terms for furniture. There are ones like the those in this piece today: the cocktail table vs. the coffee table, the china cabinet or the break front. And there are ones even further a-fly like: bird’s eye maple, crotch mahogany, mitten boxes, well-dressers and chifforobes. There’s serpentine, Pierpont, demi lune and ogee. I could go on and on, and I will in an upcoming blog.

But For Now Let’s Enjoy A Little Music Before We Go…

Have a lovely day, my friends. Marianne

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