If every journey begins with a single step, the road to antique furniture knowledge can start with a foot—specifically, the antique foot style belonging to a chair, chest or table.
Identifying antique furniture feet can help determine the approximate age of a piece, along with the period in which it was made, helping you research and value antique pieces more skillfully. Listed below are foot styles developed in Europe and the United States from the Renaissance to the Empire periods.
Note: Many of these styles have been incorporated time and again on pieces made since their first use. Use them as a starting point and one possible indicator of age rather than making a conclusion based only on the foot style.
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This furniture foot style consists of a tapered cylinder that is separated from the leg by a turned ring. It is usually plain, even if the attached leg is fluted (as shown in this example). A shorter, more squat variation is sometimes referenced as a blunt-arrow foot.
The arrow foot became popular in the mid-18th century and is often featured in Hepplewhite and Sheraton designs. It is especially characteristic of the Windsor chair, typical of the work of furniture-makers in colonial Philadelphia.
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The ball foot is one of the earliest, most basic types of furniture foot styles. It consists of a simple spherical shape and is usually found on case pieces such as chests, secretaries, and sideboards.
Dating from the early 1600s, it was especially prominent towards the end of the century in William and Mary style furniture. The popularity of this foot style continued well into the 1800s in American Federal pieces and "country" styles.
The bun foot, onion foot, and turnip foot, as shown below, are variations of the ball foot.
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Ball and Claw Foot
A furniture foot, sometimes referenced as claw-and-ball, fashioned to represent a bird's claw gripping a ball. They are often carved entirely of wood as seen in many Chippendale style furniture pieces. Examples featuring a metal claw gripping a glass ball are also common, especially in occasional tables and stools.
This foot type has been popular almost continuously, in variations, since it was introduced in the 1700s.
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This is a simple, basic furniture foot style with a square or cube-like shape. Although in existence from roughly 1600 to 1800, it was especially popular in mid-18th century English and American furniture. It was often featured in later Chippendale furniture styles with Neoclassical influence.
This is sometimes referenced as a Marlborough foot since it often appears at the end of the straight Marlborough leg.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
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One of the most basic furniture foot examples, this style named for its actual resemblance to a bracket. Usually has a mitered corner embellishment. Sometimes it is referenced as a console leg.
Variations include the plain bracket foot (as shown here), the ogee bracket foot (as shown below), or scrolled bracket foot with a curved outside edge.
The bracket foot is often incorporated in Hepplewhite and Sheraton furniture styles.
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This is one of the earliest furniture foot styles consisting of a simple, turned spherical or disk-like shape. It is a more squat version of a ball foot, flattened slightly on top and wider at the bottom.
Dating from the early 1600s, its popularity continued well into the 1800s, both in furniture and accessories; especially prevalent on William and Mary case pieces. It has been widely used since then.
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This type of turned furniture foot, separated from the leg by a ring, is cylindrical although it swells out slightly and then tapers down to a plain point. It is usually plain overall, though the leg above it may be fluted or reeded. It is sometimes referenced as an "elongated bulb foot."
The cylindrical foot is often associated with Georgian and Neoclassical-style furniture of the later 18th and early 19th centuries, particularly the designs of Sheraton. Although delicate looking, cylindrical feet prove to be quite sturdy.
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This is a type of carved furniture foot in the shape of a fish head. Sometimes the motif is extended into the leg or base of the piece (as shown here). Some pieces, like chairs, may have matching dolphin arms and feet.
Although the dolphin as decoration dates back to Renaissance furniture, the use specifically in a chair or table feet began around the mid-1700s. It was especially popular in ornate Regency, Empire and Biedermeier styles.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
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This is a slender variety of bracket foot (see example above), often tapered, with a concave shape that splays outward. It is like a shortened version of a saber leg on a chair or table (bracket feet being reserved for case pieces, like chests or secretaries). It is sometimes called a French bracket foot.
In contrast to other types of bracket feet, such as the ogee (see example below), the mitered edge is usually exceedingly simple—but this plainness of foot is often balanced by a valence or apron in the center of the overall piece. developed in the 18th century, is characteristic of Hepplewhite, Sheraton, and Federal-style furniture.
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The hoof foot is an early style carved to resemble a realistic animal hoof (typically that of a deer). It developed along with the cabriole leg with which it usually appears, towards the end of the 17th century. It is also sometimes called a pied-de-biche, which translates to "deer's foot" in French.
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This is a type of furniture foot style, consisting of a carved animal paw—usually a lion's—with an ornate extension above, such as a scroll, wing, vine or cornucopia. It is named for the monopodium (single-base) tables inspired by ancient Greek, Roman, and Egyptian designs. The monopodium foot also appears on sofas, chairs and case pieces.
This style is typically found in Empire, Regency, and Greek Revival furniture, though its popularity continued throughout the 19th century.
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Ogee Bracket Foot
The ogee bracket foot an ornate variety of bracket foot (see above) in which the outside edge forms an S-shaped curve, with the top bulging outward and the bottom turning inward. It is usually found on case pieces. It is sometimes referenced as a scrolled bracket foot.
This style is characteristic of the undulating shapes of mid-18th-century styles and is typically found in the designs of Chippendale, Hepplewhite and early Sheraton.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
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This is an early type of large turned foot—a variation of the bun and ball foot styles—with a slightly flattened bulbous shape that often terminates in a platform base. It is usually found on heavy case pieces, especially of Germanic or Dutch origin. Sometimes referenced as a melon foot.
The onion foot dates from the Renaissance and dwindled after the turn of the 18th century, though some continued use in Dutch-influenced American furniture was seen throughout the 1700s.
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This is a furniture foot style in which a simple, flattened oval-shaped block of wood rests on a disk or pad. It is a variation of the club foot, distinguished by the underlying disk. These are often found at the base of a cabriole leg. They are sometimes referred to as a Dutch foot or spoon foot.
The pad foot developed in the early 18th century, it is especially characteristic of the Queen Anne style in furniture.
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The spadefoot style has a rectangular shape that is wide at the top tapering to a narrower base. It is not a solid carved piece but created by applying pieces of wood to the bottom of a square, tapered leg.
First popularized by Chippendale in the mid-1700s, it is usually associated with Neoclassical furniture in the later 18th and early 19th century, especially pieces in the style of Robert Adam, Hepplewhite and Sheraton.
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This is a type of turned foot, consisting of a rounded saucer-shaped top with larger turning in the middle that then narrows to a smaller turned end. The overall silhouette resembles that of a spinning top (or 'toupie' in French). Sometimes referred to as a spool foot.
Short and squat examples usually decorate heavy case pieces while more slender examples can be used on chairs (as shown). Dating from the second half of the 17th century, the toupie foot is often associated with Louis XIV styles.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
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One of the oldest foot styles—dating from the Middle Ages—in which a vertical post is placed in the middle of a horizontal piece, forming the shape of a T. Gustav Stickley's admiration for plain, "honest" pieces led him to design several tables with sturdy trestle feet.
In the most basic forms, the two sides of the horizontal beam are flat or slightly slanted and plain but carved, ornate versions do exist; typical of country-style or utilitarian furniture, such as dining tables or racks.
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The trifid style is a type of carved foot, characterized by three toes or lobes, resembling a stylized animal paw resting on a base—a cross between a paw foot and a clubbed pad foot. They are typically found at the end of a cabriole leg. This is sometimes called a drake foot.
Characteristic of 18th-century design, it most often appears in Queen Anne-style and early Chippendale-style pieces, especially chairs and footstools. It was especially popular, with regional variations, in Irish and Philadelphia furniture. Chairs with exaggerated proportions, winged splats, shell motifs, and trifid feet were all characteristic of the sophisticated furniture made in colonial Philadelphia.
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This is a rounded, turned furniture foot style in a variation of the bun foot. It is bulb-shaped with a slender neck, usually has a ring on top, and bulges outward before tapering down into a round collar or base. These are sometimes referenced as tulip feet.
Dating from the 17th century, it is found on late Jacobean pieces, and flourished in William and Mary furniture; it regained popularity in mid-19th century Renaissance Revival styles, as well as in more humble "country" furniture.
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The whorl foot, a variation of the scroll foot, is a spiral-shaped design that curves upward and inward. It is sometimes called a knurl toe.
Developed in the late 17th century, this style is often associated with Louis XV, Georgian, and other Rococo styles. It is typically found at the end of a cabriole leg.
Special thanks go out to contributing writer Troy Segal for her assistance with this article.