One of the best parts about researching antiques and collectibles is when you have an "aha" moment and say to yourself, “Hey, I have one of those!” This can go hand in hand with learning a new term for a familiar object.
Take a look at five small furniture pieces that you may have seen and possibly even own. Not only are they portable and functional, they're also very decorative. The stories behind each piece—from swivel mirrors to wine cabinets—are interesting and, when you learn the proper name of the piece, you'll be in the know the next time you go antiquing.
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A canterbury is a piece of portable, occasional furniture. It consists of an open-topped rack with slatted compartments for storing sheet music, music books, magazines, or newspapers.
The top rests on four legs, which are typically on casters to assist with rolling it from place to place rather than carrying it. Many times these pieces include a drawer underneath the rack, offering extra storage space.
Canterburys were developed in the 1780s in England. The style reputedly derives the name from the Archbishop of Canterbury, who commissioned one. They grew increasingly ornate throughout the 19th century.
- Regency examples of the canterbury had a simple “boat shape” with U-shaped tops on the dividing slats.
- Victorian pieces often have an upper galleried shelf and panels shaped like lyres or treble clefs denoting the use for music storage.
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A cellarette (spelled cellaret in Britain) is a hinged, portable cabinet. It is used to store wine or liquor bottles, thus the nod to the wine cellar in the name.
These pieces are traditionally made of wood and the interior is typically lined with metal or lead. Some examples are compartmentalized, and they are frequently equipped with a lock.
Cellarettes were developed around 1700, but flourished in the late 1700s and well into the 1800s. It was common to find them on display in dining rooms of the day. They could be ornately decorated or carved and came in a variety of shapes.
- The earliest varieties of cellarettes resembled chests or barrels. They often stood on tall legs equipped with castors to assist with portability from room to room as needed.
- Later, with the rise of Neo-Classical styles around the turn of the 18th century, sarcophagus shapes—often resting on elaborate paw feet—became more common.
- In the 18th century, cellarettes progressively grew taller to accommodate taller wine bottles.
The term cellarette can also refer to a metal-lined compartment or deep tray for bottles within a sideboard, liquor cabinet, or mini-bar.
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The cheval (pronounced shuh-vahl) is a mirror that swivels. It is a freestanding, full-length mirror mounted between two upright posts. These traditionally rest on trestle feet and the support frame is known as a horse (the French word "cheval" actually translates to "horse"). The mirror is attached with screws, which allow it to tilt and the feet are often on casters for portability.
This mirror style was developed in the late 1700s. It is characteristic of Neo-Classical and Empire styles.
Cheval mirrors may have been named by Thomas Sheraton. He described how they may "be turned back or forward to suit the person who dresses at them," in "The Cabinet Dictionary" (1803).
- This mirror style is sometimes also referenced as a cheval glass (English), Psyche (French), or a screen dressing glass.
- Over time, the term cheval has come to describe any standing mirror. It's also used for smaller mirrors suspended from a frame that are part of a furniture piece like a chifforobe.
- Some examples are attached to small bases that include drawers. These allow a plain table or chest of drawers to become a dressing area.
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The taboret (sometimes spelled taboret) is a stool or side table, though it was originally a low, upholstered footstool. It stood on four legs and was round on the top, like a drum (tabour in French). The shape later became rectangular, often sitting on a curule-like base, and is highly typical of Régence and Rococo styles.
Taborets were developed in 17th-century France. In fact, in the court of Louis XIV, strict etiquette determined which courtiers could use a taboret.
Continue to 5 of 5 below.
- These portable furniture pieces experienced a renaissance in a plainer, non-upholstered form in the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th century.
- The term expanded to mean a stool, short side table, or even a cabinet of any shape.
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,The teapoy is a small pedestal table that is used for storage. It comes equipped with a box attached to a tripod base. Usually the box was a tea caddy, used for storing loose tea. If it was flat-topped, the teapoy could also serve as a small tea table.
Despite the teapoy's function, however, the name actually derives not from the word "tea" but from a Hindi/Persian phrase meaning "three-footed." Teapoys developed in mid-18th-century England, and many were actually made in British colonial India.
- Teapoys continued to be popular into the mid-19th century, growing increasingly ornate.
- Over time, the term also came to mean any stand with a box attached, even if it stood on four legs.