Ever hear a friend refer to her torchiére or bergére chair and been too embarrassed to ask just what the heck they are talking about? Has your grandmother ever asked you to bring her the hassock and received only a blank stare? If so, this article is for you. Below I have listed some of the most commonly used (and misused) furniture terms in the industry. So next time you have guests you can lean back in your Chesterfield and wax poetic about the beauty of your bench-made Chifferobe.
This chair originated in 17th century France at the end of the Régence period. The technically correct definition is any lounge chair with an upholstered back, seat, sides, arms, and exposed wooden frame. The bergére chair is often confused with the Fauteuil chair. The Fauteuil chair is almost identical to the bergére save for the open space beneath the arms.
Today the bergére chair is often used in formal settings such as living rooms, however, with a fun color like apple green or red painted on the wooden frame this chair can be dressed down and placed in any setting. The heavily carved wood frame makes this chair expensive to buy new. The small amount of fabric needed upholster this piece, however, means this chair is inexpensive to reupholster, which means your piece can be repurposed easily for years of use.
A Chesterfield is a tightly stuffed tufted sofa usually made of leather with back and arms the same height. Many people believe the first Chesterfield was commissioned in 1700’s England by the trendsetter, Lord Phillip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield.
This style of sofa is also referred to as a Pub Sofa. Chesterfield’s were historically used in gentleman’s clubs and pubs. The sofas low back and arms allowed club patrons to perch around the sofa in addition to sitting in it.
Today the definition of the word Chesterfield has been broadened. In Canada a Chesterfield can refer to any sofa regardless of style. In the United States Chesterfield refers to any piece of furniture, whether a sofa, settee or chair with tufted low arms and back.
A chiffarobe is a cross between a chest of drawers (aka a chifferon) and an armoire (or wardrobe). It is usually a wide piece with shelves or drawers running the length of one side with an open space for hanging clothes on the other.
This piece of furniture is an American invention. The first mention of it comes from the 1908 Sears Roebuck catalogue. It is described as “a modern invention, having been in use only a short time.”
While still available from a variety of manufacturers chiffarobe’s are not as popular today as armoires and chest of drawers. This is primarily due to their wide dimensions which makes them difficult to fit into many of today’s bedrooms.
A hassock is another word for ottoman or footstool. The original word comes from the Middle English word Hassuc, which meant tuft or clump of grass. Over the centuries the word morphed, coming to mean cushioned stool or ottoman. While the word hassock was popular in the early to mid 1900’s, sometime in the 1970’s ottoman began to gain in popularity. Today, ottoman has largely replaced the word hassock.
At some point nearly every twenty and thirty something American has owned a torchiére. Yet, this wonderfully snobby furniture term makes these lamps exotic and expensive. In reality today’s torchiére is simply a floor lamp with the shade directing light toward the ceiling.
On the low end a simple metal torchiére can be purchased at Target for as little as eight dollars. These lamps can be seen leaning haphazardly in the corner of dorm rooms across America. On the other end of the spectrum this style of lamp is transformed into a work of art, as sculptor Tom Corbin has done with his Deco torchiére.
Other spellings include: Torchere, torchier, torchere, and torch lamp.
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Cover image freeimages.com/Helmut Gevert