Antiques Glossary – Terms you need to know.

I love using antiques and vintage pieces in my design projects and in my own home. Antiques add history and patina to a space that can’t be found in all new items. “Brown Furniture” and antiques went out of favor over the last decade which is a shame because there are so many instances of mixing old and new which show just how well they go together. The good news is that as old furniture became less popular the prices dropped – market forces at work!  A trip through 1st Dibs, Etsy or Chairish shows just the wide range of what’s available at all price points. I believe that the trend is turning and antiques and vintage pieces are becoming popular again – and prices will start going up accordingly.

The benefits are incontrovertible: antiques add history and patina, they are beautiful, they are environmentally friendly and they have withstood the test of time. What’s not to love!

What can hold many back from shopping for antiques is lack of knowledge about basic terms and fear of making a mistake. A few years ago with the help of friends in the antiques industry, I put together an Antiques Glossary for my then magazine ::Surroundings:: Guide to Decorative Living. I thought it was time to re-share. Knowledge is power!

Antiques Glossary 1 Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings Antiques Glossary 2 Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings Antiques Glossary 3 Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings


I realize this might be a little hard to read – especially on a phone – so have included this handy downloadable Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings Antiques Glossary 2021 for your use!

Antiques Glossary


Do you use antiques or vintage pieces in your home? I’d love to hear!

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15 thoughts on “Antiques Glossary – Terms you need to know.”

  1. Yes, I have antiques that I bought in my 20’s and I’m in my 60’s now. I hang on to things that I love no matter whether it’s what other people are doing or not. I’ve noticed on Antiques Roadshow that the episodes where they compare prices from the early 2000’s to 2021 usually show the value has gone down. I have several antique pine pieces that I bought when I had a condo and I decorated whites and creams. They are so versatile. I enjoy the sense of history and personality that antiques bring to a home. Thanks for your lovely blog.

  2. Happy Valentine’s Day Linda! I do like a few antiques here and there in our home but I’m not a purist – I have my husband paint furniture. Eeek I know. We just painted my husband’s grandmother’s clock that she received on her wedding day. I had my husband remove the scroll piece at the top (so now it’s a flat-top) and he painted the clock a pale teal/aqua and distressed it. I don’t know if distressing is still a thing anymore but I couldn’t live with the piece in its shiny cherry wood state. That would look too formal for our little cottage. I also painted a mid century chest’s legs with faux “sabot” (just learned that word from you today) by using painter’s tape a tad up the leg and painting the bottom of each leg with gold metallic paint. I hope our relatives are just happy that we are recycling their furniture and hopefully they don’t care that we changed the finishes or removed some fancy ornamentation but instead just made it work for our family’s style. Thanks for sharing your bundle of knowledge!

  3. A very useful post, Linda. I always love learning new things and your blog today, I’ve learned many! So helpful and thoughtful to also add a downloadable resource.

  4. Hello Linda, As you can imagine, I am all in favor of antiques. Since I don’t have a permanent home, I try to concentrate on smaller, more portable items, and often have to pass on larger furniture. It helps to know all these terms, whether researching your own antiques, or negotiating with dealers for new bargains!

  5. Spot on, Linda! What’s not to love! This is a great tool to help buyers identify and define what they want. I’m thrilled that antiques are having a resurgence in popularity – they add so much character to any space!

  6. This post will help shoppers feel a little more confident when shopping for antiques. Well done! Every home should have a mix of old and new, right?

  7. This is such a useful post, Linda, as so many of these terms are not taught in design schools anymore. And, I agree, antiques are coming back in style in such a big way, as evidenced by the *Grand Millennial* style trend so prevalent now.


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