Alabaster - A hard substance that can take on a variety of forms, such as a cement-like material, or can also appear in a more clear translucent form (made of hydrated calcium sulphate); has been used throughout history for construction of ornamental objects, such as vases, statues, figurines and a host of other pieces; extremely popular substance as it is inexpensive, durable, and can be molded, carved and painted.
Baroque - a style of architecture and decorating with origins from 15th century Italian Renaissance and spanning in popularity throughout France, England and what was to become the United States, into the mid 1700s. Elaborately ornate, verging on excessive, Baroque refers to design style, architecture, art and music during the period in history known as Neoclassical.
Bucolic - Refers to rural, rustic and country living, such as shepherding or farming, with simple and unspoiled lifestyles at the core.
Brocade - A heavy, colorful fabric interwoven with elaborate raised designs. Popular in formal European designs for curtains, cushions and tablecloths.
Cassone - Highly ornamented with hand-painted designs and inlays, a large Italian wooden chest with a hinged lid and used for storage, originated out of the Renaissance period. Cassoni is plural.
Chintz - A brightly colored and light cotton fabric usually displaying floral patterns, and most often used for draperies and upholstery. Popular in European designs.
Crewelwork - Embroidery with loosely twisted yarn using simple stitches, popular for throws, rugs and drapes in European country designs.
Damask - Patterned fabric of cotton, linen, silk, or wool, sometimes reversible, and usually displaying elaborate patterns. Popular in European designs.
Gothic, Medieval, Middle or Dark Ages - Pertaining to artwork, architecture and music from the medieval times, this period spans from the 500s to 1300s, and typically includes the western European countries of France, Germany, Italy and England; characterized by the use of the pointed arch and the ribbed vault, the use of fine wood and stonework.
The Gothic period preceded the age of enlightenment known as the Renaissance. Homes were rustic and sparsely decorated, with only a few large rooms, vaulted ceilings, narrow glassless windows, and floors of straw or clay. Rich reds, dark blues and gold are typically associated with Gothic interiors.
Iron - A heavy metallic element in use worldwide by mankind for thousands of years, and referred to by most of the themes on this site. Iron, being easy to mold and extremely durable once cooled, is used throughout the home in furniture, hardware fixtures, artwork and accessories. Wrought iron refers to red hot iron that is hand forged with hammer and anvil, pounded into whatever shape desired. Cast iron refers to molten iron that is poured into a mold for making specific items.
Majolica - A dense, highly glazed white or colorful Italian earthenware and made out of the same material as terracotta; pottery used primarily for dishware, bowls and potting plants; often painted in rich colors and displays mythological, landscape, coats of arms, or geometrical patterns, among other things. Origins of majolica tie back to 15th century Tuscany.
Marquetry - Craftsmanship that joins together materials piece by piece similar to an intricate puzzle, such as differently colored woods, or inlays to wood such as wood or ivory, and often depicts scenery of landscapes and fantasy. Used extensively during the Renaissance period.
Mother-of-Pearl - The frosted pearly, rainbow-like, internal layer found inside of sea shells, used as decorative inlays for art, jewelry and furniture.
Neoclassical - a.k.a. Early Modern; following the Renaissance period, the Neoclassical age spanned from the 17th century into the 19th century, and heavily influenced by the aesthetic revival of ancient Roman and Greek styles of art and architecture. Much more elaborate in architecture and design than prior periods, this period pertains to European and early American design styles.
Old World - An amalgamation of designs, the term "Old World" refers to a timeless look in European decorating that spans over fifteen centuries and includes these three primary periods in history:
1. Gothic, Medieval, Middle or Dark Ages (500s - 1300s), marked by sketchy historical records, the rise and subsequent fall in population, religious wars, chivalry and knighthood; when home decor was typically very rustic, with only a few rooms that were sparsely decorated with furniture and art, vaulted ceilings, narrow glassless windows and floors of straw and clay.
2. Renaissance (1400s - 1600s), bridging the gap between the Dark Ages and the Early Modern period, the Renaissance is when many of the world's most famous scholars, artists and scientists flourished and economic revival ensued; new trends in home decor began to emerge, such as solid floors and larger windows (complete with glass), smaller, but more rooms, paneled walls, the addition of wallpaper, and cushions and cloth for added comfort. (see more Renaissance in on the Italian page as well as below.)
3. Classical or Early Modern (1700s - 1800s), characterized by increasingly meaningful developments in science and technology, the emergence of wide-spread, market-oriented economics, and civilized government and politics. During this time, architecture and decor became more elaborate, with stucco-plastered walls and ceilings, grand staircases, and finely crafted, ornately-carved furniture made from walnut and mahogany, all of which are still popular in design today.
England, France and Italy are the countries typically referred to when the term "Old World" is used, and span not only time, but geographic locations across the Mediterranean, Central and Western Europe.
Patina - A light green coating found on aged bronze or wood surfaces, and carries a positive connotation as the objects being referred to usually have intrinsic sentimental, artistic, or aesthetic value.
Renaissance - A period of enlightenment which began in Italy in roughly 1400 and spread throughout Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, and serves as a historical gateway between the medieval ages and the modern world. Great thinkers and writers such as Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare and Michelangelo came into prominence during this time. Homes began to emerge with solid floors and larger windows (complete with glass), smaller, but more rooms, paneled walls, stone or brick floors, the addition of wallpaper, and cushions and cloth for added comfort.
Scagliola - Imitation marble and granite plasterwork consisting of ground gypsum and glue, coated with marble or granite dust.
Shabby Chic - with origins tying back to Great Britain, this is a style of decoration in country styled homes with lots of pastel and floral patterns in cottons and linens, walls and artwork; furniture is recycled and classy, yet showing definite signs of age. Popular in French and English country designs.
Tapestry - around since the 3rd century BC, but really blooming around the beginning of the Renaissance in the 1400s, this textile art form is a colorfully weaved heavy cloth often depicting outdoor scenes and biblical stories, and hung on walls for decoration. Used primarily in Asian and European designs.
Terracotta - Literally meaning "cooked earth," a brownish orange or red fire-baked clay (to over 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) used in pottery, floor tiling and roofs; higher iron content results in redder tints, while lower iron results in pink, yellow or white.
Theme - A central and unifying foundation for applying ideas, motif or artwork.
Wainscot - Paneling used for lining the lower section (called a dado) of interior walls, and can be stained or painted.
Wood/Timber Types - Listed in order from darkest to lightest, these woods have been popular throughout the ages in both furniture design and home construction:
* Ebony - dense, heavy and very hard, almost black with shades of purple and gray
* Mahogany - dark, with rich red and brown tones
* Rosewood (also known as palisander) - dark brown with black stripes
* Walnut - dark or purplish brown with honey tonesChestnut - can range from light to dark brown
* Oak - can range from deep red with golden accents to a rich brown
* Elm - a light brown with buttery tones
* Maple - can range from lighter toned tans and beige to golden
* Cedar - commonly known for its pleasant aroma, cedar is easy to work with and popular in Asian furniture and dressers as it keeps moths away
* Willow - a light, creamy brown, screws, glues, sands very well
* Fir - a tannish-gold color, commonly used in construction, while the premium grades are used in furniture
* Hickory - a dense, strong wood featuring white, pink and reddish-brown pigments
* Poplar - yellowish white with hints of gray streaks (popular in the South)
* Aspen - part of the Poplar family, almost white, machines well and does not split when nailed
* Pine - a soft wood, almost white with light shades of pink and yellow-honey coloring, with brown streaks and knots