Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary .


A storage cabinet with doors.

It may be raised up on legs, or be set low. The cabinet may have drawers or another cabinet below. The style and design varies with type and use.

Cupboards, linen presses, wardrobes, and other large storage pieces were a necessity in American homes until the innovation of built-in closets and pantries in the late 19th century. Even after they were replaced by built-in storage areas, variations continued to flourish, built mostly for the display of treasured valuables and memorabilia.

Originally , "bordes" on which to set drinking cups and other dishes. Earliest are Gothic in style. Soon they were used to store china, silver, and other household accessories.

In America, cupboards appeared in the mid-17th century.

Two basic types evolved: a wedge-shaped cupboard designed to fit into a corner and a flat-backed piece that stood against a wall. Both types can either stand freely or be built into the woodwork.

"Cupboard" is also used to describe a part(s) in a larger piece of furniture, for example, in a desk.

Livery (that is, delivery) cupboard
In England, a livery cupboard was used by the housewife to dole out the provisions of a day. Thus we perceive that the servants were on rations. The upper section might have been open to allow free circulation of air at the food , and prevent mold

Court cupboards
Early cupboards were described as "court" which meant "short," as in a low piece of furniture much like a modern serving table.

The court cupboard evolved from open shelves to fully enclosed cupboards. By 1600 the upper portion was enclosed, the lower remaining an open shelf; then a drawer was added below the middle shelf, and, finally, the lower portion was entirely enclosed, first with cupboards and then with drawers. See dresser.

"Court" cupboards and "press" cupboards were made from about 1650 to 1700 and are the earliest examples of fine cupboards found in our country.

They were generally of oak, with pine in some parts. Cloths upon which glass and silverware were placed are frequently mentioned in the inventories of the estates of deceased persons in connection with the cupboards, but none of these cloths have been found.

Press / press cupboard / great cupboard / wainscot cupboard
A cupboard or armoire in which clothes or linens were stored. Both the upper and lower portions were enclosed.

Corner cupboard
Cupboard designed to fit a corner, the front being diagonal or curved. Smaller ones were made to hang; very important ones were built integral with the room. Paneling lines often carry through in the architectural forms. They were common throughout the 18th century in England and America, and in France as encoignure.

Kas / kasse: Dutch name for cupboard.

Most cupboards are constructed in 2 parts: the upper section for display and the lower for storage.

Typically, the upper section consists of 3 to 4 full-length shelves within an open frame or behind solid or glazed doors.

The lower section has a tier of 2 to 3 drawers above a storage area that often contains shelves and is usually enclosed by 1 or 2 doors.

- Main text source: American Furniture: Chests, Cupboards, Desks, and Other Pieces, by William C. Ketchum, Jr., Chanticleer Press, 2000

Buffet: A cupboard or sideboard. A side table sometimes with cupboards or shelves. Early Renaissance buffets resemble medieval cupboards and were supported on bases. The entire piece was usually decorated with columns, medallions, and arabesques.

- Martin S. Pegler, The Dictionary of Interior Design. 1989, p. 29


Photos and their arrangement © 2005 Chuck LaChiusa
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