American Furniture By E. T. Joy


colloquial term for a small slant-top desk, table, or box for holding a large Bible. Mostly found in seventeenth-century examples. Bilbao or 'Bilboa': wall mirror framed in coloured marbles or marble and wood with a scrollwork headpiece and gilded mouldings. Adam or Hepplewhite followers might have designed them, yet they are believed to have originated in the Spanish seaport Bilbao. Stylish in New England seaport towns 1780-1800.


see Sweet gum.


a hard close-grained wood, black (sweet) birch was often stained as a substitute for mahogany in provincial furniture.


a marking of small spots, supposed to resemble bird's eyes, often found in the wood of the sugar maple. Used and much prized from the earliest to present times.

Block front:

a whole range of forms -chests of drawers, chests-on-chests, knee-hole dressing-tables, slant-front desks, secretaries, etc-in which thick boards, usually mahogany, for the fronts of the drawers and cabinets, are cut so that the centres recede in a flattened curve while the ends outcurve in a flattened bulge (Plate 413). At the top of the three curves, one concave and two convex, a shell is often carved or glued on. Should the piece be in two sections, often only the lower section is block-fronted. The origin of block-fronting is unknown; the development is believed to be American, evolved about 1760-80, by John Goddard of Newport, Rhode Island, perhaps with the aid of his associate, John Townsend (q.v.). They may have arrived at it by straightening the curves of the Dutch cabinet. The late American authority Wallace Nutting called block fronts 'the aristocrats of furniture5. The English antique furniture authority Cescinsky de¬scribed them, especially the secretaries, as 'the finest examples of American furniture'. They are much sought after. Exceptionally fine examples have brought up to $16,000 at public and $20,000 at private sale.


a marking, thought to resemble a blister, found in various woods - cedar, mahogany, poplar, pine and, especially, maple.

Boat bed:

American Empire style bed shaped somewhat like a gondola. A variant of the sleigh bed.

Bonnet top:

when the broken-arch pedi¬ment of tall case-furniture covers the entire top from front to back, this hood is called a bonnet top (Fig. 3). It is usually cut in the same curves as the arch but is sometimes left uncut, a solid block of wood behind the arched fronting. 1730-85, Same as 'Hood'.


a few enormous early book¬cases exist, but bookcases were seldom made in America as an article of furniture before 1785-90, the average family before then keeping their books in locked chests, cup-boards, and the tops of secretaries. Bookcases are generally large and heavy until about 1800 (Plates 42 and 43), when the smaller type came in (see China cabinet).

Boston rocker:

the most popular of all rocking chairs. Apparently evolved from the Windsor rocker (q.v.). Usually painted, it has curved arms, a tall spindle back, broad top rail generally showing stencilled designs - a kind of ornamental panel - and a 'rolling' seat, curved up at the back and down at the front. When standardized and mass produced (after 1840) it is not a true antique.

Bow back:

see Windsor chair.

Breakfast table:

a considerable variety of small, four-legged tables with hinged side leaves were made in America in the eigh¬teenth century. They had as many names as

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Antiques For Sale

Philip Burke has a wide range of 18th and 19th century English and continental antique furniture.

The different styles of antique furniture that comes in may only last a few days in the workshop before they are sold. If you require a piece of furniture not listed please call and we will do our best to cater for your needs.



Philip Burke has been involved in restoration work for a number of years dealing with all aspects of antique furniture restoration and conservation

Antique furniture is not always beautiful and pristine--in fact, some of the most valuable pieces show wear and fading. Whether or not to restore antique furniture can be a complex question, but it also depends on the definition of "restore."


The Workshop

Based in the heart of Kensington, Philip Burke is in the ideal location for servicing clients from around the London area's. If you require a home visit or just want some advice on your antique furniture please do not hesitate to get in touch.


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