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WILLEM SMITH is always happy to answer any of your questions about furniture. Below is a glossary with definitions of some of the terms we use frequently.


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8-Way Hand Tied. 8-way hand tied is the traditional technique to provide chairs and sofas with seat support. This technique is achieved by hand tying in 8 different directions to create a strong and reliable web. 8-way hand tied sofas have considerable durability; it is not uncommon for them to last several decades. This hand-tying process is labor intensive and therefore chairs made in this manner command a higher price. The alternative modern approach is often Pirelli webbing which is less expensive but also considerably less durable.   There are other imitators such as pre-fab spring box units, sinuous no-sag springs and webbed bands of various descriptions but nothing complements the seating experience of the right design, a well-built frame, superb cushions and a high-quality upholstery like an 8-way hand-tied frame.

WILLEM SMTIH only uses the 8-way hand-tied technique to 'spring-up' a chair or sofa frame.  Individual coil springs - in our case using recycled steel - are tied together across 4 axes creating 8 links to the next spring or the frame.  Skilled and experienced hands ensure that the final product creates a ride - yes, that's the term - that is second to none. 


Apron.  In furniture parlay, an apron is a wooden panel connecting the legs of a table, chair, bureau or chest. While originally it was added to strengthen a piece of furniture, often it is used to add to the aesthetic of a piece.

Arms. A chair or sofa’s arms extend from the back of the chair and are supportive of arms. Often dining room chairs have arms only for the head and foot of a table. See caps and stumps as well. For envelope arms, the padding and material extends from the seat and folds over the arm frame with no seams. Flared arms curve away from the seat. Arms that dip down and curve can be referred to as saddle arms. Arms that are covered in one panel of leather are referred to as single panel out arms. The arms of tuxedo chairs are the same height as the back. Pillows attached to a chair or sofa, typically in matching material to a sofa or chair, are referred to as Attached Pillow Back.


Back Rail. The wooden frame that supports the back springs and/or cushioning material is referred to as the Back Rail.

Backing. A coating put on the reverse side of upholstery fabric used to strengthen the material is called backing.

Base Rail. The base rail is the lowest part of the wood frame.

Baseball Stitching. Baseball stitching is a double row of sewing running along both sides of a seam, like that of a baseball. In addition to providing a very strong seam, it can add to the aesthetic appeal.

Blended Fabric. Fabric woven from several different kinds (e.g. cotton, Dacron, wool, etc.) of fiber is referred to as blended fabric.

Brocade. Brocade is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics, often made in colored silks. The name, related to the same root as "broccoli," comes from Latin broccus meaning projecting or pointed.

Button Tufting. The use of buttons to decorate or accentuate tufting.


Caballero. From the Spanish word for knight or gentleman, WILLEM SMITH’s Caballero line provides an appropriate resting spot after your day’s quests with considerable attention having been given to the ergonomics and durability of the pieces in addition to the classic aesthetically pleasing lines.

Cabriole Leg. A double curved furniture leg, stylized from an animal's hind leg with an elongated S shape. Popular in the late 18th century and 19th century Europe.

Caps. Arm caps are protective covers for arms of chairs or sofas made in fitted or unfitted matching fabric.

Casters. Casters are small wheels on swivels, placed at the base of legs of furniture (such as chairs, cabinets, etc.) to make it easier to move.

COM/COL. WILLEM SMITH gives customers the option to provide their own material or leather if they would like. The dimensions of the material needed are provided following the abbreviations for Customers Own Material and Customers Own Leather.

Cordoba. Named for the city in Andalusia, Spain, the WILLEM SMITH Cordoba line of furniture combines the classical aesthetic beauty with sublime ergonomic comfort.

Cut Velvet. When the pile of velvet is cut to different levels to make a design it is called cut velvet.


Damask. Named for the city of Damascus and hailing back to the days of the silk route, damask (Arabic: دمسق‎) is a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibers, with a pattern formed by weaving on a Jacquard loom.

Deck. The deck of a sofa or chair is the foundation on which loose seat cushions rest. Seat decks are often in a beige material color that contrasts with the exterior of the piece of furniture. Or, the covering of the deck can match the exterior of the piece: in that case it is referred to as a self- covered deck.

Density. When WILLEM SMITH refers to density, we are referring to the weight of the polyurethane foam cushioning material. Low density foam tends to flatten out. High density foam can support more weight for a greater duration of time and is usually more comfortable. WILLEM SMITH spends considerable attention to the selection of materials for filling our cushions. The result is upholstered furniture that is exceptionally comfortable and durable.

Distressed. Fabric and wood that has been artificially aged to appear antique is referred to as distressed.

Divided Back. Chairs and sofas with the appearance of detachable pillows or cushions have divided backs.

Dowels. Wooden pegs, dowels, are pounded into place to construct high quality furniture and hold frames together. Double dowels, or pairs of pegs, provide even more strength.

Down. Feathers from geese or duck (or feathers from any water fowl).  As down is expensive and synthetic materials are beginning to match the performance, down is not used as commonly as it once was in high end furniture.

Drape. Drape describes how loose fabric hangs or falls.


Edge Wire. Edge wire is a heavy gauge wire that supports the frame for coils in spring cushions.

Ergonomic. Items that are ergonomic are designed to minimize physical effort and discomfort, and hence maximize efficiency and minimize injury, like back pain or carpal tunnel which can occur from extended use of poorly designed goods.

Etesian. Named for the Aegean summer breeze, WILLEM SMITH’s Etesian line is provocative, refreshing, soothing. The flagship of the line is the 3-hour dinner party chair, enormously comfy and stylishly elegant. 

Exposed Trim. Wood exposed on an upholstered chair or sofa, not including the legs.


Fiberfill. Made from synthetic fibers, like polyester, fiberfill is used to wrap cushions for added comfort and insulation.

Filling. Material used in the cushions of upholstered furniture.

Flat weave. Flat weave fabrics do not have a pile such as tweeds, twills and satins and in contrast to pile fabrics, like velvet.

Foam. In general, foam refers to polyurethane foam which is used for seat cushions or in thinner sheets for arm, side and back padding.

Frame. A chair’s basic skeleton is the frame.

French seam. When cloth is sewn, first on the right side then on the inverse side so the raw edges are covered completely, it is referred to as a French seam.


Glides. Plastic or metal buttons on the bottom of furniture legs.  Glides are applied to furniture to facilitate moving it around.

Glue blocks. Glue blocks are triangular pices of wood used to strengthen adjoining surfaces or joints.  In recent years they have gone out of style will less well-made furniture resulting in the loosening of joints over time.


Hand (or Handle). Hand describes the feel of fabric, for example rough, smooth or soft.

Hassock. See Ottoman.

Humidor. A humidor is a box or room with constant humidity, used to store cigars, cigarettes or pipe tobacco. Well-made humidors come with a humidifier that contains a physicochemical solution that releases or absorbs moisture (distilled water) to maintain the proper 70% humidity, plus a hygrometer to measure the humidity. WILLEM SMITH’s humidors are built with Credo hygrometers and humidifiers, one of the most recognized brand names in the cigar industry.

Hygrometer. A hygrometer is a gauge used to measure humidity, typically used in case components like humidors.


Inverted Seams. Inverted seams are seams joining the underside of two pieces of fabric that does not have a welt.


Jacquard. Elaborately patterned weaves of fabric produced on Jacquard looms.


Kidney Pillow. A kidney pillow is a small pillow on a chair or a sofa that supports your lower back and kidneys thus improving the ergonomics of a chair.


Loose Pillow. Separate detachable pillows for back support on chairs or sofas are called loose pillows.

Lumbar Support. Chairs and sofas that are constructed paying attention to the support of the lower back, or lumbar spine, offer a better ergonomic experience. Sitters in these chairs will have extended comfort.


Makore. Makore (Mimusops leckellii) or Cherry Mahogany is a large tree native to southern Africa that yields a wood that resembles cherry but has a pronounced black mottle. WILLEM SMITH uses it in some of its case goods.

 Marque. A marque is a design, symbol or other feature that identifies a seller’s goods as distinct from others – like a brand. The term marque is often used to refer to car manufacturers’ iconic brands or logos. The marque confers the promise of the brand. The WILLEM SMITH marque is a strip of inlay that is subtly placed on each piece to confirm its provenance.

Marquetry. Marquetry (also spelled as marqueterie) is a decorative pattern or design constructed from pieces of different colors of veneer. WILLEM SMITH employs a strip of unique marquetry as it's inlay.

Memory Swivel. Memory Swivel technology, such as that used in the WILLEM SMITH bar stools, returns a seat to face forward after it has been swiveled upon exit of a chair.

Mr. and Mrs. Chairs. Historically, the head and foot chairs for a dining room table might have arms and the side tables would not. Often the end arm chairs would match exactly. When the end chairs match but one is smaller and perhaps more delicately carved, they are referred to as Mr. and Mrs. Chairs, the larger one for the man of the smaller for the lady. The make-up of modern families makes this term a bit dated.


Nailheads. Nailheads are a classic furniture detail. Occasionally nailheads are essential to the upholstering process but typically they are an optional decorative appliqué​.  Large or small, neatly head-to-head or spaced apart, nailheads look great as borders or fanciful accents on everything from chairs (see below!) and sofas to headboards and cabinet doors.  See WILLEM SMITH's blog on nailheads.

Nailhead Trim. For decorative purposes, a trim on any piece of furniture, but especially chairs and sofas, made up of nailheads.


Ottoman. An ottoman is an armless and backless piece of furniture that is a padded seat or bench, usually used as a stool or footstool but can also be used as a coffee table. Ottomans are often sold as coordinating furniture with easy chairs and can come in leather or fabric upholstery. Hassock is another common term for ottomans.


Pedestal Base. The base under the center of a piece of furniture, like a recliner or swivel rocker or a pub table, is referred to as a pedestal base.

piErgonom. [pī ’ur-goh-nahm]. Eng, n. WILLEM SMITH focuses on (or obsesses over) comfort.  The 'comfort" part of WILLEM SMITH's obsessive design process even has a name - it's called piErgonom. 

Pile Weave. Pile weave fabric has a raised nap, like velvet, corduroy and imitation fur, in contrast to flat weave fabrics.

Polyurethane. Polyurethane is synthetic foam used to fill cushions.

Provenance. From the French verb provenir "to come from", provenance refers to the chronology, including ownership and location, of an object. Historically, the term provenance was used in relation to antiques and works of art but is now used in reference to help authenticate objects and their quality. WILLEM SMITH objects include an inlay of marquetry to help establish provenance and give owners confidence in the quality of a piece.

Pull-over back. Furniture design where the padding wraps around and over the back as opposed to squared off and trimmed with welting is called pull-over back furniture.

Q, R

Rail. The lowest horizontal part of a wood frame on a chair or bed, including the front, back and side are called rails. Reversible Cushions. Seat cushions that may be turned upside down or reversed for durability are reversible cushions. Some materials (such as vinyl) are not suitable for reversible cushions as, unlike a fabric panel, it doesn’t provide ventilation.


ScotchgardTM. Trademarked name for a stain resistance substance.

Seams. The connection of two pieces of fabric or wood is called a seam. For different types of fabric seams, see Baseball Stitching, French Seams, Welting.

Seat Deck. See Deck.

Self Storing. Dining room table leaves that can be stored within the table itself are referred to as self storing. For example the WILLEM SMITH’s Charla table has leaves that can be stored within it when not in use.

Side Rail. See Rail.

Single Panel Out Arms. Like televisions and diamonds, the cost of leather grows faster than the dimensions because large good quality hides are rare. When a single hide of leather is used in the side of a leather chair, like the WILLEM SMITH Francisco or Caballero, as opposed to multiple panels from several hides stitched together, the arms are referred to as single panel out arms. Given the expense of large good quality hides, this is one mark of a luxury chair.

Sit it to believe it! WILLEM SMITH agonizes over the components in its chairs. Each component is carefully considered, from the frame which dictates the pitch, depth and height of the seat, to the density of the cushions, to the materials. The result is chairs that are exceptionally comfortable. You must Sit it to believe it!

Skirt. The fabric which extends to the floor from the seat of an upholstered sofa or chair and hides legs or casters is called a skirt or sometimes a flounce and can be pleated or gathered or lie flat. For wooden tables and bureaus a skirt is the wooden panel that runs between the front legs. Originally added to increase the strength of the frame it can also be quite decorative.

Springs. Metal springs are used in multiple rows to provide good comfort. Typically placed in the seat and back of chairs and sofas they provide resiliency and support. There are two general types of springs: coil (or cone) and convoluted (“S” shaped) flat springs. In the past, you could find springs in cushions. When springs are placed at the edge of a cushion in addition to the center, it increases the resiliency of the cushion and is called a spring edge cushion.

Stain-Resistance. Good quality furniture upholstery materials are finished with a chemical compound to repel dirt and prevent stains. Common trade names for stain resistance compounds include ScotchgardTM and Zepel.

Swatch. To aid the selection of materials, manufacturers can share with interior designers and other customers with small pieces of upholstery fabric and leather. Swatches are available from WILLEM SMITH to help you determine which material is most suited to your use. Swatch books are books comprised of many swatches. And a rack of swatches, like those typically found in a store, is referred to as a swatch handle. Click here to order a WILLEM SMITH swatch book.

Swivel Rocker. Intuitively, rocking chairs that can both move forward and backward and spin like some version of WILLEM SMITH Francisco are referred to as Swivel Rockers.


Tufting. Tufting of a cushion or the back of a piece of furniture is done to anchor the upholstery material to the foam by drawing a cord through a deep cushion. The result is small valleys and tufts. Tufting can be done in different patterns such as diamond or square and the design can be accented with buttons at the end of the cord. WILLEM SMITH’s Etesian chairs can be tufted with one, two, three, four or five tufts or no tufts at all and in orthogonal or staggered rows.

U, V

Valet. In addition to the person who parks and retrieves a car for you, valet can refer to a stand or rack for holding suits or a small case typically used by men to store jewelry like cuff links and perhaps small change. The WILLEM SMITH valet makes a fine father’s day present.

Veneer. In woodworking, veneer is thin slices of wood that are glued onto core panels made of wood, particle board or medium-density fiberboard. Veneer is usually no more than 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick. It is a more sustainable and affordable way to use exotic woods and design elements. Veneer is also used in marquetry.

Vented. Vented cushions allow air to escape when it is depressed.

W, X, Y, Z

Weave. The weave describes the texture and tightness of how fabric is woven.

Welts and Welting. A welt is a fabric covered cord sewn into the seam of a pillow or chair cushion. Welts not only strengthen seams but also add to the aesthetic. Self-welts are covered in the same fabric as the rest of the piece of furniture. It is often small in diameter and provides a finished look. Contrast welts are in different material and can provide a more playful look or a stronger statement. Diameters of welts can range as well.

Wing or Wing Back. Originally, wings – that is large wing-like arms – provided a barrier to winter drafts. Today, wings can range from a nod to the large wing-back chairs built in the colonial period, including the WILLIAM SMITH Porteno chair, to a traditional wing-back chair.

Wrapped cushion. Typically a wrapped cushion in a seat or back cushion is comprised an inner foam core and an outer wrapping of fiberfill for greater softness and a more down-like experience.