Furniture Terminology That Makes Shopping Much Easier!

Before you go shopping for new furniture, you might first learn some common terms and phrases that are used to describe various furniture styles. This will make it easier for you to describe to a salesperson the type of pieces you're searching for, or make an online search much faster and easier, since you'll know exactly what terms to put in the search bar! Note a few common furniture terms here.

Bureau, dresser

The terms bureau and dresser are often used interchangeably, but these are actually different styles of drawers. A bureau is a low and wide piece; originally the bureau would have a table in the middle, with drawers on either side. Today's bureaus are usually without that table, but with a mirror in the centre, at the back of the chest. A dresser is taller, and is often without a mirror.

Case goods

This refers to non-upholstered furniture pieces, such as tables, wood chairs, and bookcases. If you need these types of pieces in particular, search for a store that advertises a large section of case goods, versus items like sofas and living room chairs.

Cocktail table, coffee table

Cocktail and coffee tables are essentially the same thing, and these phrases may also be used interchangeably. However, a cocktail table in particular may be a bit fancier than a coffee table; the term "cocktail" is then used to denote entertaining guests, whereas an actual coffee table may be more simple, for everyday use.


Distressing is done to wood furniture to give it an antique look. This process might mean literally beating the furniture with chains or other items, to dent the surface. Be sure you understand the difference between an actual antique piece and distressed furniture, as distressed furniture could look old, but be brand new!


An étagère is originally from France, and this is a shelved piece that is meant for displaying books, knickknacks, and collectibles. Unlike a bookcase, an étagère will be without a back, so it has a more open look and feeling, and it may also be smaller and more delicate, and meant for lightweight, decorative items alone.

Modular lounge

A lounge is often deeper and wider than a standard couch, as this piece is meant for relaxing. A modular lounge is made of separate sections or pieces, so you can create a seating area as long or as short as needed. Modular lounges also typically have corner pieces, so you can add an L-shaped lounge to your room, for additional seating and to fill up a larger space.