11 Types of Furniture Legs to Know: Furniture Leg Styles

11 Types of Furniture Legs to Know: Furniture Leg Styles

Your home is a reflection of you, and the furniture style that fills it should reflect what you think is beautiful. Yet, chances are, you’re tired of the hum-drum aesthetic, the typical table, and the standard, straight-backed chair.

And in a world bursting with styles and designs, where do you begin?

If you’re curious about antique furniture, wondering what cabriole means, or just interested in learning something new about domicile design, read on for an introduction to the most common types of furniture legs.

Cabriole Leg

As the most popular furniture leg design—and likely the only one you’ve heard of—the cabriole leg is the belle of the antique ball!

It features two curves known as the upper convex and the lower concave, which are often adorned with carvings of plant imagery like acanthus or the iconic “ball-and-claw” look.

This style found its origins in ancient China and Greece, but is most notable for French and English prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries before crossing the pond to America. They’ve been a favorite of antique collectors ever since.1

You might also see cabriole legs categorized as “Chippendale” or "Queen Anne” style furniture.

Staight leg table

Straight Leg

There should be no surprises here: a simple leg found on a chair, sofa or table that runs perpendicular to the floor is known as a “straight leg.”

If they have any minor curvature, decorations, or frills, furniture legs will usually be referred to by a different name. Similarly, straight legs generally refer to square (or “cuboid”) designs, as cylindrical styles fall into another category below.

Taperd leg

Tapered Leg

Tapered legs become gradually thinner as they stretch toward the floor. They are often set at an angle and designed with soft, rounded edges that create more visible empty space in a room. This makes them ideal for tight spaces and rooms intended to have a light, airy feel.

Turned leg

Turned Leg

The “turn” in turned legs refers to the process by which artists make them.

Unlike the cabriole or the tapered leg, a turned leg is not one of a specific shape, but a leg made using a special method. Skilled craftsmen rotate a dowel on a lathe, carefully turning and shaping it until its length is decorated with bulbs, cylinders, and spirals.

Woodturning has been an established profession since the early 1600s. In the 19th century, this form of artistry, like many, became largely machine-powered, but many enthusiasts and artists continue producing hand-crafted work to this day.2

If you’re drawn to take part in a storied tradition of craftsmanship, turned legs might just be the furniture legs for you!

Fluted leg

Fluted Leg

The fluted leg style is simple yet beautiful, understated yet a treat for the eye. Many believe its design was intended to replicate Greek columns by featuring a series of concave grooves set into the wood that typically run the length of the leg. However, these legs and bases don’t need to be cylindrical, as the difference between our Arthur and Francesca designs show.

Falling under the Neoclassical style of the late 18th century, fluted legs are strongly associated with George Hepplewhite, a cabinetmaker and superstar figure in the tradition of English furniture.3

Spindle leg

Spindle Leg

“Spindle” refers to the typical shape of a wooden furniture leg, sometimes implying cylindrical, rounded edges. Straight legs without corners fall under this umbrella category.

Saber leg

Saber Leg

Saber legs are named for the curved European sword that conjures mental images of the Light Brigade’s charge. Usually tapered toward the bottom, they splay outward in the same concave shape as their namesake blade.

This style is thought to have ancient origins, but it appeared in the European tradition somewhere in the 18th century.

Bun Foot

A bun foot is a paw-like spherical attachment or ending that sits on the floor. It can be found at the bottom of a table leg or as a replacement, with the frame of some chairs and sofas directly resting on bun feet.

Hairpin Leg

A hairpin leg usually consists of a single metal rod bent into a deep, rounded V. They have a thin, paper clip or bobby-pin appearance that gives a modern, minimalist look rather than adding to visual weight.

One of the newer types on this list, hairpin furniture legs were brought onto the scene in the 1940s by a designer living in Chicago.4

Scroll Leg

Scroll legs (also known as “Flemish scroll” or “Flemish foot”) boast an ornate, curved parchment shape, often carved with intricate, nature-inspired designs. Double scroll legs feature a scroll at both the top and the bottom of the leg, sometimes curving in the middle to form an S.

This Belgian, Baroque style dates back to the mid-to-late 1600s, largely coming to prominence under the favor of King Charles II.5

Spider leg

Spider Leg

Despite their name conveying delicate imagery similar to hairpin legs, spider legs are pretty robust. This style resembles a spider with how the legs come off the furniture’s underside at an angle. When the angle directs inward, and the legs cross each other like an “X”, it gives the top-down appearance of an arachnid.

Selecting the Right Furniture Leg Style for Your Home

Now that you’re getting a feel for the styles of furniture legs and the language describing them, you’re probably wondering how to apply this knowledge to your homemaking journey.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I interested in European styles, or a vintage American aesthetic?
  • How much space do I have to work with?
  • What’s my budget?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll find that certain styles in the list above are better suited to your needs.

Customize Your Furniture with James+James

Armed—or legged—with a little more knowledge than before, you’re well on your way to reinventing your space and creating a home you love to live in.

At James+James, we believe in boutique beauty. No cold, cookie-cutter solutions here—we aim to design pieces that feel as unique as the home they come to live in.

We’re your new favorite furniture-crafters and your source of design inspiration. Check out our website for more information and tips!



Sources:

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica. Cabriole leg. https://www.britannica.com/topic/cabriole-leg
  2. American Association of Woodturners. Turning Between Centers: Spindles for furniture, chairs, spinning wheels and stair rails. https://www.woodturner.org/Woodturner/Gregory/DiscoverWTHisConover.aspx
  3. Theodora. George Hepplewhite - Encyclopedia. https://theodora.com/encyclopedia/h/george_hepplewhite.html.
  4. Woodworking Network. Hairpin Leg, at 75, Is Now a Modern Classic. https://www.woodworkingnetwork.com/red-book/wood-machinery-supplies/hairpin-leg-75-now-modern-classic.
  5. Buffalo Architecture and History. Flanders/Flemish. https://buffaloah.com/f/glos/f/flem/flemish.html.

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