While there are many different styles of antique furniture, one of the ways to identifying the period of an item is to look at the foot style. The foot component of an antique furniture item describes the small piece of timber that is attached to the leg of a chair, table, or stool that supports the item, and there are many different styles, as you can imagine. Here is a brief description of some of the more common styles of furniture feet, which can help you to identify the period.
- The Ball Foot – The timber is shaped like a ball, which does allow easy movement of the item, and it is often found on heavy chests and sideboards from as early as the 17th century, and can also be found on furniture made as late as the mid-19th century. Both William and Mary styles feature ball feet, and with a smaller surface area actually touching the ground, it makes it much easier to move the item.
- Ball & Claw Foot – Similar to ball feet, except the ball and claw feet have a claw carved to be holding the ball. This type of foot can be found on Chippendale pieces, and some antique furniture uses either glass or metal as the ball, with a timber claw attached. Introduced at the start of the 18th century, ball and claw designs can be found on Chippendale items, and this is one of the most common foot types that was used in many different eras.
- Block Foot – Generally used with square legs, the block foot is perhaps the most basic of all the feet designs and is commonly found in mid-19th century English and American items. It is also referred to as the Marlborough foot, as it was often used with a square Marlborough leg design.
- Bracket Foot – This was popular due to its ability to support heavy weight and is commonly found with Hepplewhite and Sheraton styles.
- The Bun Foot – Much like a squashed form of the ball foot, the bun foot is slightly flattened at the bottom to give the piece a little more stability.
- The Dolphin Foot – The dolphin foot is usually carved into the shape of a fish head, and can be found on mid-17th century items, with Regency, Empire and Biedermeier designs, which were rather ornate.
- The Hoof Foot – Shaped as the hoof of an animal, the hoof design would typically be a lion’s foot, and is commonly found on Empire, Regency and Greek Revival styles. Other animal hooves were also carved into heavier chests of drawers, wardrobes and sideboards, and this style is very ornate.
- The Onion Foot – Similar to the ball foot, onion feet are found on heavier items and can have a small, flat bottom to give the leg more stability. This style was first used in the Renaissance period, and almost became obsolete at the turn of the 18th century.
While foot designs can help to identify the period an item of furniture, it is not accurate enough on its own, as foot designs were widely used in various forms. The foot design could be categorised into two distinct styles, namely ornate and basic, and while there are other foot designs, the most common are listed above.