French custom dating
Nevertheless, the distinction is an important one to a proper understanding of the period.
Carved and gilt wood, an especially prominent feature of decoration under Louis Quatorze, hardly calls for explanation.
Such work is at its best when seen by candlelight, when it seems incomparably rich in appearance.
Marquetries using ebony and ivory carving are also occasionally seen.
Parquetry is decoration with sections of veneer of the same wood but with contrasting grain, the simplest form being the parquetry floor of blocks laid in the so-called herring-bone pattern.
The large cupboards called armoires, built-in and forming part of the boiserie, must also be regarded as permanent, even though they were later detached and are sometimes to be found today in the storerooms of the brocanteur seeking the support of a new boiserie. Such movable furniture as the canape (a kind of sofa), often by etiquette and because the framework was carved to match the boiserie, may be regarded as having been fixed in its position, and some fauteuils (armchairs), and even a proportion of the chairs, were destined to occupy a fixed point in relation to the rest of the interior scheme.
Plans dating from the 18th century exist showing the exact position of all these pieces of furniture.
During the 16th century furniture was the province of the menuisier who worked in solid wood.
The nearest English equivalent to the term is 'carpenter and joiner', but this is not entirely satisfactory.
In this he was assisted by wood-carvers, and by painters, varnishers, and gilders.
Ebenistes were so called from the fact that when ebony (ebene) was first introduced into France towards the end of the 16th century it was an exceedingly rare and expensive wood used principally for veneers and inlays.
At this time the technique of inlaying, extremely fashionable in Italy, was in France the province of the menuisier, but when it was replaced by more sophisticated techniques such as veneering and marquetry in the early years of the 17th century, the most skilled menuisiers became known as ebenistes, a term often translated as 'cabinet-maker' which again is not strictly accurate.