All About Aprons—the Furniture Kind

Card table
LACMA/Wikimedia Commons/PD

When you hear or read the word "apron," the first thing that comes to mind is an item made of fabric with ties in the back that your great-grandmother wore when she cooked a big family meal. On furniture? That's something much less commonly known.

Definition of a Furniture Apron

An apron, as it applies to furniture, is a wooden panel that connects the surface and legs of a table, desk, or sideboard that sits on legs. Some wooden side chairs could have aprons, although most chair legs are attached to the seat.

An apron is placed at right angles to the underside of the top of a table, sideboard, desk, or seat of a chair and extends between the tops of the legs. Aprons are also used on bottoms of cabinets and chests.

The apron's main purpose is to provide structural strength and support, but it also sometimes adds a decorative touch if visible. An example is a sideboard on legs, with the apron on the front instead of underneath the piece. Decorative aprons are often carved or pierced and quite elaborate if the piece is in a style that features adornment.

Sometimes, the apron makes such a strong statement that taking it away would completely change the look of a piece.

How to Size an Apron

If you're building a piece of furniture that requires an apron, like a table or desk, you must first decide how wide it should be, from the bottom of the apron to the surface where it is attached.

"The distance from the floor is a major issue since you must leave plenty of room for comfortable seating at the table or desk," says the website, a woodworking and hardware source for furniture builders. "You also must be sure the apron is structurally large enough to support the top as it connects the legs to it," Rockler says, "and the third consideration is about the visual look of the apron on your piece of furniture."

Assuming a chair seat is about 16 inches off the floor, a rule of thumb on the distance from the bottom of the apron to the floor is 24 inches, Rockler says. The apron should be at least 2 inches wide to provide the required support, Rockler says, although this can be adjusted depending on how large the surface being supported is. For instance, if the table is 30 inches off the floor and the top is 2 inches thick, you could make the apron 4 inches wide and still leave 24 inches between the bottom of the apron and the floor.

Visually speaking, unless you plan to decorate the apron, it is most commonly placed underneath the top, where it is barely noticeable. If you have a piece on which the apron is front and center, adding adornment depends upon the style of the piece.