Inlay is a type of decoration usually created by cutting a design into the surface of one material and filling the pattern with another, often contrasting, material. Inlay is generally associated with the production of wooden furniture. The most common type of inlay has narrow stripes or bands of a light colored wood set into a darker ground wood, such as mahogany.
Inlay is often confused with marquetry, a related technique. In marquetry, a decorative veneer (outer layer) of variously shaped wooden pieces is applied over the wooden framework of a piece of furniture. These pieces form a pattern of fanciful designs, flowers, or figures. French cabinetmakers of the 1700’s excelled in the arts of inlay and marquetry. In a form of inlay called mosaic, small colored pieces of glazed ceramic, glass, or other material are set in a binding material, such as plaster, to form a pattern or picture.