Étagère is a piece of furniture consisting of a set of open shelves for displaying small objects and sometimes having an enclosed cabinet at the base.

It is pronounced a-ta-zher. Their uses and impact on design have been enjoyed by homeowners and designers since 1840. I’m sure they have been around for much longer but didn’t receive an official name until then.

There are almost as many uses for the étagère as there are styles. The reason they have endured for decades is their ability, or those that manufacturer them, to adapt to design changes.

Wilton Etagere
Wilton Étagère

In the 1800’s they were used to display fine china, crystal, and bric-a-brac. It was a sign of wealth and prosperity. Today, its uses have expanded to create a space divider in a loft apartment, a storage space for towels in the bathroom, dishes and pots and pans in the kitchen.

It is important that an étagère match the room’s décor. Its function is not to stand out but to provide display shelves for the owner’s plethora of assets. It is just as important that the étagère not be overloaded. It is not a closet or pantry. It is a display space regardless of its location.

Aviary Étagère
Aviary Étagère

Matching its style to the rooms’ décor is a bit tricky. The more unique the étagère, the more challenging its placement. The Aviary Étagère by Ballard Design is a whimsical display accented with three songbirds perched on its tree-like branches. It is slender in style and finished in an antique gold finish.

This étagère works beautiful in a light and airy room decorated in light blues and creams. The display needs to repeat that lighthearted feel in both matching colors, shapes, and slightly sized displays of books, vases, and sculptures.


Lorna Étagère

The Lorna Étagère is also gold-toned but has a geometric frame. The shelves are staggered allowing for more display options. You can mix taller objects with small lower stacked books or treasures. Adding two or more of this étagère can create the perfect room divider for a small apartment or a large open floorplan.

Connolly Corner Etagere
Connolly Corner Étagère

Not all étagères are free-standing. Some are designed for corner placement. This shape is perfect for bathrooms, bedrooms, and small kitchens. Even is storage is not a problem, consider its use as simply display. In a bathroom, stacks of fluffy white towels, bath salts in clear glass jars, fresh flowers add style to a simple corner.

Grand Tour Etagere
Grand Tour Étagère

Black is one of the most dramatic finishes you can put on furniture, walls, artwork. It is one of my favorites. If you have a chair or bench and you’re tired of, consider painting it black, reupholster the seat in black velvet. Set it in a hallway next to a black étagère and bam, you’ve created a chic composition.

If you love to collect beautiful items for your home, enjoy books, and can’t resist a pretty little vase or sculpture, the étagère was created for people like us.

Photos: Ballard Designs