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Étagère: A Real Show Off

Mar 26, 2008
Knickknacks have often been associated with paddywacks and giving a dog a bone. But rarely have they been given the dignity of having their own space to call home.

Oh, sure whatnots got their own place in the Victorian Era when a Whatnot could be found in almost every home. There, the little whatnots sat, gleeful at not only having display shelves dedicated to them, but an entire piece of furniture.

Knickknacks weren't so fortunate. They were relegated to the lowly mantle or a side table. But then it happened. The knickknacks' day had come when some enterprising person came up with the perfect piece of furniture just for them, the étagère.

The set of open shelves were a boon to knickknack collectors everywhere. Similar to a Whatnot, the étagère was a French creation. In fact, it owes its name to an old French term that literally means "stage."

Crafted from exotic woods and often ornamented, the étagère quickly became a favorite of homeowners, as its shelves were perfect for displaying souvenirs, mementos, and yes, knickknacks.

Today, the étagère is still a popular piece of furniture, even though you just call it an open set of shelves. One of the main reasons they're so popular is their flexibility. You can use them in the kitchen for cookbooks, as a bakers rack or for showing off your hard earned 4-H trophies for best bovine.

If you have an empty corner, you can get a corner étagère that will fill it nicely and give you more space to show off your collecting prowess. The étagère also comes in larger sizes that are ideal for open wall space where you'd usually place a console table or cabinet. The open shelves keep the wall from feeling crowded.

Of course, you may already have an étagère and not even known it. If you have a cabinet unit over your toilet, either with open shelves or units with doors, that's an étagère as well. And it's a great use of that usually useless space. They can hold towels, toiletries and bath supplies. Out of sight, but never out of mind.

If you have a home office, an étagère can bring order to your chaos. There never seems to be enough shelving in an office. While you could bring in the industrial office types of shelving, why not go for something a little more upscale? The étagère is your ticket to beauty and organization.

Etageres come in all styles and finishes these days too. You can find a piece that matches any décor in you home, whether it's Early American, Mediterranean or contemporary.

Etageres can also be used outdoors, on your patio or deck. You can keep your collection of garden gnomes on the shelves, along with your gardening tools, small starter plants and pots. There's no right or wrong really. You can use an étagère any way you like.

Just don't forget to give those knickknacks a proper home first. Now if they could just come up with a place to put all those paddywacks, life would be good.
About the Author
Jesse Akre,author and owner of numerous home decor sites, offers online consumers his thoughts on purchasing indoor accessories such as fun and decorative baker's racks, rustic wrought iron pot racks and sleek and modern bar stools.
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