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Étagère - Got Knickknacks? Display Them On One Of These

Nov 16, 2007
If it weren't for our passion for collecting knickknacks and what-nots, the étagère would have never have found its way into French homes, let along American homes.

Since purveyors of souvenirs and memorabilia first crafted their "must haves" for fairs, exhibitions and monuments, families have had to find places to display them. There, of course, is Uncle Harry's rare coin collection and Aunt Jessie's miniature spoon display. Add to that all those Kodak moments captured through the years and you can see there's a real space crisis in American homes.

Sure, you could get a grand piano for maximum display space, but if you don't play it, you've wasted a lot of money on a glorified shelf. It is far better to go with an étagère or two to show off your trinkets, gewgaws, gimcrack, baubles and futz.

One can only imagine that collection the unknown designer of the étagère had on his or her hands. But brilliance is often born out of tremendous need. And this open shelved wonder - known widely as an étagère - is a lifesaver for those who think memories are meant to be shared.

The original versions were often made to fit in corners, the triangle shaped shelves fit perfectly in these unused spaces in sitting rooms, parlors and later living rooms. The shelves were often very ornate, made of exotic woods and supported by intricately carved legs that reached six feet up from the ground. Some of the shelves on the étagère were spaced tightly, others more open, to allow different sized baubles to be displayed.

Many of the early étagère models had a cabinet on the very bottom, so you could store additional knickknacks when they weren't on display. This allowed the owner of these prized possessions to swap out the items now and then to create new interest in the étagère.

Today, any piece of furniture that has a set of open shelves could be considered an étagère. The more traditional versions of the étagère are also still sold in finer furniture stores, including those online. These are typically taller and skinnier than an ordinary set of shelves, so they can be tucked into smaller spaces in the home, augmenting other furnishings you may have.

If you're looking for your own novelty nook, there are plenty of étagère designs to choose from. They come in natural wood finishes as well as enameled and painted styles. Many are as ornate as those in the time of Louis XIV while others are very austere. The right étagère for your home largely depends on your style of furniture, the finish of your woods and your own personal tastes.

Before you make your purchase, be sure to do the necessary measurements for the space you want your étagère to occupy. Like any other furniture, you don't want the scale of you étagère to be too grandiose or too small for the space you have available. You want it to draw the eye because of its contents, not its dimensions.
About the Author
Jesse Akre, author, offers his thoughts on buying swanky bakers racks, pot racks and bar stools.
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