Why use an étagère as opposed to a bookcase? Though a bookcase can be beautifully crafted, and aesthetically pleasing, it was made to store lots of heavy books. An étagère exists to be pretty, and to serve for lighter duty storage and display. However, its lighter, more decorative appearance can give it the versatility to be used in ways that a bookcase cannot. This is why interior designers love them. Because of its open construction, an etagere will appear to take up less space than a similarly sized bookcase.
Old Word Beauty Here is a classic, quintessential étagère in the Louis Philippe style. I can’t think of a room that couldn’t benefit from a piece like this. In a dining room, it would offer display and an extra serving surface. In a bedroom, you could put one on either side of the bed for a combo night table/bookcase. In a living room too, a pair of these on either side of a sofa or fireplace hearth would be both beautiful and practical. In a kitchen, it would provide a surface for a laptop, and lots of room for cookbooks and colorful ceramics. Bathroom?-towels and toiletries of course!
This particular piece,(above) is from Stanley, the Louis Louis Collection, and I must say, they cover this category better than any of the other large manufacturers out there. I would blend this into a dining room with an antique Louise Philippe sideboard, or with its clean lines,introduce it into a modern setting for a touch of old world warmth.
Every style of furniture, has it’s version of the étagère. Above are some examples of Campaign style pieces, new and antique. Below are English Regency.
Asian Influence I want to personally thank the French for introducing the world to Chinoisere, and the love of all things Asian in the decorative arts and home furnishings. MERCI BEAUCOUP! This area has taken on so many iterations, and influences over the centuries that it would be impossible to trace all of them. Here are some nice examples to represent a few of the styles that are out there.
Lindsey Harper does a great job with this charming “a bit of Paris in New York” living room. She uses a pair of vintage chrome faux bamboo étagères against a mirrored wall to excellent effect. The storage capacity in a small space is great too! Click on the photo to see the whole story from StyleBeat.
Here are a few of my favorite things: étagères- modern, traditional, plain and ornate, all Asian by design.
Silver Mica Etagere (above center) available though Gaita Interiors $1400.00.
The Painted Look It’s not only for cottages! Some are sweet, some are sophisticated. Again my hat’s off to Stanley. The red painted étagère below, (sweet for sure!) is available in 14 colors! That’s really going above and beyond the call of duty. Don’t forget, you can paint your own! You can find an old piece that’s seen better days, and save it form the land fill with a quart of paint and some elbow grease. Or you can buy an unfinished piece, like the campaign style one below.
Go Mod, Baby! Can’t forget the ever growing and strengthening modern movement. What a relief to be designing in a time when blending furniture styles is a given. The old rules of sticking with one look or period are long gone, and good riddance! It’s so much more fun to mix it up! This room by Eric Cohler is an elegant example of the modern and traditional, blended seamlessly. (Click on photo for the full story from Veranda) The gold leaf finish on the modern étagères lend them the formality to suit their surroundings.
Stackable Bookcase-walnut and ivory (above left) available through Gaita Interiors $2600.00
I started with a classic old world Louis Philippe étagère. Perhaps this piece from Richard Shapiro Studiolo is the quintessential modern étagère. The lines are clean, the function, versatile. Did you notice the tiny chow foot detail? The gold leaf-over-iron finish has enough glitz to serve in a formal setting with antiques. Yet the construction would allow heavy duty storage for books and media equipment in a family room. There’s space for family photos, plants, collectibles, art and of course books, all of the things that personalize your home, and reflect your interior design personality and lifestyle.. This is a piece that does what an étagère can do best: It becomes what you make it!