Quick. What's tall and thin, stands alone against a wall or in a corner, and displays valuables?

Not a fashion model who lacks conversation skills.

The correct answer is "an etagere." It's an open shelving unit typically used to display art objects, plants, books or curios. It's also a friend to anyone staging a home for sale.

Here are the reasons I say this piece of furniture should be part of any home stager's furniture collection:
  • The shelves are open, which gives any room a more open feeling.
  • There's an etagere to mix or match with any design style.
  • The price range is wide and accommodating.
  • They are often lightweight and easy to move. Some disassemble for packing.
  • Placed in a corner, one will round out a sparsely furnished room.
  • Used in pairs, they add formality and function to a room that's lacking these aspects. 
You can call an etagere a bookcase or a display case or a storage unit, but it's more than those things. It's a statement piece, the way a fashionable purse is. An etagere can supply that important finishing touch every room needs.

My furniture crush

I've been in love with the etagere since I owned a set of plastic knockdown, Parsons-style units about 30 years ago. Talk about versatility! These units held books in some of my homes, displayed a collection of framed photos and tchotchkes at another time, contained all the audio equipment at other times, provided space to start seedlings one year, stood in for closet shelving near the end of their lives, and were finally relegated to the garage as a humble shelving unit until someone melted one of the plastic legs with a space heater.

I'm here to sing the praises of all etagere today. And let's not confuse an etagere with a bakers rack, or enclosed bookcases, or media storage cabinets. 

The traditional etagere is backless and has corner posts. It can have a square, rectangular or triangular footprint. It can be curvy or angular, and made of chrome, wood, glass, mirrors, wicker, stainless steel, sheet metal, bamboo, particle board, or plastic. Here are some examples of what this classic and useful piece of furniture can look like.
This Mission style etagere would be at home in
a bath, office, or family room. BakersRacks.com
And this is another treatment of etagere staged 
bookcase. Photo: House Beautiful
I love the punch that cross braces add to this lovely,
Asian-inspired etagere. P
hoto: Habitually Chic 
See how the etagere adds just the right amount of weight
this space? Photo: Greg Scheidmann
A pair of shorter etageres serves as matching
end tables in this room. 
Photo: Graciela Rutkowski Interiors
Nate Berkus let this one dominate the room, 
where its lines repeat the rug motif.
An etagere can include a concealed storage area in its design 
and it's still considered an etagere. Photo: Mayfair

Since home staging is about making your home look clean and spacious, most etagere designs fill that bill, and they do it with panache. Whether you're staging your bathroom, home office, kitchen, bedroom, living room or even a garage or closet, there's usually a place for one of these functional shelving sets.

Looking for ideas to help you stage your property? Then, download my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home and For Top Dollar. You'll be inspired and informed, I guarantee it. Get advice from an expert so you can stage your home like an expert.