It’s a bookshelf! It’s a cabinet! No, it’s an étagère!
Sometimes it can be confusing to know exactly what type of shelving you are looking for and what it is called. Hopefully, we can help eliminate some confusion for you.
There are several different types of shelving units. Each is named depending on design elements such as size, structure, function, and by its embellishments. One type shelf is called an étagère. First called a “whatnot,” it was originally used as a type of display case for trinkets, doo-dads and “whatnots” due to its open design. The practice of collecting baubles and knickknacks was especially common in the mid-seventeenth century when excessive ornamentation was popular in interior design.
When they were first constructed, étagères were also known to be very ornate in comparison to other types of shelves, so they ended up getting a more stylish classification in order to highlight their impressive features.