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Etageres: Storage with Style

This space-saving shelf/cabinet hybrid is placed over a toilet is a functional and fashionable storage solution for the bathroom. Check out these online resources to find one that fits your bathroom's style.

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Ever wonder what those cabinets that hover directly over the toilet and look a little bit like the body and legs of a giraffe are actually called?

Ask around and you'll probably get a mix of replies. Kevin Pine from Kitchen and Bath Plus in Fresno, Calif., humorously refers to them as "OJs," although the term has nothing to do with the infamous football player. Nope, OJ stands for "Over the John." Other furniture dealers call them "spacesavers." But the far more appealing name is étagère. And while they might not be high on a high-end designer's list, many would agree that they're useful for people who just want to add some more storage space to their bathrooms without taking away from the openness of the room.

"They're definitely made to perform a function," says Fresno-based Designer Joyce Gaskin. "There are a variety of ready-made options sold at Bed Bath & Beyond and Home Depot. You could also have something custom-made to fit over the toilet and that can be done effectively and attractively."

In a sense, étagères are the baker's racks of the bathroom. They add functionality by providing extra shelving and drawers for towels, toilet paper and other items that need to be within easy reach. But like baker's racks, they're more than just a stack of shelves. They're a useful way to decorate and add style, and they're great for displaying one's wares. Just as a cook might show off his or her favorite recipe books and culinary gadgets on a baker's rack, so too might a person display ornate perfume bottles or funky pottery vases on the shelf of a bathroom étagère.

Étagères come in a variety of styles from contemporary to traditional and feature both basic and unique geometric designs. And while étagères may sometimes be referred to as Over the Johns, there are also slender corner and wall étagères that fit well into other unused spaces without being too intrusive to the overall openness of the bathroom. Perhaps the most useful thing about étagères is that they not only save space, but also money. Many, including some very attractive wooden and wrought-iron styles, are under $200.

Here are a few useful, easy-to-navigate shopping sites for finding étagères that range from the basic to the very fancy:

Accent Furniture Direct
This is a great place to find a well-priced étagère that will tie into the style of your bathroom, from Arts & Crafts to Victorian. The Mission-style étagère, for instance, would fit nicely in a small 1920s home that doesn't have the square footage of a modern house. Other offerings include a Nassau natural louvered étagère with a birch veneer and a metal étagère with an antique white finish and hand-painted floral detail.

Stacks and Stacks HomeWares
The name says it all. This is one of the easiest sites for finding a simple étagère, as there are stacks and stacks of options. Here, you'll find basic wood or metal étagères for around $100 as well as less traditional étagères, such as a wooden ladder shelf for holding towels and essential reading materials.

The Horchow Collection
This is a fun site to navigate as Horchow makes you feel like you're rubbing elbows with furniture designers, exporters and craftspeople from all over the world. If you don't think étagères can be as exotic and beautifully built as other bathroom pieces, spend some time here. For a sampling of the styles Horchow offers, consider these: An island-inspired étagère made of bamboo and rattan with a tortoiseshell finish, a wrought iron étagère with leather covered shelves and ornate scrollwork, a hand-wrought aluminum étagère with an acid wash finish and five glass shelves; and a stack of various sizes of black and gold tables that create a composition étagère.

Real Good Furniture
"Furniture doesn't have to be expensive to be tasteful and valuable," this website says, in reference to one of its dressier étagères with hand-painted doors and a pearl finish. This site will also remind you that étagères don't have to be white and over the toilet. A couple of elegant corner options include a round iron étagère with fossil stone shelves and a metal and wood étagère with a hand-painted floral design.

Home Decorators Collection
This is another site with a large collection of manufacturers. Consider the tasteful Craftsman Bath Collection spacesaver or the Fairview Beadboard spacesaver.