That 70s Brass Étagère: Functional Yet “Delicious”

The thrift store find is quite happy in my home

You may have seen the end result on La Dolce Vita yesterday — and by the way how honored am I that the lovely Paloma Contreras featured my home? Can I just take a moment to tell you how much I admire everything she has done and is doing…what a discerning eye, an inspiring self-starter, right? High Gloss is quickly becoming my favorite online magazine (sorry Lonny). She’s really got it going on and it’s been such a pleasure to have any small part of it. Seriously.

Back to the étagère: after rescuing this stunning piece from a local thrift store and giving it a decent cleaning, I started in on moving things around in the office, doing a ton of purging, and having some fun accessorizing. It can’t all be eye-candy however, as this unit is my primary means of storage and organization so needs to be “styled” somewhat practically (a.k.a. boring).  But perhaps this is a good discussion to have: how to make it pretty while remaining utilitarian? Here are the guidelines I tried my best to follow, and I’d love to know if you have any other tips!

small shop office: 1970s brass étagère

1. De-clutter with matching binders, storage boxes and magazine files.
It doesn’t hurt to remove book jackets, too.

small shop office: 1970s brass étagère

2. Divide and conquer: group books into smaller groupings,
and switch up the orientations (horizontal vs. vertical).
Bookends – and items used as bookends – are your friend!

small shop office: pin board

3. Create a pin board based on a consistent color story, for visual uniformity.
These pieces provide daily inspiration for me, and I switch most out every month or so, depending on
stories I’ve pulled out from that month’s magazines (or pieces I want to be sure to refer back to).

small shop office: 1970s brass étagère

4. Layer, layer and layer: put framed pics in front of files and on top of boxes,
add accessories atop books, put higher items behind shorter items. Mix it up and play around!

And by now you know, I’m all about a budget buy: so, the Moroccan box (top shelf, left) and stone bookends (bottom unit) are Homegoods finds, the white coral is from Crate & Barrel, the white Jonathan Adler-esque tiered file sorter and black/Lucite box are both from Target, and the orange Hermès boxes were found on Craigslist (which I use for storage too). The black storage boxes and white magazine files are from IKEA, and the black file folders were a Staples online order (shipped to the store to avoid shipping fees, of course!).

I still find it a little hard to believe that I got this for such a steal, and that it actually holds everything I need! I’m remembering back to when I first peeked into the store window and gasped when I saw it. I thought, am I crazy? But here I am, I absolutely love it and am so so happy that I went for it. And perhaps someday I will start up that record collection to fill those bottom slots. ;o)

Happy weekend!


p.s. Who got my “delicious” reference?

Erika Brechtel

Erika Brechtel

Creative Director

Desiring an online space to explore well-rounded, inspired content in all topics she loves most, Erika created 'The E List' (formerly the Small Shop blog) in 2010. When not enjoying an “occasional" glass of wine and wanderlusting for even warmer climates, Erika can be found sharing laughs with friends and family, and trying her very best to keep up with her 6-year old daughter (yet failing miserably).

  1. great topic–I’ve found myself seeing all these perfectly styled shelves lately and thinking, but where do they keep their books? Their stuff? Great to see that you managed a compromise with both the practical and the pretty.

  2. It looks splendiforous! I really like that it’s functional. So many bookcases featured online (mine included) aren’t very practical. And I lurve your mail sorter. I NEVER find anything good at Target 🙁

  3. You made is so fabulous !! I love it. It really is the perfect combination of stylish and practical. I love how the decorative items like the coral, hermes boxes and framed vogue photo really add style to it ! Looks amazing! I am currently in the process of trying to find a bookcase for my office but its been a little harder than I thought but I am going to the Rose Bowl sunday and who knows what will be there waiting 🙂


  4. Delicious is totally my word – I don’t know if you know it, but I use it all the time. Anyhoo, you are so uber talented and I am so proud of everything you do – I am so happy to be your friend!
    -e (

  5. Has anyone been watching “Million Dollar Decorators”? Martyn Lawrence-Bullard uses it, and says it in a very diva-ish way, with “dah-ling.” Jill & Desiré, I know you watch it!

  6. A girl after my own heart. Love me a good bargain. I have the pencil holder version of your mail divider. : ) Good job styling it. For real.

    Off to check you out on La Dolce Vita. Can’t believe I missed it.

  7. Well Erika I was jealous before when you said you had bought it, but despite wanting to be jealous now that it is installed, instead I am thrilled that you found it. Bottom line: if I can’t have it then I am glad that somebody else has it who will love it properly, as you obviously do!

    An no surprise that your styling suits it so well – you are mastering this glam 70s vibe very prettily.

    Have a wonderful weekend! Virginia x

  8. this came out amazing!!! i love the way you made it eye candy but functional!!! love your style girl sweets! oh and i found a few Hermes boxes on Etsy that I bought . . . love the punch of color they give a room, thanks for the inspiration

  9. How does the glass shelves work with a small child? i saw something similar on CL and have had my eye on it but am afraid of commiting since I have a crawling, soon to be climbing baby. I love your house! and blog!