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Keeping items organized and on display plays a large role in defining the character and function of a room. Without storage, it would be difficult to live comfortably and to keep everything in its place. Since storage is a necessary part of life, it’s important to choose the right item for one’s needs. A storage unit should also be more than just functional — it should add design value to a room. What are the most popular types of storage pieces, and how are they each distinct?

Chest of Drawers

Though the term is often used interchangeably with 'dresser', a chest of drawers is a tabletop that only has drawers underneath. Unlike dressers, it does not come with an attached mirror. If the chest of drawers is tall, it can also be called a 'highboy'. This piece typically has three to six drawers for storing folded clothing and other small objects. 

It is a versatile piece that can be used in multiple rooms of the house. A classic bedroom fixture for holding clothes, it is now often seen in the living room for storing odds and ends, or in a foyer as a convenient drop-off zone for “on the go” items. A chest of drawers can also be useful for hiding items that are best not left in the open, such as extra tools, spare keys, important papers and rarely-used entertaining items. 


An armoire is also known as a 'wardrobe'. It is generally larger and taller than a traditional dresser. This free-standing large cupboard can be used to hang clothing and store large bulky items like blankets. If an armoire has a chest of drawers underneath its cupboard, it is called a tallboy. This variation on the armoire may be a great option for someone who needs to both hang and fold clothes in one location. A tallboy is a great item to have in sleeping areas to store extra throws and pillows while freeing other closet space. While it is normally used in the bedroom, an armoire also works well in other parts of the house that need storage for large objects. 


'Dresser' can often be an umbrella term describing any type of bedroom furniture with drawers. However, there are some specific requirements for a piece to properly be called a dresser in the trade. Originating from the term “dressing table,” a dresser is a waist-height table with horizontal drawers and an attached mirror. A dresser can also be called a vanity, especially if there is a space in the middle to accommodate a small stool. When a dresser is used without its mirror, it is called a lowboy. In modern times, lowboys have become popular as entertainment centers for their ample storage and strong support that can accommodate large televisions.


This free-standing storage shelf is designed to be sturdy and supportive since it holds heavy books. A bookcase usually has thick shelves, sides and a solid backing; the semi-enclosed design is meant to keep books in place and prevent them from falling backward. There are modern variations of the bookcase that do not have a backing, but these pieces should be placed against a wall if their primary use is to display books. This storage piece can be tall or short and come in a variety of materials and styles. Traditionally made of wood, some have glass covers, while metal shelves became popular in the 20th century for industrial applications.


An étagère is often mistaken for a bookcase, but it has some distinct features that define it as a different type of storage piece. It is a backless display case with typically wider shelves. It usually has more delicate, elegantly supportive sides and shelves. An étagère is made to display valued items of lighter weight, such as fine china, curios, bonsai trees, vases, pictures and travel souvenirs. It can also be integrated with a few unobtrusive drawers. 

The delicate, thin frame of an étagère blends well into practically any room — suitable for the corner of a living room, dining room or foyer, or any place where aesthetically pleasing storage is needed. Examples can be found in a range of styles from contemporary, Regency and chinoiserie to countless other world design influences. A variety of materials are represented in this category such as sturdy metal, eco-friendly bamboo, classic hardwoods, brass and boldly painted boards. Étagères often showcase intricate design elements along their sides.

Modern design has embraced mixing style eras in one room, so a contemporary étagère with clean lines and a simple form can easily blend in a room with mid-century modern chairs and window treatments of delicate Regency lace. Today's seamless eclecticism allows for multiple storage functions in the same room.

Storage Ottomans

Designers who want to make a room more comfortable while keeping a clean and spacious feel can use storage ottomans to add value to a room. Storage ottomans are strong, versatile pieces that function as a footrest, coffee table or side table as well as a discreet place to store items. Cube ottomans with a removable top are excellent for storing seasonal items such as throws and extra connection cords. Some ottomans have hinged tops. To save space, cube ottomans can also be stacked and moved around to serve the needs of the room. These pieces are delightful in materials like leather and velvet, providing a design surprise that adds charm to many interiors. For a more “approachable” and domestic feel, an upholstered ottoman is a wonderful choice.

Coffee Table with Drawers

When a coffee table has a few drawers underneath its surface for storage, it can make a living space more functional. These pieces offer discreet locations to store items that people use daily, such as remote controls, phone chargers and writing utensils. By keeping surfaces clutter-free of these objects, they can make a room can look clean and sensible. Coffee table storage units also can serve as points of interest and design accents: for example, a bold robin’s egg blue coffee table might add a contrasting element in a room of earthen hues. Layering a few multi-colored books on a coffee table is a classic design choice to bring a room together.