Alcove ideas can harness the potential of these home features, giving rooms a style boost, as well as fulfilling a useful function.
These nooks and niches might be found by the chimney, but older homes can also feature them elsewhere in their internal architecture – as can newer houses where they’ve been planned in to add character and style.
Here, we’ve curated our favorite living room alcove ideas as well as those for rooms around the home showing how these nooks can enhance any room in which they’re located.
Nooks and niches lend themselves to storage with style, and are perfect as a display area. But it’s not just their contents that are crucial but also how they’re decorated, which can elevate the interior. Be inspired by these alcove ideas.
1. Experiment with marble and glass
'Alcoves are essentially for one thing only – stylish storage ideas,’ says Natascha Dartnall, managing director at ND Studios, though we'd add they are perfect for displaying artworks, too. ‘They should not be home to unsightly piles of household bric-a-brac that have nowhere else to go (we see you and we don’t want you – receipt piles, broken remote controls, cans of fly spray).
‘Alcoves should be bookshelves and places to display ornaments, artworks and photo frames. We love to experiment with different backdrops – marble is a good choice and glass shelving always looks chic.'
2. Use alcoves to create symmetry
Alcoves can be a boon in realizing main bedroom ideas. 'Embrace the alcoves in a period home by maximizing space and creating clever uses,' say Jen & Mar, co-founders of Interior Fox. ‘Centering the bed in front of the chimney allows you to not only use each side for a nightstand, but as a decorative feature, additional storage and even for a dressing table.
‘It’s important to consider the layout when building a bespoke shelving unit. A standard night table is usually 24 to 28in (60 to 70cm) high, but building your own will allow the freedom to create a height that works best for your space. You’ll need to ensure it is easy enough to reach a glass of water or the book you’ve been reading.
‘Start by measuring the height of the mattress. This will give you a good indication of placement and a few inches above the bed works best. Originally the chimney in this space was narrow, so to balance out proportions we extended the width to match the super king size bed.’
3. Create drama with a black alcove
Factor in the alcoves with your dining room color ideas. 'Farrow & Ball’s Paean Black was used throughout this dining room, including on the woodwork and bespoke cabinetry in the alcoves to provide a rich and luxurious backdrop for our clients’ growing art and vintage dinnerware collection,’ says Georgina Cave, director of Cave Interiors
‘We used a plum-coloured George Spencer velvet on the dining chairs, which surround a polished walnut dining table by Fiona McDonald to create an overall moody and sumptuous setting ready for dinner parties and large family gatherings.'
It makes the perfect backdrop for displaying china.
4. Consider bookshelf position
Keep the look sleek by framing your alcove ideas. 'What we love about this intricate alcove is how the shelving is placed – the cabinet underneath allows the space to breathe while the bookshelf idea is in keeping with the rest of the traditional style of the room, whilst still having a practical element,' says Jennifer Ebert, digital editor, Homes & Gardens.
5. Frame an alcove
Sometimes alcoves are seemingly architectural anomalies, perhaps a recess where once a built-in cabinet was house from when your home was first built. Of course, you could fill the alcove with a replacement closet, but if you'd rather create space for a display, allowing the room to breathe a little, this is one way to do so.
Note how the sides and back of the alcove are painted in a shade darker than the wall of the room, creating a subtle but purposeful separation.
6. Continue wallpaper into an alcove
Don’t leave alcoves out when it comes to bedroom wallpaper ideas. 'We selected a soft but bright yellow wallpaper with a classic vertical stripe in a painterly quality for this bedroom to add color and pattern without overwhelming the space,' says Katie Lion, senior interior designer at Kitesgrove.
‘The alcoves either side of the bed provides a convenient bedside storage, whilst adding depth and decorative display to the room for an overall balanced and characterful bedroom.’
7. Utilize the space for a bed
'Interior designer Veere Greeney's bedroom design can be adapted to be a clever use of an alcove,' says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief, Homes & Gardens. ‘Alcoves are the perfect place to house nook bed ideas, which can be decorated and curtained to make them distinct from the rest of the space.’
8. Multiply the number of alcoves
There’s no need to stick to a single alcove either side of the chimney. 'Designed by Kitesgrove, this modern living room makes full use of purpose-built alcoves,' says Jennifer Ebert, digital editor, Homes & Gardens.
‘Used for displaying the client's ornaments and books, they are a stylish feature in this space and the wall lights highlight the shelving in the evening.’
9. Carve out a flexible kitchen alcove
'An alcove in a kitchen is a great way to make use of space and maximize both storage and visual interest,’ says Amy Leferink, owner and principal designer, Interior Impressions. ‘We love the idea of creating a nook like this, to be used as a coffee bar, prep area or even as a pretty extension of your pantry, where you can house canisters and trays with more frequently used items.
‘The kitchen wallpaper accent wall gives it a distinct look as well, setting it apart from the rest of the room.’
10. Exploit the power of a small recess
Add to kitchen storage with alcove ideas. 'Traditional Spanish homes typically involve simple architectural details and recessed storage,’ says Karen Harautuneian, owner and principal designer at Hub of the House Studio.
‘When redesigning this 1920s Beverly Hills Spanish home, it only seemed appropriate to incorporate a recessed alcove for my client's spice storage. It allows for easy and accessible access to all her most frequently used spices.'
What can you do with alcoves?
Factor alcoves into kitchen layout ideas to optimize the available space.
'This kitchen by deVOL is a clever mix of beautifully crafted cabinetry that makes the most of the alcove, teamed with an industrial-style freestanding countertop,' says Melanie Griffiths, editor, Period Living. The cabinet is housed within the alcove with a side extension that makes it appear like it's always been there. It's a great example of how to make the most of the space you have.’
Do I paint alcoves or chimney?
Painting the chimney is a traditional option, drawing the eye to this focal point of a room. But it’s perfectly feasible to take the reverse approach and use paint colors that put the emphasis on the alcoves. Here, color can be a great backdrop to objects on shelves, for example.
Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 20 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time, both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor for indie magazine, 91, she trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for modern weddings and events. For H&G, she writes features about interior design – and is known for having an eye for a beautiful room.
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