Skip to main content

How to Decorate Alcoves, Niches, and Wall Recesses

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

Working as a professional interior designer for many decades, I've been involved in design-and-build residential building projects.

This article will provide small space decorating ideas, such as this built-in cabinetry on both alcove sides of the fireplace, with decorative niches above.

This article will provide small space decorating ideas, such as this built-in cabinetry on both alcove sides of the fireplace, with decorative niches above.

Decorating a small space within a room like a recess, an alcove, a corner, a dead-end, or a niche "carved" into a wall is one of the easiest ways to introduce a pleasant and functional interior design feature into an otherwise neglected space.

There are so many possibilities when it comes to designing or decorating small spaces. Many homes have some pockets of space like alcoves and niches, and these nooks, recesses, under-the-staircase, or "wasted spaces" may have been pre-determined as an interior design feature or came about as a result of flaws that sometimes occur during building construction.

Small space interior decorating requires more than placing a floor lamp and an armchair in place or turning the space into a gallery of wall hangings. Interior recesses can be made to be a focal point of a room while possessing functional properties as well.

With a bit of creative flair and an eye for detail and proportion, you can think simple or think grand. Small spaces and nooks have great decorating potentials. If you can guide your mind towards the word "small," it will turn out an easy feat decorating a small interior feature.

Alcoves Space Decorating Tips

An alcove is a small section of a room that can also be referred to as nooks. They are partially enclosed recessed spaces and are quite common in apartments and residential homes. Cave-like in a way, they are separated from the room space by walls or arches, like a cut-in space without a door.

They were common features in period homes where they are formed by chimney breasts protruding out in the centre of a room forming double recesses on the two sides of the fireplace. They served as built-in shelving for books and décor items in the living room or as wardrobe space in bedrooms. Modern alcoves can be designed to form anything from small tuck-away kitchens to galleries, built-in bathroom stash cabinets, and collectables display area.

Alcoves are also formed under the staircase, in lofts, dead corners, and similar odd spaces, and can be designed and decorated to create space for storage solutions, work-at-home stations, private seating areas, built-in closets, personal reading/library, or craft areas.

This alcove is a sleeping section within a larger space.

This alcove is a sleeping section within a larger space.

This hideaway sleeping area above can be created in a multi-purpose bedroom or a studio apartment. The alcove is a small space decorated as a tucked-away space and functions as a sleeping area.

An alcove designed and decorated as a work-at-home work station.

An alcove designed and decorated as a work-at-home work station.

This alcove serves a functional purpose as a home workstation. It is built into a loft room and is designed with ample work surface for such a small space.

Alcove in a master bathroom.

Alcove in a master bathroom.

A neatly tucked away master bathroom alcove with vanity and ample bathroom storage solutions.

Sliding wardrobe units built into this minimalist theme alcove space.

Sliding wardrobe units built into this minimalist theme alcove space.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Dengarden

This minimalist themed bedroom design includes an alcove that houses a built-in wardrobe with sliding wood panelled doors.

Space Decorating Ideas for Niches

A niche is like cubby holes, but their sizes and shapes can vary from the very small to large sizes with regular or odd-shapes. They are great ways to create more space for décor display objects like sculptures, figurines, vases, and collectables, or serve as spaces to stash anything from napkins holders and spices to books, tableware, or odds-and-ends.

Wall niches can be created easily by creating recesses into an existing wall or can come ready made in form of wooden boxes that can be installed in holes punched into dry walls. They are wonderful wall enhancements and may be made to appear like a gallery of symmetrical or asymmetrical cubby holes.

Decorating small spaces like niches demands some creativity and careful planning, whether you intend to carve them out during renovations or if embarking on new constructions. They are often seen in modern and high-end homes as pre-fashioned insets with an arch or straight top ends. Many are styled after the Greco-Roman design with classical sculpting within the sides.

This reading niche (or nook) design is a great use of a small space.

This reading niche (or nook) design is a great use of a small space.

This cave-like niche is an asymmetrical cubby hole large enough for one user. Its classic design in a clean minimalist look serves as a hideaway reading area with a view of the outdoors.

Wall recesses (niches) used as decoration display.

Wall recesses (niches) used as decoration display.

Symmetrical niche designs with cubby holes just large enough for the display of single/individual objects. This design can serve as a feature wall in a living or dining area, depending on the configuration of the room.

Decorating Dead-Ends and Awkward Corners in Interior Spaces

There are always several tight corners, dead-ends, and other general spaces around the home, what designers call wasted space. Decorating these small spaces can be overlooked most times. Why? Because many household occupants hardly ever notice them.

Don’t let any extra space like these go to waste. Maximize every square foot (or metre). These spaces can serve as functional features around the home. For instance, narrow floor-to-ceiling wall shelves will fit into any little corner and are an excellent way to stylishly store bathroom essentials, and in the bedroom, you can make a dead-end functional by having clothes-hanging hooks installed.

So, whether you live in a studio apartment or three-bedroom home, smart interior design and decorating ideas will help you make the best use of every small space, corner, or dead-end you have within your home.

Utilizing a dead corner of a room with floating shelving—this is decorating a small space effectively.

Utilizing a dead corner of a room with floating shelving—this is decorating a small space effectively.

This dead-end corner is the perfect place to add shelving. A space that can ordinarily be ignored, decorating this small space has made it both a functional and decorative feature in the room.

15 Small Space Decorating Tips

The types and sizes of small spaces that require decorating will differ from home to home, but one thing remains the same, these spaces when attended to will add both aesthetic and functional value to any home’s interior.

Here are a few guiding tips that can open your imagination and inspire you to do something about that unused space that does have design potentials.

  1. Install a custom-built unit for added storage space in nooks.
  2. Add a stool (or nesting stools), fresh flowers (or faux) in a vase, and a woven basket filled with whatever you wish placed on the side.
  3. Hang a vintage circular or oval mirror on the narrow wall to soften the hard edges of the corners.
  4. Transform the end of a windowed corridor by introducing a custom-built window seat and some cushions, a good idea for dead-ends too.
  5. Think vertical by exploiting the often-unused space between the tops of furniture and the ceiling with hanging or high-mounted elements.
  6. Create a gallery wall with plaques or framed pictures of varying sizes and shapes, if you like the asymmetrical. You can extend the gallery wall into a corner to help the lines of your space disappear.
  7. Add a floating desk to free floor space. Additional shelves above the desk will be great for collectables display or books.
  8. Hanging plants takes the eyes up. Add corner shelves for potted plants display, like cacti or other tiny colourful plants.
  9. Add groups of varying heights of vases or urns. If it is a small space, add a tall urn and hang a framed painting on the wall, above it. Place them on a small round rug.
  10. Depending on how much floor space is available, put a chair in the corner and place a floor lamp next to it.
  11. If it is in the hallway, you can install hooks to hang a bicycle on the wall.
  12. Mirrors, whether tiled or full will do wonders in "tricking" the eye to see a seemingly enlarged space so utilise mirrors if you can. Depending on the colour scheme, use either the regular silver mirror, bronze mirror, or antique themed mirrors for a traditional look.
  13. Create a library with books filling the bookcase or floating shelves for a lighter look.
  14. Install a couple of floating shelves to hold bowls of potpourri or a tray of scented candles floating on water.
  15. You can make it simple by placing a round table in a corner with an eclectic table lamp set on it.

You must agree with me that the interior design and decoration of small spaces should not be a challenge. And the great thing is that decorating an alcove, a niche, and other unused spaces in the home can be done by most homeowners with eyes for the good stuff. There will be no need to request the services of expensive professionals.

© 2010 viryabo

Comments Are Welcome

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on June 22, 2015:

Thank you Lydia, appreciate your visit.

Lydia from London on June 22, 2015:

Very well synthesized information with nice ideas! Voted! :)

SanneL from Sweden on November 04, 2011:

I picked up many interesting and potential ideas here. Rated up and awesome.


AllSuretyBonds on October 04, 2011:

Great tips. I enjoyed the videos you posted also. Thanks for the hub. Perfect timing for me. I will be moving next month.

ournote2self on July 05, 2011:

Great tips! I often find decorating a small room challenging, but once complete it can definitely be the highlight of the house. :)

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 16, 2011:

Thanks Dingdon.

dingdondingdon on March 16, 2011:

Nice tips! The idea of using a mirror is a particularly good one.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on February 23, 2011:

Thank you Yenajeon. I appreciate your visit, rating and for finding time to leave me great comments.


Yena Williams from California on February 23, 2011:

These are some great tips. Rated awesome!

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 25, 2011:

Thanks KMC,

I see you must be an ardent reader.

Thanks for visiting and for leaving nice comments.


kmcmichael from Athens, Georgia on January 24, 2011:

Great ideas! I wish I had a little niche to line with bookshelves.

Related Articles