Clever designs for alcoves – 21 alcove ideas that make the most of awkward recesses

Whether it's a living room corner, a kitchen recess or even a tricky nook in a bathroom, these clever designs for alcoves will maximise your available living space
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  • You may not have thought too much about them when you moved in. Then grown frustrated as you tried to arrange furniture around them. But the time has come to embrace your alcoves!

    Alcoves are usually associated with period properties, where they are created by a chimney breast jutting out in the centre of a room. Typically, these double recesses either side of the fireplace are reclaimed as storage space in living rooms and bedrooms, with built-in shelving being a popular way to utilise the space.

    Our All Room Ideas can be applied to every space in your house

    But this isn’t the only way to use the nooks created by an alcove. Nor is it the only type of alcove you’ll find in a property. Under-stair areas, awkward corners in loft-extensions and odd spaces created by renovations and extensions can also create alcoves. But, rather than ignore them or hide them, you can make these tricky structural recesses work in your favour.

    Read on, and you’ll discover some exciting opportunities to be smarter with space. From much-needed storage, to cool decorative features and even functional family areas, we have all sorts of clever ideas for alcoves that you’ll love.

    1. Create an entertainment unit


    Image credit: David Giles

    If you have a deep recess in your alcove, why not make the most of it by using it to house your TV and do away with a traditional entertainment unit? Just ensure the bottom shelf has enough height/width to accommodate your existing set, or consider investing in a new one that does.

    2. Create a cosy reading corner

    leicestershire house tour

    Image credit: Simon Whitmore

    An alcove is a natural spot for a little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of a busy family home. Add a chair, a table where you can rest a cup of tea or glass of wine, and shelves for books. Paint the walls a darker colour – and the shelves, too, so they don’t distract – that will draw you in to this cosy sanctuary. Make sure there are cushions and throws so you can cuddle up.

    Related: Reading corner ideas – the perfect place to indulge in a good book

    3. Give them the classic treatment with built-in bookcases

    The go-to solution for living room alcoves is to fill them with built-in storage. It’s a no-brainer if you live in a period property, although there are better solutions if you prefer a contemporary look.

    By painting the chimney breast in the same colour as the furniture, the owners have created a grander, country house feel.

    4. Build in a bed

    Attic spaces can be incredibly difficult to furnish – especially when you have to negotiate a sloping roof. But this space proves that the task is far from impossible. This deep alcove is the perfect spot for a bed, and the narrower nook within it has been filled with shelves.

    Extra bedding can be stashed in the large drawer under the mattress, and a simple wall-mounted light negates the need for a bedside table. As examples of maximising space go, this room is up there with the very best.

    5. Measure up for a dresser


    Image credit: David Parmiter

    Building kitchen furniture around an alcove can be tricky. So why not make things easy for yourself and pop a dresser there instead. You might be lucky enough to find an off-the-peg design that fits perfectly into the gap. Failing that, you could contact a carpenter or bespoke kitchen company to build a made-to-measure piece.

    6. Create a nook for shower essentials


    Image credit: Jamie Mason

    The necessary pipework and electrical in bathrooms can lead to some awkward ‘boxing in’. But you can make the best of things by creating a spot where shower gel, shampoo and conditioner and sit within easy reach. It beats balancing them on the side of the bath, or having to reach down to the floor of your shower cubicle.

    7. Create a loo-side stash


    Image credit: David Giles

    No giggling at the back! Because the reality is, a little bit of storage next to your WC can be extremely practical. Start with a basket or bucket of loo roll so that you’re never caught short, and add a few reading materials for – erm – longer sittings. This might also be a good spot to store nappies, extra hand towels and wet wipes.

    8. Indulge in your favourite pastime

    If you’re taking the traditional route and building furniture into your alcove, why not turn it into a dedicated space for your favourite hobby? You could create a craft corner for knitting and sewing, or keep your record collection here. Add a turntable, a decent pair of headphones and a comfy chair, and you’ve got the perfect easy listening spot!

    9. Move your bed into the alcove

    Make bedtime extra cosy by positioning your bed within an alcove. Painting the wall behind in a feature colour makes it appear almost as an extension of the headboard. Instantly, a simple divan becomes so much more.

    10. Be practical in a guest room

    attic bedroom ideas

    Image credit: Carolyn Barber

    Attic spaces are always a bit awkward, but you can turn these odd angles and alcoves created by boxed-in pipework to your advantage. Here, they make up a natural room divider between a cosy guest bed situated under the eaves and a handy bedroom basin and dressing area. Painting the alcoves in different colours enhances the zoned feeling still further.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Similar Normandy bedside chest in white, £129, Very
    Buy now: Similar Ideal Home Kamina Flatweave Rug, from £29.99, Very

    Related: Guest bedroom design ideas that are warm, cosy and inviting

    11. Point the way with an alcove coat rack


    Image credit: David Giles

    When space is at a premium, utilise an in-between wall space like this to create additional storage. A neat wall-hung coat rack will keep coats, scarves and bags handy, and free up space in a wardrobe – a pretty fab solution for an otherwise empty nook.

    12. Display artworks in their own space

    Don’t leave your alcove walls empty – they’re practically begging for statement artworks to be hung on them. Whether you create a personal gallery with multiple pictures, or go bold with a single piece that continues your colour scheme – as here – your living room will benefit.

    See? Those alcoves do have a design benefit, beyond your standard storage solutions. It’s time to get creative and update your space… Question is, which room of the house are you going to tackle first?

    13. Create a grown-up work space


    Image credit: Davide Lovatti

    If you’re building or renovating an extension, why not make space in the plans for a grown-up work area. This little nook takes up barely any space, features storage for books and files, and feels like a private space in an open-plan area. Subtle and chic – one of our favourite design combinations.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Similar Ideal Home New Luxor Fabric Accent Chair, £289, Very

    14. Take a classic country approach


    Image credit: David Giles

    Take a leaf out of the book of early 20th-century houses, which often featured built-in bedroom storage like this. Floor-to-ceiling, flat-fronted wardrobes streamline the space, look crisp and clean and keep clutter hidden away. What more can you ask for?

    15. Pop in a mini bar


    Image credit: David Giles

    If you don’t have space for a cellar, but do have a penchant for wine, why not make way for your bottles in the most sociable of spaces – the living room. The cabinet above has plenty of space for wine and glasses, and frees up precious space in the fridge and kitchen cupboards?

    Want a proper chiller? Best wine fridges – our top wine coolers for chilling your Chardonnay

    16. Make space for pampering


    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    The combination of a bay window and a fireplace alcove needn’t cause excess design difficulties. Work through it by creating a neat little beauty or work area like this, which benefits from the natural light filtering through the adjacent window.

    A pale wood desk and metal tolix chair combine for a smart country-style feel, while a single large art print on the wall behind the desk enhances the sense of this being a separate space.

    17. Camouflage awkward recesses with pattern

    Kitchen wallpaper ideas

    Image credit: David Giles

    Don’t need extra storage, and want to pretend your alcoves don’t actually exist? Use a wallpaper to camouflage them into a feature wall, with a fireplace at the centre of the scheme.

    Retro prints like this one work well – busy enough to distract you from the different depths of the wall, it also matches the fireplace tiles, and almost seems to pull the walls forward. Oh, and don’t go hanging pictures or shelving on it – this will just confuse things!

    18. Opt for freestanding storage

    Image credit: Dominic Blackmore

    Built-in alcove storage can look quite traditional in a period property, which is great if that’s the look your after but if you want a more modern finish, freestanding storage might be a better fit for you (excuse the pun).

    Use smart paint choices to recede your shelving into an alcove recess – visually, if not physically. For instance, here the grey tones of the wooden shelving blend with the dove grey shade on the chimney breast, keeping the focus on the rest of the decor, as opposed to the stacks in the alcoves.

    19. Make it a dressing area

    Shabby chic decorating ideas

    Image credit: Colin Poole

    As good idea for little ladies as it is full-grown women, a dressing area will make picking outfits for the day ahead an organised and enjoyable occasion. Include a chair for ‘dumping’ in case you’re indecisive over fashion choices, and full-length mirror for taking it all in.

    20. Use the space for a shower


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    Use a bathroom recess to your advantage and install a streamlined shower enclosure (in an ideal world, it’s in addition to a beautiful freestanding bath!). Simple metro tiles and a classic glass shower screen make for a neat unit that adds to the overall feel in this luxurious bathroom.

    21. Build in a seat


    Image credit: Colin Poole

    In an old farmhouse kitchen, where the stove has been removed, turn a brick chimney into a casual seating area – ideal for guests to sit and chat with you when you’re cooking. A wooden beach seat, a scattering of comfy cushions, and this dead space takes on a whole new lease of life.

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