Alcove paint ideas – 9 interesting ways to use colour and pattern to elevate an underutilised space

These are the experts' favourite suggestions, from understated designs to bold and colourful schemes

a living room with green velvet armchair, round overmantel mirror and alcove bookshelves
(Image credit: Future PLC)

If you have an alcove in your home, it can be tricky to know how to decorate them. Should you make a feature of them or should you let them blend into the background? If you’re not sure or you’re looking for some design inspiration we've rounded up some of our favourite alcove paint ideas.

At Ideal Home, we think it's important to make the most of every inch of your home, including with alcove ideas. While there are plenty of paint ideas to choose from, certain ones can make what is sometimes an awkward or underutilised niche match the rest of your interiors, or you can go bold and do something fun to add immediate interest.

Either way, whether you have a pair of symmetrical alcoves on either side of your living room fireplace and are looking for living room alcove ideas, or you have one solitary alcove in your bedroom, there is an alcove paint idea for everyone and every budget.

Alcove paint ideas

‘There are many misconceptions about having to paint a small space, such as a bedroom alcove, white or neutral to avoid making the space smaller than it already is,’ says Emma Bestley, Co-Founder of YesColours. And we’re here to show you that there are plenty of other options, as well as ways to go understated without simply painting them white.

Keep reading to find out some of our – and the experts’ – favourite alcove paint ideas.

1. Add contrast

contrast paint alcove in living room

(Image credit: Furniture And Choice)

While a bold, vivid colour will add immediate interest, one of the best ways to make any alcove feel more impactful and purposeful is to use contrast to your advantage. And ‘the easiest thing to do is to select a contrasting colour to the colour you have on the walls,’ says Dulux’s Creative Director, Marianne Shillingford. 

To do this, choose combinations of colours that lie opposite to one another on a colour wheel. So, purple and yellow, blue and orange or ‘if your walls are warm red or pink, opt for vivid green or teal,’ Marianne suggests. This is also known as a complementary colour scheme and can make decorating that much easier if you’re not sure where to begin.

2. Go half and half

half and half painted alcove in living room

(Image credit: Future PLC)

‘Painting the top and bottom half of an alcove different tones of one colour creates a focal point that is both unique and interesting,’ Marianne adds. And we have to agree. You could even blend the two different tones with an ombre effect, ‘starting with the deepest at the bottom rising to the lightest at the top,’ she continues.

‘This adds a sense of height to the room and can reduce the impact of the alcoves on the overall look of the room,’ admits Ryan McDonough,’s Interior Designer. Just make sure to ‘use a darker shade on the bottom of the wall and a lighter colour above,’ in this case.

3. Colour block

White living room with black fireplace and wood burner and a workspace in the curved alcove

(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

‘Painting two symmetrical alcoves different colours allows you to create different zones for different purposes,’ Marianne explains. 

For example, one could function as a small home office idea or vanity space simply by adding a desk and chair and one specific colour, while the other could become a cosy reading nook or colourful bookshelf.

4. Introduce pattern

patterned alcove in living room

(Image credit: Furniture And Choice)

You don’t need to rely on wallpaper to add a pattern to your alcove. Simply grab some masking or FrogTape and you can map out everything from simple horizontal lines to create a beautiful striped effect. Or, if you’re particularly artistic or handy at DIY, you could mark out geometric shapes with the tape.

Try ‘different tones of one colour for a subtle look or contrasting bold shades for dramatic impact,’ Marianne recommends.

5. Colour drench the entire room

a living room with green velvet armchair, round overmantel mirror and alcove bookshelves

(Image credit: Future/Katie Lee)

Colour drenching actually works very well in alcoves and across the chimney breast or front wall,’ of a room, says Sophie Smith of Zhoosh Paints. ‘This adds depth, makes the room feel larger and allows the focus to be on the elements within the alcove - shelves, vases, books, pictures or ornaments.’

6. Match wallpaper with complementary paint

a blue and pink bedroom with a laptop open on the dressing table desk

(Image credit: Future/Simon Whitmore)

Whether the rest of the room is wallpapered or you want to add some personality by lining your alcoves in wallpaper ideas, one way to create a seamless look is by picking out one of the shades from the wallpaper to paint the alcove or the rest of the room in, depending on which option you choose.

‘An elaborate and colourful wallpaper draws your eye to the more interesting parts of your space and adds character to your room,’ Amthal points out. And there are plenty of interesting and beautiful designs to choose from to elevate your space.

7. Add drama with black and darker hues

dark black painted alcove

(Image credit: @fayebuller/Lick)

‘If you are looking to add a touch of sophistication to your space, consider painting your alcove in a dramatic black shade,’ says Michael Rolland, Paint Expert and Managing Director at The Paint Shed. ‘Though black can sometimes be too harsh within living spaces, adding just a hint of the shade as an accent can add an unexpected depth to the room. This works particularly well in Victorian-era houses and other homes with high ceilings,’ he continues. So, this could be an interesting way to add some drama in a period property.

A ‘deep, warm brown is also the perfect backdrop to flaunt modern décor pieces with texture, curved shapes, and off-white tones,’ affirms Amthal Karim, Head of Design at Furniture And Choice.

8. Go neutral

neutral painted alcove in living room

(Image credit: Sharps)

Alternatively, ‘neutral colours such as oat, cream, beige, or buttery yellows are perfect for alcoves due to their versatility, adaptability, and understated elegance, making them particularly suitable for busier spaces,’ Michael says. Plus, ‘neutrals are a great route if you’re planning for your alcove to showcase art, books or decoration and don’t want to overwhelm the space.’

‘This also works really well if you have lighting in the alcoves,’ concurs Tash Bradley, Lick’s Director of Interior Design and Colour Psychologist.

9. Paint an alcove mural

alcove area with wallpaper and paint

(Image credit: Funky Chunky Furniture Co.)

If you or someone you know is particularly artistic or you’re looking for an idea for a little one’s room, ‘you can create a completely personalised mural in your alcove,’ Ryan proposes.

‘It doesn’t have to be complicated and if it’s for a kid’s room you could even let them have a go at it themselves to make the space more personal to them,’ he adds. 

If you’re not so handy with a paintbrush, you could always cut out a section of wallpaper but why not give it a try yourself first and you can always cover it up with paint or wallpaper if it doesn’t turn out the way that you had hoped. In actuality, any little imperfections will make it more personal. 


Do alcoves have to match?

This is all up to personal preference but again, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to painting alcoves. If you’re a fan of symmetry and your bedroom or living room alcoves are on either side of a protruding wall or chimney breast, for example, painting them in the same shade can give the space balance.

‘Alcoves that don’t match in size, shape, or purpose, such as one fitted with storage cupboards and the other with display shelves, offer plenty of opportunity to experiment with colour and pattern,’ Caroline adds.

So crack up the tin of paint and start having some fun with your alcove paint ideas.

Ellis Cochrane

Ellis Cochrane has been a Freelance Contributor for Ideal Home since 2023. She graduated with a Joint Honours degree in Politics and English from the University of Strathclyde and between her exams and graduation, started a lifestyle blog where she would share what she was buying, reading and doing. In doing so, she created opportunities to work with some of her dream brands and discovered the possibility of freelance writing, after always dreaming of writing for magazines when she was growing up.

Since then, she has contributed to a variety of online and print publications, covering everything from celebrity news and beauty reviews to her real passion; homes and interiors. She started writing about all things homes, gardens and interiors after joining Decor & Design Scotland as a Freelance Journalist and Social Media Account Manager in 2021. She then started freelancing at House Beautiful, Country Living and in Stylist’s Home team. Ellis is currently saving to buy her first home in Glasgow with far too many Pinterest boards dedicated to her many design ideas and inspirations.