Living room alcove ideas – 10 clever ways to unlock the full potential of these tricky spaces

Transform those awkward nooks in your living room into a stylish feature

green mini bar in alcove
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Living room alcoves, those often-unloved niches and nooks, are actually secret weapons in the battle against bland interiors. Look closely, and you’ll find the very best living room ideas are blessed with one or more alcove.

Yes, they are often shallow, misshaped and even a bit wonky. And, OK, sometimes they do make it tricky to get all your furniture in. But with a bit of design cunning and expert advice, your living room alcoves can become your new BFF.

‘People often think of alcoves as awkward or dead space, but they have the power to make any living area far more interesting – steering it away from a boring box-shaped room,’ says interior designer, Ruth Milne

Ruth Milne
Ruth Milne

Qualified interior architect Ruth Milne is the founder of Studio Milne, a London-based interior design consultancy specialising in residential and boutique commercial projects in London and beyond.

Living room alcove ideas

Whether your home already features classic architectural alcoves either side of a stunning fireplace – lucky you – or you are smart enough to be plotting to build in new ones, we’ve got 10 compelling living room alcove ideas to inspire you.

1. Build in

white living room with black fireplace and built in alcove

(Image credit: Balance Interior Design)

‘Commissioning built-in cabinetry for living room alcoves allows you to tailor make a solution to suit your own taste and storage needs,’ says Gemma Tucker, Founder of Balance Interior Design

‘A popular option is to have a low-level cabinet for storing items you would prefer to have hidden from view, think board games or odds and ends. Then shelving above to display personal effects like books, pictures or ceramics to provide character.’ 

Bespoke joinery can be specified using materials and colours to suit your taste, from natural wood to high gloss painted finishes, as well as fully open and fully enclosed storage solutions. ‘But be aware that it can be a costly investment and if you move in future, you cannot take it with you. However, done well, built-in alcoves will add to the charm and therefore value of your home,’ adds Gemma. 

Gemma Tucker on a sofa
Gemma Tucker

Established in 2018, Gemma’s award-winning residential interior design studio is based in the Southwest of England. Trained at the esteemed Chelsea College of the Arts in Chelsea, London, she is known for her pared-back aesthetic which combines the best of British and Scandinavian designs.

2. Keep it simple

grey living room with float shelves in the alcove and 2 seagrass baskets

(Image credit: Balance Interior Design)

Putting up floating shelves is an easy DIY project, and this type of bracket-free shelving is great for promoting a serene, uncluttered look. ‘A number of online joinery companies and can supply made-to-measure floating MDF shelves for self-installation, providing a cost-effective solution,’ suggests interior designer, Gemma Tucker. 

If you’re handy with a power Jigsaw, you can also buy floating shelves from DIY stores and cut them to size at home. ‘For a calm, pared-back look, paint the shelving the same colour as the walls and style with a few carefully selected items,’ adds Gemma.

3. Install a mini bar

green mini bar in alcove

(Image credit: Future)

Install a mini bar in your living room alcove and transform the room into a stylish entertaining space. This setup adds a touch of luxury and makes hosting guests a breeze.

Include a few glam details to set your mini bar apart, and don’t forget the integrated lighting for extra glitz. ‘Finishes such as marble can elevate the bar top's finish and provide protection from spillages, while glazed cabinet doors allow you to display your finest glassware and spirit collection,’ says Gemma Tucker. 

4. Fit designer lighting

alcove with wall light and pouffe and fireplace

(Image credit: Future)

‘Beautiful wall lights are like a great party guest. They bring something transformative to living room alcoves. By day they perform the task of being a beautiful object in a discreet space but by night they can quite literally be the talking point of a room,’ says Angela Simpson, Creative Director at Simpson & Voyle.

Living room lighting ideas work incredibly well in an alcove because the scale of the recess often needs something that isn't huge and attention-seeking. ‘The antidote to an overfilled bookcase, which can often clutter a room, instead there is a calm understated beauty in a well-chosen wall light,’ adds Angela.

Angela Simpson
Angela Simpson

Angela is one half of the powerhouse creative duo Simpson & Voyle. An art school graduate who went on to design in the theatre for many years before founding her design studio alongside Laura Voyle in 2013. Angela is passionate about interiors and architecture that inspire stories regarding both space and place. Using references and inspiration across multiple mediums she believes real magic can happen.  

5. Source statement wallpaper

living room with iron fireplace and wallpapered alcoves

(Image credit: Future)

Using dynamic wallpaper ideas in your living room alcoves adds a pop of pattern that secures them as the key focal point. ‘Statement wallpapers have been getting a bad rap of late, but, carefully chosen, they can provide a layer of interest and elevate your living room alcoves’ status in the room,’ says interior designer, Angela Simpson. 

Angela recommends matching the paint colour for the rest of the room, with the dominant colour in your statement wallpaper. ‘This will give a cohesion to your room. When choosing your paper, think about the size of the pattern and the 'repeat' so as not to overwhelm the space,’ she adds.

6. Go for a glass cabinet

wooden glass cabinet in alcove

(Image credit: Future)

Freestanding and full of character, glass display cabinets are narrow-depth and are often the perfect fit for living room alcoves. ‘Custom joinery can be costly, and so, investing in a beautiful cabinet can be a win-win solution, both on budget and design,’ Angela Simpson points out. 

Available in all manner of materials, shapes and designs – from vintage to contemporary – display cabinets are a great way to shake up the style and personality in your living room. ‘Glazed cabinets are a wonderful solution for storage and are particularly popular with those of us that may have an aversion to dusting!’ adds Angela. 

‘We recommend taking the opportunity to mix and match some of your treasured objects, evoking a storytelling quality that one feels whilst in any museum, and as a result, a wonderful point of conversation for guests,’ she says.

7. Continue the colour inside

white alcove cabinetry in blue painted living room

(Image credit: Future)

Carrying dramatic paint ideas into your living room alcoves will create a seamless look that boosts the sense of depth. Fitting colour-contrasting shelving – like this chunky off-white fitted shelving – provides a striking contrast that highlights your decorative display pieces while offering practical storage.

‘Looking through lighter joinery to a darker backdrop has a 3D-effect that can help to make the room appear more spacious. Crisp white accessories in unusual shapes will really standout against a dark painted alcove but don’t overfill the shelves – you need to let that bold colour shine through,’ says interior designer, Louise Robinson.

Louise Robinson
Louise Robinson

Trained at the prestigious KLC School of Design, Louise Robinson worked for several highly esteemed designers before setting up her own sought-after studio in Muswell Hill, North London. Previously a Property Lawyer, Louise has a keen eye for detail and her relaxed interiors are always filled with colour, texture and interesting moments. 

8. Work from home

White living room with desk in an alcove

(Image credit: Future)

Transform an awkward alcove into something far more practical by installing a compact home office area. A small desk, floating shelves, and a comfortable chair can turn your living room alcove into a productive work area. 

‘A pretty table lamp, decorative storage and a smaller style of desk will stop the space looking like a commercial office and means this smart working area won’t ruin the relaxation levels during downtime once you’ve clocked off,’ says interior designer, Louise Robinson. 

9. Stack with logs

Logs stacked in a living room alcove

(Image credit: Future)

‘Stacking living room alcoves with freshly cut firewood is a fabulous way to channel the cosiness of a rustic ski lodge or country cottage and dial up the cosiness levels,’ says Louise. ‘Creating a relaxed, snuggly setting to curl up with a book and allowing the fire to take central stage, this alcove design idea is also practical because it will keep logs dry and make them easier to burn.’ 

To avoid bringing insects, mould and fungus inside, you should only store kiln-dried firewood with less than 20% moisture content in living room alcoves.

10. Fit picture ledges

Picture ledges in a shallow living room alcove

(Image credit: Future)

Not all alcoves are deep enough for a generous bookcase or glam cocktail bar, but shallower alcoves can still hold plenty of decorative potential. Installing picture ledges in living room alcoves is one great example and offers a stylish and practical way to display art, books, and skinnier decorative objects without encroaching on valuable floor space. 

‘These slim shelves allow you to showcase your favourite pieces in an organised manner, adding visual interest and personality to your living room,’ explains Tracey Hatch, Founder of Raspberry Interiors. By using the alcove’s vertical space efficiently, picture ledges keep the room feeling open and uncluttered while providing a dynamic display area that can be updated as your collection or tastes evolve.’ 

IKEA might have the most famous picture ledges, but don't overlook Habitat. The Habitat Jak picture ledges are a great alternative, available in 5 different finishes for £12.

Tracey Hatch
Tracey Hatch

Tracey has been in the interior design business for nearly 30 years, and seriously knows her stuff. Having worked through various trends and seeing how things date, she has always kept her work fresh, but with a strong classic-meets-contemporary style, to ensure her clients will still love their home interiors for decades to come.

Get the look


What to put in a living room alcove?

Living room alcoves can be utilised in many ways. From a cosy reading nook with a comfortable chair, cushions, and reading lamp, to built-in shelving on which to display your favourite books, art, or family photos. 

‘For a functional touch, consider creating a media centre to accommodate your television and entertainment system, and keep cables and tech neatly hidden away. Living room alcoves can also be used to create a gallery wall with beautifully framed artwork and photos, or even a cool mini bar with mood lighting and mirrored splashbacks,’ says interior designer, Ruth Milne. ‘The best alcoves combine functional features with design moments and will enhance not compromise your enjoyment levels in the living room.’ 

Do alcoves have to be symmetrical?

Living room alcoves do not have to be symmetrical to be both effective and attractive. Asymmetrical alcoves can add more dynamism and interest to a space, offering more opportunities for creative design solutions, says Ruth Milne. If you are going asymmetrical, you can make the move feel purposeful by making one alcove the clear focus and take a subtler design approach with the other. ‘By embracing the irregularity, you can create distinct focal points such as custom-built shelving, unique art arrangements, or media solutions,’ adds Ruth. 

‘On the other hand, symmetrical alcoves can also look fabulous, and tend to be more desirable when the surrounding architecture is also symmetrical,’ says Ruth. ‘This is often the case in period properties where the fireplace is flanked by two alcoves of equal width and depth. Ultimately, whether symmetrical or asymmetrical, alcoves should enhance the functionality and style of your living room.’

Alcoves are versatile spaces that can be adapted to suit your decor style. Utilise these design ideas to transform your living room alcoves into properly functional spaces with purpose and poise. What will you do with your alcoves?

Linda Clayton

 Linda Clayton is a professionally trained journalist, and has specialised in product design, interiors and fitness for more than two decades. Linda has written for a wide range of publications, from the Daily Telegraph and Guardian to Homes & Gardens and Livingetc. She has been freelancing for Ideal Home Magazine since 2008, covering design trends, home makeovers, product reviews and much more.