Alcove ideas: 25 ways to style an awkwardly shaped space

From home offices to cozy reading nooks, copy these alcove ideas to create an inspiring space – with shelving or not...

Alcove ideas: Small home office built in an alcove
(Image credit: Pati Robins)

Sometimes an alcove has an obvious use. It could be the only place to house the TV or, to squeeze in shelving for an ever-expanding book collection that you promise to read but never do... But that's not to say that you can't get a little more creative with your alcove ideas to design a modern nook that serves great purpose all while looking beautiful. 

Forego the idea that an alcove is a burden space and one that you'll never fill – nicely – as you have options. From bespoke shelving to multi-functioning WFH spots and house plant hubs, whether your alcoves feature in the living room, your entryway or in the bedroom, you'll be sure to make the most of it.

Modern alcove ideas for style and function

‘Alcoves can initially be perceived as an undesired design feature, but there are creative ways to turn alcoves into some of the best designed spaces in a home. In bedrooms and living spaces, alcoves built around windows are the perfect location to add storage and create a cozy seating area,' say Oshri Adri & Jillian Dahlman Bhatia of Adri Dahlman Interiors (opens in new tab).

1. Build alcove shelving to create a small home office

Home office built into an alcove

(Image credit: Pati Robins)

Think you don't have room for even the smallest of home offices? Think again. This gem of a DIY project can help you create a home office pretty much out of nowhere. All you need is an alcove, some shelving, and the tiniest bit of DIY knowledge. This one even has a door to hide away the clutter (or keep everyone else out). Love it. To create this look, head over to our guide to how to create an alcove office

2. Build in alcove cupboards to display and disguise

Living room with grey sofa, a gallery wall and built-in dresser

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

If you know you need to use your alcove for storage, then the best way to make the most of the space is to get something built in. Ask your carpenter to install a bespoke unit. You can design the the unit based on your needs – obviously it depends on what you want to store but we reckon a mix of shelves and cupboards as seen below in Insta influencer Lisa Dawson's living room (opens in new tab) is your best bet. 

If you are looking for a more budget-friendly version that still looks really bespoke, take a look at DIY alcove cabinets (opens in new tab). You don't have to be a DIY expert to install them either, you get sent a a flat pack ‘alcove cabinet kit’ that includes everything you need with easy to read, step by step instructions.

3. Make shelving seamless

grey painted bookcase in living room alcove

(Image credit: Sharps)

For a truly cohesive look and to give the impression that your shelves and cupboards have always been there, paint them the same color as the rest of your walls. That way they will blend in perfectly and the result will be seamless. These same size cubes are ideal for storing books and keepsakes, and don’t forget the odd trailing plant looks great too. 

4. Fake a built-in look with freestanding alcove cupboards

arts and crafts house with fireplace and bookshelf

(Image credit: Little Greene)

If you are renting you can't go for a built in option, or perhaps you would just rather spend your budget elsewhere? In either case, you can create a built-in look simply by choosing the right sized cabinet to fit into your alcove.

5. Create a home bar in an alcove 

blue living room with wooden bar cart, paintings and wooden sideboard

(Image credit: Matt Clayton)

Now this is an alcove idea we can get on board with. Transform that awkward space into an at-home bar. You could go all out like this home bar below and create an actual bar or you could just pop a jazzy bar cart in your alcove a decorate the wall above it with some cool prints and some fairy lights. If you want any ideas on how to style you bar cart, we obviously have a feature on that too. 

6. Add a pop of color by painting an alcove

Alcove painted yellow

(Image credit: Alun Callunder)

If you are looking for a really quick and easy way to make more of a feature of your alcove, paint is your best bet. We love this yellow living room spot where a simply sunny hue in this tiny nook, lifts the room and adds a design interest. 

7. Create a library in your alcove

black sofa and checked sofa in living room in front of bookshelf with lots of books

(Image credit: Bruce Hemming)

Need somewhere for better book storage? Well, you know that book shelves just make sense as an alcove idea. You could have them built in, making the most of your space, as you can go floor to ceiling, or you could just find a book shelf that fits perfectly into the alcove. Maybe have a think about how you can arrange your books so they actually become a feature of the room, use the colors of the spines for a rainbow effect or store them vertically and horizontally to create some interesting shapes. Find cute reading spots for book lovers for more style inspiration.

8. Use an alcove to make a feature with logs

Alcove ideas

(Image credit: Vanessa Arbuthnott)

Another super easy alcove idea is to use them to store logs. You know what, we don't reckon you even need a log burner to get this rustic Scandi look. There's nothing wrong with having pile of chopped up tree to help channel all the Scandi living room vibes.

9. Build a wardrobe into a bedroom alcove 

Alcove ideas: A grey bedroom with panelled wardrobes, two-toned walls, original Victorian floorboards and a Victorian-style fireplace

Just as with the living room alcove storage, you could choose to use the alcoves in your bedroom storage. Wardrobes are cumbersome things that take up a ton of room so it makes sense that if you have an alcove going unused to put it to use. Again, you can get a carpenter to build a wardrobe into your alcove and you can completely customise the interior, based on what you need. 

10. Create a cozy spare bedroom 

Scandinavian style bedroom by Soak & Sleep

(Image credit: Soak & Sleep)

Can we call this an alcove? Yes, we can. Or at least we will. Alcoves mixed with slanting roofs are a tricky combo to over come, but rather than hate on this small awkward space, why not accentuate the cosiness and create a cozy small bedroom if your alcove is deep enough. If you can't quite cram a bed in then settle for just a comfy armchair and make it a nice reading corner instead.   

11. Make the most of awkward alcove spaces in lofts

The best cheap grey paint used in a loft bedroom

(Image credit: B&Q)

Another example of how an awkward slanting alcove can work. Pinch this idea and build shelves into the slanting wall – practical and pretty. If you need any tips on how to put up a bracket shelf, just follow our guide. 

12. Add floating shelves to a small bedroom alcove

Stag toile wallpaper in moss is by Little Greene

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Floating shelves were literally made for alcoves, they just create a lovely seamless look, plus they work well for extra storage and are brilliant in a small bedroom with little room for bedside tables. This idea's cute too, paint the shelves in different colors to make your alcove more of a feature. Conveniently, we also have a guide to how to put up floating shelves also. 

13. Create a contrast in an alcove with wallpaper

Alcove idea: wallpaper around it

(Image credit: John Lewis)

Just like paint, wallpaper is an easy way to make your alcoves more of a feature in your home. You could do the obvious and wallpaper your alcoves – this works well if you have symmetrical ones on the either side of a chimney breast, or, if you have an alcove that's more of a decorative feature like the one below, you could wallpaper the rest of the room, and leave the alcove blank. We also like this idea of filling and alcove with a gallery wall – use our guide to find how to create and display yours. 

14. Add kitchen cabinets to fill an alcove 

Pink walls in a green kitchen with green tiles by deVOL

(Image credit: deVOL)

Designing a kitchen around an alcove can be tricky. You could go down the made to measure, bespoke route we have talked about previously, and have a dresser built into the space, but we thought this alcove idea was pretty handy too! Use your alcove basically as a pre-made cabinet. In this deVOL (opens in new tab) kitchen, floating shelves have been added into the alcove and then glass cabinet doors have been installed in front, meaning you can see those gorgeous green tiles through the cabinet doors. 

15. Or go for freestanding kitchen storage in an alcove

Blue and yellow kitchen

(Image credit: Conran)

You could of course always just pop a dresser into your kitchen alcove instead. You might get lucky and find the perfect sized one in an antique shop or on eBay (opens in new tab), but if you're not up for trawling or competitive bidding, Esty (opens in new tab) have some lovely ones too. 

16. Put up floating shelves for extra kitchen storage

kitchen with blue freestanding island with marble worktops, white kitchen cabinetry with bulter's sink and black stove

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Ah floating shelves again. But this time you can see how they work as kitchen storage in alcoves. Rather than having wall-mounted kitchen cabinets, which tend to look bulky, especially in small or low-ceilinged rooms, fill your alcoves with open shelves that you can use to store your prettiest kitchen items, we're talking house plants, your best mugs, cute vases, those trendy, healthy cook books you never use...

17. You can also use an alcove as a mini mudroom

small mudroom/coat rack with wooden slat design and seat

(Image credit: Naturewall)

Alcoves are really something to embrace, although they may seem awkward on first look. We love this idea from Naturewall (opens in new tab) of applying slatted wood to create a space for hanging coats up and perfect for fixing up a bench seat too. As the slats are vertical they will also give the illusion of height which is a bonus especially if your alcove is low.

18. Give a bedroom alcove some color love

grey bedroom with yellow accent wall, upholstered headboard, ladder, side table, lamp

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

Enhance a large alcove that's smaller in depth with a pop of color. If yours is framing a bed or piece of furniture it will help add a little more design interest, especially in neutral schemes. 

19. A slimline alcove calls for a slimline approach

white living room with wooden floorboards, gold tallboy, pouffe, patterned rug, artwork on mantle

(Image credit: Graham & Green)

Older properties tend to come with various sized nooks and crannies so you have to adapt to what you have. This tall yet narrow space is being expertly used by this slimline glass cabinet that looks fabulous. You could even use the top of the cabinet for a plant to add further interest.

20. Create a cozy reading nook

bedroom with green armchair in reading nook, shelving, wall light, plant, mirror, pink bed

(Image credit: Industville/Chris Snook Photography/@lunaslittlehouse)

If your alcove is large enough to fit an armchair you can turn it from a dead space into a cozy reading nook. You can still use it for storage too – pop up some shelving higher up, add a wall light with an adjustable arm for evenings and you’re all set! 

21. Use the bottom of your alcove as a pet feeding station 

kitchen with open shelving, countertop, dog feeding station

(Image credit: JL Design)

It can often be hard to find the perfect spot for your pet’s food and water – without us tripping over it, we know! So this idea of keeping the bowls at the bottom of the alcove is genius and gives you storage space for their food and treats on the side. A mini countertop allows for the coffee machine so it’s win-win all round we say!

22. Highlight architectural detailing and use symmetry as a feature

dining room with yellow painted alcove, dining table, wall lights, mirror, pendant, wooden flooring

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

There are several great aspects about this dining space – the painted alcove creates a visual anchor for the rest of the room and the symmetrical elements of the mirror, wall lights and console work brilliantly. And not forgetting the fabulous pendant light above the dining table which curves with the top of the alcove, these small details are what makes for a creative interior design scheme. 

23. Low and wide alcoves suit low and wide furniture

white living space with dining room, alcoves, rustic table, wooden floorboards

(Image credit: Industville)

Let the alcove you have dictate what furniture can go there. In this case, wide and low is what fits and we love the curvy top that accentuates the space.

Keep it proportionate width wise so you fill the space and remember that you can treat it like any other wall and hang artwork too. 

24. Alcoves work well in bathrooms too

blue bathroom with basin in alcove, metro tiles, mirror, wall light, black and white floor tiles

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

A narrow alcove can be perfect for a sink, small ledge, mirror and wall light. The key is to make the most of the space as it can be tight in a bathroom. Keep your basin proportions slim so it looks right visually and if it can be wall hung that will create the illusion of more space. 

A small ledge or shelf will give you much needed storage and is always worth doing – how cute do these little plant pots look?

25. Go rustic with reclaimed wood in your alcove

rustic dining room with reclaimed wood cupboard and shelving

(Image credit: Industville)

Old properties often have wonky walls and irregular shaped alcoves, you can see here how the cupboard space here has a charming sloping wall. Reclaimed wood is ideal for creating a handcrafted feel that’s full of quirks and character. Use planks to make shelving to match the cupboard and you could even make a new table top too! 

How can you decorate an alcove? 

‘An alcove looks best when it’s decorated as though it is a built-in architectural feature of the home. You can add rustic shelving and then a cabinet base at the bottom, or if that isn’t in your budget, you can look for a piece of furniture that fills up the space,’ advises Anna Versaci, owner of Anna Versaci Design (opens in new tab)

What are the best storage ideas for alcoves?

‘Choose a piece of furniture as close to the alcove’s size as you can get, so it looks like it was a planned architectural feature rather than an after-thought space filler. For instance, an antique cabinet or chest with art hung above it, with an art light to showcase it, really fills up the entire alcove and looks great,’ says Versaci. 

What is the best height for an alcove if you're adding one?

‘I think alcoves look best when they are almost the height of the crown molding unless you are doing a small niche storage space with shelving. Alcoves are also a great place to add arches for more architectural interest,’ continues Versaci. 

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer before moving to the Livingetc team in 2021 where she took on a role as Digital Editor. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration. When she isn't writing about interiors, she is renovating her own spaces – be it wallpapering a hallway, painting kitchen cupboards or converting a van.

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