Alcove ideas: 15 ways to make the most of a small space

From home offices to cosy reading nooks, check out these inspiring alcove ideas...

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

Looking for alcove ideas? Sometimes an alcove has an obvious use. It needs to house the TV, squeeze in a wardrobe or be used to store your ever-expanding collection of books you promise to read but never will. But sometimes an alcove is just an awkward nook in your room that you have no idea what to do with. Well, lucky for you we have a load of alcove ideas to get you inspired, from tiny offices to spare bedrooms (kind of); here are our handy tips for making the most of that small space...

1. Build alcove shelving to create a small home office

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

Home office built into an alcove

(Image credit: Pati Robins)

2. Build in alcove cupboards to display and disguise

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 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. 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.

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

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

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

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. 

Top tip: A nifty trick for this it to paint the walls of your alcove the same colour as your cabinet to help it blend even more seamlessly into the room. 

arts and crafts house with fireplace and bookshelf

(Image credit: Little Greene)

4. Create a home bar in an alcove 

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. 

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

(Image credit: Matt Clayton)

5. Add a pop of colour by painting an alcove

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 how in this living room, a sunny, bright yellow has been used in the alcove – even adding a pop of colour to this tiny nook, lifts the room and adds a bit of interest. Love this? Find more ways to add yellow to your rooms in our design guide.

Alcove painted yellow

(Image credit: Alun Callunder)

6. Create a library in your alcove

Need somewhere to house your ever expanding collection of books? 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 colours of the spines for a rainbow effect or store them vertically and horizontally to create some interesting shapes. Find more book storage ideas in our guide, and don't miss these cute reading spots for book lovers for more style inspiration.

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

(Image credit: Bruce Hemming)

7. Use an alcove to make a feature with logs

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 in your living room just for decoration. Errr... but if you do, we've got a buyer's guide of the best stoves and tons more cosy Scandi room design ideas, too.

Alcove ideas

(Image credit: Vanessa Arbuthnott)

8. Build a wardrobe into a bedroom alcove 

Just as with the living room alcove storage, you could choose to use the alcoves in your bedroom as 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. We've got a load more bedroom storage ideas, over in our dedicated feature so make sure you check that out too. 

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

9. Create a cosy spare bedroom 

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 cosy 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.   

Scandinavian style bedroom by Soak & Sleep

(Image credit: Soak & Sleep)

10. Make the most of awkward alcove spaces in lofts

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. 

The best cheap grey paint used in a loft bedroom

(Image credit: B&Q)

11. Add floating shelves to a small bedroom alcove

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

Stag toile wallpaper in moss is by Little Greene

(Image credit: Little Greene)

12. Create a contrast in an alcove with wallpaper

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. 

Alcove idea: wallpaper around it

(Image credit: John Lewis)

13. Add kitchen cabinets to fill an alcove 

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 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. 

Pink walls in a green kitchen with green tiles by deVOL

(Image credit: deVOL)

14. Or go for freestanding kitchen storage in an alcove

You could of course always just pop a dresser in your kitchen alcove instead. You might get lucky and find the perfect sized one in an antique shop or on eBay, but if you're not up for trawling or competitive bidding, Esty have some lovely ones too. For loads more kitchen storage ideas, make sure you check out our feature. 

Blue and yellow kitchen

(Image credit: Conran)

15. Put up floating shelves for extra kitchen storage

Ah floating shelves again. But this time you can see how they work in kitchen 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...

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

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Read more:

Small Spaces Month:

This article is part of Small Spaces Month, brought to you in association with the new Real Homes Travel Edition. A compact version of our hugely respected monthly magazine, Real Homes Travel Edition brings you all the same great content as the full-sized edition, but in an even more bag-friendly format that’s perfect for inner city commutes and French riviera holidays. Get yours now at WHSmith, Easons and selected newsagents.

Hebe Hatton
Hebe Hatton

Hebe joined the Real Homes team in early 2018 as Staff Writer after working as a social media co-ordinator for a luxury boat title. As a renter, she is always looking for creative ways to make her flat feel like home. She loves boho and 70's style and is a big fan of Instagram as a source of interiors inspiration.