Smart alcoves add charm and comfort

Enhance underused areas with creative storage, display areas, and curl-up nooks

Mary Jo Bowling

Alcoves ― small recesses opening off a room or hallway ― add character and extra functionality to a home. Whether used for relaxing by a window, to gain storage, or for displaying art or floral arrangements, these intimate niches are effective ways to enhance underutilized areas.


When Bruce Teel redesigned this house, the owners asked for a place where the husband, a lawyer, could keep his things organized. Teel designed a "landing pad" for him in a hallway. He can stand and make phone calls from the tall desk, while drawers offer a place to store documents and loose change.

Design: Bruce Teel Architect, San Francisco (415/957-9299)

Next: An inviting spot


A deep seat (roughly the size of a twin bed), bookshelves, and reading lights create an inviting spot to sit by the window. With a privacy curtain that draws closed and drawers built under the seat for pillows and linens, it's easy to convert the space into a berth for overnight guests.

Design: Amy Baker Interior Design, Seattle (206/283-1969), and Stephen Bobbitt Architects, Seattle (206/728-4400)

Next: Display case



"I use niches to give a handcrafted look and create visual interest in a space," says architect Gary Ahern. This entry alcove sets the ambience for Mark Shafran's new house, creating an eye-catching element in the open hallway.

Design: Focal Point Design, Menlo Park, CA (650/326-2800), for Dream Team Builders, Menlo Park (650/322-4466) 

More: The shelves you need now

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