Alcove shelving ideas – the most stylish ways to make use of an awkward space

Alcoves can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes they lend themselves perfectly to becoming a built-in bookcase, or study space, but more often than not to they are tricky, dead spaces and it can be hard to know how to use them effectively. Alcove shelving ideas are the easiest answer to your awkward nook woes, fill an alcove with shelving and immediately you have a practical, useable space that provides a spot for storage and decor.

But while putting up shelves is a straightforward solution, when it comes to choosing the shapes, sizes, and styles, plus what you want to display, the options feel almost endless. There’s a skill to getting your shelving ideas right, creating displays that feel curated, but not overly so, practical, but not purely so, and personal, but not to the point where they feel cluttered.

So we’ve asked the experts for all their alcove shelving advice, from what shapes and colors work best to how to create displays that are eye-catching and filled with character.

1. MAKE YOUR ALCOVE SHELVING MULTIPURPOSE

Small bedroom with desk built into alcoves
(Image credit: Interior Fox)

When used to their full potential, alcoves can be such an asset to a room, especially when space is tight as they really allow to maximize on that vertical space. ‘Some people struggle with awkward alcoves, but we see them as a bonus – there’s so much potential in these areas! They do not only give you extra storage space, but an opportunity to showcase your personality in your home.’ says Jen from Interior Fox. 

In this master bedroom, we added built-in shelving that feels as if they have always been there. Since they’re painted the same color as the walls, your eyes are automatically drawn to the details that add real personality to the room. You can also stack your books in various ways for added interest: pile up some horizontal and some vertical, or even put some fun covers facing forward to create a mini focal point on your shelves.’

Also, see how in this small bedroom, rather than awkwardly floating bedside tables next to the bed where they’d just add visual bulk and get in the way, the bottom shelves in the alcoves double up as bedside tables. Not only that by sliding a small ottoman under each they can be used as a workspace or dressing table. Very clever!

It’s easy to get lost in sleep in our warm yet lightweight comforters. Colors pop on this bedding staple and they will surely be the focal point of your bedroom’s decor. Choose from either synthetic microfiber or our natural fiber cotton. Available in Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, and King sizes.

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2. CONSIDER THE SHAPES OF YOUR SHELVING

traditional living room with alcove shelving
(Image credit: James Merrell)

In most alcoves, the go-to shelving is floating shelves that run across the entire space, and while this is a really easy look that suits so many rooms and styles it’s not the only option. The shelves you choose and how you hang them can add interest before you’ve even started filling them. 

Instead of filling an alcove with shelving, you could layer shorter shelves that just protrude out from one side, or fill the space with different sized cubby holes, or instead of shelves, be inspired by this dining room idea and opt for a wall-mounted unit that can float in the center of the alcove, adding more shape and interest than the classic floating shelves.

Our floor cushions are the super comfy and style-forward option for outdoor seating. They’re UV coated to protect against fading and water-resistant so you can avoid scrambling to bring them inside whenever there’s a touch of weather. Grab a few to have on hand whenever seating is hard to come by or for a fun option for kids to use out in the yard.

<< More Floor Cushion Styles >>

3. PLAY WITH HEIGHTS AND SCALE

dark green kitchen alcove and worktop with open shelf display storage and colourful ceramics
(Image credit: Future / Jon Day / Hannah Franklin)

When it comes to styling your alcove shelving, no matter what room it’s in, the key to creating a design that’s eye-catching and memorable is variation. As you are styling just keep stepping back and looking at how the lines look, ideally, there shouldn’t be any clean lines, your eye shouldn’t be settling on anything, more moving around the display. 

‘This is one of the most important styling tips when creating the perfect shelfie and while it may be a simple trick, the impact created by varying the heights and sizes of your display can not be underestimated.’ Jane Rockett, Co-founder of Rockett St George.

Candlesticks are a great way to achieve this, so try propping up a candlestick holder on a stack of coffee table books or magazines to add extra height. Varying your candles with a combination of tealights, pillar candles and candlesticks can also create the same, stylish effect.’

House plants are also genius for creating impact with different scales so try filling vases and plant pots with different sized plants, dried grasses, and florals to create contrast between both the textures and sizes. If you’re someone that struggles to keep your plants alive then don’t panic – there are so many life-like faux plant options out there that it can be hard to tell the difference!

Our floor pillows are the perfect pick for seating in a pinch. They’re overstuffed and firm to never lose their shape and the high-quality print makes sure the design stays crisp and colorful. Available in round or square, with two size options.

<< More Floor Pillow Styles >>

4. FILL A NARROW ALCOVE WITH PICTURE LEDGES

Alcove decor in a all white living room
(Image credit: James Merrell)

Narrow alcoves can be tricky to decorate, they aren’t deep enough to be used for any substantial storage, so instead, fill them with picture ledges and display a collection of prints. Again, that same variation in height applies here too you want to avoid arranging your frames so they all sit on the same level. Try layering them to add even more interest, and for a more eclectic look mix and match the frames too. 

If you want to take a more minimalist approach, pick a selection of larger prints to fill the space, rather than lots of small ones that can make a room feel cluttered. And take them all the way to the top – don’t just float prints in the middle of the wall, continue them to the ceiling for a more elegant look that’s going to add height to your room.

Express your style all over your home with a feature-worthy rug. They’re made from a woven, polyester chenille for a soft and textured look. Plus, choosing from our wide array of designs, you’re sure to find just the rug to match your decor. Rugs are one of the best, attention-grabbing pieces to design a room around. Use the colors within the rug to help choose art prints, furniture fabric, and accent pillows.

<< More Rug Styles >>

5. ADD ALCOVE SHELVING TO A COZY READING NOOK

Window seat with built in alcove shelving
(Image credit: Howark Designs)

How lovely is this use of alcove shelving? Adding a mini home library to a cozy window seat. Not only does it look stylish, but it’s also practical to use what would otherwise be a dead space. ‘ Shelving is practical and pretty and provides great space to display a curated selection of personal items to great effect. There are so many ways it can be used to provide useful storage space in the home.’ explains Saskia Howard, Creative Director of Howard Designs. 

In a small study or seating area, creating a reading area with fitted bookshelves always makes the room feel cozy. In a project we did in Cornwall, we created a built-in window seat with bookshelves next to a window looking out to sea. It ended up being the perfect spot for curling up with a book.’

Invite the sun inside on your terms. Our blackout window curtains are a denser alternative to your standard window curtain, blocking out most light and proudly featuring your favorite designs. Whether you live in a busy apartment or a peaceful neighborhood, it’s always nice to have the option to shut out the sun and relax inside by candlelight. Available in either single or double panel options. A double panel features the same design on both panels. The bottom edge of the curtain includes a 2″ pocket that can be used as a hanging pocket, but beware that the artwork will be upside down for any non-patterned designs.

<< More Blackout Curtain Style >>

6. CREATE THE ALLUSION OF DEPTH WITH MIRRORS

Grey bathroom with open shelving
(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

Using mirrors to ‘expand‘ space is the oldest interior design trick in the book, but they can also work well in alcoves not only to make the room feel larger but to add depth to the shelving too. We love the display of ceramics in this grey bathroom, they feel so wonderfully out of place, so unexpected and yet it works to add texture to a room that can be so hard to bring in any real character due to their very practical nature.

The mirror behind the shelving creates the effect there is double the amount of decor, adding even more depth and texture. ‘No shelf style spot is complete without a mix of textures.’ says Jane Rockett. ‘These add depth and interest to your display and are perfect for establishing your color palette. From ribbed vases to bobble jugs, faux coral ornaments, and stone effect display pieces, embracing contrasting textures helps draw the eye to your shelf styling.’

Glass is a must for me as it reflects light and simply glistens on your shelf. When it comes to styling your shelf, glass decanters, vases, or candle holders all look gorgeous, whether you opt for classic clear glass or bolder designs of on-trend colored glass in amber, smoke grey, or pink tones.’

Our shower curtains are the perfect focal point for any bathroom with our artists’ array of eye-catching designs. Hookless and extra-long, these curtains will surely fit in any bathroom setup. Plus, they’re machine washable to avoid any soap scum or buildup.

<< More Shower Curtain Styles >>

7. BLEND ALCOVE SHELVING INTO THE WALLS

Green living room with built in shelving, armchairs and colorful vintage rug
(Image credit: James Merrell)

In rooms where space is tight, like in this small living room, alcoves can often work best when they blend into the room. Painting your alcoves and shelving the same color as the walls stops the space from feeling broken up, there’s a cohesive flow that distracts from the dimensions of the room making it feel bigger

You can then add pops of brighter hues that stand out against that solid block of color to give the eye focus. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to picking a color scheme for your alcove shelving, but designer Sabrina Albanese does suggest ‘Replicate pops of color throughout the shelving. For example, if you are putting a colorful abstract art on one shelf, pick up a color from that artwork and place another similarly-colored item on the other shelf so the eye naturally moves from item to item.’

Add throw pillows to whatever room needs an extra dose of comfy. Individually cut and sewn by hand, each pillow features a double-sided print and is finished with a concealed zipper and faux down insert. Keeping an assortment of throw pillow designs on hand is the easiest way to give any space an instant refresh. Available in four sizes.

<< More Throw Pillow Styles >>

8. MAKE ALCOVE SHELVING A FEATURE WITH CONTRASTING COLORS

Pink living room with blue sofa and alcove shelving
(Image credit: James Merrell)

Or if you want your alcoves to in fact stand out in the room and be more of a focal point, instead of matching them to the walls, paint them in a contrasting shade. We love the combination of blush pink and deep navy, they balance each other so well. And in general dark colors are great for alcoves as they really make colors pop, for more than a neutral backdrop would do.

Take-home tip: see how on these alcove shelves everything is grouped in odd numbers. It’s a design trick as old a time, but the rule of three approach works as it takes the brain longer to register odd numbers, so you spend longer focusing on the display.

From sideshow to show-stopper, our side tables will be a stunning modern accent to your space. Selecting from our wide array of artists’ designs printed with a satin finish on birch wood, you’ll take any room from zero to a hundred. Available in a square or round table top, and black or gold leg colors.

<< More Side Table Styles >>

9. DISGUISE A TV WITH ALCOVE SHELVING

Colorful living room with alcove shelving
(Image credit: James Merrell)

Alcoves in living rooms were made for TVs, they might be features in period properties, but it’s like they were designed to house this bulky piece of tech. When it comes to disguising a TV alcove shelving is perfect for distracting from the screen and making it less of a focal point in your space.

See in this living room, your eyes don’t immediately fall on the black hole in the corner, you’re drawn into the colorful books and quirky prints. Taking the shelving all the way down to just above the TV is a great tip, you want to fill the space around the screen as much as possible. 

Now how can you style books so they look so effortlessly arranged? Holly Gannon, of Milc Interiors, suggests ‘When it comes to shelf styling, choose a variety of books in different sizes for a layered look. Position a few books in an upright position with some stacked in a pile to create depth and interest. Experiment with decorative ornaments in a variety of finishes to add texture to the space. Don’t be afraid to add these on top of book stacks to draw the eye in.’

Built with mid-century modern styling, our coffee table complements any interior aesthetic—from vintage to contemporary. Best of all, the minimalist design lets the artwork shine as your new centerpiece. Legs are available in black or gold options.

<< More Coffee Table Styles >>

10. TURN YOUR ALCOVE INTO A HOME BAR

Shelving idea with shelves built into alcoves
(Image credit: David Cleveland)

Because alcove shelving can be so much more than just extra storage or a pretty display, use that space to create a home bar. You could pinch this idea and do bar/music set up, with your drinks cabinet being home to your speakers or record players. Or simply fill up your shelves with beautiful bottles and pop a drinks trolley underneath for your bar accessories. 

Sabrina Albanese’s top tip is to ‘make sure there are different levels of shelving for different bottle sizes and have whatever is necessary to making drinks on hand – all your tools for mixing drinks.’ Plus turn your bottles and glasses into a display ‘buy glassware with various colored glass, interesting textured crystal, unusually shaped wine decanters, to keep it interesting.

A true statement maker. Our versatile mid-century modern inspired credenzas are great for use as TV stands, armoires, bars, office cabinets, or the perfect complement to your bedroom set. The vibrant art printed on the doors will make your piece pop in any setting. Available in a warm, natural birch or a premium walnut finish.

<< More Credenza Styles >>

11. OR MAKE IT A SPACE FOR WORKING FROM HOME

Wooden alcove shelving
(Image credit: Emma Lewis)

This is such a clever alcove shelving idea, we could all do with the extra space to work from home, and for so many of us, a dedicated home office is a luxury. So instead make your alcoves work extra hard and turn them into a work spot. Use shelving to display and store any home office essentials and decor so the space reflects your style and then use the bottom shelf (you might want to do slightly wider than the others) as your desk.

Rectangular pillows add depth and variety to your couch or bed. Individually cut and sewn by hand, each pillow features a double-sided print and is finished with a concealed zipper and faux down insert. Mix and match patterns and designs or use them as complements to our throw pillows and bring your home’s look together. Available in four sizes.

<< More Rectangular Pillow Styles >>

HOW DO YOU ADD SHELVES TO AN ALCOVE?

This will depend on what kind of shelves you want to add, if you simply want to add floating shelves into the space, this is a simple DIY job and you can just follow the steps that come with your shelf. If you want something more complex or built-in you would be best getting a joiner to help design and create something bespoke to your space. 

White living room with alcove shelving
(Image credit: James Merrell)

Our folding stools offer a lightweight, yet a style-forward way to get your lounge on. There’s no better way to experience the outdoors than with your feet kicked back and a cold drink in hand, add in your unique sense of style and you truly can have it all. The woven polyester top is spill and splash-resistant so you can take and use it anywhere you feel like lounging.

<< More Folding Stool Styles >>

WHAT LOOKS GOOD IN AN ALCOVE?

Really anything can look good in an alcove, a display of crockery, a curation of house plants, a collection of all your favorite books, or a mix of all those things and more. The key to a good alcove is to create a display that has variation, texture, and character. 

One of our ultimate style secrets for curating a beautiful shelfie is the use of odd numbers when curating your display. Think in ones, threes, and fives when grouping together treasured objects and ornaments.’ explains Jane Rockett. ‘Whilst a uniformed and symmetrical display with matching numbers looks pleasing to the eye, it can make your home feel too perfect – like a showroom or hotel.’

A successfully styled shelf is filled with personality too. So mix up your display ornaments in odd numbers to keep things interesting and don’t be too precious about what makes it into the final display. Sentimental pieces, well-loved books, and quirky ornaments that make you smile, all add character to your shelves and are therefore essential for creating a show-stopping display that is unique to you and your home.’

Alcove shelving in a living room
(Image credit: James Merrell)

Keeping your color scheme tonal is a great way to ensure that your shelves are balanced and blend seamlessly with the rest of your home. Tonal doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to one color but instead, encourages pairing complimentary colors together. Neutrals are a great example as this can include everything from black and grey to warm browns, beautiful beige tones, metallics, and white. Keeping the color palette tonal, whether soft and neutral or bold and bright, has a positive effect on your mood and helps promote feelings of calm and relaxation in the home, with all your treasures styled together in harmony.’

The post Alcove shelving ideas – the most stylish ways to make use of an awkward space appeared first on Arteresting.

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