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Haven’t Got Built-in Alcove Shelving or Cabinetry? Don’t Worry…

…there are lots of interesting alternatives that will make your room (and alcoves) stand out from the crowd

Houzz Contributor. Editor in Chief of RealHomes.com. I am an editor, journalist,… More

It’s tempting to jam your living room alcoves with fitted shelving and cabinetry, then pack them with everything from books and photos to toys and paperwork. But if you have the clutter under control elsewhere, you can use your alcoves much more creatively. Here are just a few alternative ways to make the most of them.

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Slot in extra seating
If your sitting room is just that, extra seating will always be useful. These benches are built in, but freestanding seats would work just as well, as long as they aren’t too deep.

Fitted or unfitted, benches with lift-up lids or drawers beneath will allow you to hide away everything from seasonal throws to the clutter that even the smartest of living spaces attracts.

Fancy something similar? Track down carpenters and joiners in your area

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Say yes to smart symmetry
If it’s an elegant finish you’re after, this is the formula to copy, with everything on one side mirroring the other.

What other plus points does this set-up give you? Lamps with mirrors behind add depth and reflected light, while delicate console tables like these – rather than solid, chunky pieces of furniture you can’t see through – enhance the feeling of space.

Shop bestselling mirrors on Houzz

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Fashion a display space
Typically, the chimney breast is the focus of attention, but that’s a missed opportunity. Filling each alcove with a large piece of art that will make a focal feature of the whole wall tricks the eye into seeing the room as wider.

What’s more, if you choose complementary pictures that flatter the colour scheme, and each other, the room will feel more cohesive, too.

See the one simple colour-based styling trick that can transform your rooms

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Create a cosy reading corner
In a narrow living space, it’s practical to push seating towards an alcove, which isn’t possible if it’s fitted with shelves or cupboards. Doing so can look a little unnatural, however, unless you give the seating a bit of context. Creating a reading corner like this is the simplest solution.

A sofa can sit square on, but an armchair will look more welcoming placed at an angle.

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Allow the room space to breathe
A living room on the smallish side will actually feel bigger if you don’t pack every single corner with furniture, fitted or otherwise. So if your clutter’s well under control, give yourself the luxury of an empty alcove – or use it for something tall and striking, like this floor lamp, to draw attention to the space.

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Opt for flexible unfitted furniture
Just because you’re not fitting shelves doesn’t mean you can’t have freestanding ones in your alcoves.

What’s the benefit? It will create a more informal, laid-back look for the room overall, and you can use it as an opportunity to work out whether you have the layout of the space right – ideal if you’ve recently moved in.

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Carve out a neat home office
If your living room has to cope with lots of demands, using one of the alcoves – usually the one furthest from the window – as a home office is a practical option.

To keep it looking smart, match the height of the TV in the other alcove to your computer screen (back to symmetry again).

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Be deliberately unconventional
If elegant symmetry leaves you cold, and you want to create a living room that looks relaxed and inviting, choose mismatched treatments for your alcoves – and banish the TV to the opposite wall.

In this room, the reversal of the traditional layout makes the room look instantly welcoming as you come through the door, with the TV refreshingly hidden from immediate view.

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Show off greenery
The depth of an alcove makes it the perfect space for indulging in architectural foliage, whether a floorstanding houseplant or an extravagant arrangement displayed on top of a sideboard.

The trick to getting the impact of the display just right? Aim for foliage that’s over half the width of the alcove and fills at least two thirds of its height.

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Stretch the space
Typically, alcoves make for dark corners full of unwanted shadows, so filling yours entirely with mirrors makes perfect sense. They will banish the shadows, add depth to the room and bounce lots of artificial and natural light around.

Tell us…
What’s in your alcoves? Share photos or tips in the Comments section.
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