If you live in an older home or apartment, chances are you have some unique architectural details in your space. Sometimes these details are breathtakingly beautiful (we see you, original built-ins and fireplaces!) and other times they’re more of a challenge to contend with. (We have often wondered what to do with that awkward nook under the stairs.) Sometimes even covetable architectural features like a bay window are difficult to decorate around. But these are the things that make your home unique and offer a fun way to bring some personality into your home.

But one of the random and challenging architectural details we get asked about most often? Wall niches and built-in alcoves! A common architectural “quirk,” recessed wall niches are most often found in older houses and apartments. (Though sometimes in newer homes, too, surrounding a fireplace.) They’re a feature that certainly adds character and uniqueness to your space—but they can also be quite a challenge to decorate around, especially if they’re on the smaller side.

Of course, how you decorate a wall niche totally depends on its size and shape—not to mention where it’s located within your home. Sometimes these recesses were specifically designed for holding art, TVs, or other decorative accents. Other times they’re left over from an earlier time period—when home phones got their very own built-in shelf. No matter what your wall niche was intended for, there’s definitely a way to make the most of your wall niche.

Since we’re all about working with what you’ve got, we thought it might be nice to explore some recessed wall niche ideas for designing around these built-in features. Yes, this might be a bit of a niche topic (we couldn’t help ourselves), but for those who have a wall niche in their space, we know you’ll appreciate this round-up of inspiration.

Ready to get inspired? Here are our 11 best recessed wall niche ideas.

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1. Design a Creative Home Bar

There’s no need for a bar cart or cabinet when you have a wall niche with shelves! To create a small home bar, incorporate bar tools, stemware, and a collection of your favorite liquors and mixers on the shelf, along with some books and decor. This is a set-up you can have up year-round, or something you can just arrange just for the occasional fête as a drink station.

modren style living room with curved furntiure

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2. Display a Collection

If you have a duo or trio of small wall niches, like the room pictured above, you have the perfect place to show off a small collection—whether that’s a variety of vases, a couple pairs of Stafforshire dogs, seashells from a trip, or whatever other decorative item you like to collect! Putting one to three small objects in each niche is a great way to display a collection of something without it looking overwhelming. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a collection of like objects either. A couple small wall niches can also offer a fun way to show off eye-catching individual pieces of decor!

wall niche above fireplace in modern home with bright orange walls

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3. Go Monochromatic

Add some drama to this architectural detail in your home by painting either just the recessed wall niche in a contrasting color, or painting the whole wall, including the niche, in an accent color. Then, take it one step further by displaying decor in the same color! This is one of our more bold, artistic wall niche ideas—and it’s also a good way to make the niche fade away a bit and be less of a focal point.

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4. Hang a Mirror or Art

If you have a larger wall niche that’s not really made for displaying decor, make use of the recessed wall space instead by adding a small mirror or piece of wall art in the niche. This makes the space decorative—and practical, if you opt for a mirror. Depending on the location within your room, it could also create a beautiful focal point to show off a favorite piece of art!

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5. Install a Multi-Use Bookcase

For a deeper wall niche, install some shelves and create a little built-in bookcase! This is a great way to maximize this design feature and make it really practical. You can keep your favorite books on the shelves for easy access, and perhaps add in some baskets for storage. And don’t forget to add a touch of greenery with a small plant on one or two of the shelves! We love how the natural wood shelves in the design above add beautiful warmth and contrast against the white walls.

wall niche above firplace in south western style home with rustic style

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6. Arrange Some Candles

Have a small and somewhat shallow wall niche? Add a duo or trio of candles to the shelf surface. The flickering candles will cast a pretty glow, subtly highlighting the niche. Since wall niches are usually chest height or higher, this is also a great way to enjoy candles while keeping them out of reach of pets and kids! And if your niche is more enclosed and you don’t want to worry about the smoke making marks on the wall, you could always go for flameless, battery-operated candles with the same effect!

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7. Display Flowers

A small or medium recessed wall niche can also be a great place to display flowers! This is one of our more simple wall niche ideas—but it’s also beautifully impactful. Simply arrange a vase of flowers—faux or real—then use your wall niche almost as a pedestal to highlight and display your arrangement! Like candles, this is a great way to keep delicate flowers out of reach of pets and kids, while also letting the architectural detailing act as a focal point to highlight them!

built-in wall niche in light and bright modern living room with book shelf

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8. Create a Display Cabinet

If you’re looking for wall niche ideas for one that has some built-in shelves, consider creating a “cabinet of curiosities” by displaying a collection of your favorite art and decor. You can lean framed wall art in a niche, then layer in some decorative objects and plants as a way to highlight some of your favorite pieces, all in one place.

Wall niche in contemporary style living room

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9. Highlight a Sculpture

Let your inner art curator shine by adding a sculpture to your wall niche. Depending on the size of your wall niche and your favorite pieces of decor, this can be the perfect place to highlight a sculptural art piece or collectible. Being displayed on a built-in shelf like this gives your sculptural decor a gallery or museum feel, creating a simple and artful focal point.

three small wall niches above a fireplace

10. Show Off Your Collection of Plants

Adding plants to a wall niche (or a trio of wall niches, like the room pictured above), is a great way to show off your plant collection! The arches of the wall niche draw your eye to the plants, while the green pops against neutral paint. Just make sure they get enough light in the recess of the wall! (Of course, you can always swap them out for faux greenery if you don’t want to worry about lighting and watering!)

Wall niche in moody dark gray living room with traditional style

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11. Use it for Storage

If you have a large wall niche, where the recess starts at floor-level, you have a great place to place a piece of storage furniture. Add a bookcase, glass-door cabinet, or floating shelves to add practical storage to your space. A full wall niche like this can house bigger furniture and even wall decor without taking up a ton of space in the main part of your room.

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