Nooks & Niches: Ways to Optimize Those Quirky Spaces

Nooks & Niches: Ways to Optimize Those Quirky Spaces

“What in the world do I do with this space?” Ah, it’s literally one of my favorite design questions! I absolutely love standing back and seeing the potential in unused nooks and crannies of a home. I find it so exciting - like solving a puzzle.It may come from living in tiny NYC apartments for 13 years of my life. When you live in small apartments, every last blank space has to have a purpose. Or maybe it’s because of the fact that now I have lots of nooks in my house. 

For example, I turned an unused second floor laundry room into an art nook for my kids when they were toddlers. I painted the walls with chalkboard paint, and squeezed in a small desk with stools on both sides, and I used the laundry cabinets to store all kinds of art supplies. I also took an awkward area on the second floor landing, added an oversized chair and an Ikea bookcase with doors, and boom - a comfy nook for reading and now where my 10 year old likes to play video games.

Nooks, niches and alcoves may seem like tricky areas to decorate, but there are great pros to having them. They add charm to your home while serving functional purposes when innovatively used. So let’s get down to business! Here are some ways you can utilize those odd corners in your house.


What could be easier than an office nook? Small desks are inexpensive and easy to find. There are even wall mounted desks that fold up when not in use. And depending on how often you plan to use it (and who it’s being used by), you may only need a little stool or a ladder back chair to complete the ensemble. Make sure to add a letter sized tray or box to keep stray papers together, and a cup for pens and pencils. Great for an office, homework area or just a desk to keep important mail and school papers at the ready. Kitchens used to regularly have a desk area, but it seems like that has fallen out of favor. I’d love to know which of you out there still have a desk area built into your kitchen!


Have an unused room, corner, or area under the stairs? If you have a house of bookworms, then comfy chairs, good lighting and maybe a small side table, are the only real necessities to creating a fantastic cozy area for curling up with a good book. I personally have several reading areas in my home; with kids that love to read, it’s nice to have random little spaces where they can get away from each other when they want to, and feel like they can get comfy and escape into their books.


Bar nooks are probably what I see as the most popular nook idea currently. I’ve seen several examples of taking inset areas of a wall - even a closet - and adding in a bar cart with wall mounted glassware racks and shelves for spirits. Bars are fun because it’s a great reason to go with a dark and moody vibe - either with wallpaper, a small countertop or wall shelves.


If you have extra space in your attic - and it’s a finished area, it can make for a great hobby or crafting area. Of course, you can also use it as an office, like I have in my home - if there is ample space. The great thing about hidden away spaces is that any clutter or mess that you may not have time to tidy up on a given day isn’t front and center like it would be in a main area of the house.


All it takes to transform an awkward corner into a conversation area is a set of chairs and a tiny table. Your guests will feel cozy, and you'll feel happy that you filled that odd space. Seating nooks can also be essential when you have kids. In my living room, my main sofa opposite the tv “floats” in the back of the room, (meaning it’s not up against a wall). My kids aren’t allowed to eat on my white couch (not a great choice by me!), so I added a sofa table behind, with 2 stools that tuck away underneath. That way, when the kids want to eat something messy, they can sit at the sofa table and still watch tv, but I don’t have to worry about spills and food stains on the furniture. 

If you wish you had a dedicated area for anything - crafting, a hobby, writing, reading, etc., take a walk around your home with a critical eye. I’m sure you can find a spot to make it happen!

Lori Shaw