Living Room

27 Brilliant Alcove Shelving Ideas For Your Living Room

Alcoves can be tricky features. Although characterful, they often mean dead space, and it can be hard to know what to do with it.   But shelving could be the perfect solution to your alcove dilem.

By Amy Booth Updated: July 20, 2022 13 mins read

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Alcoves can be tricky features. Although characterful, they often mean dead space, and it can be hard to know what to do with it.


But shelving could be the perfect solution to your alcove dilemma. And the best alcove shelving ideas can even turn your unused space into a stunning design feature.


Whether you want a beautiful place to display your cherished book collection or you need a home for your TV and tech, it’s a great place to get creative.


So, if you’re looking to show your alcoves some love, be inspired by our list of 27 brilliant alcove shelving ideas to transform your living room.


1. Illuminate Your Shelves

Illuminated hanging box shelves give this classic living room a contemporary twist. The display makes a stunning focal point of the alcoves, proving your shelving can be as decorative as it is practical.


Highlight your shelves with discreet strip lights to create a stylish feature that will bring a calming ambience by night.


2. Add Character by Mixing Materials

A mix of materials makes for a relaxed vibe in this modern lounge. The golden tones of the exposed brickwork and wood shelving add warmth beside grey and white accents.


Consider turning your entire fireplace wall into a feature by using different materials and contrasting colours. Consider bold black paint on your walls paired with exposed brick alcoves for a cocooning space.


3. Paint Your Shelves a Darker Shade

Make your alcove shelves pop by painting them darker than your walls. Used as an accent, deep colours help draw the eye in and make a space look larger.


Enhance a neutral living room by painting your alcoves and shelves navy, black or deep green. Keep your chimney breast neutral to create definition and depth.


4. Create a Contemporary Look With Asymmetric Shelves

This modern and bright living room is a sight to behold. Contemporary asymmetric shelves span across the alcoves and beyond, helping the chimney breast blend into the space.


The clever, asymmetric design turns the chimney wall into a stylish feature and uses all the available space. Instead of traditional full-width shelves, give your alcoves a sleek and modern edge by using different-sized shelves in an asymmetric layout.


Paint your shelving a lighter colour than the walls to bring contrast and help them stand out.


5. Colour Drench Your Space

Make your living room appear larger by using the same colour across your walls, alcoves, and shelves. This Victorian lounge has rich, navy paint adorning the entire space, giving a dramatic and stylish look.


Colour drench your room in dark hues to create a cosy cocoon and dress your shelves with colourful books and accessories to make them pop.


6. Reflect Light With Mirrors

Make dark alcoves stand out and reflect light with mirrors. These tall, elegant shelves have antique-mirrored backs, bringing style and glamour to this characterful home.


Hang large, single mirrors on either side of your fireplace and install simple glass shelves for a sleek and modern finish. It’s a fantastic way to create extra visual interest in your lounge.


7. Add a Bold Colour Behind Your Shelves

This contemporary living room comes alive with bright yellow alcoves and white shelving. Make your alcoves pop with a splash of bold colour.


Choose a neutral, pared-back colour for your main walls and shelves, like white or pale grey, and go wild with your paintbrush. Try electric blue for a cool hue or spark joy with bright pink or bold yellow.


Then, add subtle touches of your chosen accent colour to your room’s artwork and furnishings to unite the entire scheme.


8. Make a Feature With Your Books

Bookshelves or a work of art? We’re really not sure! This fabulous alcove brings stacks of fun to a neutral living room, with a rainbow of books taking pride of place.


Sure, the arrangement might make some librarians slightly twitchy, but we think that’s a small price to pay for showstopping shelves. Create a feature in your lounge by colour coordinating your books and accessories on your alcove shelving.


Choose light, beige, or white walls and shelving to let your alcove do all the talking.


9. Include a TV Unit

Televisions may not be the prettiest of features in our living rooms, but let’s face it, most of us have one. This contemporary lounge does a great job of accommodating the TV within the alcove shelving.


The screen is balanced by attractive book-filled shelves on either side of the chimney, bringing colour. And the deep-hued blue walls ensure that, rather than dominating the space, the TV blends in.


Make the most of your space by including a media unit in your alcove shelving design. Install shelving above your TV to help draw the eye up, making sure the focal point is not the screen.


10. Create Height

Enhance a smaller living room with simple shelving in your alcoves. This gorgeous Scandi lounge is small but perfectly formed. It has simplicity at its heart, with two black shelves on either side of the chimney breast, ensuring the space isn’t overwhelmed.


Because the shelves don’t go all the way to the ceiling, it gives the illusion of greater height on this wall. Choose slimline shelves and leave a generous chunk of space above to create a more spacious feel in your lounge.


11. Create Contrast

Make a stand-out feature with your alcoves by painting your shelving in a contrasting colour. These traditional, mint green shelves offer a sublime contrast with navy blue walls in this lounge, helping lift and lighten the overall space.


But you could go the other way and add a bolder colour against paler walls, too – for example, teal shelving against pale pink or peach walls.


12. Choose Perfect Symmetry

Simple shelves add a decorative touch to this classic cream lounge. Featuring twin cabinets and two shelves on either side of the fireplace, the symmetrical design and accessories instill a sense of calm and order.


Recreate the look at home with a neutral colour scheme and hang slim, wall-mounted shelves in your alcoves. Choose simple, pared-back accessories for your shelves to make a sleek and soothing space.


13. Get The Industrial Look

Give your living room an industrial twist by using reclaimed materials for your alcove shelving. These stunning shelves feature scaffolding boards and steel pipes, providing a salvaged vintage design that works perfectly in a casual living space.


Complement your shelves with deep grey or black-painted alcoves to enhance the industrial vibe.


14. Consider Freestanding Shelves

If you’re looking for a less permanent way of dressing up your alcoves, consider simple freestanding shelves – it’s the perfect solution if you’re renting your home.


This bright and eclectic lounge features white, ladder-style shelves to house decorative accessories, making an attractive feature out of dead space.


15. Create a Black Accent Wall

The black alcoves, shelving, chimney breast, and fireplace make a deliciously dark feature wall in this modern living room.


If you’re looking to create drama, why not transform your own living space with a black feature wall? Paint one entire wall black, including your alcoves, shelving, woodwork, and chimney breast.


Paint your remaining walls and ceiling white for a high-impact monochrome scheme and add texture with the accessories on your shelves to soften the look.


16. Paint Your Shelves a Lighter Colour

This calming lounge pairs light blue walls with white shelving and woodwork, giving a classic look. Give your living room a light and bright finish by painting your alcove shelving white.


Paint your alcoves and walls at least two shades darker to create contrast and accentuate your shelves.


17. Bring Minimalist Style

Each side of this modern fireplace is perfectly balanced with walnut shelves, giving a clean and sophisticated look. Bring minimalist style to your own living room with simple, wall-mounted shelves.


Choose an even number of shelves and create symmetry in each alcove. Keep your accessories simple to ensure a sleek, minimalist finish.


18. Disguise Uneven Alcoves

This classic living room makes the most of the available space with beautiful white shelving units on either side of the chimney breast. The decorative mouldings and simple, all-white décor also help to disguise the fact that the alcoves are different sizes.


Disguise uneven alcoves and bring timeless elegance to your lounge by painting your entire room, shelves, and woodwork white. White is great for helping to reflect light and will ensure you have a seamless space.


19. Wrap Your Shelves Around the Corner

This gorgeous open-plan space mixes old with new in an enviable partnership. Simple, white shelves complement the décor and sweep around the corner, maximising the storage options and looking fantastic at the same time.


Make a striking feature in your home by extending your alcove shelves onto the adjoining wall. It’s a great way to create visual interest and add depth to your living room.


20. Enhance Features With Bold Colour

Make a quirky feature of characterful alcoves with rich colours. This deep blue scheme enhances the arched alcoves, helping draw the eye in and create depth.


Simple alcove shelves are dressed with a colourful display of books, adding further visual interest to the space and drawing the eye up to the curved arches.


Don’t be afraid to go bold with your paintwork and accessories – bright colours can help to add life to a space and help your alcoves stand out.


21. Sleek and Modern Storage

This beautiful lounge is proof that you shouldn’t underestimate the power of simplicity. With all-white décor and furniture, it’s a fresh and modern space.


Simple, flat-panel cabinetry and shelving make great use of the space in the alcoves, with an impressive collection of books adding the only pop of colour. Create sleek storage options in your living room with handleless cabinets in your alcoves.


22. Create Warmth With Your Paint

We love how this plaster-pink décor creates an instantly warm and inviting feel. The alcove shelving and cabinets are painted the same shade as the walls, providing a beautiful, cohesive look.


Paint your walls, alcoves, shelving, and cabinets all one colour to enhance the sense of space. Choose a warming beige or pink to create a cosy vibe that’s perfect for entertaining friends or cuddling up with loved ones.


23. Introduce a Colour Pop

Use your alcove shelving to introduce a colour pop to your living room. These vibrant, teal shelves and cabinets add a fresh and fun look against neutral walls.


Pair neutral walls with bold shelves – think pink, orange, green, or blue to make a big impression. It’s a great way to make a feature of typically underused space.


24. Mix Your Storage Options


Create the perfect place for all of your accessories by including a mix of storage in your alcove design. This contemporary space uses a mix of cabinets and compartments of different sizes to accommodate a range of books and decorative items.


Painted bright white to match the walls, it’s simplistic but stylish. Consider your storage needs when planning your shelves to make sure they meet your needs. It’s a great time to declutter and organise your items too.


25. Include a Log Store

Everyone loves cosying up beside a warm fire in the cooler months – but finding a place to store your logs can be tricky. This homely living room has found a practical and stylish storage solution by making room for logs in the alcove shelving.


Paired with a green accent wall and shelves, it brings a touch of nature to the room.


Create a rustic feature by including space for logs in your alcove shelving. Aside from offering handy storage, the natural tones of the wood will help create a warm and welcoming atmosphere.


26. Consider Your Accessories

Create visual interest in a small lounge with a striking arrangement on your alcove shelves. This contemporary grey living room has layers of accessories, with a variety of shapes, sizes, and colours.


Large plates and framed images form a backdrop, while smaller objects at the front of the shelves help to create depth. Choose items of different height, width, and colour and group complementary shapes together for maximum impact.


27. Add Drama With Black Shelves

This eclectic space complements grey walls with bold black shelves, creating a high-impact look. The shelves extend beyond the chimney breast, offering deep storage options and framing the fireplace.


Bring drama to your living room and maximise your storage with full-height, black alcove shelves. Leave room for your TV within the shelves – the black paint will help the screen blend in seamlessly when it’s not in use.

What Type of Wood Is Used for Alcove Shelves?

Use sturdy wood for alcove shelves, like oak, pine, or MDF. But if you crave a rustic look, you can also use materials like reclaimed scaffolding boards.


What Height Should Alcove Shelves Be?

The height of your shelves comes down to personal taste and the type of space you have. If you need lots of storage, take your shelves up to the top of the room to maximise your options.


Or, if you want to create a sense of height, opt for lower shelves with a gap at the top to trick the eye into seeing more space.


How Do You Fill a Large Alcove?

Fill a large alcove with shelves, books, and plants. If you don’t have a lot of books or accessories, consider asymmetric shelving to house a few simple items instead. You could also consider placing your TV in your alcove to make the most of your space.


Opt for cabinets at the bottom to provide handy storage for blankets and cushions.


Should You Paint Alcoves Darker or Lighter?

Painting alcoves a different colour is a great way to create interest, but whether you paint your alcoves darker or lighter is up to you. Paler shades pop in a darker room and can add more light.


Darker shades complement lighter walls and help to accentuate the recessed wall.


How Do You Use an Alcove Space?

Depending on your needs, alcove spaces can provide valuable storage, or you can use them to create a decorative feature wall. They can offer a stylish home for your TV and tech – or even provide a flexible home-office space.

Amy Booth

Amy Booth is a freelance writer that’s passionate about all things home decor, art, literature, and nature. She lives in an Edwardian home in the North East of England, where her renovation adventures began with her husband and newborn daughter, Violet. Amy describes her home style as “traditional with a twist”, and in her spare time, she shares home decor tips and inspiration on her Instagram page, as well as her latest home updates. When she’s not obsessing over interiors, you can find her cooking vegetarian food or enjoying a glass of prosecco.

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