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In terms of architecture, a niche is a small space located within the construction of a room. It is usually considered to be extra space that does not have a predefined purpose. By including this small amount of additional space, it is possible to create additional places around the home that provide a comfortable and intimate nook for reading a book or creatively displaying accessories and small pieces of furniture. Niches can be recesses in a wall, areas under a stairwell, or spaces immediately below a recessed window.
A niche can be viewed as an asset or a liability in a room. For people who tend to lean toward the creative, having a little extra room to decorate is often seen very positively. People who tend to prefer plainer decor may find the these spaces to unwelcome elements in the layout and essentially a waste of space.
Finding ways to make the best use of a niche depend on several factors. First, the purpose for the larger area of the space where the niche is located often defines what would and would not be appropriate for that space. For example, a niche in a dining room would not necessarily be a good place to install a bench and pillows for a reading nook, but may be ideal for recessing a small breakfront coupled with a mirror that helps to make the room appear larger.
Second, the location of the space itself will play a role in determining ways to use the design element to best advantage. The positioning of a niche in relation to doorways and windows may call for it to be turned into focal point, especially if it is directly in the line of vision as people enter the room. However, if a niche is not easily viewed as people enter the space, something that prevents it from drawing attention away from the room’s focal point would be a better option.
Last, the architectural detail of the space will also influence how it is dressed. A niche located below a recessed window may call for a simple two-drawer chest or bookshelf, making the area functional but not likely to detract from the view. Niches recessed into walls provide a great way to place a piece of furniture so it does not protrude far into the room, creating more space to move about the area.