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What is an Alcove?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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An alcove is an architectural term that refers to recessed space in a room. The word is derived from the Spanish, alcova, which stems from the Arabic, al quobba. An alcove can be any type of separate or secluded area that is connected to a main area. Alcoves are commonly seen in sleeping and eating areas indoors. They may also be used to display a piece of art or a fountain indoors or outdoors.

Garden alcoves are often part of an English style garden. They may be separate little buildings like a gazebo, or secluded little areas off the main garden. Recessed areas in a stone garden wall may be used to display statues. Some restaurants feature alcoves that are recessed indoors, but project outward to offer a view of a garden. A restaurant alcove can add more privacy for diners and give them the feeling of almost being in a private dining room.

Dining alcoves are also featured in some home designs. An eating alcove may be located near windows in a kitchen. Built in seating or a table and chairs can be added to an eating alcove. Eating alcoves may be called nooks.

Some entryways, often in larger homes or hotels, feature a wall of alcoves that each holds a piece of art. Lighting is usually added so that the pieces can be easily seen. Plus, the lighting of the recessed areas can add further interest to the look of the wall, especially at night. Indoor display alcoves may be made be plain in design or they may be elaborately trimmed with crown molding.

An alcove studio apartment is a regular studio apartment with a separate sleeping alcove. The sleeping alcove may feature a partial wall to help divide it from the rest of the space or it may have curtains or pillars. Some one bedroom apartments also include a sleeping alcove in the living room and these are popular designs for resorts and ski lodges.

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Discussion Comments
By shell4life — On Apr 11, 2012

I love it when a house has a dining alcove. It just seems like a much more intimate setting than a big table out in a wide open room.

My sister's house has one of these alcoves. It also has big windows that let in plenty of sunlight, so you never feel like you are eating in a dim area. She has a pretty chandelier hanging over the table for dining at night, and I think the lighting in the alcove makes it cheery.

The ceiling is rounded, so you feel like the ceilings are high. I never feel claustrophobic in the dining alcove.

By seag47 — On Apr 10, 2012

@StarJo – I never would have thought to use tulip trees. That would actually be much prettier than the garden alcove my neighbor has.

She loves hedges without any blooms on them, but to me, they are boring. They can be easily shaped, though, so this does make them good for using to create an alcove.

She has several really tall, rectangular hedges that make a recessed space in her flower garden. She has a couple of lawn chairs inside the alcove, and while it does provide shade, to me, it is lacking in aesthetic appeal.

By StarJo — On Apr 10, 2012

I have seen pictures of gorgeous stone garden alcoves with benches inside. I really love the idea of having a private, protected section to sit in and relax, but stone alcoves are beyond my budget.

Instead, I decided to create an alcove in my garden using plants. I planted several tulip trees in a semi-circle, and they eventually fanned out enough to create an alcove.

These trees have gorgeous blooms for a couple of weeks in early spring, but once the leaves arrive, they offer great shelter and shade. From the trunk upward, the trees are covered in greenery.

I put a wooden bench that I bought at a yard sale at a great price inside the alcove. I love to sit there in the summer, shaded from the sun and sheltered from the gaze of my neighbors.

By Oceana — On Apr 09, 2012

I remember visiting my sister in the city when I was a teenager. She had a studio apartment with a sleeping alcove, and she let me use it.

I felt so secure and cozy in there. The walls were painted blue, and that added to the relaxing effect.

I have always loved small spaces with a purpose, and I plan to one day have a sleeping alcove in my home. The bed at my sister's house was just large enough for me, and a raised floor was even with it, so I could put my glasses and alarm clock right beside the bed. I will copy this design if I ever get to plan my own home.

By mitchell14 — On May 14, 2011

I would love to live in an old house with lots of little spaces, where I could put things like alcove bookcases and other little hidden areas, maybe even an alcove bathroom. I like going to old buildings where things have been changed around, so that there are unexpected new things dispersed in places.

By FernValley — On May 13, 2011

The word alcove makes me think of somewhere hidden and mysterious, where you could keep secrets or hide from people. I think this is because really large, imposing buildings like castles and universities are always full of them.

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