10 ways to turn unused alcoves and spare corners into happy havens

a reading nook in a green living room a blue kitchen with bar shelving with decorative accessories
10 ways to turn spare corners into happy havensClaire Kennedy, Topology Interiors, Alison Coldridge

Your home is your sanctuary, and even its smallest nooks or uninspiring corners can be designed to encourage moments of calm or rituals of self-care.

Spare corners can be cleverly adapted to support your lifestyle and hobbies – have a look at the fabulous built-in bar in one homeowner's kitchen – you can create areas for calm like a reading nook, or areas that encourage gathering like a breakfast bar. Some spaces need little more than an armchair and modest decoration to totally transform them, and others can be enlivened by adding bookshelves full of your favourite objects for a hit of dopamine whenever you pass by.

Here, we look at 10 ways to turn unused alcoves, spare corners and uninspiring box rooms into happy little havens.

Dressing tables

The dressing table is a luxury that few indulge in – we’re more accustomed to a hurried lick of mascara in a bathroom mirror than a corner dedicated to daily rituals around pampering and self-care. But it couldn’t be easier to create – there are plenty of high street brands responding to the growing popularity of dressing tables with chic lacquered or brightly coloured designs. It’s a nice opportunity to mix old and new, like Sara Austin of @the_found_home has done so masterfully here.

bedroom with original fireplace and dressing table
Sara Austin

A home bar

Spare corners in your home can be cleverly adapted to support your lifestyle and hobbies – keen cooks could turn an alcove into a pantry with the addition of a sliding door, or a bay window could house a record player and vinyls for the music lover. There is something to be said for making a display of our passions and living with and amongst them every day. We love this example of a bespoke built-in home bar designed by Topology Interiors for the stylish host.

Read more: 7 kitchen design questions answered

a kitchen with blue cabinets
Richard Kiely/Topology Interiors

Reading nooks

The original self-care space. Reading nooks are probably the most popular use for spare corners in the home, encouraging total escapism. Much like this sweet corner in the home of Claire Kennedy (@claireakennedy), they require little more than an occasional chair and bookshelf. For added ambiance we’d suggest task lighting like a table or wall lamp (always with a shade to soften the glare of a lightbulb,) a little extra length to your seat like this candy cane striped version to encourage you to curl up, or if space allows, a matching pouffe to put your feet up.

Read more: 11 reading nook ideas

a living room with a fireplace and reading nook
Claire Kennedy

The bathroom

The bathroom should be an invitation to switch off and designed to encourage long evenings soaking in a bathtub or a replenishing morning routine. To achieve this, be generous with decorative detailing – the scalloped mirror and sweet wall light trump a clinical mirrored cabinet and spotlights – and choose an inviting colour palette like this warm peachy pink.

Pictured: Scallop mirror by Reid and Wright

a bathroom with a tub and mirror
Catherine Gratwicke

Window seats

Window seats are one of our favourite design solutions in an awkward or leftover space. They’re great in bay windows to encourage you to pause and enjoy the view, or at the end of a run of cabinets in a kitchen to introduce a bit of informal seating. You can create really intimate little areas with lots of cushions and an upholstered seat – this one takes up the tiniest footprint – even better if you can add storage underneath.

Pictured: House Beautiful Bamboo Blinds at Hillarys

cream kitchen with a window seat

A WFH spot

Even if the only spare corner in your home has to be given over to work, make it inspiring and space-saving. This tiny home office area is fashioned from discreet shelving for a result that is as decorative as it is practical.

Pictured: House Beautiful Soho Stripe Carpet at Carpetright

living room with a small office corner

Shelving and bookcases

Create a happy corner of your home where you display your most treasured items for a hit of dopamine whenever you pass by. The magic is in the mix, so add meaningful photos, trinkets from travels abroad, heirlooms, or anything else that sparks joy. These shelves are a real masterclass in styling etiquette. The takeaway here is the way in which heights have been varied – nothing is too formal or uniform – which leads the eye across them in a balanced and pleasing way.

Read more: 15 shelving units that blend form and function

shelving full of decorative ornaments
Alison Coldridge

A breakfast nook

The return of the breakfast nook is one of our favourite design trends of recent years. Usually featuring a handsome upholstered bench for a bit of added pattern, the breakfast nook provides a level of informality in the kitchen – not quite as relaxed as a cup of tea and a piece of toast on the sofa, but without the ceremony of a dining room. It's an in-between space for leisurely mornings in pyjamas.

Pictured: Suffolk Kitchen at Neptune, designed by Nigel Hunt at Studio Huntreay

pink kitchen with a breakfast nook

Patios and balconies

Even the smallest of patios and urban balconies can become a spot for relaxing and entertaining. Your outdoor space is only as good as its decoration, so we would recommend approaching it as you would any other living space in your home. Be liberal with soft furnishings – we love the creative clash of colour and print in this diminutive courtyard designed by Atelier Akuko. And don’t stop at a simple garden set, layer on lighting, an interesting coffee table, plenty of plants and even weatherproof wall hangings.

Pictured: 19 stylish patio ideas that can revamp your space

small patio garden with corner sofa and table
Atelier Akuko

Sunrooms and conservatories

Sunrooms and conservatories are often designated as spaces for entertaining, but there is something to be said for creating a quiet spot to enjoy alone. These ancillary rooms always benefit from an energising proximity to the outdoors, and you can add to the effect by bringing some of the outside world indoors too – achieved by Sophie Robinson here with an abundant use of sunny colours and florals.

Read more: How to transform a dull conservatory into a joyful living space

sophie robinson in her conservatory
Brent Darby / House Beautiful

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