01 October 2012

Dear Miss Cote de Texas

 

"A Girl Writing," Henriette Browne (1829-1901)

 

Kristi writes in with today’s question:

Hello Joni-

I am definitely stuck on a design dilemma....I normally can be pretty creative with a space...but this one has me stuck.   We recently moved to a new house.   All the trim in the home is white, wood floors everywhere,  and so many windows all along the back side of the house!  The design problem: the house is 15 years ago and there are little nooks - I have 2 of these spaces currently, one in the entry and one half way up the stairs.  The other "nook" type place is in the master above the fireplace.  It is actually a hole in the wall made for a TV....now we know what types of TV's were around 15 years ago... and they were the fat large big tubes. So I have this hole between the bathroom and master bedroom...and I just can't figure out for the life of me what to do with it. It's not an option yet to fill the space in.

I feel like these nook areas should stand out with some amazing pieces or something very creative. And maybe I just don't have anything that would work....maybe you can direct me on this?? As well as the hole in the master??

The nook on the staircase has overhead lighting in it...and currently I have a floral arrangement ...that quite truthfully the only reason that it is there is because I didn't have anywhere else for it nor did I know what to put in this nook. My style is French ...whether it's shabby/country or whatever I just love the look of French and Belgium Swedish style. 

I have attached pictures of the areas I am talking about....and I am so hoping that you can assist me in coming up with something creative or finding some affordable "somethings" to put in the spaces!    I hope all is well and can't wait to hear what you think!

 

Dear Kristi,

Art nooks, or niches, really are a problem for a lot of people, or so it seems judging by the amount of chatter about them on the internet.  It seems that all the new houses have one or two of these niches going up the stairs and some even have niches high above in rooms with two story ceilings.  I have to be honest, I am not a huge fan of art niches, probably because everyone just sticks an arrangement of fake flowers there, or they put some contemporary art glass in the nook – both things that are just not on my list of favorites things!! 

The reason why I decided to try to address your problem on the blog is that I think there are a lot of people out there who are living with niches and aren’t quite sure what to do with them.  So, I am hoping that others may find some help too!

Researching your issue on the internet, there just aren’t many ideas I can show you with a picture.  The web site Houzz has over 13,000 pictures of the ugliest solutions to this problem that you can find!  Seriously, check out that link if you don’t believe me!   So,  without the help of any visual pictures, I tried to think, what would I put in a niche if I lived with one?  And here are a few ideas that I came up with. 

To start, let’s look at your art niches:

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First, you have this tiny niche in your entry hall.   I love the casual way you decorated this area with a bench and trendy pillows, along with vintage suitcases. 

 

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And then, you  have this larger niche that is lighted – in the staircase wall.

 

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It’s actually quite high up there – or so it seems!  

 

 

Finally, you have this niche, or really a former TV spot,  that is open over the fireplace in your bedroom, to….

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the other side of the wall, which is your bathroom.

 

So, lets tackle the issue of Art Niches

 

Did you know that niches were first added to Victorian house’s staircase walls to allow coffins to be carried from the upstairs to the downstairs?  Neither did I, but apparently this is a story that is widely believed!

 

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The history behind niches known as “coffin corners” is that people usually died upstairs in their beds and then had to be brought back downstairs in a coffin.  Niches were built into walls of Victorian houses’ staircases so that the pallbearers could insert one corner of the coffin into the niche and make the turn at the landing.  Because of this,  niches for years were called “coffin corners.”   It isn’t known if this is just a myth or if the story is based in fact.  

 

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The truth is probably more like this – niches have been around for ages.  Mostly they were used to exhibit art work or statues, such as these niches that were placed above the doors in a large Irish entrance hall.

 

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And another niche, placed at eye level.  These niches were beautifully constructed with carvings and graceful, curved walls.   Niches like these show little resemblances to those found in houses built today.

 

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For instance, there is no architectural reasoning for these niches – they are just three arched holes placed high above the wall.  There is no carved wood, no curved wall – just an indention in the drywall.  And whatever happened to art work being placed at eye level where you could see it?

 

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And again, typical niches found in newer homes today have no architectural basis.  These aren’t even lined up with the fireplace and its fake twin to the right (what IS that, by the way?)   Painted black, the holes are focal points in the room, for all the wrong reasons.

 

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This owner wrote into an internet web site asking for ideas of what to do with these art niches and columns found in her new house.  Besides all the arches, columns, and niche above the TV, there is another niche on the far left.  Most commenters advised her to try and just remove all the columns and arches and niches and start over.  Good advice, I’d say.

 

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In contemporary houses, typically a collection of modern glass will be displayed in art niches – such as this.  At least these niches are pretty and do seem to be thought out by a designer, rather than just be a cutout in the drywall.

 

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Most niches found are simpler versions like this, arched holes in the wall decorated with flowers and art work.

 

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Some are lighted for dramatic effect.

 

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And some have painted backs for even more dramatic effect.  The look is often supposed to resemble Tuscany.  This house has arched niches, arched doorways, columns, and another arched niche at the end of the hallway. 

 The quest for answers of how to decorate an art niche is found all over the internet.  There are videos on You Tube with solutions.  I’ll spare you those.  And there is even a Facebook group for “how to decorate your art niche” – seriously this might be the biggest problem Americans are facing today!!

 

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OK, quit laughing!  Faux Iron Solutions, not even real iron (not sure what faux iron is exactly?) says their solution for these three gorgeous niches is faux iron!  My solution – dry wall those niches up and move on to other problems, like those light fixtures.

 

A reader of The Lettered Cottage asked Layla for help with her large niche.  She has a casually decorated house and her niche has stumped her.  She stuck this Venus in there, but it doesn’t go with her décor at all.  Here’s what Layla suggested she do about her niche problem:

 

Layla advised her to add shelves, turning the niche into a useful area, filling it with baskets and books.  I think Layla came up with a great idea, functional and casual – read the story HERE.

 

 

The owners of this niche had a similar idea – adding shelves AND shutters and making it useful instead of just decorative. 

 

 

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These shelves allow the niches to display a large collection of blue and white porcelain.  The shallow niches show off oriental calligraphy. 

 

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Some people commission a mural to be painted in their niche.

 

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This niche is architecturally designed, and it shows.  The paneling continues into the niche, making it seamless.  The arch of the niche is repeated in the window and the niche is visually balanced by the niche on the ground floor.   I also like what they used for display – a tall piece of sculpture, rather than a fake flower display. 

 

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This niche is also very pleasing.  It serves as a focal point along the way up the stairs.  And again, a simple statue in black – which matches the railings – is pleasing and attractive. 

 

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I also like this display of artifacts in a niche.   All three pieces are different, yet seem related somehow – perhaps they are all Southwestern in origin.  Very pretty. 

 

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So, let’s go back to Kristi’s entry hall with its art niche.  She likes casual design, warm and cozy and trendy – judging by her pillows and vintage suitcases.   The niche is rather shallow and tall.  I looked at Wisteria and Aidan Gray for some inspiration and came up with this:

 

 

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Wisteria makes these great urns.  They are rather tall, so Kristi would have to check the measurements, but I love something like this for her niche.

 

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Or, go with a tall candlestick by Aidan Gray.  They have a large assortment to chose from – maybe she could even put two in there, one short, one taller.  Add a cream colored fat and short beeswax candle on top. 

 

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I love this zinc piece from Aidan Gray.  Tall and thin, it could be the perfect fit and it’s got that trendy look – and the zinc is warm and casual.

 

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A Santos – old or new – could be a good look too.  Check out the Santos on CdT sponsor:  Eleanor Brown Boutique HERE.

 

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Or pair a tall and short cross top bottle from CdT sponsor Greyfreth HERE or…

 

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Pair a short bottle and a tall one from Greyfreth’s sea inspired creations.  Great look!

 

For those who have a more  common art niche – wider and taller than Kristi’s - here are a few more ideas:

 

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Angel wings are popular today – and they would be perfect in a typical sized art niche.  Available at both Eleanor Brown AND Greyfreth, above.

 

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Wisteria’s new sunburst display, which I love.

 

 

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Instead of a painting, hang a sconce, lighted or just add candles.  This one is from Wisteria – love!

 

 

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Another nice sculptural sconce is this one from Aidan Gray. 

 

 

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Also new from Wisteria – I would use two of these, one large, one small in an art niche.

 

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Or hang plates instead of a painting.  Neutral ironstone would be a subtle choice.

 

 

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Or hang a collection of black and white French transferware from Ebay.  Then layer the display by putting two plates on stands in front of the hanging ones.

 

 

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 Use two garden urns in front of a display of plates, or alone.

 

 

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Or mix and match blue and white porcelains from Wisteria.

 

 

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Kristi’s second niche is more of a problem in that it is so high up.  You don’t’ want it to be too much of a focal point – so I would try to keep it simple. 

 

 

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Wisteria’s new marble urn would be pretty there, with a white ironstone platter hanging behind it. 

 

 

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I like this fragment from Aidan Gray for the niche.

 

 

 

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From Aidan Gray, this piece is simple and sculptural.

 

 

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 And again from Aidan Gray, this is really pretty for that space.

 

 

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Just promise me Kristi that you won’t do something like this!!!!

 

 

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And finally, for your pass through hole, former TV space in your bedroom and bathroom, you should really just sheetrock over this.  If not, then the only thing you could possible do is find a painting or a mirror and place it on the mantel to cover the hole.  Before you place the object though, I would find a piece of cardboard, cut it out to fit right over the hole and paint it the same color as the wall.  Velcro it to cover the hole – so that if the mirror or painting is leaning a bit on the mantel, light won’t escape from the hole and it won’t be as noticeable. 

 

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The bathroom side.

 

 

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Wisteria has this pretty trumeau that could go on the bathroom side.

 

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Or try this mirror in either room from Aidan  Gray.

 

 

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Consider a photograph with a slightly feminine bent, from CdT sponsor My Art Habit HERE.

 

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Allposters.com have great reproduced antique maps, like this one of France.

 

 

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At CdT sponsor Greige, they have these framed antique French wedding documents that are interesting.  HERE

 

Kristi, I hope I have given you enough ideas that seem more “today” than just fake flowers.   I tried to keep all the choices very price friendly, as you asked. 

 

But, as usual, I am wondering if any of the readers have a better idea of what Kristi could do with her niches – ????   Let me know in the comment section if you do!

 

If you have a Dear Miss Cote de Texas question, please submit it.  If you already have and I haven’t answered it yet, I will try to eventually get to them all.  If you already asked a question and need an answer asap, just let me know and I’ll try to email it to you faster!

 

Thanks!

 

73 comments:

  1. I think covering up the bedroom niche with some shutters that have been painted to looked aged could look pretty.

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  2. Very interesting post with beautiful examples! I say cover up that hole with art or a mirror one the fireplace! Lovely choices you gave.
    Nancy
    Powellbrowerhome.com

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  3. Just wanted to note that sheetrock-ing something small yourself is neither very difficult nor expensive. Particularly in the bedroom, where she has to go to the trouble of cutting and painting something anyway, AND there is access to the back. And it is in the bedroom and something will be going over it anyway.

    The fireplace next to the tub feels blissful as we approach another winter! Enjoy your new house!

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  4. I had to laugh when I saw this post. In San Antonio, a large percentage of the population is Catholic. When viewing homes there, I noticed that most of the new homes had these niches. The Realtor called them "Mary holes" as most buyers put their statue of Mary in them. I can't look at a niche any more without calling it a Mary hole.

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  5. I would recommend looking into having them filled rather than spending money to buy something to decorate them with. It will not be expensive to have small areas properly patched. You will end up with clean wall space and leave the decorating ideas for more attractive parts of the house.

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    1. Totally agree with you Cindy! It is quite obvious that she doesn't like the niches in the firest place so why would one keep them? Yes the EASIER option is just to put something in there, but really, it's just like lipstck on a pig isn't it? If you don't like the niche's to begin with why bother putting 'stuff" in there. Her niches have no architectural value at all. They all are just "holes" in the wall and it won't matter what she puts in there, they will still be HOLES in the wall. They are all in odd spots anyways so filling them won't really do anything really! It boggles my mind why builders do this?? They serve no function and look horrible. If you are going to spend money then spend it on the option that fixes it permanently otherwise you are just throwing money away. I guess my problem is that drywalling over something isn't a big deal to me and my husband because we are avid DIYer's. I know that I would NEVER be happy with whatever is put in there and I would sigh everytime I looked at it. Just bite the bullet and fix it. She will be happier in the long run.

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    2. I agree! Lots of great ideas, Joni! But these girls are right, it wouldn't be that much more expensive to just do away with them once and for all. That gets my vote for sure. You're so sweet to offer all this advice! Such a blessing to so many!

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  6. Great post! We bought our home two years ago, and have SIX niches. I have figured out how to deal with some of them, but others just give me decorating headaches since they're odd sizes and it's difficult to find pieces that actually *fit* the space. I love the ideas you provided here, and will file this away for future reference.

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  7. I think a rusty armillary (not sure of spelling), a nice weather vane or vintage globe would look fabulous in the entry niche to perhaps go along with a travel theme that the suitcases introduce into the space.

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    1. the globe might be too wide, but i like the other ideas.

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  8. I wouldn't buy more junk to fill it with. Either hang a large piece of art (ie. a tapestry of some sort) on that wall and cover it all or just fill it in. Any contractor could fix that very easily without much money at all. It's location on the wall is odd and I would think putting plates etc in it would just look odd.

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  10. For the hole over the fireplace I would stack wood that can be burned once it gets colder. For the one on the hallway I would spend the money and get it sheet rocked and lastly for the smaller one near the bench I would follow Mrs. Cote de Texas's advice and make shelves.

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  11. Joni, I thought your suggestions were great for this dilemma. I can't figure out what is going on in the bathroom though. What is that black thing with a wreath to the right of the niche above the fireplace? I can't tell from the picture. Why couldn't that just be moved over to cover the niche, and then put candlesticks on the right side. Or maybe put a square basket heaping with rolled white towels in the niche. (Or even fill the niche with pretty birch logs.)

    A temporary idea on the bedroom side might be to stack books horizontally in there close to the edge to cover the hole (maybe with your idea of a painted piece of cardboard behind it to block the light).

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  12. I have a dreadful "TV hole" over my fireplace in my family room. I put a large painting, one of my own, over it until we get the chance to close it up. That involves moving a few outlets and painting too. In the readers space I would go with one large piece or two complimentary pieces of equal size.

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  13. I suppose the first question is why would someone buy a home with so many awkward niches and a bathroom with a fireplace shoved against a window and literally sitting at the edge of the tub.

    I would close every one of them. Any good paint contractor could put sufficient support inside for which to attach drywall. Once painted, you would have a beautiful wall and none would be the wiser. I have a feeling that no matter how many pretty things you put in them, the niches will always look gimmicky and dated.

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  14. Some of those houses look like they are pretty pricey (at least in a giant McMansion kind of a way). If you at all have the funds, I would pay someone to fill in those holes! They really really date the house!

    I have done a few things like that over the years that have improved the quality and functionality of my home (not a MM.) I had some outlets installed in places I really needed them to avoid cords showing and I had the controller for my thermostat moved so it was hidden. Those things make me so happy.

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  15. Some nice solutions, but, before spending the money on dust collectors that may well look dated in a few years, I would get 3 quotes for the sheetrock repair and spend some time weighing the costs -- sheetrock repair (permanent solution) vs. trendy accessories. I bet the choice will be clear.

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  16. Angela Calhoun in Franklin, TNOctober 1, 2012 at 11:55 AM

    Joni, you are such a treasure! Your posts and design solutions are always so beautifully researched and thought through, offering excellent ideas for your readers. All of your posts obviously require quite a bit of effort on your part and I for one am so grateful that you are still at it! I love to come back time and again to read and re-read your posts, you are still the best at design blogging! Kudos!

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  17. I like your ideas. I have deep niches very HIGH in my kitchen and family room. They are not only deep but one is 10 feet wide..very high up. I have left it blank for years.. the scale is so large it requires an entire vignette ... and then if I decorate one, I have to decorate them all or it seems off balance. Then I end up looking fussy. Such a challenge!

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    1. I too have a large high area, 10'x2' up over bedroom closet and wall. did you ever find a good solution?!

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  18. Joni I really agree with you on the idea of niches being for a special sculpture, urn, architectural fragment, or unique work of art. If it is lit all the better, I like Layla's ideas of inserting shelves and or shutters only in a very casual room. That wall of the niches is fabulous with the stunning collection of art glass. I too am sure it was part of the original designer and builders plan.
    Tom Corbin is a sculptor here in Kansas City whose works would be amazing in any niche!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  19. Kristi,

    While Joni has done some wonderful leg work for you and others with the niche issue, I agree with many of the other commenters who say you should just sheetrock over the niches/holes. The cost would be similar to or less than buying a bunch of stuff that you don't really love to fit in holes that you don't really love. A good handiman can sheetrock all your niches for you very quickly and I think you would be surprised at how cheaply it can be done. My vote is for SHEETROCKING OVER THAT SH!T!

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  20. I agree. Sheetrock over those abominations. Anything else would be like putting a band aid on a shark bite.

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  21. I would much rather spend the money to have these niches sheetrocked instead of buying all the accessories trying to make them look OK. That said, I could live with the foyer and staircase niches - the bathroom, I would not mess with it, I would sheetrock it. Simplicity is key with these niches - I don't even think I would keep the wood trim - it just makes these niches more important than they should be. Sculptural pieces would work best - I like your suggestions, Joni.

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  22. I think buy the time you buy all the things to cover or distract from the space you could fill it in and paint it - just saying! But Joni you have great idea's if this really is not possible.
    The only other thing I could suggest is to put a big gun up in the niche as fair warning to the next person who dares install another useless niche.

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  23. 1. Hall niche: wall mounted key hooks and key basket on the shelf then cover with vintage (French?) shutter. 2. Staircase niche: swap the downlighter for a (French style?) hanging lantern - PB have a nice one!. 3. Bedroom niche: fit a reclaimed stained glass window to each side or similar - I personally would NEVER block a source of natural light especially in a bathroom! In any case, I would put these spaces to use rather than waste them by covering!! Beauty and Function ALWAYS, wasted space NEVER!!

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  24. Hi Joni!

    My otherwise beautiful new house has one of these art nooks over each of the fireplaces. Fortunately, they are properly proportioned and, with a painting large enough to nearly fill each one, they don't look too bad. Some of the ones you've shown here, Joni, are absolutely hideous.

    I don't understand why new home builders insist on including "features" that are 20 years out of date. Why on earth can't they consult with an interior designer for a few hours to discover what's in and what isn't?

    I'm with the "sheetrock over it" group. If that truly isn't an option, at least remove the wood trim, which only draws even more attention to the hole. And then display any one of Joni's terrific suggestions. But only one - don't clutter it up. A single, well-chosen accessory is the way to go.

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  25. All of your ideas are fabulous, Joni. However, I don't get why people think they can accessorize these niches less expensively than they can sheetrock over them. Drywall is CHEAP, and it's not at all difficult to cover over these holes. The key is to get the seams mudded and sanded perfectly smooth, but if you see the line the first time you paint, just sand and try it again. With two rowdy cowboy children and their toys crashing down the stairs and into the walls, we would have spent a fortune on a handy man if we weren't able to patch sheetrock on our own. Disclaimer: by "we," I mean that I point to the hole in the wall, and my HUSBAND patches the drywall... ;-)

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  26. Fill them with the skulls of your enemies.

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    1. This isn't the White House.

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    2. This isn't the Republican National Committee.

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    3. That sounds like Dick Cheney's basement.

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  27. I liked your explanation of the coffin corners. I've heard those old Victorians had 2 doors into the "Parlor" from the front porch, so they could get the coffin out after having it on display, in as well, I suppose. As funeral parlors grew in popularity people started calling the parlor the "living room", ahh what a relief! Not to date myself but I've viewed a body in my Grandmother's very, small, Victorian, she too, had the door straight off the Parlor as well as one around the corner and in front of staircase.

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  28. Fill them all up and you will have whole walls, not broken up by the niches, to decorate.

    You will be the envy of your neighbors!

    : )
    Dee

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  29. Hi Joni, I really enjoy all the paintings you find for your "Dear Miss Cote De Texas" feature. As to the reader's dilema, I vote for "fill them in". All three are in awkward locations. No matter how well accessorized they are, they will always look odd because they serve no legimate function. "Form follows function" is a mantra employed by all good architects and builders.

    We frequently have door-knob size "niches" created by our renters. As several others have pointed out, it is not rocket-science to sheetrock these eyesores yourself.

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  30. It's a Facebook world....ROTFL.

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  31. We had a niche located high above the staircase. Probably original to the house. And very hard to dust / clean. We ended up putting drywall over it. Should have done it sooner! Or put faux iron it it :)

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  32. Joni,
    I agree with you sheetrock and move on.

    Tikaa
    Green Acres Brenham.blogspot.com

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  33. Even I totally agree with the fact that it feel like these nook areas should stand out with some amazing pieces or something very creative...And they are properly proportioned and, with a painting large enough to nearly fill each one, they don't look too bad.

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  34. I have a brand new house with some niches, and will be taking some of this advice! Great ideas.

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  35. I liked Caspar's ideas and the mirrors Joni if Kristi doesn't go right out and buy drywall, but what about hanging a family photo in the stair niche and hang other items around it to make a gallery wall? Camoflage it.

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  36. I agree with filling it in. Not expensive, although I love those Aidan Grey and Wisteria pieces you pointed out!! It's so funny to see what builders think up. Those arches and columns are hysterical. Sometimes I wonder if architects or designers have had any input at all in these new houses (yes, I live in one too)!

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  37. Kristi mentioned that it wasn't an option at this time to fill in the spaces. I have no idea why, but it would be more cost effective to drywall, I would think. As many others have stated, drywall is inexpensive, and much less expensive than purchasing some of the lovelies suggested above. Even though Joni has spent a lot of time researching this and has come up with some terrific ideas, I agree with the majority -- drywall the niches!

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  38. When we moved into our house in Virginia it had that deep hole over the fireplace (we had a gas fireplace) and it was so deep that the new TV style didn't need all that depth. We decided to make an 'over mantel' treatment and covered it up with 2X4' framing and then sheetrock. Also we carried the same style molding at the top to surround the area making the fireplace treatment go to the ceiling. My husband (an electrician) brought the electrical forward to the new 'wall' and also gave me one outlet on each side of the back of the mantel for Christmas lighted decor and for the two small lamps I kept on the mantel the rest of the year.
    When we sold the house, we told the new owners that there was a space behind the over mantel, they said they would never dream of opening it back up.

    I so agree that IF the niche is off balance or out of place with the rest of the house, best to cover it over. The empty house should be a well balanced and designed background for the furnishings.

    Good thread, good reading and some good ideas!

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  39. Joni, Sorry, but I can't find it-- what are your stipulations for sending in pictures for advice? I have another cookie cutter home dilemma and I might have enough courage to send it in, now that I see so many of your readers live in the same type of houses (dreaming of one more like yours or Ginger Barber's!!).

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  40. I know why dry walling might not be an option. If the homeowner has never sheet rocked before, there is an art to it, and if not experienced DIY can look pretty crappy. And it may seem inexpensive to some readers but for the rest of us, the $300-500
    it would cost to pay for hanging, taping and mudding three spaces of that size sometimes isn't in the budget. So what does she do till she gathers the funds for dry walling the puppies....

    I'm stretching my CdT-on-a budget imagination for those damn niches!!....

    Someone above suggested key hooks....but how about a decorative twist on that idea. ....For the entryway niche how about affixing a collection of cool, rusty OR spray painted glossy white antique keys you can pick up at Hobby Lobby. Invisibly attaching them to the walls of the niche with those pull off backing 3M Command sticker things hidden behind the keys... so they just sit in a grid directly on the wall/walls of the niche....

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    1. in addition, to getting the sheet rocking done (which wouldn't be easy to do on the stairs), getting the paint on the newly sheet rocked area to blend well is not always possible,especially if the existing paint has aged. I think she bought the house, so it's possible she doesn't even know the name of the paint color. And it looked like the entry and stair niche where in an open floor plan where it's hard to find good stopping points and where it would be expensive to have painted, and very difficult to paint ones' self. Painting stairwells is a real bitch. So, while I think covering up the bed/bath niches wouldn't be that bad of a job, I can understand not wanting to tackle the entry and stair niches

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  41. I vote for not spending money on getting any new items that collect DUST BUNNIES (good ideas, joni)Wait a while until you have the money! Sheetrock! xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  42. Great topic! I just sold a house that had many of them. Now working on plans for our next house, first thing I demanded is "No Art Niches"!

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  43. Maybe she could place a folding screen/shutters (kind of rustic/casual like her bench) in front of it with a big potted plant there. As for the stairwell, I think Joni has great ideas for putting something nice in there until they can be filled in. At least then you'd notice the beautiful object instead of the weirdly placed niche. Is there some way to hang things or sconces or something around it so that it's less noticeable or would that just make it worse?

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  44. Wonderful post and so many fabulous ideas!! You are the best!!

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  45. Wonderful ideas, but here is another one: get the drywall man in and cover them all over.

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  46. I had this problem with my new renovation. I simply filled the openings with drywall-now I can hang anything I want in the space.
    xo, Lissy

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  47. A lot of those Aidan Grey thingies are just dust collectors, with no real character. They aren't antiques. They would fit in a hotel lobby, maybe, but I wouldn't want any in my house. They're the decorating equivalent of Muzak.

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  48. You are hilarious! I love your take on niches, especially the suggestion to drywall them over. We bought a house last year, and we looked at many a house with niches which I call cubby holes. Builders stick them everywhere, even right next to a cubby hole that is supposed to hold the TV. There is never any beauty or symmetry to it. And yet, the cubby holes are pointed out as a special feature!!!! Huh?!?! I am happy to report that we found a house that is completely niche/cubby hole free. Phew!

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  49. Hello!
    I want to first thank Joni for all the time, effort,and research she did for this post for me! I appreciate it so much! I had no idea about the coffin corners! How fascinating! But a little creepy at the same time. And thank you to all for the very helpful comments and suggestions! Your ideas are so creative! While it does seem that sheet-rocking them closed would be an easy quick fix....I have to explain that we have a very open floor plan where the living room, dining room, entry,stairway, hearth room, kitchen all flow together so therefore it would require an entirely new paint job for the whole inside since there is no real break in the walls and everything to match so it didn't look spotchy....and not to mention the height of the walls... we have close to 14 ft ceilings....so needless to say the paint job alone would be several thousand for it to be done right.... now the bathroom is another story and maybe we could start with the sheet rock there. Anyway I love the ideas and love the decor items you have found Joni! Thank you so much again for all your hard work with this...I know it was challenging and took some time! Have a wonderful day~!
    Kristi
    ps- I do have the explain what is next to the niche in the bathroom... it is a lavender wreath that I had purchased ...we just stuck it there as we were moving in...it has since found a better home :)

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  50. Quick suggestions:

    In the lighted niche, try an old rustic terracotta olive jar or amphora, one of the ornaments in oxidized zinc as shown in the post or even an arresting piece of driftwood or rough-hewn piece of stone, making sure that the item is as bold and as large as possible, as in as tall as the shown floral arrangement but with heft to it. You can get flat shades, like "eyebrows" to cover part of the downlight so it backlights or forelights the item without glaring out in your face. Throwing the light at an askew angle is also a quick option: it will produce dramatic shadows. If you are more formal than driftwood, try it anyway but play with the surface by metal-leafing it in silver (actually aluminum) and then antiquing it for a show-stopper piece that no one else has, for almost no money. Personally, I think the Japanese idea of using a rough, natural element will be such a surprise, that the concept of it's being a formal "ornament" niche will cease to be noticed and it will almost read a a temple to nature as art.

    Small niches: trying placing a sculpture (it could even be the above mentioned driftwood again set at an angle...) in it and then arranging pictures next to or around the niche (if using a natural element in the niche, then use rustic driftwood frames on the pictures) so the whole ensemble reads as one large picture, so to speak, taking away the measly look of the lonely little niche. Paint the shelf/woodwork the color of the wall so it does not scream for attention. Line the pictures up with the perceived outer dimensions of the niche (i.e, the bottoms of the picture aligned with the bottom of the niche, unless you run another picture under the niche, so it all looks purposeful; squint and see all the elements as one large rectangle or square.

    TV niche: On the bedroom side, follow the advice in the post; cover with a painted piece of cardboard (remember oaktag?) and then lean a picture in a frame against the opening, completely covering the cardboard. If cardboard still shows, place an old branch (peeled of its bark perhaps) behind the picture and in front of the cardboard to blur the edges of the cardboard visually. The bath side can be handled the same way or fill the front edge with old bottles and jars, two or three deep in varied heights, perhaps even functional ones to hold bath salts, etc. You could also roll towels and set them in on their sides, rolled ends showing, as "logs", for an unusual and practical towel storage solution.

    The old saying was, "First, we kill all the lawyers." Now it's, "First, we kill all the misguided contractor/builders...." Good luck!

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  51. Just as long as the word is pronounced "neesh" and not "NITCH" I don't care what anyone does with them!:) Seriously, that is a bit of a peeve of mine.

    I will only add that while it is all relative I don't find Aiden Grey affordable at all. Just in case Kristi agrees my suggestion would be to look in thrift stores and the like. Lots of things with very sculptural shapes but ugly finishes, like fake shiny brass or horrible colors can be spray painted in a bronze, white or mirrored finish. Just look for the shape, something tall and interesting, the spray paint finishes are endless nowadays. Nobody will be looking at the object that closely, to determine it is not actually a fine antique and has no pedigree. And anyways, the Wisteria and Aiden Grey objects of this world have no more pedigree than anything else, they are just brand new mass produced items pretending to be old, no shame in spray painting a $5 item and making it look much better.

    Louise

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  52. If you can not paint, then hang a large mirror or 2 pieces of art over the mantel.
    Fill the other 2 spots with objects. Not sure you will every be truly happy with the decor, but that is the way it is for many of us who have quicks in our home.

    I would love for a home owner to send in photos after their questions have been addressed on this blog.


    Dee

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  53. Timely blog post, Joni. This is an issue for so many of us. Small niches in hallways are very often used as shrines. I like the idea of using iron stone plates in the ones up high - just enough to say it has something, but not enough to scream attention to it. The higher up the hole, the simpler and more sculptural the item(s) should be, IMO. I also think the niche that goes from the fireplace to the bathroom should be filled in on the living room side, but kept open in the bathroom, and used to stack rolls of fluffy towels.


    ~Pam

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  54. Until you can get rid of them just leave them empty! You are not attracting any attention to them if they are empty. Spending money on "stuff" to hide them is money wasted. Wisteria and Aiden Grey have beautiful decorating pieces but they are not at Marshall's or Home Goods prices. Joni your pockets are a lot deeper than mine and my lifestyle is not as lucky as yours. How many of us have a husband that eats cereal every night for dinner, not many LOL. If she absolutely must put something there then I would do what Louise said... spray paint a $5 item!

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  55. Hey this was timely!!!!!!! The house I am doing, the same as the one with the etched windows has tons of these but they are not deep at all.......We are getting some good ideas here..... Also I have seen some designers just having glass shelving installed so that they have more options........... Thanks!!!!!!!! And Thank your writer who wanted to know......Maryanne xo

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  56. Me again, the problem with these things is that they are all different........ Some are tall some deep some shallow and no matter what you put in it, or do with it has to be in proportion and harmony with it. That I think is the challenge........MA;)

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  57. I think everything that Joni had picked is lovely but, quite frankly, it doesn't make sense to buy any of these since most of them are MORE expensive than just drywalling it would be! I do not currently have niches but in my former house (which was built in the 1930's) there was one in the dining room and I was told it used to have the long chimes hanging in it from the doorbell! Apparently, in the 30's and 40's this was something that was done. Anyway, we drywalled it for a very small amount of money. The one in the hallway is workable but honestly, the one on the stairwell and the issue in the bathroom are worse and I would just call around and get a handy man to drywall them in. By the time you buy new items to fill 3 holes you will have spent more, I guarantee it! It's simple, less than a day's work and shouldn't be expensive at all! By the way, you do not need to repaint the whole walls. Again, when we did this we simply painted over and it was seamless (and that was with eggshell so if you are using flat it's even easier). Good luck!!

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  58. Dear God, I have no idea these damn things were so prevelant! I'd consult a contractor, I bet it's not as expensive to full these in as one might suspect. Especially given the cost to fill them with knick knacks!

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  59. cover them up!! at least the one in the stair case! then fill the bathroom one with firewood and mount an old shutter over the one in the entry...either hinged to access the hole behind for storage purposes ONLY, or just mount the shutter completely over it.

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  60. The entry hall niche at least looks like it is a useable height. I'd add a few shelves to break up the vertical lines of it and add some storage for keys and mail, keeping the colours subtle. Then I'd add a big, eye catching piece of art over the bench to distract from the niche and bring attention back to the bench/suitcase vignette.
    The stair niche has me stumped. Most of my suggestions would be cost prohibitive. Probobly best to leave it alone until the entire space can be redone, though again, art on the surrounding walls could distract the eye.
    In the bedroom/bath niche, I'd create a temporary back to the niche (as Joni suggested) to wall off the niche from the bedroom. The bathroom niche can then be filled with logs or towels. On the bedroom side, mount a large mirror or salvaged architectural piece that will cover the cardboard.
    Good luck!

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  61. Great ideas Joni. I finished up a house about 6 months ago that was covered with niches. I had two of them tiled with the "pearl" 1X1 tile and it turned out beautiful. The other niches I had painted with a copper finish and they are the star of the room! Thanks for all the cool facts about the niches, very interesting.
    Ruthie

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  62. Nice article, thanks for the information.

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  63. My advice would be to hire a drywall person and fill those niches in. It would be a slightly messy job, but wouldn't take very long and this solution would eliminate the dilemma.

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