- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 01 Jun 2018
In medieval architecture, alcoves often featured in halls, separated from the main space by curtains or timber partitions. In Roman and Renaissance architecture, alcoves were adapted to become tall, elegant semi-circular spaces hollowed out of thick walls and used to display statues and sculptures.
In more modern architecture, bed and kitchen alcoves developed as a way of conserving space in constricted buildings such as residential apartments. They now often appear to one side of a chimney breast.
Smaller alcoves can be used to contain ornaments, shelving, and so on. When designed carefully they can create attractive focal points and enhance the character of a particular room.
Alcoves may be designed to blend into their surroundings as architectural features, and may include shelving, concealed lighting, a glass front and so on. Small rectangular or square box alcoves are popular in contemporary architecture, often painted a deeper, or contrasting, colour to the rest of the room. This helps to give a greater impression of depth.
When designing an alcove, or adapting a space to incorporate one, it is important to consider the space that will 'lost', as often, to achieve the required recess, a wall will need to be brought forward. New runs of skirting or cornicing may also be required, as well as new positions for power sockets.
Cracking can also be a problem where new plaster meets old plaster. To avoid this, the wall should be properly skimmed to a minimum of 400 mm beyond the point where the two types of plaster meet. Manufacturers offer a wide variety of plaster casts for whole alcoves.
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
One of the Isle of Man’s best 1960s buildings.
Using renewable energy in developing countries - QSAND and Loughborough University Research collaboration.
From frost damage to sulphate attack, common causes of defects in brickwork.
Precautions to take when making advance payments.
Helping communities recover from disasters and protecting them before they occur.
Instrumentation for critical healthcare environments.
Case study in the use of soft landings at the University of the West of England.
Richard Rogers wins is the AIA’s highest annual honour.
A quick introduction to a healthier and more sustainable form of construction.
The structural feasibility of modular high-rise buildings.
BRE conference on ways of providing and maintaining quality indoor environments.
CDBB publish foundational definitions and values to guide the development of the National Digital Twin.