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Have a Room That Needs a Little Extra? Give It an Alcove

August 04, 1990|BARBARA MAYER

Different times, different tastes.

Not so long ago, alcoves would be tucked behind false walls, removed or simply ignored. Now they're valued for their decorative distinction, and rooms without them are being altered to create them--especially if other remodeling is being done, says Linda Carol Webb, a designer in Lancaster, Pa.

Away from a room's general traffic pattern, an alcove will make a fine seating and work area. Its presence inside often means a jog in the wall outside, which will lend exterior interest to the house, Webb says.

The most desirable alcoves have windows, but some windowless niches end up as storage spaces, being fitted with open shelving or having shelves behind the door, so that lighting is not required.

Webb recently collaborated on the design of a very pretty one. Her firm, Classic Quarters, created a bathroom with two alcoves in the photography studios of Armstrong World Industries in Lancaster.

Fabric-covered shelves are installed in a partial alcove--an obstruction is at the bottom of the opening--and these are hidden by wooden doors from an old armoire. A spacious alcove with a window accommodates a dressing table and chair. The alcoves' walls, ceilings and floors match the rest of the room. Atop the table are antique linens over a Laura Ashley cotton print skirt. The window treatment complements that of the dressing table.

"Many women would like a dressing table if they had room for one," Webb says of the design.

In general, an alcove works best when it is integrated with the rest of the room's design scheme.

"Make it look as if it had always been there," Webb says. "Use the same type of window treatment as on the other windows. If there's a chair, make it backless or a swiveling type."

If, for instance, achieving a uniform floor covering is impossible, allow a table skirt to puddle on the floor or use a dressing table with interesting legs.

Webb advises against painting an alcove a color other than the rest of the room unless you want it to stand out. Instead, treat the entire wall the same "so that it all looks as if it had always been that way."

To integrate the space with the rest of the room, use a fabric or wall covering that matches or coordinates with others in the room.

As for light, the many lighting fixtures and lamps available today mean that not having a window need not be a drawback. Keep the lighting level in the alcove similar to that of the rest of the room. Doing so usually means the alcove will need more lighting, since its walls are closer. But take care, Webb says: Novices have a tendency to make the light too bright.

One inexpensive way to create an alcove is to remove the door from a narrow closet. At this year's Kips Bay show house in New York, Feldman-Hagan Interiors did this, exposing a space about 18 inches wide and 14 inches deep. A slab of unpolished granite was laid in at desk height. Atop it were a small lamp, an antique box and a vase with a single flower.

Distributed by AP Newsfeatures.

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