What to Put in a Recessed Art Niche

Michelle Radcliff
Vintage glass collection

Turn a recessed art niche into an eye-catching focal point with design elements such as color, texture, pattern and form. The best approach for decorating a recessed niche depends on its location, size and surroundings.

Objet d' Art

Objet d'Art unified theme

Recessed art niches were made for displaying statement art pieces, especially those with built-in recessed accent lighting. The key to a sophisticated display is simple; keep the art in scale with the size of the niche. There are no hard and fast rules for this, just leave some space around the item so it doesn't look crammed in. Conversely, don't place a very small object in a large niche, as too much empty space makes the item look awkward and out of place. Display items such as:

  • Sculptures
  • Pottery
  • Antiques
  • Masks
  • Figurines
  • Cultural artifacts
  • Art glass
  • Woven baskets
  • Floral arrangements
  • Framed or canvas art

Grouped Items

Group identical items with even, symmetrical spacing. Otherwise, add interest by varying the height and size of displayed items. Use a mixture of shapes and textures. Include empty space in groups displays, to allow the items to "breathe" and avoid a cluttered look. In contoured niches, add objects that complement the shape and contours of the niche.

Lighting

If the niche doesn't have built-in lighting, you can mount a battery operated LED puck light inside the niche or position a nearby ceiling recessed light or track light fixture to shine directly on your display object. Try colored lights to create a different mood within the niche.

Decorative Vignette

Decorative vignette

In a large or deep recessed niche, create a decorative vignette. A vignette is a small, visual composition made up of meaningful or related items. To create visual interest, use items of varying heights and sizes.

Large Niche

Provide a flat surface in a large wall niche with a console table. An example of items you could add to this vignette include:

  • An antique mirror hung over the table
  • A couple of tall wooden candle holders
  • A green glass dish and
  • A vase of silk flowers

In this example vignette, the antique mirror might have belonged to your grandmother. The candle holders were a wedding gift from her, the glass dish was a thrift store find in her favorite color and the vase of silk flowers contains lilacs, which grew in her front yard.

Deep Niche

Start by leaning a large framed art print against the back wall. Add a smaller framed photo in front of the art print, staggering them. Next, add a medium sized sculpture on the left side. To the right of the sculpture and slightly in front, add a small trinket box. Place a small art glass paper weight on top of the box.

In this example vignette, the pieces could all be different types of art you've collected over the years. Layering large items behind smaller items adds depth and interest to the display.

Add Shelves to Tall Niches

Add shelves to tall niches

In tall niches, make use of the vertical space by installing shelves, creating a built-in look. Accessorize the shelves similarly to a bookcase, using a mix of decorative items. Vary the height, size, shape and texture of items to create visual interest. Use stacked books to create a platform for smaller objects.

In the kitchen, convert a recessed niche into a plate rack to display decorative plates and platters. Bead board paneling installed on the back wall adds a nice touch.

Unify Multiple Niches

If you have a grouping of recessed niches on the same wall, create unity with displayed objects by using a theme. For example, fill each niche with an Asian sculpture, such as a Buddha, a Mongolian horse figurine, a Chinese porcelain vase, and so on. Another option is to unify the display with color, such as a collection of blue and white porcelain china or sunflower themed Italian pottery.

Create Background Interest

Create background interest

Draw the eye to a recessed niche by paying special attention to the background as well as what objects you put in the niche.

  • Paint the inside a darker color than the surrounding wall, adding a layer of depth. Make a large niche a feature wall by using metallic paint.
  • Wallpaper or contact paper is another option and a good way to incorporate an interesting pattern.
  • You could also commission a decorative painter to paint a scenic mural or a three-dimensional, trompe l'oeil style image.

Custom Background Accent Piece

Incorporate three-dimensional pattern into the space with a custom carved wood or faux wrought iron panel made to fit perfectly within the dimensions of the niche. This is a good solution for shallow niches or those high on the wall.

For a custom, laser cut wood panel, paint the back wall of the niche in a dark neutral color such as charcoal gray or chocolate brown and paint the wood panel white or several shades lighter of the same color, allowing the design to stand out.

Make it Your Own

However you decide to decorate a recessed niche in your home, keep the look consistent with the style of the room. Get creative and change the look when you want to try something new.

What to Put in a Recessed Art Niche