Home Decor

How to Make the Most of Every Awkward Nook in Your Home

Don’t let those weird lil' spaces go to waste.

February  8, 2021
Photo by James Ransom

Home- and apartment-hunting is full of compromises: You may have to adjust your exacting preferences around price and location, or overlook a few nonsensical design details—all in the name of finding a home that suits you. The Home52 contributor who learned to love the shower in her kitchen leaps to mind, but it’s more likely than not that your new home will have a few nooks and crannies that don’t come with a clear intended purpose. Maybe there’s one behind your kitchen cabinets; or perhaps there’s an odd open corner in your recently renovated bathroom.

Some might think they’re strange, but we’d prefer to say they add character and stir up creativity. Besides, even if it’s unclear how or why these little spaces came to be, there’s no reason why you can’t make good use of them now.

Here are our favorite tips for making the most of those cramped, narrow, itty-bitty areas around the house.

Enjoy the vertical space

This is about as simple as it gets: If your nook is narrow but reaches all the way to the ceiling, consider it a readymade home for your mops, vacuums, and brooms. Of course, as much as we love and rely on these tools for household cleaning, they aren’t the most thrilling to look at. In lieu of a closet door, consider adding a room-dividing screen to simultaneously keep these utilitarian items out of sight and add a decorative flourish to an otherwise unadorned part of the room.

Make it a custom storage area

Whether the nook is tall or small, you can still put it to use as a storage area. Wall-mounted floating shelves (perhaps even custom-length ones) will suit just about any space, but if you have the room you can also consider standalone shelves or organizational units. The key, if you intend to keep the nook visible and screen-free, is to keep things looking tidy. Luckily, open shelves can be an asset, not a detriment, to your home’s decor, as long as you style them thoughtfully.

Create a mini gallery

Clearly, nooks and crannies have plenty of practical appeal, but they can also serve purely aesthetic purposes, especially if they’re in a central or frequently visited part of the house. Hang up stray framed photos or art, set up a cabinet’s worth of tchotchkes, or repurpose old delivery boxes and make your own art. Even some artfully arranged books on a leaning shelf will dress up your nook nicely. For those willing to go the distance for their at-home exhibit (and if outlets and space will allow), add some lighting to draw the eye to your piece(s).

Establish a landing zone

Upon arriving home, we need a place for our bags, keys, masks, and hats to go when we inevitably toss them aside on our way in. If your nook is located by the back door, it’s perfectly suited to be this landing zone of sorts. Roomier entryway nooks can feature mounted hooks, a console table, and even a mirror or a small bench. If all your nook can accommodate is a coat stand, it will still serve you well when it comes to shedding your “outside skin.”

Set up a home office (finally)

Over the last year, we’ve learned that anything, really, can act as an at-home work space. But, we also learned that makeshift home offices aren’t always the most effective for, well, actually getting work done. Enter: the nook office. If there is enough space for a seat and a desk, you’ve got yourself a nook office. And, much like the reading nook described above, the greatest benefit of this pocket-sized workstation is that it feels somewhat removed from busier areas of the house. If your work requires quiet—or you’d just like to have somewhere to retreat to during the day—a tiny office setup should provide you with the peace you seek.

Carve out a reading nook

There is no cozier act than curling up with a good book, so it’s only right that you do it in the coziest part of your home. Find the most comfortable seating that will fit the confines of your little space and then add a lamp (and a shelf if you’re feeling ambitious). Your result: a snug place for some focused reading—or for absent-mindedly scrolling on your phone. Either way, you’ll have a spot that feels private and apart from the rest of the house, perfect for a little quiet time.

Add a little green

If the nook in question gets adequate natural light, you have the makings of a micro- greenhouse on your hands. Set up some of those aforementioned floating shelves and arrange your potted plants as desired. Or, at the risk of repeating the virtues of vertical space, opt for something taller and low-maintenance, like an olive tree or a parlor palm. With time, you’ll stop thinking of this area as a nook or cranny altogether and instead view it as your plant baby’s cozy little abode.

Have you transformed a nook from awkward to can't-do-without-it? Give us your best tips!

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Sara Coughlin is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. Although she writes about food, health, wellness, lifestyle trends, skin-care, and astrology, she’d much rather talk to you about professional wrestling, rock climbing, and her personal favorite true crime theories. You can find her in her studio apartment doing yoga while a pan of veggies gently burns in the oven.