Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Design Challenge: Patty's Niche

Guess what?
It's another builder's revenge post!
Patty has a fabulous Living Room but suffers
from the all too frequent malady of
da da da daaaa......
 Builder's Niche Syndrome

All kidding aside,
I think that a niche can be just breathtaking,
but more often than not, they tend to be challenge to decorate.

Here are some photos from Patty as she shares...

...In Her Own Words:

When Debra over at Common Ground first announced
 that she was  going to start this new feature,
 I immediately sent her an email with pictures
 begging asking for help with this huge niche
above my fireplace.

I do not know what to do with it,
 other than to sheet rock over it,
which my husband and I have talked about.

When we moved in I thought I would hang my clock inside it.
But the clock is so heavy and because of the height involved,
even on scaffolding it proved too much of a challenge
to get secured to the wall.
Plus the mantle sticks out from the wall just far enough
 to be in the way when trying to hang anything.

So there are my challenges with this big empty boxy space.
Weight, height, and lack of ideas...
mostly lack of ideas!

I've included these pictures so you can see the walls
 on either side of the niche/fireplace area.
There is another smaller niche on the left
 where I have hung my crosses.
 I painted the inside of it a grayish blue.

A wall of floor to ceiling windows are on the right.
I would appreciate any input and advice.
 I would like to add that my husband and I
 are long time DIYers  and handy with tools
 and play very well together :)
 so please don't rule out building or making anything.

Thank you so much,
Patricia Ann

OK, everyone, are we ready to help Patty out with some ideas?
Last week we tried not to look at the other comments first,
but this time let's just go with it
and throw out some ideas!

You don't have to be a decorator,
and even if someone else had a similar idea,
leave yours in a comment too.
The more feedback the better!!

thanks so much,


  1. I would use louvered shutters painted the same shade as the stone in your fireplace. I think I would balance the wall better - and if you can build them yourself, so much the better!!!

  2. I would just put a couple of studs inside the opening, sheetrock over it and be done with it. Then you can hang whatever you want there :)

  3. Hi Patty, I'm just going to throw out a couple of ideas, nothing special...I really like the blue gray that you used in your other niche, so that could be a background for this one too. A large print of course could work, or one of my favorite things would be a tapestry. You could find or have made a large old picture frame to keep the diminsion, then use a large basket with ivy or greenery or florals to fill the middle. Also love Anne's idea of shutters. I think the clock can work where it is if you "declutter" by doing the photos in another spot. If you keep your mantle to a minimum whatever you have in your niche will work without having the "competition" of being bottom heavy. Just some thoughts...
    xo D

  4. You were really given a decorating double whammy...the niche and it's height on the wall!
    I'm thinking about a vintage window frame. They are fairly light weight without the glass...they fill a space, add height, and are good background for anything you wish to add to them.
    I think we get "decorator's block" when we've focused on a problem so long. With fresh ideas and your obvious talent I know we'll be seeing something great soon.

  5. I would do some kind of tone on tone stencil... or perhaps a distressed stencil to give it something a little different than all you other walls... no hanging required!


    PS I really like the window idea above as well... or an old glass paned french type door may fit as well....

  6. Sometimes you just want to smack these builders and architects in the back of the head and ask them, "what the heck were you thinking here?". I can't even imagine what they thought a homeowner would put in that niche, Patricia.

    The first thing I did think of was that clock so I'm glad you mentioned you tried it already. Second, I was thinking maybe some kind of mural or something on a canvas that you could mount inside the niche {mural, but removable}. You could also check out some of the vinyls out there. I know they make some bigger ones and not just words; I've seen things like tree branches with birds on it - that type of thing. Because it's over the fireplace and because of it's size, that area is a major focal point, so I can understand your wanting to find something.

  7. I would prefer just sheet rocking that bad boy up, but if not hang a nice framed art that speaks to you in there so you can enjoy it. You need a tall ladder that you can lean against the wall to reach in there instead of one that opens in front of the mantel.

  8. Again I say, I am no decorator...but I would not close up the niche. Although difficult, it is exactly what most homes don't have...a bit of character. I have a friend who has one and she placed a gate in hers. It is gorgeous. If you keep the niche I would move the clock so it is not competing and keep the mantle simple with some candlesticks or urn....I think your room is Gorgeous!! and I would LOVE to have it...those windows are fabulous!!

  9. I agree that the busy-ness of the mantle tends to compete with that niche space. I would tone down my directions on the mantel, and just go for something massive for the niche. I like the window idea, or some other piece of architectural salvage--like and old iron gate would be amazing up there. But I think my choice would be the shutter idea. You could build something with a similar arched top that would cover over your niche, and then hang a large wreath or a clock on top of the shutters. You cover up your niche, but not permanently, and you get the bonus of adding an extra textural element to draw the eye upward. Good luck!

  10. You need to buy the biggest antique cabinette you can find to hide the TV....You have such a large room that big furniture will look good in there. Have fun. Hugs Mary

  11. How about taking away the planter and stacking some old black , red, and white suitcases. Put the stack off center then hang a suitcase opened as a shelf to the side and above. Add a cascading plant and a few red mercury balls too, for texture and color. Wonderful Home !

  12. The first thought that came to mind was to hang a drapery pole with a large tapestry above the niche so it covers the opening. The second thought is to make cover the entire area with a new stone fireplace wall that looks like it is a chimney leading all the way up!

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  14. Patty I have just two thoughts for you. I haven't read the other comments so I am not sure these have been mentioned. First, if you can't hang something, set it against the wall. I think a large mirror just leaned up against the wall there would look just gorgeous. Therefore no hammering, nailing or hanging. Just letting it sit there perhaps surrounded with a few large vases filled with greenery or since autumn is here you could use branches. Of course you would want to take some things off your mantel and keep it more simple so there's no competition between the two spaces. My second thought, If you are not into large mirrors, I noticed that you have lots of crosses in the other niche and assume you are religious (perhaps Catholic). You might consider placing some sort of religious art in your niche (one large cross) or large angel statue, Mary statue or something of that sort. This time of year would be perfect for finding a large garden angel for that space. They would be on clearance right now. Again, I would clear off your mantel so the look is not too busy. Anyway, just a couple thoughts. Good luck and can't wait to see what you decide to do.

  15. Wow! This is wonderful! Keep it coming!

  16. I think I would hire some one to come and faux paint and out side scene, trees, mountains, clouds, flowers, birds, etc. on the back of the nitch and then you and your handy husband can add mill work to make it look like window, cross bars and an out side frame, so it will look like you are looking out a window. A tall concrete, or concrete looking state setting to one side would finish it off. You might be able to find a mural, that would be cheaper and easier than a faux painter. maybe you could do it your self.Good luck. Richard from My old Historic House.

  17. I think you should look for a great architectural piece or large statue to put in there, clear off the mantel except for maybe some greenery so they are not competing, and keep it a little simpler so the eye is not drawn by all these competing small items. OR you could sheetrock over it and hang your flat screen tv up above the mantel.

  18. and, Debra, if you are looking for another person, I am just getting started on another room and am seeking ideas...


  19. Here's one more idea. How about hanging a sunburst mirror up there? Then, maybe on one side of the shelf, put an ivy and let it hang down a little midway between the shelf and mantel. Balance it by adding tall vases or jars on the other side of the mantel. You can leave some photos under the ivy since they are shorter. The clock will have to be moved in this case because the shape might clash with the mirror. Good luck!...Christine


    since she has an old vintage door the barb wire wreath wouldn't look to out of place. as the seasons changed she could change her decor from pumpkins to shinny brite bulbls for christmas season etc . easter bunnies on it for easter

    ( i know wreaths have been around for some time )


  21. My first choice would be to sheetrock it closed, but if that isn't an option, I would paint the inside maybe the red in your drapes. Find a piece of tall dark wrought iron to go in it, with a nice vase on one side and large colorful books or suitcases on the other. Pottery Barn has some nice pottery vases like I'm talking about, but I'd opt for a Home Goods 'knock-off'. I have a tv 'man cave', so I'm feeling your pain. Needless to say, as long as I have the man, my niche will not be drywalled, or so I'm told. lol Best of luck!

  22. p.s. I also thought about a same-shaped paned smaller mirror that has the appearance of a window, and then place some plants/flowers at the bottom of it so it appears to be a window box.

  23. It's tricky - you could close it up.
    You could also have a mirror cut to fit the space and trim it like a window with some moldings. it will reflect light and color back into the room. Ballard Designs has some cool steel framed mirrors that could sit on the mantel.

  24. I think the clock above the fireplace is too big for that spot. The mantle could be redone, in a beautiful vignette with objects of a varied height to include candles, a romantic and lovely addition to light form the fireplace. A piece of art might be better for the niche or another vignette to include, yes, a small, artificial tree. To the left of the niche, on the other wall, a very long and not too wide piece or tapestry or art of some form (you might have to have it custom made or D.I.Y it) would help break up some of that wall space created from the high ceilings. I see homes like this with nothing above a certain height (I understand the challenges of the height) but something is needed to break up the negative space and add continuity. I just watched, Donna Decorates Dallas and her client had a similar space. If you have HGTV, it is the 9/10/11 episode.

  25. I would not weigh it down with wood or metal as you have a lot going on below that space. You could add the blue-grey paint and perhaps some greenery that has height and does not need much maintenace or is faux. Or how about some framed fabric art which can rest on the ledge without needing to be hung. It will add further softness to the room with all the wood, windows, hearth and so on. Third option is to add a decorative stencil or decal which will change the color and add interest at the same time.

  26. I love that niche! If it were mine and I were a DIY'er, I would dress the whole inside of the niche out with wood, stained to match your fireplace mantle. Then I would hang a nice old sign,or display an old olive jar, or a collection of pottery jugs on the ledge of it. (you could even make the ledge wider) Even something in red to match your curtains would work. There are so much potential for this space!!

  27. These are the best ideas! One thing is clear, I need to unclutter the mantle!

  28. Great, helpful, idea Deborah!

    Thanks so much for your kind comment on my blog!



  29. Thank you all for you wonderful ideas! I have copied them all to read and re-read! Once I come up with something I will get it posted. I have emptied my mantle...putting up fall stuff....but not TOO much! Thanks Debra!

  30. Honestly, with everything that is on your mantle, I really think that I would leave the niche as it is. I would paint the inside of it the grayish blue color (that you mentioned that you painted the other nice as) and just leave as is. I think the darker color would pull your eyes upward and the blank space gives them a resting place. Maybe take a one or two pics off the mantle, but other than that, I think you've done a beautiful job.

    Mantels are hard...they are the focal point of the room and we all want them to be soooo fab. I struggle with mine too!


  31. The niche adds an architectural element lacking in many new homes. My suggestion would be to add shutters on each side or to add an iron piece or another salvage piece to the niche. You could also have a mirror cut the shape of the opening and add a couple of pots to the ledge. I would make this the focal point of the room.

  32. When you take into consideration the time, effort, and stress involved in finding a solution,
    I would get an estimate to sheet rock (patch) that area.`
    Then you will have a blank canvas and no stress!

    It is all good!

    White Spray Paint


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