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Niche Design Ideas for Greater Livability—and Coziness

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Niche Design Ideas for Greater Livability—and Coziness

As homes become more compact, builders and designers are getting more creative with space. Niches offer cozy, clever hideaways that can help make a house a home 

By Jenni Nichols October 5, 2023
Living room and kitchenette at Cardiff at River Islands
From galley-style kitchenettes to classic window niches, these tucked-away spaces are both cozy and functional, and can help enrich the livability of a home. | Image: Davies Imaging Group
This article first appeared in the September/October 2023 issue of Pro Builder.

I recently toured model homes in the Denver market and stumbled upon the coolest reading niche. I don’t always take photos in a model, but I pulled out my phone to snap aPB+ digital extra icon photo this time because … I want one of those niches in my house! It also got me thinking about other creative niche designs I’ve seen in new homes across the country.

As homes get smaller, builders and designers must get creative with space to really make it work for homeowners, and a niche is a great opportunity to do that. Whether with the architecture or with clever interior design that highlights potential uses of the space, niches can give homeowners that little bit of extra living space they're looking for … and may come to cherish.

After digging through the DesignLens archives and through my recent model tours, I’ve found there are a lot of options for clever, cozy niche designs, whether it's a kitchenette in a multigenerational suite, space for a desk in a kid’s room, a sliver of outdoor space, or a cuddle library, to name just a few, there's much more builders and designers can do by thinking beyond the status quo.

The Classic Window Niche

This is the niche that made me pull out my phone and take a picture. Measuring 7 feet, 5 inches by 5 feet, 4 inches, this niche design consists of a nook located within a stair landing.

Shea Homes window niche design
Tribute at Lyric by Shea Homes | Architect: WHA | Kimberly Timmons Interiors |
Photography: Jess Blackwell Photography | Lone Tree, Colo.

Instead of a full loft, it enabled the builder Shea Homes to dedicate more space to nearby bedrooms. The Kimberly Timmons Interiors team took it to the next level with a built-in window seat complete with plenty of pillows and a built-in bookshelf nearby.

 The En Suite Desk Niche

During the early days of the pandemic, a lot of homebuyers thought they wanted a large, shared space for virtual schooling. As time went on, most found that the kids really needed a more private study space like this niche from Tri Pointe Homes.

Tri Pointe Homes desk niche design
Piedmont at Avance by Tri Pointe Homes | Bassenian Lagoni Architects | Bobby Berk Interiors + Design | Photography: John Bare Photography | Phoenix

Bassenian Lagoni, the architects for the home, opened up a lot of opportunities by adding a small amount of square footage to this bedroom, and Bobby Berk Interiors + Design helped future occupants see the opportunities for the space with a cute desk setup.


The Kitchen Niche 

When you only have a total footprint of 826 square feet to work with, you have to get creative. Instead of designing an eat-in kitchen, the Fresh Paint team carved out an eating nook that's 6 feet, 9 inches by 5 feet, taking cues from tiny homes by integrating built-ins to optimize the function of the space.

Garman Homes kitchen niche design


Garman Homes kitchen nook niche design
Chatham Park Cottages by Fresh Paint by Garman Homes | In-house architecture | Rustic Charm Design | Photography: Nathan Gregory | Pittsboro, N.C.

Ranging from around 800 square feet to more than 3,000, the Residence 2 plan integrates a clever niche in an optional multigenerational suite (below). Instead of including a kitchenette with a typical galley layout, the team tucked the kitchen into a corner of the suite. The design for this niche space includes cabinetry, a mini refrigerator, a sink, and a microwave for a truly self-sufficient suite.

RELATED: Multi-Gen Home Designs That Succeed in Meeting Multiple Needs

Multigenerational suite niche design off the living room


Signature Homes kitchen corner niche design in a multigenerational suite
Cardiff at River Islands by Signature Homes | WHA | California Design Consultants | Photography: Davies Imaging Group | Lathrop, Calif.


The Outdoor Niche 

At The Heights, an attached collection by The New Home Company that achieves a density of 20.5 per acre, only one plan offers outdoor living off the ground floor. Carved into the space outside a home office, this small patio is perfect for a dog owner, as highlighted by the design team’s merchandising choices.

Niche design by The New Home Company


Design for an outdoor niche by The New Home Company
The Heights at Promontory by The New Home Company | Woodley Architectural Group | Studio Mosaic | Photography: John Bare Photography | San Diego

RELATED: 2019 Builder of the Year: The New Home Company

This higher density, detached collection (below) offers covered patios, side yards, and second-story balconies. The team thoughtfully included a small balcony off the primary bedroom that provides a connection to the outdoors, allowing residents to open the French doors and step outside. It also fills the space with natural light.


Niche design of a balcony off the bedroom in a home by Taylor Morrison


Balcony niche design off the bedroom by Taylor Morrison
City Collection at Imperial by Darling Homes (now Taylor Morrison) | In-house architecture | Millennium Designs | Photography: John Bare Photography | Sugar Land, Texas

Take the Niche Design Challenge

I challenge everyone to take a small niche and dream about the possibilities. What would you want it to be? I know I want a reading nook like the one Kimberly Timmons Interiors created for Shea Homes at Lyric—a spot I can curl up with a good book while basking in some natural light. 

The possibilities are endless, and this is a great jumping off point for what we can do as our homes get both denser and cozier.


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Written By

Jenni Nichols is VP of Design-Lens for the New Home Trends Institute at John Burns Research & Consulting. She scouts and analyzes the best housing collections and master planned communities from across the country to feature in the DesignLens database and serves as chair of NHTI’s Housing Design Trends council. Along with supporting clients with their design and trends inquiries, she also consults with developers and builders planning their communities and fine-tuning their home designs. Email her at jnichols@jbrec.com or visit newhometrendsinstitute.com.

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