A cozy breakfast nook. Photo: Merete Coleman

For a while now, nooks have been all the rage. Whether you reside in a modest 2-bedroom, a McMansion in the suburbs, or a shoebox apartment in the city, creating a nook can be a worthy investment. The quirky trend can be whatever you want in your home. Think of it as a personal accessory for your space. But the big question is: what exactly is a nook, and how do you make one?

In many homes today, possibly yours, there are plenty of nooks, whether you call it one or not. They’ve somehow probably turned into toy nooks, studying nooks, homework nooks, kitchen nooks, and potentially even a nook under the stairs like in your favorite childhood storybook. Maybe the little corner in the living room where you keep your blankets folded up in a basket is a nook. Some might even have an area that could be a potential nook but are unsure what to do with it. 

There are various definitions for the word itself. According to Merriam-Webster, it’s “a sheltered or hidden place,” but nooks can also be equally functional. HGTV says that “nooks, niches and alcoves are tricky areas to decorate, but there are great pros to having them. They add charm to your home while serving functional purposes when innovatively used.” And many designers, whether industrial or interior, would agree.

Make the most of your corners. Photo: Ryan McDonald

Designer Jooyoung Lim, who has worked with the likes of Martha Stewart and Barkbox to create home decor and kitchenware, shares with The Escape Home that nooks have become one of those things that people create intentionally in their homes now. If you don’t already have one, maybe you’re simply not recognizing the potential of an empty corner.  “It could just be a spot that exists already,” he says. “You just have to do something with it.” 

Creating one can also be a form of optimization, along with adding personality to your space. If you have kids and you don’t have enough space for a playroom, you can place toys there.  If you have a pet, it can be an area where the furry friend naps and eats their food. If your kitchen is cramped for cabinet space, you can stack spices in a small drawer in the corner. You can place a bar cart there, or you can place an office desk there. The end product will be an organized and manageable space within a larger, possibly more chaotic space.

A nook need not require much space. Photo: Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Industrial designer Daniel Leung challenges the notion that nooks just exist to be functional. “To me, I think something cozy,” he shares. “​​I think there’s a functional aspect of it. And then there’s the cozy aspect of it,” he shares. “But I think both end up giving you visual comfort or a feeling of comfort.” 

Leung suggests intentional furniture if you’re planning on curating your corner cranny. “A grate is a great idea,” he says with a chuckle, “wordplay not intended.” He says building one yourself shouldn’t be too hard if you’re handy, but Ikea also has alternative options for those who might need some guidance. “A shelf from Ikea can be whatever you want it to be,” he recommends. Many of them are versatile enough to be placed in most corners of your home. Elevating your space doesn’t have to be a penny-pinching task. 

Whether you have an already functioning nook or just a tiny corner you’re looking to redo, there are plenty of ways to make your nook (or cranny!) vibrant and full of character. New York-based interior designer Kate Ginsburg shares that many of her clients live in Brooklyn brownstone apartments and want to use up the sometimes oddly shaped spaces in their homes. But these are New Yorkers, after all, and nook can’t compromise on style. This is where textures and colors come in, and Ginsburg loves to play with both of these elements when bringing a small space from drab to fab.

Enhance your nook with rich and colorful fabrics and textures. Photo: Kip Dawson

Some of her clients, who are artists and creatives, often fill their nooks with decorative books. “It’s where they keep their art book collection,” she says, “so they can go flip through and get inspiration.” Texture is also a big factor in adding dimension. Ginsburg suggests that a way to bring an upgrade to your nook is to take inspiration from fabrics, textures, and colors you already have around your home. “Bump it up a notch so we have a very rich, textural landscape, but still a personalized space,” she says. “It should be copacetic with the rest of the house.” Look at the colors around your home and put a pillow in your nook that matches the curtains. A shaggy rug may bring the textural element that gives it the ultimate warmth and final touch.

Here are five tips to get started with your own nook:

  • See if there’s space in your home that already has the skeleton of a nook. Make use of all the space you have. Maybe there’s room for a breakfast book in the kitchen or a reading nook in an underutilized corner.
  • Be as creative as you’d like, but add intention to your space. What will you use it for? This will help you decide how to decorate it. 
  • Add a shelf and some furniture to make it cozy and compact but still full of storage space. A bookshelf from Ikea is an excellent investment, says industrial designer Daniel Leung.
  • Incorporate some nice fabrics and textures, like designer Kate Ginsburg suggests. This area should be full of personality and style. You want to spend time in your nook, so make it your favorite colors. Add a shaggy rug or a fluffy throw blanket. 
  • Make sure there’s seating. You’ll want to add a cozy chair (or bench) to your space. You’ll likely be using your nook to unwind, so ensure it’s comfortable.

However you choose to follow this trend, remember that nooks are your own space, and they should satisfy your needs, whether that’s space, comfort, or just a bit of style, without emptying your pockets. So pull out the screwdriver set you bought years ago and take that trip to Ikea; we’re filling up the nooks and crannies in our home this year.

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