In my recently purchased apartment, I've come up with an idea for the hall as a part of interior designing. In my mother-tongue, we have a term for those three pits(?).

Vases in the wall? - I'm not okay with it.

How do we describe this in English? Non native speakers? I'm searching for the term that describes those three (without vases). They are three ______ in/on the wall.

Here is the actual picture

three vases

  • 3
    All I can say is: It looks awesome!
    – Rucheer M
    Sep 10, 2015 at 4:52
  • Thanks @RuchirM. I just want to put this awesomeness in words explaining it to others without showing the picture! Any term for that?
    – Maulik V
    Sep 10, 2015 at 4:54
  • 2
    Three vases in wall niches.
    – rogermue
    Sep 10, 2015 at 5:49
  • 1
    I agree with everyone else that "niche" is the right word. However, if you don't know this word, or think your listener may not know this word, I think recess (the noun) would work too. Common terms such as recessed wall shelf/panel would also work, IMHO. If a recess (or a niche) has a glass lid, I think we could also it a recessed display case or a recessed showcase. Sep 10, 2015 at 7:06
  • 1
    @MaulikV but alcoves are larger - you typically can sit in an alcove but not necessarily in a niche.
    – Stephie
    Sep 10, 2015 at 7:25

4 Answers 4


Without expressing awesomeness, the term is


  • a recess in a wall, especially for statues.

From the architectural feature the figurative meaning of "a special place" either in a professional, scientific or ecological context is derived.

  • "especially for statues" - wow!
    – Rob Grant
    Sep 10, 2015 at 10:47
  • @RobertGrant not my definition, for examples, see here: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niche_(architecture)
    – Stephie
    Sep 10, 2015 at 11:01
  • I've seen "Recessed Shelf" and "alcove" used to describe this feature before - bout would concur with @Stephie that "Niche" is the correct term.
    – SeanR
    Sep 10, 2015 at 14:04
  • Not to take away too much from this answer, but I generally think of a niche going all the way to the floor.
    – Daniel
    Sep 10, 2015 at 19:46
  • @Daniel Please check the Wikipedia link in my comment above...
    – Stephie
    Sep 10, 2015 at 19:47

A word that most people would be familiar with is recess, or more specifically in this case a recessed shelf.

recess - from Dictionary.com
3. a receding part or space, as a bay or alcove in a room.
4. an indentation in a line or extent of coast, hills, forest, etc.

recess - from Wiktionary
2. An inset, hole, space or opening.

  • 1
    The term niche is spot on, but because the architectural definition is not widely known, I added this answer as well, which will be understood by most English-speakers.
    – IQAndreas
    Sep 10, 2015 at 15:28
  • I noticed that the other answers—niche, alcove and nook—all use "recess" in their definition.
    – Qubei
    Sep 12, 2015 at 0:42

This can also be referred to as an alcove. Alcoves can also be an area you can walk into though, so be careful to avoid ambiguity.



A recess, typically in the wall of a room or of a garden.

Origin: Late 16th century: from French alcôve, from Spanish alcoba, from Arabic al-ḳubba 'the vault'.

Source: OxfordDictionaries.com


Another potential word for this is nook though it's usually for a larger space.

nook - Dictionary.com

Noun, noo k

  1. any small recess: a breakfast nook.

Generally the size progression is that a nook is bigger than an alcove which is bigger than a niche. In this specific case I think you're referring to a niche, I place this answer here purely for the sake of completion. The safest is definitely "recessed shelf" with a qualifier as to the desired dimensions of the space.

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