Design

Carve a niche for yourself

Architect says we hardly find little niches in construction today  

It is curious to observe how fast we can shed design ideas of many generations, simply to move on with newer ideas, often into disastrous futures.

Possibly no animal on this planet can change its habitats and habits of shelter making as humans do, a fact that can be corroborated by hundreds of examples including the famous nests of weaver birds, which have been weaved for many millennia, unchanged.

A small case in point is the wall niches. Found in all buildings all over India, the small depression within the thickness of the wall served as a handy place to temporarily keep household items. When placed outside flanking the main door, they lit up the entrance, both functionally and religiously.

In drawing rooms they facilitated craft displays, in the bedrooms knick-knacks were kept there, in bathrooms they became soap trays and in kitchens, all kinds of things could be found there. Of course, sometimes they could appear ugly, but equally well, they were adorned with art objects to the delight of the guests.

Not ideal in two places

Today, we hardly find these little cute niches and not many logical reasons can be extended to their gradual disappearance. Of course, there are some basics to follow if one intends to have niches.

They are not ideal in two places - on the external wall where the wall is not thick enough to take the depth and in toilet walls which are difficult to tile and maintain dry.

In internal walls, simply leave an opening in the wall, finish one side with chicken mesh plaster or the masonry that goes with the composite wall. A niche may restrict space usage in its front by negating the possibilities of shelves and furniture, but there are many walls which do not take an activity right in front.

Also, along passages, movement areas, walls edging a staircase and passive corners, niches are eminently possible to create a visual appeal and brighten up an otherwise dull corner.

A niche need not be a functional hole in the wall, but can be a piece of beauty by itself. Imagine it with a small arch on top or highlighted by different materials like coloured stone.

Most people prefer it to be around 6 inch deep and up to 2 feet tall, though some house owners like it to be bigger to house larger items for display.

Alternatively, a larger niche can also get subdivisions in between. Considering these are narrow openings, the top need not get a concrete lintel, but keeping a stone across, normal brick course on temporary support or two rods atop suffices. In case of a niche wider than two feet, concrete lintel may be considered.

Today, externally mounted, costlier and convincingly marketed option of plastic or wooden cabinets seem to be everywhere.

It's time to revive the cheaper and easier solution called niche, built integrally into the wall.


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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 12:24:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/design/carve-a-niche-for-yourself/article6511313.ece

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