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What is this thing, made of wood, in the entrance of this house in front of the mirror and under the light switch? What is it called? What is it for? Is it there for people to put their keys on?

enter image description here

  • In older homes in the US it's common to see shelfs like this that are also inset into the wall a bit and they were made to set a wired telephone on. Often they would have a rack for a telephone book or notepad. I don't think that's what you have in the picture, but thought you might find it interesting. – JPhi1618 Feb 11 at 18:11
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Yep. Just a key/purse/phone shelf. You'd rest your items there while you pull on your coat and galoshes.

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It looks to me like some type of cabinet/safe/alarm panel is above the shelf. The shelf is probably just a place to put down keys or purse while you access whatever is in the wall.

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It's commonly referred to as a niche (perhaps spelt as nich in some regions)

Dictionary.com says says

Niche Nee-sh noun an ornamental recess in a wall or the like, usually semicircular in plan and arched, as for a statue or other decorative object.

Sometimes used to hold a framed painting or mirror, and reduce the risk of incidental damage by passing foot traffic. If the niche is illuminated with a spotlight, the recess also helps to retain the light-spill and highlight the artwork on display.

OP's niche is rectangular and relatively shallow compared to the depth required for a semicircular niche. It is also a cheap way to break up an otherwise boring flat wall, and being thinner will save on framing/construction materials while providing a way to use up lining offcuts during construction.


The question is asking about the shelf, which is a part of the niche. Without the recess, it would be a simple shelf, but because there's a recess, the "shelf" is the base of the niche. Therefore this is a niche, not a shelf.

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    I only associate niche with a recessed area, not a wall mounted shelf. – UnhandledExcepSean Feb 11 at 21:19
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    Hi and welcome to Stack Exchange. Your answer has been flagged as a low quality submission. You should edit this to make it more substantial. In particular if you have experience with a "nich" you should provide more explanation as to why this term applies. If not this could get deleted for not being up to site standards. – Michael Karas Feb 12 at 3:47
  • Answer is marked as low quality because of length, but this is the only answer that contains a name for this area, which is exactly what the question is asking for. – Criggie Apr 1 at 1:59
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    @Criggie, the photo above and the definition you provide don't match. There's no recess here, so the name doesn't apply. – isherwood Apr 1 at 18:30
  • @isherwood yes, there is a recess - its very approximately 50mm deep and about 1.5 metres high, and the width of the radiator. See the shadows - would an edited photo help ? The shelf is the base of the niche. – Criggie Apr 1 at 19:05

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