Alcoves, wall niches, nooks or crannies, by whatever name they go, I see them everywhere in traditional Indian houses. Be it palaces, havelis or even tribal houses, arched alcoves, often with pretty details provide a whimsical but important showcase for their Gods, favourite piece of art or even a forgotten toy.
One of the more innovative uses of niches include "secret hiding places" for jewellery. I took the above picture when I was at Fatepur Sikri last year, the Mughal palace built by Akbar the Great. I remembered how our guide moved the tile from the bottom of the niche, put his hand in and told us : this was where some of the finest treasure could be found back in those days.
I always knew my tribal house would have alcoves, I just didn't know how until I saw these little dipa dishes or Deepavali lamps being sold at S$1 each at Little India. I bought a whole load of them and picked this design for my tribal house.
On Day 161, sometime in May this year, right after I finished the walls and floors, I "installed" the alcoves. I knew I had to do this before I could start on the furnishing as "massive" hacking and bashing was required. I also thought I must have back-to-back alcoves to mask the holes that I had to make in the walls.
The hacking was not pretty and neither were the holes so I took no pictures of the process. It was really simple actually. I just started with drawing the outline of the dish against the wall and then hammered and chiseled my way through. Once I had a hole through the wall, I put two dishes back to back and glued them, Picture above shows the "back to back" alcoves in the living room and its exterior.
The alcove in the living room is to be the most important one because it is the family altar. I read that details for alcoves differ depending on its significance (ones outside the house being the least) but for uniformity, I decided to use the same design for all of them.
While we are here, may I also take this opportunity to show off the laundry basket made for me by Flora. This was just one of the many wonderful creations I received from Flora about 2 weeks ago. The rest I will show off in due course but this laundry basket with all the crease and folds that I love will take pride of place in this room. Thank you Flora.
Of all the niches, the one in the kitchen is the hardest to photograph. I suspect it will be mostly hidden when I furnish this room. That's why my mind draws a blank when I try to come up with a story for this one. Some of you may have read in my last post that I have a story for each nook and I already have one for all the rest. Maybe I'll just call this one "The Forgotten Nook" since it is back to back with The Forgotten Toy.
So here they are, a bunch of imperfectly installed alcoves. I had thought them flawed, a little awkward, maybe even boring without the stories. Perhaps that's why I didn't mention them in my past posts. Just like a real alcove, I guess. The story is always what is in them, never about them. No wonder they have been likened to picture frames, always the backup singers and never the stars.
Until Helene highlighted them in a comment on my last post. That was when I saw the alcoves again and realised that they are indeed quite fabulous.