I've seen many homes that have recessed shelves in innocuous places. A friend has an arch-shaped one, right by the front door. It serves as a great space to drop keys when you walk in the door. But otherwise, it's just kind of... there.
That's why I love the treatment above from Steph & Phil's Reimagined Victorian House Tour. The woodsy wallpaper–carried right onto and inside the recessed cut-out–helps to make sense of the whole feature. The vertically-oriented pattern gives their long, short cut-out some dimension, while at the same time helping it to kind of visually disappear into the wall.
You can see a similar effect in this photo from an Apartment Therapy tutorial on How To Build a Recessed Shower Shelf. The pattern created by the tile gives some interest to the cut-out, while helping it to feel at home as part of the wall. It's an idea for you to try at home if you're trying to make sense of a feature like this one.
Do you have a recessed cut-out at home? How did you handle it?