We know we aren’t alone in our love for the arch. But is an arch right for every house? Are there some homes or rooms that an arch just shouldn’t live in? (For the sake of ease and fun “Arch” is both a noun and a verb in this post). Who can “arch” and who shouldn’t? Is every arch made equal? 2018 was “The Year of the Arch” and when we first started seeing it pop up into so many amazing designs. But three years later while we still love it, we do want to explore whether or not every house should “arch” or what exactly are the parameters around the hottest way to design a doorway in 2021 and beyond.
Let’s go ahead and recognize that the arch is not new in architecture, just ask the Roman Coliseum, The Great Wall of China, and the Roman Aqueduct. It started with an architectural purpose: when spanning great lengths, an arch is stronger than a squared-off beam because there isn’t only one weak point in the middle, there is a sort of diagonal compression that makes it stronger (don’t quote me, but based on my research you get it). That’s why bridges are arched instead of flat. The original arch builders definitely didn’t add arches to garner Instagram likes, they had a purpose.
Like most things, an architectural element with a function can also become decorative and start infiltrating areas where strength doesn’t matter – the arch just looked good. While I did love deep-diving into the history of the arch, let’s fast forward to well, NOW. Why would you put in an arch in 2021 if it’s not for structural reasons?
Reasons To Add An Arch:
- To bring in architectural interest through a contrasting shape – A soft circle to all those hard lines. A house is typically full of 90-degree angles and often can feel like a box what with the floor/ceiling/wall/wall formula. An arch adds a softer shape that makes it feel more interesting.
- To create a nook – An unexpected moment of coziness that you feel like you step into.
- A way to make pass-through spaces special – The transitions between rooms – are more interesting and feel like they have some sort of identity.
- To simply make a space feel more interesting – Adds more architectural interest.
Types Of Arches
- The semi-circle (or half circle) arch – The ‘arch du jour/decade’ is an exact semi-circle at the top. We love how simple it is and feels just as good in a really contemporary space.
- The Gothic arch – Think church archways that meet at a point. This can be trickier in many architectural styles, but if you are into churches then go for it.
- The soft archway – This one is less continuous, it goes up straight then has a lower and more elongated arch. I think this looks so pretty in Georgian or colonial-style homes.
Don’t Do a “Random Arch”
An arch would ideally be an architectural feature that you bring in consistently throughout your home. Like most architectural elements, it’s best to have it be a part of the story of your home, regardless of your home’s style, to make your home look and feel cohesive. Take Sarah Sherman Samuel – she can arch like no one else.
Consider Your Architectural Style
While we always want to promote all forms of creativity, we also want to help you avoid falling into expensive trend mistakes when renovating. While arches (or versions of an arch) exist very organically in Mediterranean, Spanish, and Moroccan style homes (and dope new builds), the semi-circle arch is less architecturally relevant in some newer, more American style homes – think Craftsmen, Georgians, and Tudors. But other types of arches could totally work in those, too. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do something interesting where you would arch. Just do some research and then do it consistently. Like at our Tudor it had this version of an arch:
If You “Arch” Into A Room You Have To Arch Out Of It (Don’t Mix Doorway Styles)
There are of course exceptions to this, but if you are using the arch as your doorway, don’t mix different shaped doorways and all of a sudden have a normal square. It might look like you are just trying to put an arch into your house because you like them, not that it should exist there.
Also, be careful not to add an arch to make your house look like a Tuscan or Italian villa – generally trying to go old-world, and copying an architectural style that originated on a different continent in NEWer construction is dangerous. It can look very Real Housewives/McMansion-y. There are so many in, of course, California Mediterannean bungalows, but I’d say if you are building new be careful about trying to replicate an older style (and instead just do something fresh).
So then with these rules and guidelines, I’m looking at the past projects I’ve done and wanted to see if there was an appropriate opportunity to put in an arch? Did I miss an arch moment??
The Mid-Century Modern Glendale Home – Now you might think that this mid-century couldn’t handle an arch, then you look at Sara Shermans Samuel’s house and my goodness it’s just awesome. But for this particular house, I probably wouldn’t have because it really would have mainly been the hallway doors.
The LA Tudor – As seen in the graphic earlier in the post, it would be a for sure no for me.
The Portland Project – I suppose the office/living room/dining could have had soft arches instead. So a total option. But also I really love how it turned out.
The Mountain House – I guess I could have but not sure with that big A-frame. However, it could have 100% worked but so happy with what we did.
So there you have it. My three big guidelines I think everyone should consider before arching. Renos with no regrets is what I hope to help everyone with (which is why I’m writing a book about it:)) Ok now let’s talk about arches. See you in the comments. xx