It may have been millennials that rekindled our collective obsession with arches, but designers have long finessed the classic architectural feature, experimenting with anything from shape, material, and scale to recontextualize this age-old design.
‘I think our inspirations never stop evolving, we want something more natural and abstract,’ says Hélène Pinaud, co-founder of Paris’ Heju Studio, of this new and dyanmic interior design trend. ‘We have seen a lot of round arches lately so people want to have something different at home.’
Contemporary doorways, in particular, fatigued from the right angles of cookie-cutter construction (read: rectangles), offer the perfect framework for articulation. These features, when given a surprising twist, can make the transition between two rooms worthy of punctuation; an eye-catching passage that’s worthy of a full stop.
And while classic designs reign for a reason, improved tech allows architects to flex even more abstract and angular forms. ‘Computer technology is becoming part of everyday joinery construction which allows materials to be machined into whatever forms are generated in computer software,’ says Nick Harding, a principal at Ha Architecture. ‘This certainly makes the possibilities endless.’ In this way, even designs that recall Victorian or Roman arches can feel fresh, far from formal, and above all, unquestionably bespoke.
Of course, this type of architecture doesn’t come cheap. ‘You have to work and count on good craftsmen,’ says Dennis T'Jampens, an Antwerp-based architect. ‘The budget and costs are maybe the biggest challenges.’
Is it worth all the effort? Think of it like a sculptural moment for your home – one that really stands out and gives you pause – and you’ll have yourself a top-tier showstopper.
1. Accentuate architectural quirks
Instead of hiding the architectural bones of your space, consider letting your door frame highlight the structure itself. In this Antwerp home, 'D' Architectural Concepts embraced the pitched roof, crafting a modern bathroom doorway that frames the architecture. ‘In this project I wanted to feel the height of the ceiling in the master bedroom,’ says Dennis T'Jampens of the ceiling-high door frames. ‘I wanted to accentuate the architecture, which determined the story of the interior.’
2. heighten a door frame
While straight lines are typical of modern door frames, this angular arched passage between a living room and kitchen is perfectly abstract against the home's ornate architectural moulding. The 45 degree angle follows the roof’s sharp slope, while the use of materials eases the flow from an older space into a new addition. ‘The concept for Bianco House was to honour the existing 'white on white' palette and bring warmth to the home through select moments of timber,’ says Melbourne architect Nick Harding. ‘We elected to outline the doorway in timber to demarcate the transition from the existing house to the extension.’
3. Paint a door and trim
In this eclectic style home in Los Angeles, original pointed arch doorways dot the home, leaving an unmistakable period style impression – but a coat of paint takes the aesthetic down a notch with a fresh feel.
‘Painting the doorways and trim rather than staining the wood makes them feel more modern,’ recommends Jessica Helgerson. ‘Also using the same color for trim and doors while maintaining a subtle color pattern throughout keeps the dramatic shape from being overwhelming.’
4. Use a pointed arch to enhance minimalist decor
An arched structure can work to enhance a sense of minimalism with a note of classical. In this almost spiritual interior in Milan, architects referenced a now timeless shape – seen anywhere from the centuries-old Duomo di Milano to the slanted Feltrinelli Porta Volta building – proving that even these heightened structures can stay grounded.
‘It has a great atmosphere because it comes from the place,’ says architect Rodolfo Morandi. ‘It is a connection with the people who live there.’
5. Line the arch with reflective brass
With classic arches, symmetry has as much to do with beauty as it does structural integrity. But this amorphous, shiny doorway shows that even arches can be a tad wobbly and wonderful.
‘Our idea was to use a brass sheet so we can create a perfect curve that is both thin and strong,’ says Hélène Pinaud of Heju Studio. ‘We think this striking arch works so well here because the rest of the room is pure and white. We like to keep the general atmosphere really quiet and calm so it doesn’t seem too shiny.’
6. Use an arch to change the mood
An arch is not only a chance for a striking sculptural moment, but an opportunity to hint that the entire vibe of a space is about to change, like the transition into this spa-like bathroom in Melbourne.
Nodding to the home’s Victorian-era roots, a series of arched doorways turn from white to black as they temper the overall mood. As if turning down the volume, the arch’s strength lies in visually separating each space with different attitudes – a madly beautiful approach.
Keith Flanagan is a New York based journalist specialising in design, food and travel. He has been an editor at Time Out New York, and has written for such publications as Architectural Digest, Conde Nast Traveller, Food 52 and USA Today. He regularly contributes to Livingetc, reporting on design trends and offering insight from the biggest names in the US. His intelligent approach to interiors also sees him as an expert in explaining the different disciplines in design.
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