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How to work an arch into every interior scheme

Don’t play it straight – introduce arched elements to architecture and interiors for a look that’s timeless and on trend

Arches in interiors
How to work an arch into every interior scheme
Emily Brooks
July 14, 2022

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The arch as an architectural motif has been around for at least 2,000 years but in the present day, it’s seriously having a moment. Across buildings, interior architecture, glazing, furniture or even just painted on a wall, it’s making its presence felt.  

The arch was the architectural detail that made Roman aqueducts and baths possible, and was also the cornerstone of the medieval Romanesque style. From there, it was revived whenever classical design and proportions were revered above all else, from the Renaissance to the Georgian era.

Arches go in and out of fashion every few years; the modernists stripped it back to its purest form, while the subversive postmodernists saw the last surge of arch-mania. Now that we’re throwing it back to the 1970s and 1980s across interior design, the arch, unsurprisingly, has made a comeback too. 

Any curved element in an interior naturally leads the eye around the room, – whereas right angles can make us stop in our tracks. iIntroducing arched elements naturally lends a space a sense of calm and movement at the same time.

Create an extension with arches

Inspired by Renaissance architecture, this extension to a London home by Turner Architects includes a trio of arched openings framed in bright green. Image: Adam Scott

Use paint to create accent arches and curves

You don’t need to change the interior architecture of a room to introduce some elegant arches to a space. Use paint to create them on the wall – carefully making the curved section at the top using a pencil on a piece of string, fixed at the midpoint – and use this newly defined zone to highlight a particular piece of furniture such as a desk or bed. Arched mirrors are another simple way to get the look without intruding into the fabric of a building: run them in a row along a wall to create a rhythm.

Palazzo Experimental Venice. Image credit Mr Tripper

Create shallow, arched niches across walls

Shallow niches provide an alternative to panelling when it comes to creating interest across a blank wall. You can also illuminate them with concealed LED strips to create a sense of depth. Deeper niches can be incorporated as storage or for displaying a collection of objects, while a large arch can also act as the gateway to a curved, vaulted space within a room, perhaps to house a built-in dining area or a snug lounge to chill out.

Malene Birger Retail by Stamuli. Paint by Clayworks

Introduce arched doors

Arched internal openings lend a beautiful elegance to a room, drawing your eye upward to trace the curving line as it travels over the top. If you're looking to introduce arched internal doors, there are very few off-the-shelf products available, so bear in mind the time and cost to have them custom made. Few things look as elegant as arched steel-framed glazed doors separating one room from another, allowing light to flood between the spaces – and double doors lend an even greater sense of grandeur. Interior designers can also use the visual trick of tracing an arch shape above a traditional rectilinear doorway, perhaps using this space as storage niche or simply changing the material or colour to trace an arched outline above the door.

Arched storage areas have been created above the doorways, creating a sense of height and grandeur, in this castle redesigned by Brussels-based interior designer Victoria-Maria Geyer. Image: Belen Imaz & Pedro Bermejo

Arched doors are also becoming a must-have at the back of homes. You may have noticed that architects have grown tired of trotting out the same wall-to-wall glass extensions that were everywhere 10 or 15 years ago. Now, space at the back of a house is being broken up into a play of solid and glazed sections, creating greater visual variety and allowing greater flexibility within, with the solid wall sections freed up for art, storage or accessories. Arched doors are becoming seriously popular in this context, either with classic steel frames, playful coloured aluminium frames or minimal frameless styles. One advantage this has over a full wall of glazing is that an expensive joist isn’t needed to support the house-wide opening – instead, vertical supports can sit between the arches in the solid-wall sections. Again, bear in mind the bespoke nature of arched openings, both for the additional cost of custom-made glazing, and the skill and time it takes a contractor to create the arched openings where it will fit.

Original steel arched windows from the 1930s were the inspiration for the redesign of this Spanish-Mission-style house in Balwyn, Australia by architects Hindley & Co

Incorporate curvy, arched furniture into your design

Now for the finishing touches: curving, sculptural shapes are also having a major moment when it comes to furniture, lighting and accessories. Chunky, tubular shapes with the retro playfulness of the 70s and 80s are becoming especially popular. Go for a half-moon headboard for a classic Miami-inspired 80s-throwback look, add some colour with or a cast-concrete basin in the bathroom or introduce a perfectly balanced arching pendant light. All these gentle curves aren’t just for show – they naturally lend an interior a soothing feel to them, so they’re perfect for when you want a room to feel grounded.

Alex Morrison Interiors’ design for jeweler Autore Moda’s showroom in Sydney was inspired by the shape and lustre of a South Sea pearl, and includes this large arched alcove. Image: Dave Wheeler