ARCH-itecture At Its Best

There are no shortages of

arches in Latin American architecture, especially in churches, just the same as in Europe (especially anything that was built during the Renaissance and Baroque eras). These rounded portals are not just for looks – arches are fundamental to a building’s structural integrity. Ancient Romans widely implemented arches – an architectural feat they learned from the Etruscans.

Without getting too technical, arches (along with supporting columns) help to distribute a building’s weight (also known as “thrust” – the outward force or pressure exerted by one part of the structure on another) so that the entire structure doesn’t collapse!

Here are some photos of rounded arches that I snapped while traveling through Central America:

A church in Granada, Nicaragua, exhibits Semi-circular Roman-style arches with decorative imposts.

I think the arches with vaulted ceilings in this church in Granada are called Segmental arches since they don't appear to be a perfect half circle.

Although the ceiling is flat, these Eliptical arches in Granada add visual interest.

This interesting church in Rivas, Nicaragua, has semi-circular arches that appear to be used mainly as decoration (except that a buttress support along the aisle?)

If you haven't noticed by now, the arches in these Niacaraguan churches are very simple with little-to-no decoration. A big difference from the rounded arches in most European churches.

The taller the structure = the thicker the columns + a wider span of the arch.

I went a little arch-crazy and decided to save some inspirational photos of arches used in residential design. An arch can really “shape” a space into something special, but it can also look out of place when it’s the only rounded portal in a space.

Here are some examples of arches that caught my eye:

Despite the lack of mouldings and casing, this simple Segmental arch has added drama to this hallway. Design by Claudio Ortiz Design Group Inc. (

Plastered arches without mouldings make for a more contemporary space. Designer unknown. (

Love how an arch was used to create this cozy space. Designed by couple Bill, an architect for Helicon Works, and Beth, landscape designer for Greener than Green Gardens. (

Arches with some ethnic flare! These borderline Horseshoe arches made from wood lattice are equisite. (

Plenty of moulding and casing make this arch stand out - love the circular detail above the door. Design by John Minshaw (

Highlighting an arch with a different colour (or in this case, different material) makes a bold statement. Design by Summerour Architects. (

I really like how the baseboards seamlessly flow into the door trim in this Segmental arch. A refined way to transition from one space to another. Design by Kristine Kamenstein. (

This Shouldered-Flat arch with helps frame a lovely sitting area. I love the contrast between the ornate moulding and the industrial-style kitchen. Design by Levenson McDavid Architects. (

A perfect example of a bold, Horseshoe style arch. This interior looks very Middle Eastern to me, but it's actually Cuban! Designer unknown. Michael Eastman Photography. (

By the way, I also LOVE pointed arches (woo-hoo for Gothic-style!), but that’s a post for another day.

Here are some  TIPS on HOW TO implement rounded arches into your space:

  • USE REPETITION – repeating an arch more than once makes more of an impact in a hallway and visually balances a longer space. If adding an arch to a room with more than one entrance, considering repeating the arch on all doorways. Repetition is a great design principal when used properly.
  • HIGHLIGHT A SPECIAL AREA – on the other hand, you can use an arch to highlight a special reading nook, a sitting area, or a single entrance into a grand room.
  • TO MOULD OR NOT TO MOULD?! – using decorative moulding as trim can give the impression that a space beyond an arch is important, but be sure to choose a style of moulding that compliments the overall design and architectural details of your house. (I.e.: if you’re dealing with a contemporary or modern space, be weary of adding ornate moulding that could look out of place if the moulding is not repeated elsewhere in the space.)
  • THE ROLE OF  COLOUR - painting the trim around an arch a different colour from the wall will help you further highlight the archway. For a more subtle effect, opt to paint the wall and the arch trim the same colour. For a bold and modern look, try painting the underside of a trim-less arch a different colour – this will look like a floating ribbon of colour.

Do you have an interior with a rounded arch? Are you a fan of rounded arches? What do you think about some of the arches in these photos?

Let’s start an arch-tastic conversation going in the comments below…

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  1. love love love the colour in the first few!! And the one with the black wainscoting….to die for! I should have submitted a photo from my parents house (otherwise known as the villa!) we have arches every where! Good post TLC! Bring back the architectural details!

  2. Amen to that, sister! Yes, architectural details are awesome – they make a house so special :) Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Beautiful buiding in Nicaragua. The arches bring a sense of romantic to a building or room. I wish we had more of them in our home designs. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. Thanks for the comment, Marisa – arches in homes look great (Sometimes!) it’s too bad more builder-standard homes don’t include them as reasonable upgrades.

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