Archways in plaster walls – without a traditional wood casing surrounding them – became highly fashionable in the 1920’s and remained popular with builders into the 1950’s.  They are most likely to be found in Tudor Revivals and Spanish Eclectic houses of the period, but can be found in all popular styles built during those years.

Caseless arched openings have made a comeback in recent years and are often seen in new construction, now crafted from sheetrock and flexible vinyl corner bead rather than plaster and lath with metal corners.  I just had the opportunity to document an arched opening from the 1950’s which was an alteration in the project house.  A new kitchen design requires its removal.  There was originally a hinged door in this location; the small space beyond was likely a pantry.

Here are two examples of arched openings, followed by a closer look at what one in the project house looked like beneath the plaster:


A flattened Gothic arch frames the staircase in a 1920’s Tudor Revival.  Image source:


An eliptical arched opening – complete with original iron gates – connects the living and dining rooms in a 1930’s Spanish Eclectic house featuring textured plaster typical of the style and period.  Image source:


A smaller eliptical arch replaced the original doorway in a former pantry. It’s coming out to make the kitchen bigger and more efficient.


With the plaster removed, the original wood lath is exposed – along with two types of metal corner bead. At the sides, a diamond mesh corner bead frames the sides of the opening. At the top, four manufactured sections create a symmetrical arch.


Detail of metal corners.


Not all arches are formed in this exact manner, but many are formed in similar ways.  Today, various forms of blocking are available to quickly create an arch.  After the sheetrock is installed, flexible corner bead is used to finish and protect the corners which will then be hidden by joint compound.  In the photo below, segmental arches were finished with flexible bullnose corner bead to create a rounded, rather than square, corner:


Typical of many arches found in new construction, the corners seen in this recently-built McMansion are rounded rather than square as was favored in the past. Image source:




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