When we bought our current home, there were so many things that I fell in love with, from the slight curve of the upstairs walls to the pitched roof angles in two of the bedrooms that felt like hugs when you tucked in at night. These little charming things in older homes are very often serious design challenges only realized after the closing takes place.... and TRUST me I have done my fair share of staging and re-staging to make the spaces work. But, much like Marilyn Monroe's fetching little upper lip beauty mark: if you have these lovely and unique home characteristics that make your space different and quirky, please DO highlight them because they are NOT a dime a dozen. They make home, home.
This is how I feel about the arches. The brick arches held one side of my home to the little old 1940s garage that could house only small cars from that era, with just enough room for the Man of the House to exit his vehicle, toss down his commute cigarette in utter relaxation, roll up his sleeves, loosen his tie and stroll through the garage door through the brick arches entering the old back door (now refabbed bathroom door) up into the house to the kitchen to grab his customary evening smooch and his hot dinner. The arches created a rain sanctuary so the Man of the House would never have his perfect hat or his equally perfect 1940s coiffure ruined, be snowed upon, windswept or otherwise inconvenienced or disrupted in any manner. The arches embraced the house and the garage, and had also provided shade in the long summers to access the old kitchen door.
As we contemplated renovations, and connecting the breezeway under the arches to the main body of the home, I always envisioned the arches would be part of the design. Over the course of three years, we imagined how the design could flow, and we always wanted the arches to remain part of the structure enclosing them into the interior of the house and allowing them to be embraced by the new body of the home as they were structurally interesting and I believed ( as I usually do) important to telling the story of the home.
When we finally decided to renovate, we went with our favorite and most trusted contractor, we knew exactly what we wanted to see, and he understood our vision immediately. The arches however, posed a problem. To make our renovation vision a reality, it was first thought by the architect who drew the blueprints that the arches would need to be removed. Naturally - you all know me and this was not an option, and the plans needed to be changed to keep them in tact, which was not simple. The floor needed to be kept dropped by 4" through the hallway where the arches would sit so the height of the doorways would be to code. They needed to be kept in tact as they dug 8' underground to pin the new footers connecting the garage to the home, and they needed to be accommodated for once again when laying the floor, as this would increase the height of the drop and we needed to be to code at the highest part of the doorway. This was stressful, this was expensive, this was backbreaking and this was NECESSARY.
Several blueprints later, we were there. The once hidden arches that contained broken concrete; a makeshift funnel to redirect water made out of pavers (because we had water coming in!) and a storage area for recycling bins now was transformed. There is something undeniably captivating about the natural curve of the line, juxtaposed with the rectangle inside of one arch. The other arch stands empty, as I wanted it to.
The arches, this alleyway turned hallway the entryway taught me to never underestimate space for the sake of space or predictable continuity. You do not need an arched door inside an arch, or a rectangle inside a rectangle. You can be open, then closed, as long as you open up again with light, or color or brick finish. I wanted so much to keep my beautiful old back door (that my mom named Martha last week after reading my blog. Martha means the "lady of the house," the mistress, and she is.) She stands beautifully snug inside the arch she was across from for 72 years.
The arches taught me so many things, and I am so grateful we kept and enhanced them.