As we find ourselves spending more time at home these days, adapting our personal spaces in new ways because of COVID-19, it’s a good time to reflect on how infectious diseases of the past, notably tuberculosis, typhoid, cholera, and the 1918 “Spanish” flu have caused major shifts in home decor and housing construction.
Coronavirus may have us soon taking a fresh look at genkan, the traditional Japanese entryway, a combination porch and doormat, normally recessed into the floor to keep dirt from being tracked in, a place to remove shoes before entering the main part of the house. Yes, a mud room!
“Always sleep with the window open” was originally an anti-tuberculosis slogan. But the curative effects of fresh air have been known since the time of Hippocrates.
Harnessing the power of sunlight was behind the introduction of flat roofs, balconies and terraces, all signature elements of modernism.
At the time, early 20th century, sunbathing was recommended by everyone from medical professionals to fashion icons like Coco Chanel, as a cure for rickets and tuberculosis, and for general well-being. Patients and health-conscious sunbathers often rested on reclining chairs within glass-enclosed decks.