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Watch This: How Pandemics Shaped Our Homes

A man bathing in an early wooden bathtub.
Public Domain/Cheddar

Many of the things we take for granted about modern home design, like the construction of and materials used in our bathrooms, were shaped by the pandemics of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Today, we take the smooth porcelain lines of the bathroom for granted. It seems only natural that you would make a room such as a bathroom filled with non-porous surfaces like porcelain, ceramic, metal, and glass. But historically that wasn’t the case. In the Victorian era, things were made of wood, wood, and more wood.

Even things that weren’t fundamentally wood (like a metal or porcelain toilet bowl) were encased in wood to make them seem less obscene and stand out less in the otherwise wood-filled Victorian homes. The problem with that, of course, is that wood is porous, absorbs water, and is impossible to really sanitize. Here’s how that changed, and our bathrooms, kitchens, and other spaces became easier to clean, thanks germ theory and the pandemics of the past.

Like the pandemics that preceded it, the coronavirus pandemic will certainly leave an imprint on the way our houses are constructed. For example, the open floor plan is far less appealing when people spend more time at home. And a separate room at the back of a home, such as a mudroom, that allows for incoming packages, purchases, and other things to be isolated from the rest of the house is particularly appealing in an age when you’re told to leave your Amazon deliveries to sit for a few days.

Although it’s far too soon to tell, there are certainly some interesting predictions about how the pandemic will impact home design.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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