Although the COVID-19 pandemic is quite far from over, we can already see the changes it might bring in all areas of everyday life—including bathroom design.
Pandemics have reshaped our bathrooms before and are responsible for some staple bathroom design elements, which we now take for granted. Nowadays, when scientific knowledge shapes our design choices more than ever, it is interesting to think about the changes we can expect.
Source: Veronica Solomon
In this article, as we take a look at how previous epidemics have changed the ideal of bathrooms, we will also consider the situation we are in now and the way it might change bathroom design for the future.
Pandemics have shaped the modern bathroom before
Bathroom design is crucial to maintaining a sufficient level of hygiene. The idea of what is sufficient changed as people became aware of different scientific ideas. And the one that was most influential to bathroom design was germ theory.
In the early 20th century, people started paying more attention to the materials in their bathrooms, trying to avoid illnesses such as cholera and tuberculosis, which were rampant at the time. They replaced wooden floors with tiles and linoleum, for easier cleaning. Linen curtains replaced heavy draperies of yester times to let in more sunlight, and materials such as enamel that are easier to disinfect started becoming the norm.
Another significant architectural and design influence came from tuberculosis sanatoriums, which were designed with health in mind. As antibiotics hadn’t been in widespread use yet, people focused on the solutions that were available. Large windows to let in plenty of light, white walls to symbolize immaculate cleanliness and lots of fresh air were there to support the ailing as they recovered. These elements were also translated to bathroom design, and white became the staple bathroom color for many decades to come.
Tried solutions: Hallway sinks or powder rooms
In cities, most of the people lived in poorer conditions and often tenements shared one sink that was outside of the door. Although plumbing and sanitation conditions have improved significantly, and there seems to be no need for double sinks, the idea might evolve in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Source: Brooke Wagner Design - Photo: Ryan Garvin
As people are much more informed and aware of the proper disinfection and safety procedures, the idea of a hallway sink or a powder room right next to the entrance might become more appealing. Indeed, the transition between the outside world and our homes has become quite a process. As we remove our shoes, our clothes, wash our hands and disinfect things that we bring inside with us, many designers and architects believe that the interest in hallway sinks or powder rooms right next to the entrance is only expected to rise.
Source: Arin Solange
With the possibilities that science and technology offer us, and which were denied to many of our predecessors, we can think about better hygiene solutions to implement into our homes.
One of the changes we also expect to see is the increase in the number of bathrooms and powder rooms. Also, if a household member gets infected, it is safer to use a separate bathroom to protect the other members and make cleaning easier, so we expect to see powder rooms becoming more numerous and popular. This change also has historical parallels. The Spanish flu pandemic urged people to build additional bathrooms on the first floor and near the entrance so that visitors could wash their hands as soon as they come in.
More brass and copper
While they have already been rising in popularity, copper and brass elements, famous for their antimicrobial properties, have now become a matter of much more than taste. From ancient Egypt and Greece up to today, the antimicrobial properties of copper and copper alloys have been utilized for medicinal purposes.
Source: AGM Home Store
Brass faucets, Soap dispensers, toothbrush holders, toilet brush holders, and many other accessories and including doorknobs can be highly efficient in improving the hygiene in our homes. As we now have scientific evidence to back up millennia of tradition, we expect copper and brass to become more popular materials in our bathrooms, as well as elsewhere in the home. We expect this useful trend to continue, and we expect it to influence other trends whether in color or textures.
Source: AGM Home Store
Washlets and bidets
Another enhancement that we could use, and not only in times of significant concern for our health is the introduction of bidets or washlets into our homes. The first option, bidets, refers to a standalone fixture, while the term washlet is used for toilets with built-in or added washing options. Although they have been seen as a regular part of the bathroom ensemble in other parts of the world, in the US they have only recently become more appreciated.
The toilet paper buying panic has got people rethinking the idea of this necessity. Another important factor that is going to make bidets and washlets stay is their reduced ecological footprint compared to toilet paper. They also improve hygiene and what is most, they can range from relatively inexpensive washlets to luxury bidets. Those who have switched to washlets and bidets usually say they would never go back.
Making high-touch surfaces handfree
As the concern over health and hygiene rises, we expect to see advancements in the number of high touch surfaces controlled by sensors, whether controlled by movement or sound. These reduce the amount of contact with surfaces and reduce the need to clean and disinfect. These technologies could move from controlling light and faucets to other, less common areas in the home and the bathroom.
As pandemics have shaped bathroom design for a long time, now, when we have scientific backing for the choices we make, we can expect to rethink our bathroom so that they become safer for future generations. From high tech solutions to tried historical ideas, designers and architects are thinking about ways to make our homes safer. And as influenza changed the bathroom of the twentieth century, so we can expect to see our bathroom changed in a short while, right in front of our eyes.