A La Carte

DIGEST DESIGN X: How Disease Dictates Design

August 11, 2020

As we find ourselves spending more time at home these days, adapting our personal spaces in new ways because of COVID-19, it’s interesting 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.

Genkan (Photo by: ) Genkan

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! 

Mud room (Photo by: JK Living Interior Design) 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 posh sunbathers often rested on reclining chairs within glass-enclosed decks.

(Photo by: quiquengrogne-dieppe.com)

Sleeping Porches

Before antibiotics, the “fresh air cure” turned summer cottages into cure cottages with special “cure porches” where those with tuberculosis could rest outdoors. Sleeping porches were typically added onto the second or third floor of a home, while cure porches were an integral part of the original cottage design.

Saranac Lake Cure Cottage 1800s (Photo by: Photo Courtesy of the Historic Saranac Lake Collection) Saranac Lake Cure Cottage 1800s

Regional versions of sleeping porches include the Arizona room and the Florida room. Especially popular before the advent of air conditioning, these semi-attached rooms were often covered or screened-in patios, creating an outdoor feel while keeping insects and animals out.


Summer Houses

Structures like summer houses, bungalows, garden houses, teahouses, and cottages have been around since medieval times. By the 1920s, these extra outdoor places for leisure activities (and storing deck chairs) were also used for recuperation. Isolated family members suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis could enjoy fresh air with the windows wide open.


Inside the home, changes abounded too.


Built-in Closets

Notice the lack of closet space in your grandparents’s house? Armoires for storing clothes were the norm until the 1920s. A desire for minimalism, cleanliness and hygiene were harbingers of the modern closet. No more dust and germ-carrying critters hiding behind bulky furniture, rooms were now easier to clean. 


Le Corbusier, among other modern architects, promoted built-ins throughout the house. Now they are the norm.

(Photo by: Ellen Kurtz Interiors)

White Tile 

As we began to understand how infectious diseases spread in the late 19th century, public buildings, especially hospitals, installed white tiles so dirt could be easily spotted and wiped clean. Linoleum soon replaced hardwood as the more sanitary flooring.

commons.wikimedia.org (Photo by: ) commons.wikimedia.org

The evolution of the modern bathroom coincided with outbreaks of tuberculosis, cholera and influenza, and the advancements in science, infrastructure and plumbing. Once fashionable Victorian furnishings including heavy draperies, wall-to-wall rugs, patterned wallpaper, and upholstered seating were soon replaced with hygienic tile and porcelain.

Childs Restaurant Postcard (Photo by: ) Childs Restaurant Postcard

Childs Restaurant, one of the first American restaurant chains, installed white subway tiles to emulate a sterile hospital environment to help diners feel safe eating out at a time when food-borne diseases like typhoid, botulism and trichinosis were a major public health concern.


From hospitals and restaurants to residences, the all-white modern kitchen and bath (often with those same subway tiles) are nods to clean, healthful living today.

(Photo by: Ellen Kurtz Interiors)

Powder Rooms

Half baths or powder rooms on the first floor of a house near the front door were originally created to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases.


The iceman cometh. In the early 20th century before refrigeration, delivery people dropping off essentials like milk, coal, and ice would come to homes on a daily basis, often after being inside places where people may have been ill. The half bath was perfect for guests and delivery workers to wash up without traipsing through the entire home.

Powder Room (Photo by: ) Powder Room

This current pandemic will forever change how we interact in public places as well as at home. More smart technology, touch-less appliances, motion and voice-activated doors, light switches, and thermostats, all originally conceived as time savers, are now also effective ways to limit the spread of germs.


Stay at home will move from mandate to lifestyle. Our desire for multi-function layouts affording more privacy and relaxation will mean our homes will be designed with hubs for teleconferencing, socializing and on-line study. Kitchens extended family rooms as eating at home becomes the norm again.


With lessons learned from continuing advancements in medicine, technology and building design, we can meet the next health challenge head on, and ensure that our homes remain a sanctuary, where personal safety is paramount.


This article was originally written for Joy Design + Build.

3 Comments   Click here to share your thoughts.

Kevin Plank's Georgetown Mansion Sells for $17.25 Million

June 22, 2020

After two years on the market, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank has sold his Georgetown mansion for $17.25 million.


Originally listed for $29.5 million, the 12,000-square-foot home on 34th Street was sold to Priory Holdings Trust, according to Washington Business Journal.

Patrons' Party for Georgetown House Tour, 2017 (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Patrons' Party for Georgetown House Tour, 2017

Plank completed renovated the Federal-style home when he purchased it in 2013. Previously owned by Bank of Georgetown's Curtin Winsor III, the property once belonged to Ambassador David K.E. Bruce and his wife, Evangeline Bell.

Patrons' Party for Georgetown House Tour, 2017 (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Patrons' Party for Georgetown House Tour, 2017

Often used to entertain out-of-town guests, Plank graciously lent the home for Georgetown events including the Patrons' Party for the Georgetown House Tour.


Read more here.

Patrons' Party for Georgetown House Tour, 2017 (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Patrons' Party for Georgetown House Tour, 2017

Click here to share your thoughts.

Brooke Pinto Won the Primary Election. Now, We Must Elect Her on Tuesday.

June 14, 2020

She was the eighth candidate to enter the race, giving her the least amount of time to build a political name and recognition. She was outspent hundreds of thousands of dollars by other candidates and outside Super PAC money. She campaigned at a time when the electorate was quarantined and no public events were held.


How did she do it?


“We called 500 voters every day,” Brooke Pinto explained. “We engaged in individual outreach to one voter at a time, all day, every day. We knew that 50% of voters were undecided when we got in the race. Perhaps because so many people were home due to the pandemic, they were more interested in talking over the phone.” 

(Photo by: brookepintoforward2.com)


Brooke’s work ethic and charm can’t be underestimated as the forces that drove her Democratic Primary victory over seven other candidates, some of whom had been campaigning for nearly a year by the time she declared her candidacy in February. While other post-Primary Election profiles of the Ward 2 Democratic nominee have chosen to shine a light on her Greenwich, CT upbringing or her “newness” to Washington, D.C. despite having lived here since 2014, it’s clear those things didn’t matter to Ward 2 voters. Brooke was able to connect with thousands of them in an authentic, warm way during a time when they were forced to be apart from so many others. As the adage says, “All politics is personal.”  


“We built one-on-one trust throughout the campaign,” Brooke said, “Even on Election Day, we were connecting with residents who had not yet decided who they would be voting for and were waiting in long lines around the block to cast their vote.” She said that she worked to be as responsive as possible to any person who reached out, a practice to aims to continue during her term. “This seat is really all about constituent services.” Many voters noted that Brooke was the only candidate who they heard from directly.


On the surface, it appears as though Brooke’s campaign zigged as others zagged. Throughout the pandemic, political pundits have claimed that the best way to win is digital voter outreach. While her campaign did use this new media tool, they relied heavily on traditional voter outreach and were significantly outspent in digital advertisements. For example, Jordan Grossman, the candidate who spent most on digital ads and eventually landed in third-place, spent $31,439 on Facebook, and $8,500 on Google and YouTube. These two sums total $39,939, which is about 16.2 times more than the $2,466 the Pinto Campaign spent on Facebook ads


Don’t forget about the near $3,000 of digital ads by DFER DC or their infamous mailers for Patrick Kennedy, the Ward 2 candidate whom they endorsed. DFER DC was one of two Super PACS who meddled in the race, both of which supported candidates who took Fair Elections Program public funding.


While the rigors of the Democratic Primary are now behind her, Ward 2’s Democratic nominee, potential first woman in the seat, and the District’s potential youngest DC Councilmember in history is now poised to tackle an unprecedented confluence of challenges facing the District.


We’re now officially in a recession as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Small businesses, their employees, and thousands of unemployed people are looking for immediate economic relief. Ongoing protests and public outcries over systemic racism are increasing political will for criminal justice reform, a divestment in the Metropolitan Police Department, and an increase in public safety programs. 


But before she can tackle these issues with her COVID-19 Recovery Plan and take part in creating historical criminal justice reform in Washington, D.C., she must first win the Ward 2 Special Election on June 16th


This election will determine who will fill the vacant council seat left by Jack Evans for the remainder of this term until January. All of the other candidates have dropped out or conceded from the Special Election; however, since the ballot has already been finalized, their names are still listed. 


“Regardless of who people voted for in the Democratic Primary, I’m asking for their support,” Brooke stated. “We need consistent and capable representation more than ever to meet the challenges of this moment. Since Brooke will be the Democratic nominee in the November General Election to fill the four-year term, she argues that it will be important to have continuity in the seat, “I am ready to get to work right away.” 


If you have already received your Ward 2 Special Election Mail-in Ballot, return it by June 16th either to a polling location or through the mail. You can check the status of your mail-in ballot here


You can still vote safely in person through June 15th at Hardy Middle School and One Judiciary Square from 8:30 am-7:00 pm. On June 16th, both of the polling locations will be open from 7:00 am-8:00 pm.

Click here to share your thoughts.