Keeping Germs at the Front Door
Le Corbusier’s fixation on modernity and cleanliness is trending as designers reimagine residential life post-Covid. His maxim “A house is a machine for living in,” is particularly apt now.
The Swiss architect’s iconic Villa Savoye, an international-style home he designed in 1929, merged modernist materials like steel, concrete and glass, with ceramic bath fixtures and a wash basin in the entrance hall.
Miami architect Rene Gonzalez underscores Le Corbusier’s industrial style as a response to the last century’s pandemic, the Spanish Flu, while New York architect Michael K. Chen is similarly fascinated with the sink in the villa’s entry. “Its equal parts titillating, an art installation and sanitary device,” Mr. Chen says.
Homeowners, co-op boards and renters alike are experiencing unease regarding sanitation and the transition from public to private space. With state-of-the-art medical devices, touchless technology and wellness tips, here are some designer recommendations to help envision a new entrance to the home.
“There is indeed a return to ancient traditions,” says the Parisian interior designer Charles Zana pointing to the example of Japan’s genkan, where shoes and outdoor wear are removed before entering a home.
“I believe they will now be making a comeback as we are forced to change our habits,” he says. He stresses having vestibules and personal lockers in the entrance to store outdoor garb.
Brooklyn architect Frederick Tang, known for warm, yet pared-down domestic spaces, is mindful of a heightened response to clothes and hygiene.
“We will see more mudrooms that elide with laundry functions. The utility sink for washing will also enjoy a second life as a hand-wash station, perhaps with motion sensor plumbing fixtures for touch less use,” he says. He can even envision storage outside the front door. Inside, the washers and dryers could be made suitable for small loads cleaned in short cycles.
Mr. Tang’s director of design, Barbara Reyes, offers simple add-ons like automated soap dispensers and medical-grade -sanitizing stations with UV rays used to disinfect communal items and contaminated areas.
“Creating a sense of arrival has always been key,” says designer Christine Gachot, principal and co-founder of Gachot Studios, who with her husband John are immersed in hospitality projects such as the recently opened Shinola Hotel in Detroit. “If custom millwork is out of the question, I would consider an interesting bin with a lid for clothing and a bench for sitting and taking off shoes with storage underneath. There’s no need to reinvent the world here,” she says.
Robin Standefer, co-founder of the New York firm Roman & Williams, champions traditional rituals surrounding wellness and home care. Along with Stephen Alesch, the couple are known for their furniture emporium as well as idiosyncratic interiors for Ace Hotels.
Ms. Standefer recommends natural-fiber door mats, slippers, stone floors and anti-bacterial medicinals such as tea tree oil for the body and for cleaning the home.
Boris Vervoordt, who with his father Axel, oversee an art, interiors and antiques empire outside Antwerp, also insists “natural materials are always anti-bacterial.”
The senior Vervoordt’s interiors are internationally recognized for spaces that embrace minimalism interspersed with artifacts.
“We never liked composites or plastics,” he says. The Vervoordt aesthetic, emphasizes comfort and includes informal entrance halls, with elegant washrooms in proximity.
“I would rather imagine an intelligent mudroom as a physical and mental portal to the home,” says Kulapat Yantrasast, founder and principal of WHY, an interdisciplinary design firm based in Los Angeles.
Mr. Yantrasast’s future-forward stance involves promising new products, such as nanocoatings that could expand antimicrobial resistance on surfaces and UVC lights that could sterilize an entire room.
But any such practical amenities, the architect warns, has to be installed carefully. “An intelligent mudroom in the wrong hands,” he says, “can look like the TSA checkpoint at the airport.”