Little is known about the earliest origin of the house and its interior, but it can be traced back to the simplest form of shelters. Roman architect Vitruvius’ theories have claimed the first form of architecture as a frame of timber branches finished in mud, also known as the primitive hut. Philip Tabor later states the contribution of 17th century Dutch houses as the foundation of houses today.
In the Middle Ages, the Manor Houses facilitated different activities and events. Furthermore, the houses accommodated numerous people, including family, relatives, employees, servants and their guests. Their lifestyles were largely communal, as areas such as the Great Hall enforced the custom of dining and meetings and the Solar intended for shared sleeping beds.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Italian Renaissance Palazzo consisted of plentiful rooms of connectivity. Unlike the qualities and uses of the Manor Houses, most rooms of the palazzo contained no purpose, yet were given several doors. These doors adjoined rooms in which Robin Evans describes as a “matrix of discrete but thoroughly interconnected chambers.” The layout allowed occupants to freely walk room to room from one door to another, thus breaking the boundaries of privacy.
- “Once inside it is necessary to pass from one room to the next, then to the next to traverse the building. Where passages and staircases are used, as inevitably they are, they nearly always connect just one space to another and never serve as general distributors of movement. Thus, despite the precise architectural containment offered by the addition of room upon room, the villa was, in terms of occupation, an open plan, relatively permeable to the numerous members of the household.”
Although very public, the open plan encouraged sociality and connectivity for all inhabitants.
An early example of the segregation of rooms and consequent enhancement of privacy may be found in 1597 at the Beaufort House built in Chelsea. It was designed by English architect John Thorpe who wrote on his plans, “A Long Entry through all”. The separation of the passageway from the room developed the function of the corridor. This new extension was revolutionary at the time, allowing the integration of one door per room, in which all universally connected to the same corridor. English architect Sir Roger Pratt states “the common way in the middle through the whole length of the house, [avoids] the offices from one molesting the other by continual passing through them.” Social hierarchies within the 17th century were highly regarded, as architecture was able to epitomize the servants and the upper class. More privacy is offered to the occupant as Pratt further claims, “the ordinary servants may never publicly appear in passing to and fro for their occasions there.”This social divide between rich and poor favored the physical integration of the corridor into housing by the 19th century.