Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Lessons Learned from Life in Europe

Hmmm......do you think Americans know best?  When it comes to lifestyle, technology, fashion, etc.....we think we've got it all figured out!

So that's why it's so humbling to spend time living in another country, for an extended period, to see how they do things - and find that some of them work better than our way!

After a year and a half in Amsterdam, I'm taking a couple of those lessons learned into account in this house.

Lesson 1 - a powder room (also called the 'guest toilet' or toiletten) doesn't need to be big.  Let's face it, you don't spend a lot of time in there.  You just need to get your business done and get out.  Our apartment in Amsterdam had a guest toilet that was 42 inches square.  And guess what?  The powder room in the Gracious Gambrel is the same size.  You see, we have some big structural challenges that prohibited us from making it any bigger.  And it's going to work just fine!  (one quick note, Dutch guest toilets have a tiny sink with only cold water.....we're not going quite that far!!!)

Speaking of sinks, I love this one I found from Toto!!!   It's not big, but it packs a lot of style.  Doesn't it look fantastic?
Toto Wall Hung Sink

The other details include a fish scale marble mosaic floor in pacific gray, retro style toilet from Toto, brass towel bar from Pottery Barn, antique style sconces with edison bulbs and a matching oral mirror.

Lesson 2 - wardrobes are better than closets.  We didn't have any closets in our apartment - just big wardrobes.  In fact, when you move, you take your wardrobe with you.  They don't stay with the house.  And they held a LOT of stuff!  Our American closets, by their very design, are pretty inefficient.  The walls take up a minimum of 4 1/2" of space at either end.  The doors make access difficult.  And you always end up with stuff back in the corners that's hard to get to (yup, that's where all the dust bunnies are!).

So while our Master Bedroom has a walk in closet, it also has a long row of built-in wardrobes, with all kinds of special storage elements.

I love the jewelry storage and the little cubbies for scarfs and belts, that are under a glass shelf - so you can see everything at a glance.  And the lights that come on when you open the door are a great feature!  This should provide lots of space for a future homeowner with an extensive wardrobe.
Jewelry storage

Accessory storage
So what do you think?  Do the Europeans do a better job with some of these design elements than Americans???

- Toilet - Toto  Promenade
- Sink - Toto
- Sconces - Nuvo Lighting Paxton Sconce
- Mirror - Uttermost
- Towel Bar - Pottery Barn Promenade
- Marble Fish Scale Tile - Meeting House Designs 

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  1. Oh, I love this! The use of space is genius. The toiletten is my favorite - so much less to clean.

  2. I lived in Germany for 11 years. I agree that wardrobes are a better use of storage space for the most part, and that a small WC is perfectly fine. Love those cure little sinks, and washing hands in cold water never bothered me.

    I also think that their kitchen systems are often nicer for the price than what we have in the US--it is possible to buy a basic entire one-wall kitchen with integrated appliances starting at around $2,000-$3,000. In the kitchens I had, the wiring was surface mounted and ran mostly above the cabinets, which makes it a lot easier to swap out individual appliances as needed, such as the range hood, which is standard in a European kitchen. The smaller stove and sink and fridge does take some getting used to though. We were lucky to be able to add fridge space.

    I also like their use of space. The yards are smaller, but with less wasted undefined space. Roofs are often used as balconies, and zero lot line development is common, which means that the wall of your garage or house is on the lot line of the adjoining property. The back yard is often set up like a courtyard, completely walled or fenced in, which was so nice and private, and safe for my son to play in. For apartments, this space may be shared, but offers a bit of green that is often not seen from the street. This is not just in old areas, but in new as well.

    Overall, although the density of housing even in suburban areas is much higher than the US, I never felt cramped. There are very strong written and unwritten rules for how to live with your neighbors, and Germans are not shy to let you know if you break one, like not having curtains in the window and making your street windows look pretty, or being too loud during quiet hours, washing your car in the driveway (there are designated areas for environmental reasons.)

    Americans sometimes find it hard to adjust to, but I found most of it to be reasonable and not hard to do. You learn to cope, like timing grocery shopping during the quiet hours to avoid the after work rush, because Americans always buy more per trip than Germans and hold up the line. Learn enough of the local language to get by ("I want that please" works well for shopping) Use Google translater to get the skinny on local tourist attractions, as well as things like local recycling rules.

    About the only thing we had a hard time with was my landlord's insistence that we rid the cobblestone of all moss--we thought the moss was charming. A power-washer solved that problem.


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