This is the first post of a two-part list highlighting some outstanding attributes I've observed in Dutch housing in the six months I've lived here. Feel free to add your observations/opinions in the comments!
1) Tall and narrow homes. Let's start with the obvious. I can only speak of my experience in Dordrecht, Utrecht and Amsterdam (and parts of Rotterdam, where there are more exceptions) but most of the homes are narrow, high and deep. Apparently, the soft and sandy soil covering the Netherlands is difficult to build on and structures require massive load-bearing stakes called piles to stay upright. For safety, the government regulated the pile installation and created a tax to pay for it based on the width of the structure. To save money, people built up - and continued to do so, even centuries after this tax was abolished.
2) Steep stairs. Freakishly steep stairs are a by-product of the tall and narrow architecture. I grew up with stairs in California, but most of the Dutch stairways I've encountered are totally different. And by "totally different", I mean completely dangerous. In general, the width of each step is shorter than my foot. And my feet are fairly small, tiny by Dutch standards. The stairs are so steep and tiny, scaling them vertically is a much easier task when using all four arms and legs. But climbing up is the simple part. Every time I descend down a stairway here, I think of three things: old people; toddlers and drunk people, then say a little prayer.
Other than the danger these stairs might pose, they can make moving quite challenging. It's fairly common to bring furniture in by hoisting it through a window. We'll talk about windows in part two.
3) Tiny fridge/freezers. There's not much to say about this that the caption doesn't convey. Perhaps a better explanation is fridge/freezers are enormous in the States? For a culture known for frugality, it's a little shocking that large freezers are not more common, but that's another story, I suppose. Surprisingly, I adjusted to this difference rather quickly (and have plenty of room for my favorite condiments).
4) No closets/built in storage. In general, bedrooms are just rooms without built in closets or storage. I found this really odd during my first visit and difficult to accept when I walked into our bedroom for the first time. JP explained that most people would rather choose the size and location of their storage space than be limited by the builder's preference. Most people purchase wardrobes, dressers and shelving based on their needs. I certainly see the benefit of this but I'm not completely convinced it's my preference.
5) Tiny/odd bathrooms. With Dutch people measuring the tallest in the world, I find the tiny bathrooms quite confusing. Honestly, I would not be shocked if the knees of some longer individuals hit the door when they sit down. Most bathrooms here are about the size of powder rooms in California.
Now, what's really odd about the bathrooms in many (especially multi-level) homes is the toilets are scarce and oddly located. For instance, the shower might be inside or next to the master bedroom, but the toilet is on the first floor. SO basically when you wake up in the middle of the night to pee, you have to brave the aforementioned stairs of death. This made house hunting insanely frustrating. JP would find a great location and beautiful space but the toilet and master bedroom were located on different floors - unfortunately one feature I could not live with (not with my bladder any way). Can someone PLEASE explain the logic in this?