There are certain things that we can find in almost every Canadian home. In fact, there are specific trends that homeowners and builders follow when they design or decorate a home. Most of the time we follow these trends because we are familiar with them and not because they are the best design methods. Another reason why we follow these trends is because we haven’t learned about new design ideas.
There is always room for improvement when it comes to home design and home renovation. Sometimes we need to look to others for inspiration. It’s a good thing that our neighbours across the pond in Europe are world leaders in design innovation!
Interestingly enough, some of the most intuitive, simple, effective, and useful home building and décor design innovations are not new to European homeowners. They have been used for decades! It’s just that these ideas never gained momentum in Canada.
The biggest advantage to changing home interior and building design is that it brings large and small benefits to our lives. These small changes can save us time and energy, make our living spaces more comfortable, and keep our homes clean and safe.
We’ve created a list of ten unique home features that can be found across Europe. These home improvements master streamlined, comfortable living in innovative and simple ways. Implement them and start saving time and energy on the small things and make more time for other items on your to do list
1. Finnish Dish Drying Closets (Astiankuivauskaappi)
Dishwashers are common in North America. However, there is a small percentage of the population that doesn't use a dishwasher. These folks must use a counter-top dish drying rack, or dry their dishes by hand.
Dish drying racks take up valuable counter space and do not offer useful permanent storage.
But let’s be honest--counter-top dish drying racks are not the most innovative system. They quickly overflow and they need to be emptied, cleaned, and restocked frequently. On the flip-side, drying dishes can be very time-consuming and wet dishtowels are a hub for bacteria.
Image courtesy of Inka Soveri /Iltalehti.
The dish racks in the Astiankuivauskaappi are enclosed in an open-ended cupboard that hangs above the sink or a drip-tray.
Luckily, a Finnish designer, Maiju Gebhard, designed a drying rack in the 1940s that would make dish drying easier and more efficient. The Astiankuivauskaappi, or Finnish Dish Drying Closet, looks like a normal kitchen cabinet on the outside. However, the inside shelves are made of plastic or metal dish slots and the bottom of the cupboard is left open. The cupboard is meant to hang above the sink so that the excess water from the wet dishes can drip into the sink. The homeowner can also fix a tray underneath the dish drying closet to catch the runoff.
The dish drying closet doubles as dish storage. It helps free up counter space for more productive things like meal prep. Pure genius!
Talk to a kitchen contractor about getting a custom dish drying cupboard installed in your kitchen!
2. Tilt and Turn Windows
Windows are an essential part of home design. Proper light and air flow improve our happiness and health. Luckily there are plenty of options to choose from on the market. Interestingly enough, one window style never caught on in Canada even though it provides some of the best light and airflow for the home.
Tilt and turn windows are easy to use. Simply use the handle to open the window two different ways!
Tilt and turn windows are the multifunctional window wonders of Europe. They have hinges on the sides as well as hinges on the bottom. This allows the homeowner to crack the window open at the top to let in a breeze, or open the window full swing from the side. Tilt and turn windows are usually large rectangular windows so they also let in a great deal of light. Most options on the market are soundproof as well.
On top of all of this, these windows are extremely easy to use. All you need to do is twist the handle. Twist down and you open the window a crack from the top. Twist up and you open the window full swing.
Image courtesy of Kholtech.
European homeowners prefer full-swing windows like these because they don’t have central air systems in their homes. This means that they use their windows and doors to air out their home and let in fresh air. This is a common practice in countries such as Germany and Italy. Although we do things a little differently in Canada it’s undeniable that fresh air and light are nice to have!
3. Self-locking doors
It’s okay to forget your key and you leave the house in Canada. Most of the time the door won’t lock behind you. This isn’t true in most European countries! A large proportion of the front doors to homes and apartments are self-locking.
It can be inconvenient to accidentally forget your key at home and lock yourself out, there is no doubt about that! However, there is something so simple about not worrying whether or not your front door is locked.
Having a self-locking door can be a time saver too. It saves you time because you don’t need to look for your keys when you’re rushing out the door. It can easily save you 30 seconds a day—and that adds up!
It’s possible to buy a manual deadbolt lock for front doors in Canada. Most of these self-locking doors have deadbolts in them, which makes them secure options for the home secure than the average door. They also tend to be sturdier than the average door as well because they are usually made out of steel, rather than wood.
The most interesting feature of these self-locking doors is that you need a key to open the door from the inside too. This is a burglar's worst nightmare! They won’t be able to leave through the front door of the home making it difficult for them to take large items from your home.
4. Italian Combination Shutters
Window coverings are an essential component to home life. Canadian homeowners prefer internal window coverings, such as drapes and blinds. However, external window coverings bring their own set of advantages.
Window shutters offer excellent home privacy. Some styles offer rotating blinds for light control. They also create a unique home aesthetic.
Italian Combination Shutters open two ways: from the bottom and from the sides. See examples in the photo above!
Contemporary Canadian homes do not usually have functional window shutters. For the most part, external shutters are bolted to the outside of the home for decoration. However, functional external shutters are found all across Europe, especially in Italy.
Italian window shutters are one of the most multi-functional shutters available today. They are a combination shutter that takes elements from Bermuda Shutters and Plantation Shutters. These shutters come in pairs, and each shutter hinges at the head and side window jambs. This allows the shutters to swing open at the sides and prop open from the bottom as well. These shutters offer light control using blind rotation, privacy, and outside access. Having the shutters prop out from the bottom also creates an excellent breezeway into the home.
These Italian Shutters are opened from the bottom to allow air flow while maintaining privacy and shade!
Italian Shutters are sure to please since they offer so many different experiences!
5. Hard Flooring
Canadians love their wall to wall carpeting but it is very uncommon in European homes. One reason for this is that wall to wall carpeting isn’t suitable for European weather conditions. Carpet doesn’t hold up in more humid conditions and it can provide too much insulation in warmer climates. It is especially unusual to find this type of flooring in Mediterranean countries, but it is also uncommon in cooler countries too, such as Germany and France.
Instead, European homeowners opt for hard flooring options such as wood, tile, stone, terrazzo, and cement.
Hard flooring options are less comfortable to stand on and can be much colder to the touch than carpeting. However, they are more hygienic and easier to clean in comparison to carpeting. Housekeeping is a breeze and doesn’t require special cleaning equipment (i.e. carpet cleaning machines). Finally, hard flooring options are more suitable for common dust and mildew allergies because they are easier to clean, and can be cleaned much more frequently than carpets.
How much will a new floor cost you? Ask a local contractor by posting your flooring project now! It's a FREE service!
6. Light Kill Switch
If you travel to Europe then you may have some trouble with the light switches. They all seem to be differ from country to country! However, one thing remains: European light switches don’t look like North American ones and they also perform different functions than what we are used to.
Multiple light switches can get confusing but a light kill switch is a genius and easy way to save time when leaving the house in a rush!
Most European switches are push operated. There is usually a panel next to the entrance that operates several lighting groups in the home and there will also be a separate light kill switch.
The light kill switch is extremely useful as it will turn off all of the lighting in the home with the push of a button. It’s extremely convenient for anyone who forgets to shut the lights before they leave the house, or doesn’t want to go into each room to turn off all of the lights one by one. You need not take off your shoes to turn off a light when you can hit the kill switch and turn them all off.
7. Window Clotheslines
Window clotheslines may seem old fashioned, but a large percentage of the world’s population still uses them. Why? Because they are efficient, effective, and easy to use!
These clotheslines offer a great way to dry clothing in single homes, semi-detached homes, and mid-rise homes (apartments too!). It’s easy: stand at the window, pin up the garments, and pull the line.
Some call clotheslines old fashioned, but there is nothing like the smell of freshly air-dried laundry!
Air drying is an energy efficient way to do the laundry. It can save you hundreds of dollars on your energy bill a year. The average dryer uses 3.3 kilowatts of energy an hour! Wire clothing drying racks are popular in Canada but they can be tedious to lug outside and set up. On top of that, clothing doesn't dry as quickly on them.
Rolladen is a popular external window covering found across Germany—however, they can be found in other European countries as well.
Rolladen is rolling window shutters that provides home security, privacy, and light control. They roll down at the click of a button or by pulling a rope. Rolladen completely cover the window from the top of the window jamb to the very bottom. They can create a semi-darkened to pitch-black home interior depending on what setting you choose.
Rolladen is a utilitarian window covering for any homeowner who likes efficiency, privacy, and darkness!
This type of window covering may be made from aluminum. There are some companies that offer Rolladen with a foam core to improve home insulation.
The rolling window shades are placed at the top of the window frame on the outside of the house. Rolladen can also be installed on door frames as well. The switch/lever to operate the Rolladen is located on the inside of the home at the side of the window. Some companies offer electric and remote Rolladen that allows the homeowner to activate the shutters all at once, from outside the home, or from any room in the home.
Rolladen provides excellent home security, sun and weather protection, and privacy. They are not commonly used in North America because they are considered to be a 'fire hazard'. However, they have been popular in Europe for over a century.
Bidets are common in European countries (not to mention countries across Asia, South America, and the Middle East too!). For some reason, bidets are uncommon in North American bahrooms.
Bidets offer several advantages that traditional toilet paper does not provide. First, they are much kinder on the environment. North Americans use billions of rolls of toilet paper a year, which wastes precious environmental resources such as trees and water. In addition to that, most toilet paper is bleached, which is a huge environmental strain.
Second, toilet paper is not hygienic as it doesn’t wash the skin. However, bidets offer a hygienic bathroom cleaning regime. In addition to this, homeowners can also buy antiseptic cleansers to use with the bidet for hygienic purposes.
Third, toilet paper can be a skin irritant and it can cause lesions and other health problems.
Although bidets are an uncommon bathroom hygiene regimen they offer more comfort and sanitation options than the options that we are used to in Canada!
Radiators seem conventional and outdated. However, they provide an unparalleled home heating experience. In fact, they are the home heating standard in Europe.
Forced air heating became increasingly popular in North American by the middle of the 20th century. It became a popular option because it was cheap to install and provided fast heating results. Forced air became popular because it also allowed for central air conditioning. Although air conditioning was considered to be a mid-century luxury it quickly gained momentum as demand skyrocketed and prices lowered.
Although forced air is the go-to home heating choice in Canadian homes, radiant heat is a more effective and efficient heating system. Radiant heating warms the home through convection, which creates a more sustainable and long-lasting warmth in comparison to forced air. Radiators actually heat the home furniture, surfaces, the body, and the air. Forced air simply blows warm air into a room and doesn’t heat the objects.
It takes radiators a little bit longer to heat a home than forced air does. However, the effects will be long lasting and more comfortable.
Finally, radiators can be more efficient than furnaces, which can help you save money on your energy bills!
If you suffer from a dry home in the cooler months then you should consider copying those old-fashioned Europeans and install a steam, electric, or hot water radiator!Posted by: Nicole Silver