Before I went to the Netherlands for the first time, I pictured this:
A slight variation of my image of Venice: canals, quaintness, lightposts. Plus bikes. The postcard image of Holland.
And don’t get me wrong. That’s charming, and I love that the picture I took was just an average day in Haarlem, nothing special. There is a beauty to the Dutch way of life that’s undeniable.
But when I talk about loving the Dutch design aesthetic, what I mean is a spectrum that includes the crazy modern stuff like the kind Droog creates. I actually have a set of these bikes straps to use in your house. I have no idea what I’ll use them for, mind you, but I just love the idea of taking something so practical and making it a design element on the wall. Plus, hello novelty!
One of the things that I think makes Dutch design unique is that it has to be understandable by so many types of people from so many other lands. This started during the Golden Age of trading, but Amsterdam today reflects their multicultural past in so many tiny ways, like this crossing sign designed so that absolutely anyone can understand what the hell that button is for:
In the U.S., when I think about spaces that have to be used by every kind of person, the word beige comes to mind: Beige hotel rooms. Beige walls. I’m partly design obsessed right now because I’m looking for a new house, and the common denominator seems to be to take everything down to a nice taupe. Think of the redesign of the Oval Office–bland, beige, non-threatening. What’s the point?
I try to imagine Americans picking these orange striped blinds for their house, and I just can’t.
When I was in the Netherlands, I made a commitment to do what I saw so often there–put a little table and chairs, or better yet, a bench, in the front of my house. It’s so friendly and so cheerful. I think, like the way the Dutch embrace color, it signifies something larger–a willingness to engage with the street, with passers-by.
Not always of course, but the Dutch seem to be to be often brave in their design choices–with color, with functionality, and with the ability for people to interact with each other and with the daily life that hums along on the street.