The only time you'll want to combine garbage disposals and bidets!
July 27, 2009 10:42 PM   Subscribe

What are some interior fixtures unique to houses in different parts of the world?

Inspired by this question about garbage disposals. I just remembered that when I lived in the US everyone seemed to have these things, but I've never seen them in a residential setting elsewhere.
Some examples of the kind of thing I'm looking for:
Bidets - I've never seen one in North America but a lot of European and most Middle Eastern houses have them.
Lights on the ceiling vs. standing lamps
posted by atrazine to Home & Garden (33 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The "observation deck" in German toilets.
posted by sanko at 10:44 PM on July 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh man, Japan does bathrooms good. The standard non-budget setup is separate showering, bath, and toilet areas, with the toilet usually in its own separate small room.

The showering area is designed such that you sit on a low chair close to the floor, and the bath is adjacent so once you wash you can just hop in and enjoy a nice soak.

The Japanese budget setup -- the unit bath, basically universal for all apartments built since the 1970s, isn't too bad either. This is exactly what I had in Tokyo -- the faucet can be rotated to fill the tub, and there's a hose from the sink to the shower head for the shower. But note the plastic floor and drain . . . you can fill the tub to the top and the water will overflow, and that's fine. Plus Japanese tubs tend to be designed for sitting not laying, so the water will come up to your neck when you're in a (low) sitting position.

SOOO nice on a cold winter night!
posted by @troy at 11:05 PM on July 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nightstore heaters are very popular in New Zealand, where very few houses have central heating. Nightstores use ceramic bricks to store heat overnight, when electricity is cheap, then release it during the day. They're probably not entirely unique to NZ, but I've never seen them anywhere else.
posted by embrangled at 11:17 PM on July 27, 2009

What is an observation deck where German toilets are concerned?
posted by dance at 12:06 AM on July 28, 2009

What is an observation deck where German toilets are concerned?

Also know as an Inspect-o-Plate or poo-shelf.

Or Flachspüler.
posted by chillmost at 12:14 AM on July 28, 2009

Or "Shelf Toilet." I hate the fact I know this...
posted by Marky at 12:17 AM on July 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

Googling explains the utility of a poo-shelf toilet with this comment. Fascinating, and seems useful in a way. I dunno how I'd feel about one. Not sure how I'd feel about a squatting toilet, either, but when in Rome and all that.
posted by neewom at 12:18 AM on July 28, 2009

In Germany and many other places in Europe there are windows that have 2 types of hinges. One is on the side so you can open the window completely by swinging it in on the hinge, like a door. The other hinge is on the bottom and depending how you align the handle that is usually located on the window frame, you can just tilt the window in to get some fresh air. I have seen these occasionally in the US but they are much more common in Europe.
posted by chillmost at 12:20 AM on July 28, 2009

Here in London lots of the older flats (like ours) have water tanks on the second floor. The older Victorian era water mains couldn't accommodate sufficient pressure to insure bathrooms on the second floor would function properly. So in the bedroom closest to our bathroom we've got a HUGE honking water tank serving the second floor. Now redundant, we're going to do what many of our neighbours have done - reconfigure the bathroom facilities so we can claim back some 70 cubic feet of closet space.

We keep a second flat in Amsterdam, where many of the older buildings are not precisely straight, but their fronts gently slant in, between five and fifteen degrees towards the street with a large hoisting beam and pulley apparatus at the top. Useful for hoisting material delivered in the street below into your premises or home. Dutch buildings, particularly those in the centre of old Amsterdam are relatively narrow, and some stuff just won't fit in the stairwells.
posted by Mutant at 12:28 AM on July 28, 2009

Speaking of water and heaters, Japan adopted in-circuit (tankless) gas-powered water heaters a long time ago, since they're more economical/cheaper than a honking tanked heater.
posted by @troy at 12:43 AM on July 28, 2009

posted by smorange at 1:14 AM on July 28, 2009

In Switzerland, built in closets are a rarity in traditional houses and you are expected to bring and install your own ceiling lighting. Most bathrooms have a standard ringed glass holder.
posted by michswiss at 1:19 AM on July 28, 2009

OK, two last Japanese items.

Hot Carpets. Plugs into the wall, emits a warm waft of heat (basically an electric blanket you can walk on, but only warmish, not hot). Great for putting under a desk to keep your toesies warm.

Kotatsu. Also (optionally) plugs into the wall. Combination table + comforter + heater. Found the heating part to be overkill -- have to be careful not to scorch stuff with it.
posted by @troy at 2:03 AM on July 28, 2009

Troy mentioned the kotatsu, but it's worth mentioning the common variation - the 'hori-kotatsu' (dug-out kotatsu), in which the low table is positioned over a hole in the floor: (structure) (in use).

There is an infra-red heating unit down in the hole. I have one of these structures in my home, and it makes winter evenings most bearable! (There is a separate 'plate' that covers the hole during summer when this isn't needed.)
posted by woodblock100 at 2:15 AM on July 28, 2009

In Denmark (maybe other places as well, can't speak for them) our toilets have 2 flushing buttons. Depending on the volume of water you need, you press for either a "half" flush or a "full" flush. Saves quite a bit of water this way.

We also have those "multi position" windows here, great for just a bit of ventilation when you want it.

My balcony door has a "built in" door stop. I swing it open up to where I want, then I just move the handle up and the door stops there. Some internal mechanism of the hinge freezes the position of the door.
posted by alchemist at 2:40 AM on July 28, 2009

Well, all this talk of toilets does remind me that one of the features of the toilet in my place always seems to get a reaction from overseas visitors .. "Wow! In Japan you can wash your hands in the toilet!" And yes, such toilets are indeed very common here: (pic) (pic).
posted by woodblock100 at 3:29 AM on July 28, 2009

Electric kettles are not common in the US (available yes) but ubiqitous in parts of Europe.

Rice cookers are also not terribly common but nearly required by law in much of Asia.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:48 AM on July 28, 2009

Garbage disposal availability depends on the laws of the municipality where you live. Oftentimes the town will ban disposals - either because the sewer system can't handle the waste or they don't want all the extra grease from using them building up a horrible plaque-y mess in the pipes.

When we lived in Germany, I learned two things. First, built-in closets are basically unheard of (especially for older homes) because there used to be a tax on the number of rooms in your house. Second, every single-family house seemed to have an additional apartment built in to it. The house we rented had a one-bed apartment in the basement with its own separate entrance.

The greater Boston area seems to be in love with multi-family homes - detached two- or three-story houses that are split into two or three apartments (usually one per floor). Each apartment usually has its own street address (downstairs is 10 Some Street, upstairs is 12 Some Street).

Another luxury that I have never seen in a home outside the US is a freezer with a built-in ice maker.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:08 AM on July 28, 2009

In Switzerland, built in closets are a rarity

In Europe, built in closets are a rarity in traditional houses -- instead, a wardrobe is used for hanging up and storing clothes. The word means something different in American English (all the clothes you own) which confuses American children when they encounter the first volume of CS Lewis' Chronicles of Nunia.

Also, German toilets by Scott Anderson is the definitive internet treatment of this fascinating subject.
posted by Rash at 5:21 AM on July 28, 2009

In Australia, and some other Commonwealth countries, the cooktop (stove) is a built in bit of furniture that includes a drawer with an element or burner in the top, called a griller. You can slide a slice of bread in with a slice of cheese on top and it comes out lovely, melty and bubbly.
My current house has a fancy pants european stove that lacks this, to my detriment.
posted by cerebrum at 5:41 AM on July 28, 2009

Also, fairly common are gas heaters that are unflued. These run of bottled propane (hardwired into the house and replaced by a delivery service once or twice a year) or off natural town gas. There are possible health issues but every american I have spoken to has been surprised we don't all die of CO poisoning. They are lovely toasty warm.
posted by cerebrum at 5:47 AM on July 28, 2009

In Spain, I noticed that all the homes had amazingly heavy, vault-like front doors. In one new condo I visited, in fact, there were multiple bolts on the top and sides, very much like a vault.

One thing that I think is regional in the USA and is definitely temporal is the phone nook. I never saw these growing up in Chicago (where the housing stock is admittedly older), but in Texas they're fairly common in houses built between roughly 1930 and 1950.
posted by adamrice at 7:16 AM on July 28, 2009

The greater Boston area seems to be in love with multi-family homes - detached two- or three-story houses that are split into two or three apartments (usually one per floor). Each apartment usually has its own street address (downstairs is 10 Some Street, upstairs is 12 Some Street).

A duplex or triplex. This is common in a lot of places in the US where there are urban neighborhoods with detached houses.

cerebrum, that sounds like a similar arrangement to the broiler, except that the broiler is a drawer on the bottom (beneath the heating element for the oven.)
posted by desuetude at 7:28 AM on July 28, 2009

In India, every single door in a house is set up with a bolt that can be padlocked from the outside. In my experience, this was to keep the servants out of certain areas.

Also, each bathroom has its own mini hot-water tank. You turn it on about 10-15 minutes before you want to take a bath.
posted by yawper at 7:29 AM on July 28, 2009

In Southeast Asia generally, squatty potties.
In Finland (and not common in most of the US, I don't believe) - in-floor heating, and of course, in home saunas.
In Thailand, these fabulous two-burner propane stoves (basically two burners on stilts, no oven underneath). Also, stone charcoal cookstoves which a wok sits on (these are used outdoors.)
posted by eleslie at 8:02 AM on July 28, 2009

Europe: timer lights in hallways and stairs; tankless hot water heaters
Finland: plate rack directly over the sink so drip dry and storage in one
SEAsia: drain in bathroom floor, tap on wall for filling buckets
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:12 AM on July 28, 2009

One thing that I think is regional in the USA and is definitely temporal is the phone nook. I wouldn't say it's regional, unless you count this as a purely southern thing, but it definitely depends on when the house was built - this was back in the day when the telephone needed a ringer box, housed in that lower compartment of the nook.

Both my grandmother's old house and the house I live in have these (both in Midtown/Downtown Atlanta). I love them to bits. There's so much you can do with them.

Sorry, that's pretty much all I can think of. Atlanta's pretty vanilla when it comes to fixtures.
posted by neewom at 10:47 AM on July 28, 2009

In the parts of Italy I've been to, it's normal to have very heavy shutters on the windows, either flap style or roll down style. They make a room dark like no drapes or blinds can. I have never slept as unintentionally late as I did in rooms with those shutters.
posted by everichon at 12:47 PM on July 28, 2009

Houses in Switzerland tend commenly to come with nuclear bomb shelters, not exactly an interior fixture, but reasonably unique! We lived in a standard suburban semi in the outskirts of Genena - complete with its own family size nuclear bomb shelter in the basement! This article makes reference to it.
posted by smudge at 1:09 PM on July 28, 2009

Nightstore heaters are very popular in New Zealand

Really? I haven't even seen one in oh - 30 years or so.

In Denmark (maybe other places as well, can't speak for them) our toilets have 2 flushing buttons

Ubiquitous in N.Z.

Recently I heard a group of South African immigrants talking about the differences between S.A. and N.Z. and one notable difference they commented on was the lack of locks on internal doors in houses.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 8:35 PM on July 28, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!
posted by atrazine at 6:29 AM on July 29, 2009

Central America was the only place that I saw showerheads that also heat the water, removing the need for central hot water.
posted by smackfu at 8:06 AM on July 29, 2009

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