Dutch Quirk #72: Put a hook on old buildings to move furniture

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #72: Put a hook on old buildings to move furniture

Picture this: you’re taking a stroll through the picturesque streets of any given Dutch city, the sun is glistening on the canal water, boats sail past you in a breeze, you marvel at the uniqueness of Dutch architecture…

…and all of a sudden there is a 150 kg washing machine dangling on a robe right above your head!! 😱

No, we’re not evoking some comedic scene from a graphic novel where some unfortunate soul gets crushed by a piano somehow falling from the heavens.

Instead, this is about the everyday scenario of Dutchies trying to figure out how on earth to move large objects — we’re talking sofas, ovens or, well, pianos — through the impossibly narrow doorways, staircases and windows of Dutch canal houses.

The solution? Hoisting hooks!

What is it?

If you’re a keen observer of Dutch architecture, you might have already noticed that at the very top of most buildings, there are old, wooden hoisting hooks.

Why is that? Back in the day, the value of a property was assigned according to width. To save money, as is Dutch custom, many property owners would save space by building narrow but long and high houses as we know them today.

And the hooks? They serve as a means to transport furniture, and more high-up. A simple wheel-and-robe mechanism helps to hoist any desired object into the air.

During the ‘Golden Age‘, when many Dutch cities became wealthy through the trade with colonial goods, the upper stories of canal houses often served as storage units to keep valuable spices or fabrics far from potential flooding.

Why do they do it?

Well, because they have to.

Incredibly narrow and steep stairs just make it virtually impossible to get anything larger than a chair through the front door.

Moving companies also operate with this somewhat medieval technology and some experienced movers will have a robe laying around somewhere at home.

Luckily, technology has somewhat advanced and you see large ramps being propped up against windows to transport objects upstairs. 😬

Not sure you want to test its durability by heaving a hundred-something-kilo fridge or oven into the air for another couple of decades.

Why is it quirky? 

Just observing a manoeuvre like that can make your heart sink. It certainly doesn’t look very safe. Or easy. Or even particularly practical. Exhibit A. 👇

To be fair, it does seem very stereotypically Dutch. Just lean back, see what happens and don’t be so dramatic. Or, in other words: doe normaal, man.

Should you join in? 

If you’re considering moving to the Netherlands and purchasing a nice apartment in a Dutch canal house, you might not even have a choice.

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

This article was originally published in October 2021, and was fully updated in April 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Cara Räker 🇩🇪
Cara Räker 🇩🇪
Cara moved to the Netherlands at fifteen and she is here to stay! After all, there is so much to love about it, except maybe the bread (as every German will tell you). Next to finishing up her bachelor's degree in European politics (dry), Cara loves to do yoga, swim, and cook delicious veggie food.
  1. There’s always IKEA, I guess… 😉

    One thing, though. If you’re using a robe (a long terrycloth garment often worn in the bathroom) to hoist a refrigerator, I’d worry less about the hook! Perhaps a rope (a long braided cord often made of hemp fibers) would do the job more safely…

  2. After living in Utrecht for a bit and seeing these on many of the houses, I have wished to have of these ever since returning to the states. It would make moving into a new apartment so much easier.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post about the unique approach of the Dutch to moving furniture in narrow buildings – it’s a fascinating aspect of their culture and architecture!. I remember seeing these hooks on my first visit to Amsterdam, and was quite curious about their purpose. Thanks for shedding light on the matter. It might also be interesting to delve deeper into how these architectural quirks have shaped the Dutch mentality towards space utilization and adaptation in general. After all, they’ve created a whole system around a design limitation, turning it into a functional, and quite emblematic, part of their urban landscape. Moreover, I would love to hear more about how these architectural constraints influenced interior design trends in the Netherlands. For instance, do Dutch people prefer modular or multi-purpose furniture to overcome these challenges? How has this unique method of moving objects influenced the design and layout of their living spaces?


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