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What Best Object, Idea from Travel: IH13

sheilatorres's picture

From the House Chat department in Inspired House #13 November/December 2005:

What's the best object or idea you've brought home from your travels?

Tell us how you've incorporated it into your home, and if we publish your story, we'll send you a copy of John Connell's  Creating the Inspired House (Taunton, 2004).

Ways to respond:

  • Web: Reply to this House Chat posting
  • Email:
  • Mail: House Chat, Inspired House Editorial, The Taunton Press

(post #175773, reply #1 of 15)

While in Turkey a few years ago, we were having breakfast on the rooftop of our hotel and noticed the table.  They had taken a really neat old door, lid it flat on a pedestal and cut a piece of glass to fit over it.  The idea itself was really nice, but also being outside, the sun had curled the old clear coat, probably some sort of polyurethane, and that added a really nice texture.

(post #175773, reply #2 of 15)

I'd have to say that brass lamp that we started to polish up--but it's a long story.

(post #175773, reply #3 of 15)

When I was an exchange student in Finland, many families had a bottomless cabinet beside their sink that was fitted with a dish rack.  All of those things that seem to collect in the in-sink drying rack here in the US (empty milk carton headed to recycling bin, wine glasses, the "good" knives, etc) instead go up into the cabinet and the door closes.  You get a few water droplets on the counter, but your sink and kitchen are clutter-free.

The top of the cabinet still has regular shelving--so you don't lose too much storage space.

It was one of those things that seemed ubiquitous in Finland that doesn't seem to have caught on here in the US.


(post #175773, reply #4 of 15)

There are many items that are standard overseas that Americans don't seem to have easy access to, such as, showers with built-in thermostats that maintain temperature (and prevent scalding with a safety release button), windows that open out at the top as well as out at the side as a casement, sunrooms whose glass walls completely accordion into the house & leave no posts except at the corners, outdoor shutters that close tight at night (so lace curtains suddenly work for privacy and darkened rooms for sleeping!), separate toilet rooms and bathtub rooms (not just a corner or cupboard for the toilet), bidets, skylights that open & have built-in shades, and washing machines that also dry (so you don't have to move the clothes--they go in dry & dirty and come out dry & clean!).

If anyone knows of ways to get such items in the US, I'd love to hear!

(post #175773, reply #5 of 15)

"washing machines that also dry (so you don't have to move the clothes--they go in dry & dirty and come out dry & clean!)."

These are available in the US, but they aren't as totally cool as they make themselves sound. For one thing, the drying capacity is very low - my brother has one and he still has to go the laundromat for sheets and towels because it can't get them dry. The one I looked into buying had a drying capacity that was half that of the washer. Sort of a 'why bother' with the additional washing capacity, unless you hang a lot of stuff to dry anyway. For another drawback, they take most of a day (or night) to do a single load. But if you can handle the drawbacks, they are still cool - I ALMOST got one for  mother's day until I decided that the drawbacks outweighed the benefits. If you are still interested, here's a bunch by different makers, all available in the US:

(post #175773, reply #9 of 15)

Sunrooms whose glass walls acccordian? Do tell please, oh please!! Pamilyn

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

The purpose of Art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls

(post #175773, reply #12 of 15)

I have cousins that live on the German side of the Rhine River & their sunroom is ceramic tile flooring and 3 walls of floor-to-ceiling glass panels that accordion in tracks completely open so all that's left is the posts & the stack of 3' wide panels.

It might not be so great in the American jungle-like bug-infested climates, but I'm sure there are applications for it.

My cousin talked of how the company that installed it brought a huge crane up the driveway and lifted the pieces right over the roof of the 2-story house, much to the amazement of the neighbors!


(post #175773, reply #15 of 15)

Serendipity!  I just found a website for what must be the US supplier of the European fold-away walls I described in an earlier post!  I am now rethinking my own Craftsman addition to see whether the pergola might instead be a sunroom that can open up!  Sure would help my Seasonal Affective Disorder during the winter to have a usable sunroom :)

Check out the slideshows that let you see just how they open completely up!  Enjoy!


(post #175773, reply #6 of 15)

We recently returned from Hawaii (Kauai) and the house we stayed in had horizontal wooden louvers with screens instead of windows. These allow the breeze to blow straight through the house while keeping the bugs out. The louvers can be closed for privacy or to darken a room for sleeping. They were about 40" wide and were in three or four sections floor to ceiling.

I noticed them in many buildings there and they make a lot of sense in a tropical climate. I plan on trying to find a supplier and using them to convert a sunroom into a screened porch.


"It seemed like a good idea at the time"


(post #175773, reply #7 of 15)

Hi AndyE,

What a great idea! I'm curious about why you want to turn your sunroom into a screened porch. Also, can you post a photo of these blinds?

By the way, can you e-mail me with your name and address at in case we publish your travel idea tip in the magazine so that we can send you John Connell's book "Creating the Inspired House" (Taunton 2004) Thanks a lot.

Sheila Torres

Editorial Assistant

(post #175773, reply #8 of 15)


The sunroom, which is off the back of the house (north side), gets direct sun in the summer and heats to about 130*f. In the winter it stays about 10* warmer than the outside air. It is three sides and roof/ceiling of glass, and even though it is double thickness there is no real insulation value. There is a pellet stove in there but even on high it can't do enough to make the glass room comfortable on cold days.

The room is attached to the house, but not open to it. A screened room with a real roof would provide a shaded, more usable area. Perhaps a bug free dining area in the summer or an open air sitting room.

I don't have any specific pictures of the shutters themselves but will try to find a few incidentals.


"It seemed like a good idea at the time"


(post #175773, reply #11 of 15)


Here are the best shots I could find of the shutters. One from inside and one from out. I hope this helps. Thanks.


"It seemed like a good idea at the time"


(post #175773, reply #13 of 15)


Shutters might keep out some bugs, particularly in Hawaii where they actually fumigate the cabins of airplanes to prevent mosquitos from being imported, but I'd wonder how effective it would be elsewhere.  We don't have nearly the breeze in VA, and we've got TONS of bugs!  Where do you live?


(post #175773, reply #10 of 15)

My husband and I backpacked through Asia for 7 and a half months. We lived simply, bringing with us only what we could carry on our backs. This included the basic necessities - minimal clothing, soap, toothbrush, comb, a first-aid kit. We both brought one item (our souls) couldn't live without. My husband - his guitar and me, - my sketchbook. In those 7 and a half months we felt we lived more fully than ever before. The best idea we brought home with us from our travels was that not only did we not miss having all our stuff - we felt happier without it. Without all the distractions, we were able to focus on what really matters to us. Nowadays we try to bring that feeling of focusing on what makes us happy into our home. Of course, we have much more than we can hold on our backs, but every item is either functional, or near to our hearts.

(post #175773, reply #14 of 15)

Dear Sheila,

                                            A Liberating Color

The color blue, in its most intense shade of cobalt blue, has always caught my eye. On two different occasions, I have zeroed in on blue objects on my travels that have ended up being focal points in my rooms.

On one occasion, my daughter, Jennifer and I took a memorable trip to Normandy, France with her high school group. After viewing the museums and cemetery that commemorate our veterans contribution to freedom in Europe, we had a lovely dinner back at our hotel. During our table talk, I noticed that the bottled water was served in bright blue nondescript glass containers. I was immediately drawn to the color, since my mind had been on the new kitchen we were in the progress of remodeling at home in Mississippi. I asked the waiter if the bottles were for sale. She proceeded to give me one. That bottle ended up on my kitchen table at home, incorporated in the color scheme. Against the backdrop of green countertops and red pillows that accent the modular booths in the dinette area, it has been a noticable piece. It reminds me of our trip to Normandy, where American flag decals on glass windows throughout the town still read, "Welcome, Liberators!".

On a more recent occasion, my daughter, Caroline and I toured Washington, D.C. with HER highschool group. While shopping at the museums on the mall, we stopped in the modern art museum gift shop. What caught my eye there was another cobalt blue object. This time, it was a plastic, three-part serving tray, meant I suppose for serving nuts or small crackers/snacks. I brought it to our new condo in Perdido Key, Pensacola Florida, when we evacuated from Hurricane Katrina from Pascagoula, Mississippi. I knew that the kitchen was painted a gray-blue and that the countertops were a tan and brown granite. The cabinets are painted a mocha brown, and again, I felt that the blue would really "pop". I have a blue cookie jar and a blue throw rug on the floor; I use the tray as a spooner beside the stove and it looks great!


Sarah Robinson