07 October 2006

Intelligent Design

The Finnish asunto—private home—tends to be compact. Every square foot costs money up front, and any surplus space adds to heating costs. I’ve noticed that bathrooms in particular are small. In homes that are more upscale than mine, and even in moderately priced hotels, the bathrooms have heated floors. The bathroom in my flat will never give me a hotfoot, alas, but it has all the usual fixtures, plus a clothes washer underneath the sink and within easy reach of my shins. My bathroom literally does not have enough wall space to accommodate a towel rack.

No problem. Here, bathrooms don’t have towel racks, they have hooks. You can’t hang a standard issue bath towel from a hook, of course, and that’s why some smarty-pants designer came up with the little fabric loop that they sew unobtrusively onto the edge of bath and face towels, in the middle of one of the long sides. Towels so equipped don’t have to be draped over a bar. They can be hung from a hook, and they won’t fall on the floor. I know it’s not like inventing the wheel, or the snowmobile, but it’s a clever little gizmo responsible for an uptick in convenience and efficiency.

In addition to the towel hooks, my flat has a nifty little dishwasher. It sits underneath the refrigerator, which is a side-opening model about three-quarters the size of a red-blooded American fridge. The dishwasher is a Siemens, and it works well.

The really cool thing is not the dishwasher itself, but its partner, the drying rack, which is really a drying cupboard. It sits just above the sink, and that's where dishes are stashed after they’ve been washed. They drip dry up there, which would be a problem if this were an ordinary cupboard, but it’s not. It’s bottomless, which means that everything drips into the sink. But here’s the really neat part. After they’re dry, you don’t stack them up with their mates in a nearby compound where the zoning laws have prescribed that dishes go here, bowls there, cups and saucers over yonder. You just leave them where they are, which means skipping a whole step in the tedious process of cleaning up after a meal and setting up for the next one.

Clink on "Intelligent Design" above for a link to Virtual Finland's biography of Alvar Aalto, creator of the chair in the photo; it's called the Paimio Chair.