What is European Design?

We weren’t really conscious about the fact that our style was “European” until the feedback we got on our projects made us think about it. I (Jalda, with my realtor hat on) would sit at open houses of properties we had designed to sell, and would hear over and over that there’s “something European” about them. If a conversation would ensue and I would divulge that we were also the designers, they would ask if we thought about that when we designed. That’s when I realized we really didn’t – we just are European and apparently it expresses itself in our work.

We wanted to see if we could pinpoint what makes people identify our designs as European, and what that even is. There’s no such thing as one “European” design. A simple yet cool minimalist Swedish cabin is worlds apart from a centuries old French Provincial stone farmhouse, or an idyllic Greek island home.


But when we think of Europe, design is definitely top of mind. We think of castles, incredible architecture, hip cafes, art, fashion. Every major European city has opulent buildings funded by wealthy monarchies. Italy and France are the fashion capitals of the world. The Dutch Masters are considered amongst the worlds’ best artists. German car design was historically unparalleled. Design is a part of the European “fabric”, it’s in our blood. And there are definitely key elements from our culture and history that are expressed in our design.

First, there’s the idea that things are built to last, based on the history and how European cities were developed, and the expectation that buildings should last for centuries not decades. To this day, construction workers mostly consider themselves “artisans”. There’s a pride and depth of knowledge that’s often passed from generation to generation, and the focus on quality is a given.

Secondly, the concept of space is quite different in Europe, it’s considered more of a luxury. Look at the skinny tall home along the canals in Amsterdam, or the relative tiny-ness of Parisian apartments compared to the average American home. Europeans often live in buildings that are hundreds of years old when people were literally smaller and had less stuff. We have become pros in space management, making use of each corner and minimizing “useless” space such as long hallways and oversize rooms that don’t serve a purpose.

And third and most importantly, Europeans attribute a high value to the “play” end of the “work-play” spectrum. We love to enjoy experiences, places and things, and derive pleasure from beauty and like to surround ourselves with it. It shows in how fashion-fashion-conscious the average European is, and in how even the simplest cafe or most basic government office has a high “design” factor. I remember as a teenager that Amsterdam had a design competition for lamp-posts of all things! And why not… Every day objects and environments can and should be beautiful and enjoyed.

This attitude dates back hundreds of years and is ingrained in our culture. Design is not disposable, it’s quality and it’s intentional and it’s there to be enjoyed – all the time and everywhere. So if any of that that comes through in our work and we can contribute to people’s enjoyment of their everyday life and space, we are proud and appreciative!


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