On our walking tour of the city we encountered two homes of wealthy Dutch Burghers that were open to the public. These dated from the seventeenth century but were largely decorated in eighteenth century style. The main thing from our point of view was that they afforded an opportunity to understand the interior of so many of the house whose exteriors we saw everywhere. We had wondered what lay behind the houses in the spaces between the next set of houses lining the next canal. Now all was revealed and in a slightly unexpected way.
Both the of the houses we viewed were double ended I suppose one might say. That is to say the properties had frontages on each canal between which they were sited separated by a garden. In fact sometimes one side would be a coach house and storage area and the other the dwelling house. Gardens were generally formal but not extravagantly so. Lawns do not feature in domestic gardens of this period as we know from Bath also as there were no such things as lawnmowers so from a maintenance perspective it was better to have paved pathways between accessible flowerbeds and ornamental hedges amongst which various statuary and water features were interspersed.
My favourite feature in one such garden was a Dutch cat sunning itself under a hedge. On the back of the door leading out to the garden was the rather charming admonition:
Of course very few of the endless houses lining the streets and canals are now single family dwellings. The prices of real estate precludes such a things for all but the most wealthy. Many are occupied now by businesses with some large businesses spreading through several adjoining properties. Many people still do live in these buildings but mainly in flats converted from the original homes. One can often sticky-beak into ground and lower-ground floor windows to see perfectly ordinary family interiors or peer through open front doors down hallways lined with bikes and boots and the other detritus of normal life.
I have created a gallery of “Dutch Interiors” that you can, as usual, find to the right of this post and also a gallery illustrating the style of the gardens belonging to these houses.