Cool design ideas from around the world

If you’re looking for something inspiring to make your property really stand out from the crowd, why not set your sights on horizons a touch more adventurous than the Ikea catalogue? Every country has design quirks that a savvy landlord can draw inspiration from, so we’ve put together a list of some of the more striking examples to kickstart your creative synapses. Some might work for you, some might not.

“Widow Maker” showers (Latin America)

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Known affectionately by expats as “Widow Makers,” these delightful contraptions can be found in bathrooms throughout Latin America. They are all-in-one shower units, with the heating element contained inside the shower head. Good for the budget conscious, bad for passing safety regulations.

Saunas (Finland)


Saunas are an integral part of Finnish culture – there are 3 million of them in a country of 5 million. No one has quite figured out why Finns all so obsessed with getting really sweaty then rolling around in snow. Good for getting cosy with your mates, bad for getting cosy with your mates.

Triple glazing (Scandinavia)


This stuff is amazing, and is fitted as standard throughout much of Scandinavia. Sure, it is slightly more expensive than the usual double glazed junk, but it is super-efficient. So consider that short-term expense an investment in your long-term energy bills.

Washlet (Japan)

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The Japanese didn’t invent the integrated toilet/bidet, but they’ve become the only nation to embrace the terrifying contraption. Half of Japanese homes now  have one, allowing toilet-goers to clean themselves at the touch of a button. Advanced features include blow drying and buttock massaging. Good for saving on toilet paper, bad for terrifying unsuspecting guests.

 Underfloor Heating (Most of Europe)


Underfloor heating is starting to gain popularity in the UK, but we have some way to catch up with our European neighbours; in Scandinavia, around 80% of homes have embraced it. There is nothing quite like toasting your feet on a lovely warm floor in the winter. Good for being awesome, bad for costing more than a bog stand radiator.

Breakfast Bars (USA)


Breakfast bars are awesome. There’s simply no better way to start the day than sitting on your kitchen bar stool, drinking coffee, and scoffing down pancakes. Good for being cool, bad for small kitchens.

Wetrooms  (Scandinavia)


Wet rooms are increasing in popularity throughout the world, but originate in Scandinavia where they are widespread. The idea of replacing shower trays with a waterproof membrane that covers the whole floor is genius, eliminating all the nasty crooks and crannies that water can sit  in. Good for eliminating the need to use silicon sealant, bad for still needing a bit of maintenance.

 Rain Chains (Japan and places with heavy rain.)


Rain chains are magical. Ranging from the delicate to the utilitarian, rainchains are used instead of ugly pvc drainpipes – water simply flow down the chain, held together by water tension. Good for looking cool, bad for not much at all.

Top loading washing machines (America, Australasia)


There’s a reason Europeans prefer side loading washing machines; they’re quieter, spin faster, and  use less energy, water and detergent than their top loading cousins. They do, however, have an Achilles heel: they are much more delicate – top loaders are much less prone to breaking. Good for reliability, bad for everything else.

Light Switches (The Americas)


Weirdly, most American countries have light switches that work completely differently from ours. For instance, you usually have to flip the switch up  to turn them on, unless you’re in Mexico, in which case they are mounted sideways. In Brazil, it’s common to have glow in the light switches, perfect for finding your way to the loo at night.