Out of the Blue

Being married to a Dutchman has opened up my world to lots of exciting new things. Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet, amazing cheeses, De Toppers, cool bicycles, gorgeous architecture, and hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles that you sprinkle on toast slathered with butter–yes, you read that unusual combination correctly, and yes, it is really good).

So let’s talk about architecture for a moment. Specifically a unique representation of Dutch architecture, KLM Delft Houses. Between 1952 and 1993, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines), produced 60 miniature blue and white Delftware houses that were given as gifts to business class passengers. These souvenir houses were modeled after Dutch canal homes and filled with Jenever, a juniper-flavored liquor (similar to gin).

KLM Delft Houses (photo courtesy Effervescing Elephant via Flickr)

 In 1994, 15 houses were added to the collection to celebrate KLM’s 75th anniversary. Since then, on October 7th of each year to celebrate KLM’s birthday, a new house is added to the collection. No.91 is the most recent addition, released October 7th, 2010.


Needless to say, I’m hooked. Since I decided to start my own collection, I have found people are mad about these cute little houses. According to the Wall Street Journal, even some celebrities are crazy for KLM houses: “Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez once requested a full set of houses as partial payment for writing something for KLM’s in-flight magazine, says Ken Wilkie, the magazine’s longtime editor. KLM refused because it only distributes the trinkets aboard its planes on intercontinental flights, and then only in business class.”

Luckily, thanks to eBay and some Dutch friends, I have 21 houses in my collection. However, it looks like people’s infatuation with KLM houses have gone from collecting and trading these miniatures to inspiring a street of real-life KLM houses in Amsterdam.

The Oudezijds Armsteeg was formerly a badly run-down street in the city’s red-light district. However, it has been given a new lease on life thanks to architect Kees Doornenbal’s “Out of the Blue” designs inspired by the iconic KLM houses.The outside walls of each building are painted in a shiny white to make them look like they are porcelain. The window frames and eaves are even painted in royal blue to mimic the blue used in Delftware. 

Definitely a place to visit next time you are wandering around Amsterdam!


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