What Makes Dutch Design So Dutch?

An open competition seeking ingenious repairs proves that in the Netherlands, high-end design principals are practically a national motto.

What makes Dutch design so inextricably Dutch? If you were to abstract some lessons from famous Dutch designers–for example, Marcel Wanders, Hella Jongerius, or the Droog design collective–then you’d say it’s all about practical whimsy, and an emphasis on the beauty of natural flaws. But those ideals don’t live just in the studio–they’re in the water.


For proof, you don’t have to look any further than the way some Dutch repair what’s broken. Platform 21, a design think tank obsessed with reusing objects, issued a Repair Manifesto and then launched a contest to find “The Most Remarkable Repair.” They received over 60 entries. On August 31st, the competition results will be announced, with the winner judged by repairman, a tool tester, and an inventor.

In the meantime: Dammit if the Dutch entries don’t look Dutch! These aren’t the ugly duct-tape jobs you’d find over at There I Fixed It. You can easily picture a number of these ideas in a design museum. Like I wrote above: Practical whimsy, natural flaws.

A banister repair by an anonymous entrant:


A coke-bottle used to repair a broken drain pipe, shattered by an errant soccer ball, by Jaap van der Feer:



Cindy Wouters describes this repair of an Ikea lamp as well as any furniture designer at a design fair: “With the repair I exegerated its new unique character. The mysterious opening makes you curious, you get to peep at the light.” 


There’s a similar attitude to Marcel van der Drift’s make-shift patch: “Zipper closed: I’m decent. Zipper open: I’m cool.”


So Dutch it hurts: Calypso Schuijit didn’t want to add fabric to make an old shrunken sweater fit better. So she cut hundreds of tiny slits in it, to enlarge it ever so slightly:



And last, Liaf Lijberts resusitates a hammer with a broken handle: “With this new bit of wood I can use it again and I think it looks prettier and more robust now.” Spoken like a Dutchman: 


Check out the rest of the entries here

[Via Core 77]

About the author

Cliff is director of product innovation at Fast Company, founding editor of Co.Design, and former design editor at both Fast Company and Wired.