On a whim, I joined my friend Abby for a last minute weekend in Amsterdam. We booked the prettiest Air BnB apartment in the Jordaan, a 17th century network of canals and elegant townhouses and felt fairly smug on arrival. A break of museums, cycling and baked goods featured high in the menu. Having never ventured to the Netherlands before, I was ready to be inspired. Now, I’ve had a life long love affair with blue and white, and delft tiles are the ultimate marriage of this combination. My dream bathroom involves a simple plain white sink with five antique delft tiles as a splash back. No power shower, no underfloor heating, the Delft is all I need. So Abby took me to the holy grail of Delft tiles, a shop close to the Rijksmuseum. The owner lovingly washes the antique tiles and wraps them in polythene for tourists who leave with their own classic memento of Amsterdam. I'll admit blue and white mania was reaching a crescendo by the time I arrived. I had to have serious words with myself; you have no intention of ripping out your bathroom, it's Christmas, you can't buy antique delft tiles at 60 euros a pop. I then noticed another, more affordable nick nack featuring heavily; the miniature blue and white KLM dutch house. A whole pyramid stack of them perching in the shop's window. The KLM miniature blue and white house must surely be the second most purchased gift on the tourist trail.
The tradition began in the 1950s, when the airline KLM began gifting their Business and Royal class passengers with these quirky little gin filled houses. To seal in the booze, their chimneys are topped with wax. But for the tea totalers - we are talking flights to UAE here, they come stamped with an "empty" sticker. For a final twist, they sometimes come converted into ashtrays, with cigarette smoke rising through the chimney. With a new model based on a real Dutch house or even famous house such as Anne Frank's house commissioned each year, they've become pretty dam collectable. They are still given out today and KLM has launched a commemorative book to celebrate this novel tradition. A kitsch set of three even nestled in the beams of the apartment we rented! They were EVERYWHERE!
"But I can't just get one KLM house, you need a whole collection," I said to Abby, who was naughtily egging me on. "Anyway, I need things to hang on my bare walls, not more clutter" I went on. Good things come to those who wait though! Or in my case, the next day, when we strolled down to the farmers market and I found a lovely old print of the Westermarkt canal. A more restrained keepsake to remember the architecture I fell in love with whilst visiting. Still, I left Amsterdam with a fond and new found appreciation for those little houses and if the need arises, a lifetime of collecting all the numbers awaits on ebay. Amsterdam, I'm coming back soon!