From Canal Houses to High Rises: Creative Lift Systems for Moving Furniture

Tall, thin and deep, Amsterdam’s historic canal houses are famous for their hooks and pulleys designed to help hoist furniture and valuables to upper stories (much easier than hauling stuff up narrow staircases).

History shaped this problem (and its solution) — taxes were based in part on building widths, so thin houses and tricky stairs became typical of the local vernacular in this land-constrained city.

Today, a lot of things are still moved up and down on the outside of these Dutch homes, but hooks and pulleys are used less frequently.

In the Netherlands and elsewhere, other technologies have evolved to aid the moving process. Lift ladders (or: ladder lifts) and similar devices make it possible to work around limited space and other complexities in old buildings with narrow stairs and smaller elevators.

These machines can also enable new buildings to be constructed around everyday use by people rather than the objects they own — stairs, hallways and elevators designed to be used only periodically for moving often result in wasted width the rest of the time.

Machines aside, a little ingenuity can go a long way, too, at least when it comes to moving out and using gravity to do the heavy lifting — getting a new couch up and into a building is another matter entirely.

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