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Markus Anecdotes - Utilizing High Ceilings

Written by Markus and with Photos by Markus

My whole life I’ve lived in relative new apartments and houses in the Netherlands and Asia.

I grew up in the Netherlands in a town known for watersports called Reeuwijk. Here I lived in a house build in the 70’s. I then moved to Amsterdam, to an apartment build in the 90’s. Here I completed my studies and started my first job.

Not long thereafter I moved to Singapore where I lived in HDB’s, point blocks and condos. All built in the 80’s and 90’s. In China I lived on a university campus build in the early 2000’s.

And once moved back to the Netherlands I initially lived in a landed property, built in the 80’s.

I recently moved to a city in the Netherlands and this time to a building build in the 1600’s. Though it has been renovated in the 90’s, it has the same floorplans it had centuries ago.

So why am I describing where I lived and when the houses or apartments were built?

It is because for the first time in my life I am confronted with high ceilings.

A normal ceiling will be max 2.5 meter high. But this is not how the houses are built in the olden days. The building I now live in, as well as all buildings (some build in the 16th century) in the historic center of this city, have ceilings like I do.

The ceiling at the ground floor is 4 meters high. The 1st floor is 3.5 meters and the 3rd floor is 3 meters high. Not only is it a disaster to find the right size of curtains, you are also staring at huge and boring surfaces.

So for the first time I am confronted with problem I did not know existed. For example, hanging a painting in the middle of the wall will look oddly empty, unless you put up a huge painting, what then gives you the feeling of huge objects hovering above your head than may come crashing down at any moment. And whatever you put on the floor, for example a TV or ornaments on a cabinet, will still leave you with an empty wall staring at you. So how to “fill up” this space?

I tried posters, a huge painting, custom made cabinet, hanging objects (such as a crossbow), but nothing gave a feeling of coziness. It always gave me the feeling of emptiness, fear (of things falling from the wall) and it always felt unbalanced. Like it all was “off-center” somehow. Also, the spaces above doors were always empty.

And then it hit me! I dug up my art collection from storage and started running all over the country to find those few pieces that would fit my goals.

I changed my house into a gallery. I filled up the walls, spaces above doors and hallways with over 50 original oil paintings. It took a lot of work. Installing a system to hang the paintings and a best effort attempt on getting them all straight, took quite a few nights of me, my ladder and my screwdriver.

But I finished the job. I not only now enjoy seeing my walls filled and allowing me to appreciate it wherever I go, I now can share it with others as well. And maybe sell a piece if the offer is right.

I registered as a company and people can make an appointment to view the paintings in a home-setting. I have no real intention of actually receiving guests though. To me that feels very disruptive and intrusive. But it does allow me to get a decent insurance that otherwise would me very expensive. But there was another thought. Seen I now live in the historical center of a Dutch city at a relative busy tourist spot, I can simply open my front door and put a sign that says “gallery” in front of it.

Last weekend I had no plans, so I decided to do just that. I opened the front door and while doing some DIY on the house, I waited to see if someone would show up. Would someone have the urge to walk into a home, search for whoever lives there and look at paintings?

Yes, they do! During this one day, I had over 100 visitors and sold 8 paintings in just under 6 hours of having my door open!

I did not see this coming at all! I called back my daughter, who was at a friend's place at a nearby city, to come help. “Please help me get orange juice and finger food and stop these people drinking my port collection!”, I text her.

She came over immediately, confused what was happening but started preparing some food and fill glasses with drinks. I quickly started managing a flow so people would not linger around, so that those who wanted to view could take a look, and I had to design my invoice template. I now also need to figure out how to ship the paintings of overseas buyers (eg tourists). Seen that I suddenly created a second job without any intention of doing so.

I’m not sure if I will do this again soon. I need to find out what it means, tax wise, when I sell a piece. And I of course need to keep my collection big enough to fill my walls. All paintings are from artists that had passed away and during my most recent “gathering week”, I found they are becoming more and more difficult to buy and purchase. I still have some in storage though, and will see if I can fill my wall again. And I’ll prepare a bit with food and drinks. But if so, you are all invited for a viewing! However, please do not linger around for too long :)

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