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1. Google rents goats to do its mowing.
Rather than use gasoline-guzzling, noisy mowers at its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters — the Googleplex — Google has been known to keep its lawn coiffed with rent-a-goats.
Image: Sebastian Bergmann/Flickr
Google rents goats from a cool company called California Grazing, which swears it can maneuver a herd of goats through crowded city streets. It’s an eco-friendly approach to landscaping — and you can’t beat the cute factor.
2. Swedes and Danes use dead bodies to heat their homes.
Image: Ole Jais
It’s an idea that makes a lot of sense when you think it through. Crematoriums heat up to 2,000 degrees, which is a lot of energy that was going to waste — until someone got the bright idea to pump that heat into local energy companies, where it’s used to warm homes.
3. In parts of Germany and Poland, when a couple marries, guests break a whole lot of porcelain.
And leave it to the couple to clean up. They do this right in front of the bride’s home, usually the night before the wedding. It’s called “Polterabend” and it’s meant to symbolize the struggles the new couple will face as they build a home together, with an emphasis on working together through those struggles.
If you’re invited to participate, make sure you break only porcelain (old toilets welcome) and not glass, which stands for happiness, and therefore should never be broken.
4. Brass doorknobs disinfect themselves.
It’s called the oligodynamic effect: The ions in the metal have a toxic effect on spores, fungi, viruses, and other germs — eliminating the nasties within eight hours.
5. The original housewarming party was — literally — a housewarming.
Guests brought firewood as gifts and lit fires in all the fireplaces in the home. Obviously this warmed up the place for the family, but it was also believed to ward off evil spirits. Uninhabited homes were thought to attract roaming ghosts, so a new home would have to be rid of that bad energy before it could become a happy abode.
6. A man started with one red paper clip and traded his way to a home.
Kyle MacDonald made his first trade — one red paperclip for a fish-shaped pen — in July of 2005. Less than a year and several trades later, he finally traded a film role for a two-story farmhouse in Saskatchewan. Who knew that bartering could be so lucrative?
7. In Scotland, home owners paint their front door red when they pay off their mortgage.
Throughout history, a red front door has symbolized many things — the ancient Hebrews believed it would protect firstborn children from the angel of death; in the early days of America, it meant the home was a safe place for travelers to stop for the night. And according to Feng Shui, a red front door invites positive energy into a home.
8. You can buy a missile silo.
The most popular use is to turn the old silo into a home. It might be an ugly home, but a little nonconformity never hurt anyone.
9. There’s a chain of bathroom-themed restaurants.
At Modern Toilet, a restaurant chain based in Taiwan, patrons sit on toilets, sip soup from sinks, and wipe their mouths with toilet paper. While the latrines aren’t functional (except in the actual bathroom, we hope), you’ll certainly have something to talk about until the food comes.
10. Here’s a house you wish you grew up in: The slide house.
Image: LEVEL Architects
The slide goes down one side of the 3-story Nakameguro house, while a staircase on the other side lets you climb back up. If that’s not enough of a dream-come-true for kids, the house also features a ball pit!
11. There’s a garden in England dedicated entirely to plants that can kill you.
And apparently, it’s kid-inspired, too. Alnwick Garden’s founder, the Duchess of Northumberland, said:
“I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill … I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it, and how gruesome and painful the death might be.”
No wonder it’s nicknamed The Poison Garden. It features 100 famous killers such as hemlock (which killed Socrates), strychnine, and nightshade.
12. According to an old superstition, if a bird flies into a home, death is soon to follow.
Long before “put a bird on it” became hipster décor, birds were thought to symbolize imminent death for the home’s occupants. People have long connected birds to the spirit world, and it’s evident in our culture — just think of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven” and Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.”
13. There’s a house that levitates.
A Japanese company has developed a residential earthquake-proofing system that raises a house off of its foundation as far as 3 cm using just air pressure.
When an earthquake hits, compressors activate, forcing an immense amount of air under the home. The house will levitate there until the earthquake ends, then be placed gently back on the foundation.
14. The people of Easter Island have a word, “tingo,” which literally means “to take objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them until there’s nothing left.”
We suspect they may not stay friends for long.
Which one surprised you the most?