Belgium and the Netherlands are very different in their spatial outlook and in the way housing is organized. In Belgium individual private dwellings predominate whereas in the Netherlands social housing and planned neighbourhoods are much more common. This article aims at unravelling the diverging histories and sensibilities that led up to this situation. The most important bifurcation happened when both countries had to cope with the post war housing crisis. Belgium chose to stimulate private initiative by providing tax incentives for people building a new home. The Netherlands on the other hand dealt with the housing crisis by planning new estates of social housing, using new techniques of prefabrication that led to standardized flats. Both countries also developed different strategies to educate their citizens about ‘correct living’. In the Netherlands a national organization took the lead, which consisted of consumers, applied artists, commercial actors and industrialists. This organization resolutely advocated modernist design as the most rational way to organize the home. In Belgium the task of mediation was taken up by pillarized social organizations rather than by a national institution. This resulted in a much stronger bottom-up influence of ordinary dwellers, who convinced their organizations to soften the modernist approach in favour of more ‘traditionally’ inspired outlook of homes and interiors. All in all, the Belgian way of organizing home cultures thus came to resemble much more an ‘American way of living’ than its Dutch counterpart – contradicting the prevailing literature.