Anybody who lives in a big city knows that outrageous rents for small spaces are part of the deal. This means that more likely than not, your space comes with a small balcony or verandah, but also that it offers you little besides some sunlight and fresh air. In all probability, we’re talking something like 60 square feet of small, sad, oh-so-sad space that’s in dire need of some TLC.
Because why would your landlord even bother to do it up for you? Yes you deserve to have a cosy newspaper and chai nook every morning, and yes, a space that’s green and romantically lit for a Friday night with friends and a bottle of wine is the stuff that dreams are made of, but you know what they say – if you want anything done right, the best way (not to mention the easiest), is to probably get on with doing it yourself.
Can You Say Portic-Oh?
Bottoms Up: Begin with flooring. Of course you can always use rugs or artificial grass but where’s the fun in that? Drop by a hardware store instead and procure interlocking deck tiles that will cover up the ugly concrete. Bonus: not only are tiles easy on the pocket, and a no brainer when it comes to cleaning, they’re also manufactured in a variety of patterns, colours and styles. Big, bold and beautifully generous tiles can make any space feel more expansive. Or keep it simple – choose something woodsy to create an illusion of warmth and space.
A Roof With A View: Weatherproof your balcony by installing bamboo blinds that can be raised or dropped depending on the time of day, and whether it’s light, shade or privacy that you’re looking for. A variety of natural looking, easily maintained synthetic as well as textile options are also available in the market today, some of them fully recyclable. If your balcony doesn’t have a roof overhead, consider creating a faux gazebo. A solid wooden arbour allows you to grow vines, hang cannisters, and house patio furniture under it and portends instant glam. Alternately create a wooden framework with gaps in the lattice to allow natural light to filter through. Use translucent polycarbonate sheets instead of glass – not only is it one hundred percent recyclable, the pattern on the material hides leaves and other debris that may fall and accumulate over time. Retractable fabric pergolas, sun umbrellas or weatherproof fabric tenting are other ways to go especially if you’re constrained by a small budget.
Fifty Shades of Anything But Grey: The magic word you’re looking for is paint. The whole business of transforming even the grubbiest of outdoor spaces is made a whole lot simpler with a few cans of paint. Choose from a range of natural whites – shades of ivory, milk white, bone white, stone white – to create the illusion of space. Next, use a bright colour on one of your walls to give it some added spunk – sunshine yellow, emerald green, turquoise blue, raspberry pink, all good choices depending on your taste, your personality and the end result you’re already imagining in your head. Plan you colour palette carefully – your floors must complement your walls, and these in turn will dictate your choice of furniture, flowers and accessories.
Weed ’em and Reap: Fill your balcony with plants, mixing and matching varieties and how you house them, for best results. To save space, attach flower filled window boxes to your railings and hang quirky planters in bright colours from hooks on your ceiling. Alternately, nail floating shelves onto a wall, layering them with tiny pots, which can be decoupage or dip dyed to personalize further. Grow cacti and succulents in large and varied coffee or tea mugs to create a miniature mad hatter-esque garden or grow your own herbs in a sunny nook. Most nurseries will have easy-to-grow already flowering saplings in colourful pots available for sale. Orchids and Anthuriums for instance, are both lovely indoor flowering plants that bloom for ages on the vine and need very little watering. Another cheap and easy DIY is to convert old wine bottles into planters that hold hydrophytes like hardy and easy to procure money plant and purple heart.
Make Light of The Whole Matter: String fairy lights along curving balustrades, hang paper lanterns, upcycle mason jars so they hold flickering flames or set up hurricane lamps in a corner where you can light candles. Buy the latter in scented varieties so your evenings are fragrant and aromatic.
Turning Tables: Invest in easy to maintain outdoor furniture. Weatherproofed wood, wrought iron, mesh, wicker, cane and rattan chairs and tables all work very well, each cultivating very specific style sensibilities and moods. Mix and match materials to create visual and textural interest or simply upcycle old furniture by repainting and distressing it to create a hip vintage feel. In general, keep in mind, that lightweight furnishings work best – they can be moved around or even shifted indoors if absolutely necessary (literal preparations for rainy days!). Pair these with cushions, an outdoor rug to cover your floor and perhaps a throw for chilly evenings. Choose classic and minimal patterns – bold stripes, classic chevron, ikat or even monochrome shades that complement the colours of your walls and blooms.
Access(t)ories: Hang baskets from hooks on your wall to hold newspapers, magazines and a paperback or two. Upcycle old crates by giving them a coat of paint and turn them into nifty little sidetables by stacking on their side, so that they hold both your drink on top, and a plant or two inside! Create a water feature by mounting a shallow vessel (think antique brass or copper cooking pots) onto a wrought iron plant-stand and float hydrophytes. Paint and lean an old ladder against a wall; stack the rungs with knick-knacks, potted plants and LED candles. Alternately paint an old wheelbarrow and fill with flowerpots. Mix and match long tapering candles, votives and house alongside a terrarium or two on patio furniture. The possibilities are endless.
Get started on your deck today. You’ll see once you’ve begun, that it’s much more fun than it is a big deal.