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Green Living

Balcony: Like a Garden, But In The Air

I have no garden. Being a first floor tenant of a town house means that the ground floor neighbours get the privilege of the outdoor space, and their not ones to share. As summer comes around they smugly enjoy multiple BBQ’s while wafting delicious meaty smoke up towards our open windows… while laughing. Seriously, I’ve seen them do it.

So on a recent visit to my sister’s new apartment (6th floor of modern high-rise block), I regaled her with the tales of my garden woes; how much we would miss out on this summer, the BBQ’s, the flower growing, the tanning opportunities. Yet to my surprise, she simply turned around and said “Oh, I don’t miss it. We have a balcony, it’s just right”.

It’s just right? When did she turn into Goldilocks, I wondered.

My face clearly portrayed my confusion, so she led me through the floor to ceiling sliding glass doors and onto her balcony. There is stood, roughly 1.5 by 4 metres of wooden clad floor, glass balustrade with polished steel fixings – furnished with a small table, two reclining chairs, several pot plants, some fairy lights, a bottle of wine and two glasses – I could only agree. Yes, it was just right.

So as we wiled away the afternoon on that balcony, we spied the innovative ways in which other apartments were cleverly utilising their balconies as the weather warmed up. Here are a few examples:

Sun trap haven: The sun will be around in the UK for approximately 14 days (not consecutively. Cumulatively, of course). But it’s good to be prepared, ready to collect that vitamin D when it shows its face. By using furniture that is foldable and can be stored when not in use, whether its lounger, deckchair or a cute Bistro set, means you are always ready to take advantage of the sun when it appears.

External entertaining space: It’s the social side of a garden I miss the most, inviting friends round for some food and drinks while the sun sets, but balconies can be their very own entertainment spaces… often with much better views. By adding in a few chairs, a plant pot full of ice and drinks, fairy lights, candles and a BBQ for the men folk to gather around, you can easily create an intimate soiree setting.

With space generally being an issue brilliant small BBQ’s are available, as well as ingenious rail BBQ’s that are a handy height and prevent any wooden flooring being damaged.

Mini garden: This can mean different things for different people; I’ve seen balconies adorned with astro turf just for pleasant green space all year round. Or there’s the railing baskets containing a colourful selection of flowers without taking up floor space, while many people prefer an array of flower pots to add life and vibrancy to the space… then those who literally create what looks like a secret garden suspended from the side of their building.

Those who really want greenery, but not at the expense of losing floor space should consider some form of vertical planting, a common theme is to utilise an old pallet, or even suspend small individual plants from the balcony above or even just arrange your plant pots in a vertical fashion. [Pic 16, 17, 18, 19]

Herb garden: If you’re not one for flowers, why not plant and grow something more useful – like herbs for you kitchen? A small selection will add greenery and a feature, without taking up too much space at all.

Cosy retreat: Overall just make the space somewhere you enjoy relaxing, decorate to your preference whether that’s colourful or serene. If you want to lounge out there and read books, then use soft furnishings suitable for the outdoors. Make it more private by using screens on either side.

A Practical space: If you work from home why keep yourself trapped inside all day. Rather than dragging coffee tables/desks/footrests from indoors to the balcony, on which laptops are precariously propped up upon, why not look out for a balcony railing table; it simply hooks over the rail creating a temporary desk. Ideal.

Nothing makes your clothes fresher than drying them in a gentle breeze, so while the weather is dray and bright, get your clothes out there in the sun either on clothes racks… or using a slightly more innovative creation.

Obviously each building has its own rules according to how far you can decorate or alter the balcony space. So before any hard hats and sledge hammers are brought in… read that contract small print.

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