Outdoor Spaces for Tiny Places

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Tiny Places, Outdoor Spaces: making the Most of the Glorious Outdoors

Sure, apartment living has its advantages: no property taxes, someone else has to pay the plumber, there's no down payment, and you have the ability to move out whenever you want. But that freedom often comes at the cost of being cramped. No yard, no storage, no patio—what's a Jane to do? Look around! While an outdoor space to call your own may seem like a distant dream, if all you've got is a fire escape or balcony, a little creative thinking may make a space appear almost out of nowhere.

Check With your Landlord

Before you embark on any major projects or buy outdoor furniture, call your landlord or if you own a condo, contact the HOA. Some landlords are flexible and some aren't. And you may be prohibited because of building codes or board rules. For instance, adding flowerpots to your walkway may be out of the question because of fire codes.

Assuming you've cleared those hurdles, the first thing to consider is adding a fresh coat of paint to your outdoor space. A little color can do a lot to expand a cramped or dark space. Look for bright shades that reflect light. Discuss the idea with your landlord before you pick up a paintbrush. You may have to repaint the wall back to its original color before you move out, or a set fee (usually per wall) may be subtracted from your deposit.

Assess Your Space

If you don't have a balcony, extensive decorating is not really an option. However, you can bring the great outdoors to your window with a colorful window box. Try your green thumb at growing flowers, herbs or even tomatoes, depending on what kind of sunlight you are receiving. More about planting later!

Beautifying Your Balcony

If you are lucky enough to have a private balcony, take advantage of it. Sometimes a balcony is used like a garage—for storage. If this is the case, make a point to clear your clutter. Bikes, surfboards and other sports equipment can be hung from the ceiling or mounted against a wall. On your other stuff, see if you can't find a home for it inside. There is no time like the present to start spring cleaning. If wall space is lacking, or there simply isn't any room, consider hiding your stuff behind a lattice or an enormous plant!

Using your balcony is all about making the most of your space, so why not pick a theme? You can go romantic, tropical, relaxing—consider a few different options and don't be afraid to modify it if it doesn't work for you.

A balcony is the perfect place for a table for two. Bistro tables can be picked up at many home improvement and furniture stores. Enjoying dinners outside once in awhile is a good way to get out of the house, so to speak. Add a candle or two and some soft music, and you have a romantic evening outdoors. 

If your balcony can't accommodate a table, consider a lounge chair or a hammock. Hammocks are inexpensive, easy to maintain and can be put up and taken down without a lot of effort. Seated hammocks are mounted from a single point, so why not get a couple and invite friends over for a Caribbean-themed gathering?

Jane Tip: If you plan on spending a lot of evenings outdoors, consider decorative lighting. If Christmas lights are too hokey for you, home improvement stores carry many options for patios and balconies. Many are even solar powered!

Go with a Garden

So, you may not have any real yard space to speak of, but that doesn't mean that you can't start a garden of your own. Make a note of how much sunlight your balcony gets and the direction it faces. A salesperson at a nursery or a home improvement store will be able to tell you which plants can survive on your balcony.

Pots and planters come in many beautiful, decorative varieties nowadays and can add tons of character to your balcony. Of course, your plants will too. Let your foliage enhance your theme, if you have one. If you are creating a Zen garden, why not incorporate bamboo and bonsai trees? This is one instance where the possibilities are endless. You can plant herbs, roses, or grow ivy to cover the walls. Rotate plants according to the seasons, and don't forget to consider hanging plants. They give you more foot room and added privacy.

Creating My Space

Just because your space is tiny doesn't mean it's useless. With a little thought and a lot of creativity, you can make it work. Don't be afraid to try something new. You'll be surprised how a little space can actually go a long way.

Related Topics:
Create an Outdoor Living Room
Care and Maintenance of Outdoor Hammocks

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