Whether you’ve got a balcony, patio, deck, veranda or even a tiny fire escape landing, you’re going to want to spend some time on it this summer. After all, during the pandemic you’ve been cooped up for the past three months, most likely working from home, and you’re probably claustrophobic, overheated and sick of every damn square inch of your home.
Here, with an eye towards budget and convenience, are some essential items for making the most of whatever outdoor space you have.
A table and chairs
Even the smallest balcony or patio should have room for a table and at least one chair – perfect for an al fresco breakfast, end-of-the-day beer or midnight nightcap. (If your balcony is especially tight, try a special balcony table.) Fold-up chairs make storage easy. A sturdy iron or aluminum bistro set could make you feel like there’s no pandemic and you’re vacationing in Paris. Treated wood gives you that outdoors feeling you crave. Plastic will easily survive our harsh, long Canadian winters. And remember that if you buy cushions, you’ll want washable covers in case of mildew.
If you have the space, spring for some sort of lounge chair. Nothing defines summer more than falling asleep outdoors, a cool drink at your side and a paperback resting on your chest. If your patio or balcony lacks a roof, a patio umbrella to block out the sun or rain would be nice, too. Just make sure it’s got a secure base, so it doesn’t blow away during a storm.
Patio tiles or rocks
Cover up that unsightly poured concrete with some interlocking patio tiles or stepping stones that are easy to install, a snap to maintain and won’t get termites. If you don’t want to install them over your entire outdoor space, use them to block off an area you’ll be using a lot. And consider creating a little rock or pebble garden in a corner for visual and textural variety.
Plants and herbs
Even in the middle of the urban jungle, a bit of greenery will help connect you to the natural world. From colourful flowers in a container to a miniature herb garden, these will brighten up your spirits and give you something to look forward to each day. Before you know it, you’ll be capturing Instagrammable moments and writing, “OMG my flowers finally opened!” And you’ll get tons of satisfaction when you sprinkle your own chives or parsley onto your latest quarantine meal. Note: you’ll also need a watering can, some potting soil, and a broom or brush and dust pan.
Whether it’s a few votive candles, a few strategically located lanterns, some old LED Christmas lights strung up on a makeshift trellis or a tiki torch to make you feel like you’re a Survivor finalist, good lighting can alter the mood of even the most modest space. An old floor mirror placed against a fence can reflect the lights. Just make sure to snuff out any candles before heading to bed.
Use whatever vertical space you have: a fence, a wall, a wooden pallet and even an old ladder could act as a trellis for plants, lights, or to give you some privacy from the prying eyes of your neighbours. And make sure you pick up a serving tray to help make bringing out meals and drinks that much easier and disaster-free.
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