Small Space, Big Impact: Easy Upgrades for Your Patio, Porch or Balcony
BY Wendy Helfenbaum. Wendy is a Montreal-based journalist, content strategist and TV producer who covers real estate, architecture, design, DIY, travel and gardening.
Do you live in an urban area? Chances are you don't have a sprawling backyard but rather a spatially-challenged balcony in need of some TLC. If a major renovation isn't in your budget, try brightening up your outdoor space with the right combination of colour, seating and lush greenery. Here are some easy ways to perk up a pint-sized patio or terrace.
Let it grow
Who needs square footage when you can grow flowers, herbs and vegetables with a low-maintenance vertical garden? Start by creating a living wall by putting up a trellis or using an existing fence, where you can hang small pots of herbs and veggies or gorgeous blossoms without taking up valuable space. You can also plant flowering vines like wisteria, honeysuckle or clematis, weaving them upwards as they grow. Repurpose items such as old ladders or even a shower caddy to showcase annuals or perennials.
Built-in sectional benches that double as storage keep your patio from feeling cramped. Add some comfy cushions covered in a vibrant outdoor fabric that can withstand rain and sun. Select a small bistro table that folds flat when you're not using it or use a coffee table for a more casual look. Layer a pretty outdoor rug underfoot, stash a few cozy throws in the bench for cool evenings and your outdoor lounging area is ready for entertaining.
Pick the right plants
Stick with flowers in a few similar colours–such as purples and blues or oranges and reds. Evaluate how much sun you get and opt for varieties that will thrive in those conditions. If your porch is on the shady side, plant begonias, impatiens, snapdragons or pansies for non-stop blooms all season. Sun-loving annuals include geraniums, petunias, zinnias and coleus.
Get creative with containers
Terracotta pots are fine but why not add some whimsy to your outdoor retreat? Stack a few cinder blocks and fill the holes with cascading flowers. Upcycle a vintage metal colander by transforming it into a hanging planter for fragrant herbs. Or round up some vintage tea kettles as the perfect home for succulents.
Light the way
Outdoor lighting provides a welcoming environment for al fresco dinner parties and can transform a bland back porch into something magical. Choose solar-powered lights that charge during the day and illuminate your space all night, or weave a chain of weatherproof string lights through your railings for added glow. Tuck some lights among surrounding shrubs or trees if you have them for a dramatic touch, hang a wrought iron candelabra or set out rows of votive candles or hurricane lanterns for a more intimate aesthetic.
Install a water feature
No room for a large pond filled with koi? No worries! You can still enjoy the soothing sounds of water, even on a pint-sized patio. Purchase a bubbling fountain or make your own with a two-foot deep container and a variety of aquatic plants like lotus, water hyacinth and spiky grasses.
Even the smallest outdoor area has the potential to become a welcoming living space with a little imagination and a few creative touches.