When you live in Vancouver, space comes at a premium and you learn to enjoy each square foot of your city condo to its fullest. The boy and I have done a pretty good job making the interior of our home cozy, but when it comes to our balcony we've been ambivalent at best. All that changed a couple weeks ago when I suddenly became obsessed with turning the patio into a little urban oasis. Visions of myself leisurely drinking my morning coffee, flipping through magazines, colouring, or finishing up wedding tasks outside danced in my head. But, where to start?
Truthfully, our patio has a lot going for it. We have a view, for one. It's east-facing so we get a lot of direct sun in the mornings, followed by shady and breezy afternoons and evenings. The shape is a bit awkward—long and skinny—but as far as condo patios go it's spacious enough to be comfortable.
However, it wasn't the homiest, most welcoming place. Everything was dirty and dingy from neglect, including the bench (never re-stained) and side tables given to us by the boy's brother and sister-in-law, and the cushions I bought on clearance at West Elm a few years ago. The painted concrete was scratchy and dirt was embedded in the little dents and divots. Oh, and that random flip-flop in the bottom right corner? The boy forgot them on the patio for two years and they'd started to petrify in the sun.
We started by giving everything a good scrub: the bench and tables, the windows and patio door, the glass panes, the floor, even the railing. Just cleaning made a huge difference. I wish I could say I was clever enough to purposely take the "before" and "after" photos during cloudy and sunny periods, respectively, but that was all pure coincidence.
The patio came together over two weekends and a couple trips to IKEA. First, we laid down wood tiling and stained that, as well as the newly cleaned bench. In the process we discovered that if we rotated the bench and put it against the far end of the patio, it freed up enough space to seat four.
At the boy's urging, we bought two narrow folding bistro chairs so we could entertain guests on the patio on hot summer nights. We also picked up two solar-powered LED lanterns for ambient evening lighting, sans the hassle of wires or batteries. (They recharge really well as long as you get lots of light.)
Here's the after shot, one more time:
The cushions were as good as new after a good wash.
I rinsed out the anchor doormat that had been on the patio before, and moved the extra side table beside the door to create walkway space and flow in the seating area. If needed, we can always move the side table to the seating area for extra space for drinks, appies, etc.
My favourite spot is definitely the herb garden. After studying countless patio photos on Pinterest for inspiration, I concluded that we definitely needed a bit of greenery to make the patio feel more homey; choosing edible herbs was just killing two birds with one stone. The plant stand, hanging planters, and white planters are all IKEA. We picked up the terra cotta and plastic liner pots and potting soil from Canadian Tire. The herbs themselves (cilantro, parsley, rosemary, lavender, basil, mint, dill) are a mix of Canadian Tire and Whole Foods.
To say I'm excited about the herb garden is an understatement: I've been wanting to do this for a couple years and never taken the plunge. Every morning I check on their progress and give them a little water, and I can't wait to watch the seedlings grow. I'm already fantasizing about fresh mint muddled into summer cocktails, basil sprinkled on caprese salads, cilantro in guacamole, sprigs of dill on baked salmon with lemon. Yum.