My Great Outdoors: Lisa's Chicago Condo Balcony

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Name: Lisa

Location: Chicago

Type of space: Balcony

Tell us about your outdoor project and how you enjoy it: We just finished remodeling our condo balcony, although nothing was done to it before, so I suppose there was no "re-" just the "modeling." Outdoor space in Chicago, regardless of size, is a huge bonus, even though you can only really use it 5 months out of the year. Sick of being envious of other people's larger outdoor spaces, we decided this was the year that we would take advantage of our 4 x 14.5' outdoor space. We really wanted to create a space that was multifunctional, allowing us to entertain, eat alfresco, enjoy some pretty scenery, and help hide the view of the busy street on which we live. All of this without having too much cramping the space or overpowering it, and of course, as affordably as we could get.

How did you create it?:
The loud noise of traffic, even 2 stories up, was a major detractor to us using the balcony. Going to our local nursery was our first stop to get pretty flowers that could help block the view, as well as a trellis with a climbing vine. The ugly concrete flooring was a major eyesore, so next we ordered snapping deck tiles for a whole new floor. I read about these on AT - what a great idea! I was able to find them much cheaper at costco.com (half the price of decktiles.org) The floors were super easy to lay, and I had to cut a few to fit the rectangle shape of our balcony, but they cut very easily. I also took the time to rub them down with teak oil to help protect the natural wood color, which I'll probably need to do annually to keep the color. The rest was really just decorating, but always challenging finding outdoor small space furniture - luckily Target is an affordable resource. I couldn't find a small enough outdoor rug, but I made do with woven tiles at World Market. They come in a 1 x 9 foot strip, but I cut them to the size I wanted, and sewed them together. I felt the outdoor rug, throw pillows, and artwork, really helped to warm up the space and feel inviting to our guests. Perhaps the hardest part was hanging three strands of lights across our balcony. I had to drill into the brick, put in anchors and then screwed hooks into the anchors, then attached the lights. I put them 8 ft up, so my tall husband wouldn't hit his head, and they are brighter than I expected, so I was pleasantly surprised. The soft glow is gorgeous, and seems to make everyone look more attractive!

Recommended store, site, product or resource?
I would recommend Snapping wood deck tiles (decktiles.org or the more affordable costco.com) to anyone who has a hideous floor. The transformation was amazing and couldn't be easier to install. I would also recommend concrete planters to those who would like to have a container garden, but lack a narrow balcony railing. We have a very wide balcony ledge, and live 2 stories up, so we were afraid to put a container up there in case it would fall and hit a pedestrian on the street below us. The concrete planters we bought at Gethsemane's Garden Center(gethsemanegardens.com) are about 70 pounds, and aren't budging, yet look beautiful. And of coruse, AT was a huge help! I love to look at what others have done for inspiration.

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