Jenny & Collin's "Work With What You Got" Balcony

Jenny & Collin's "Work With What You Got" Balcony

Adrienne Breaux
Apr 27, 2012

One of our favorite house tours in recent memory is the Austin home of cute couple Jenny and Collin, who, despite living in one of those beige, cookie-cutter apartment complexes managed to create a bold, colorful and personality-filled home. To say we were surprised to learn their miniscule outdoor areas were given equally thoughtful design treatment would be a lie; we knew they'd be adorable.

And we were right. Jenny and Collin have continued their awesome habit of making the most out of what they have with their teeny balcony and even their front stoop. You can see they haven't done anything terribly drastic or expensive: they've just slowly accumulated plants and pieces that resonate with them, and then thoughtfully arranged all the elements in a smart, space-maximizing way to create a spot they use nearly every day.

We were ultra impressed to see that the balcony was arranged to fit storage for gardening tools and supplies, extra seating, a cute little eating area, food-producing plants (they've had quite a great year with their pepper plant) and even hanging space for a bike. Jenny really summed it up best when we were marveling at how much she and Collin managed to fit on their balcony: "You can always find a way to create more space."

What makes your outside space unique? It's a green lung in an oasis of apartment complex concrete.

How do you use the space? First and foremost, we use it as a potager for culinary herbs, but we discovered that we also love to have breakfast or dinner out on the porch, and we have extra folding chairs stowed away in case anyone wants to join us! Every so often we'll swivel our living room TV to face the balcony and catch up on the Daily Show while sitting outside too. Recently I've taken to lounging out there on a sleeping bag in the afternoons, as springtime in Austin is perfect weather for outdoor reading.

Do you use the space year-round? Weather permitting, we use the space year-round.

What's your outdoor space style? We let the plants do most of the visual work in the space, and supplement that with eclectic items in a simple color scheme. We wanted to have a plethora of green things around us to offset the stucco sprawl of our cookie-cutter apartment complex.

Your outdoor space inspiration? Intimate dinner parties in tiny gardens behind rowhouses in France, and herb-filled terraces we've seen behind London townhomes.

Special problems that you had to overcome in your outside space? With a building and trees right next to our porch, we have very little direct sunlight, and our apartment also faces north, which is particularly challenging for growing things. We had to pay close attention to how the sun strikes the porch at different times of the day — it's sort of like a sundial — in order to position our plants for optimum exposure.

Plants in the area: "Provence" lavender, ornamental cabbage, barrel cactus, aloe vera, jalapeño plant, parsley, cypress, lemon basil and sweet basil, echeveria succulents, Rieger begonias, dwarf improved meyer lemon, strawberry plant, chocolate mint, orange mint, Italian oregano, thyme, creeping rosemary, onion chives, vincas.

Some of the furniture resources: The table and chairs are from Ikea, the utility shelf and repurposed kitchen cart were bought from Target years ago, and the plant shelf on the wall and some of the stands are from Crate and Barrel. We also picked up the outdoor rug by Mad Mats at The Natural Gardener in Austin.

How much time did it take to put this together? About two years on this balcony, though the furniture itself is much older.

How much money did it take? About $100 for the bistro set and rug, plus $200 for the various plants, pots, and plant stands we've accumulated.

Plans for the future? We're about to replace our LED lights with loosely-strung filament-bulb café lights, and I'm thinking of adding some cushions for the chairs. Beyond that, there's always room for a few more plants on the porch.

(Images: Adrienne Breaux)

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