Pimping Balconies

By Eve Wee-Ang 2021-05-06 12:38:12

How to create a biophilic outdoor space.

I have always been a nature lover but my appreciation was heightened during home quarantine last year. Every day, I would step out to my balcony, admire my plants. Feeling the warmth of the sun and knowing there is life out there made me feel connected to the world and less alone.

A balcony is an outdoor extension of a home. In my work as a tidying consultant, balconies are often used as storage for stuff that’s long forgotten. It’s a waste as most homeowners who deliberately chose their home with balconies must once brimmed with ideas to beautify that space.

Now that spring is here, why not take this opportunity to pimp your balcony? Get the family involved by establishing the reasons why you’d like to spruce up the balcony. Because you enjoy alfresco dining? You like the family to be outdoors more? Knowing your reasons will guide you to your vision. Next, envision how the balcony would look. This is the fun part where families can share their inspirations. Once you arrived at a joyful consensus, it’s time to get to work! Give the balcony a good scrub down to start on a clean fresh slate. Here are two families that have transformed their balconies into spaces that add value to their lives.


From pot to plate

Mavis Fan from Hong Kong is a former architect turned stay-at-home mum of four children between the ages of 3 and 12. She has a feisty mission to get her kids to love vegetables, eaten raw and freshly picked from her own garden at its peak. This steadfast motivation came about when Mavis noticed her kids preferred cooked vegetables and one simply disliked veggies. Without prior experience, she promptly made space in her apartment’s balcony on Anfu Road during last year’s lockdown and read voraciously on how to create an edible garden from scratch. Milking a teaching opportunity, Mavis got the kids involved so they learned that vegetables came from the earth and not supermarkets. Today, they have harvested 16 different varieties of herbs and vegetables like tomatoes, dill, chamomile, and onions. Her kids enjoy the fruits of their labor in their garden balcony and have come a long way, though they still prefer topping their salads with their favorite Kewpie sesame seed dressing.

Here’s Mavis’ tips:

  1. Start with planting lettuce because they grow fast and pests dislike lettuce.

  2. Gardening’s greatest nemesis is bugs, and they will somehow find a way up even if your garden sits on the 30th floor. Whilst there are organic repellents, the best way is to avoid rainwater. Before the rain comes, I rescue all my pots.


Home glamping

American couple Tor and Rowena Peterson gush about their balcony. And they have every right to when the space is utilized at least twice a month for cocktail parties and BBQ with friends. However, this wasn’t so before in their ground floor duplex home in Jing’an. Although their balcony had been decked out previously, there was limited usage due to bugs. That’s when an aha moment came to Tor, a business consultant, when he figured if they could protect the balcony from rain and set up a heating source, they could use the balcony nine months a year. Together with their two teenage daughters, they created a cozy balcony that feels like an outdoor camping experience. They first shielded the rain with a huge canopy tent. Next, they bought two outdoor heaters that burn LPG gas. Lastly, what’s a camping experience without a fire pit for roasting marshmallows? And with that, the family re-created a balcony that keeps drawing people in.

Here’s Tor’s tips:

1. Purchase outdoor equipment on Taobao including large items like the canopy tent and gas heaters. Naturehike@Tmall has a wide assortment of glamping products.

2. To create a unique fire pit, use a large Chinese wok made with cop- per or iron! Just be sure to put a fire-resistant stand underneath. For fire, I recommend burning charcoal instead of wood for its low smoke emission.