Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting the Most Out of My Space

If someone were to ask me what the number one reason to buy a house was, I would unequivocally say "for a yard." I am slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that I will live in this condo for a long time. And I'm mostly okay with that, especially as we are improving the space to better suit our needs. But the one thing we can't fix is that we don't have a yard. And I so, so wish we did.
But this weekend I hung out at a dear friend's townhome, and we spent the entire evening outside on her small concrete patio, which was kind of eye-opening. It's not really that I'm craving a yard, per se, but I want to have outdoor space I will actually use.
Our set up is a deck off the living room, accessible via sliding glass doors. So right there is problem number 1: I hate tracking dirt into the living room, so going outside is kind of a pain. The deck is 6 feet wide by 9.5 feet long. Problem number 2: It's a skinny, narrow, awkward space. There are huge pine trees that are dying (and our frustrating association can't/won't do anything about it), leading us to problem number 3: There are pine needles everywhere. Our current furniture set up is as follows: an old, rickety glider that we inherited from the old downstairs neighbors when they sold, some long planters, a couple really dirty candle holders, a couple small tables that hold more planters and a chimena that is crumbling and that we never use. It's blah.
My friend's set up was not any more interesting than ours, but she uses the space so much better. It was a small concerete patio off her front door, which she'd adorned with a few potted plants. She had an outdoor loveseat and an outdoor chair in an L shape. From the garage she brought out a very small, portable fire table like this one: It was only 15" high and fueled by propane, but sitting out there on a chilly fall night with a couple of beers and some marshmallows on fondue forks we created the atmosophere of a much larger bonfire in a much larger backyard.
It's completely silly and frivolous in a way to be thinking about our outdoor space in late October. I think we had our last nice weekend, so I won't be hosting any mini-bonfires on my deck anytime soon. However, I figure if I come up with a plan for the deck now, we can implement it in the spring and actually have a spring, summer and fall where we spend time outside.
Here's what I'm thinking:
-We need nicer outdoor furniture. The guys that live downstairs use their deck a ton, and it's really nice out there. They have wicker furniture and a string of mini lanterns that lines the railing. It's clean and comfortable looking. If their deck, which is exactly the same as ours, just one floor down, can look that nice, so can ours. I think we need to ditch the massive glider and get a loveseat and chair and maybe a little table.
-We need something for Sebastian to do outside. We tried to put a kiddie pool out there this summer, but it filled up the whole deck and it was a pain to fill it with water (we had to take multiple pitchers from the kitchen). Maybe this sandbox (if it would fit): or this if an actual sandbox is too big:
-Less is more: we need to ditch all the outdoor tschokes I have - ceramic birdhouse, mosaic globe that is supposed to be solar powered but hasn't worked in years, broken Christmas lights, dirty candle holders, chiminea. I'm thinking just furniture, a couple of planters and the sandbox. Right now our deck is cluttered and dirty and leaves and needles get trapped under furniture, inside candle holders, etc.
-Rules be damned: We're not supposed to grill, and to be fair, that makes sense. The decks are not far from the house, and it seems like a fire hazard to have such a big open flame. But there is an electrical outlet, so I want one of these (an electric grill): And, yes, technically we probably shouldn't have a mini-fire bowl like my friend does, BUT our association basically doesn't care about anything. (That can be good when you want to do something against the bylaws, bad when you want them to you know, actually fix things.) The flame of the firebowl wasn't that much higher than a candle. We're in the back so no one would even really see it. So it's a must-have for next year.
This blog has really helped me. A lot of times, when I would visit a "nicer" home than my own, I'd get jealous and annoyed. Now it just spurs me into action. The best way to cure the house-blues is to try and make my current home nicer. Then I'm able to just sit back and eat a tasty s'more and have some nice conversation, all the while plotting how I can totally recreate this at home.

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