Tim Foolery

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Urban Private Outdoor Spaces

I never really appreciated outdoor spaces growing up in rural Oregon. Everyone had at least a front and back yard and almost everyone had quick access to acreage – be it state/national parks or just wooded land on or near a friends house.

Chicago has a ton of open public green space – one of the best park systems in the country in my (and many others) opinion. This is great, but it doesn’t negate my want/need for a private outdoor space. My last apartment had a small balcony. We were 15 floors up facing west – which allowed for an unobstructed view of the City (not the loop, but west to the suburbs) and a great vantage point for suburban fire works shows.  My balcony wasn’t private it was only accessible from my unit, but my neighbors had the same lay out and you could easily see and hear everything that was going with the neighbors.

Balconies at my previous
apartment – individual, but not private.

I loved this space. It was loud, hot and you were always on display, but it was my own piece of the outside world — and there was no maintenance: no grass to mow, now weeds to pull, nothing.

I’m lucky enough now, in my condo, to have two outdoor spaces. These also are private (only accessible from my unit and for use only by me as well).  I have a balcony on the third and the forth floor – one off the dining room and another off the master bedroom.  The balconies are each about 5′ by 15′.  Since the upper balcony is only accessible off the master, I left my mom to decorate/update as she sees fit, but she has done nothing with it.

The lower level is mine. I have a large grill, a small dining table that can seat four if necessary, but can easily fit three.

Each spring I visit Gethsemane Garden Center – which is one of my favorite garden places in the City. It is huge with a great selection and for me, more importantly, the staff is extremely knowledgeable. I know nothing about plants, but when I swing by Gethsemane and can get all the flowers, veggies and herbs I need for my balcony.

This is how my balcony looks all winter — barren, cold and uninviting.  Next time I’ll show you how my first batch of plants look — it isn’t finished yet, but it is stage one.

Do you love your small urban outdoor space? What do you do to make it your own? Are you fighting (like I am) a space with limited direct sunlight? What makes your space your own: a grill, a certain flower, veggies?

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