If your apartment or condo has a small terrace, the warm weather of spring and summer should ignite you to make the most of that great spot for entertaining (even if you just have space for two!) Imagine stepping out onto your terrace to breathe in the fresh air, perhaps do your morning yoga, serve breakfast al fresco or welcome friends for a terrace cocktail party. Here are the top tips to make your small terrace an enjoyable extension of your home:
--Before you start planning your design makeover, it's important to get permission from your building manager, as many buildings have strict rules about what can and can't be changed. With permission granted, you may be able to remove rust and repaint your terrace for a fresh, clean, newer look.
--Choose a color palette. You might use the same color palette as your living room, so that the inside and outside share a space-expanding monochromatic look (a top trick of home designers for making spaces look roomier.) Or, as SPG Architects' design experts suggest, match the colors you see in the scenery and buildings around you, such as tan, brown and trendy gray neutrals. Or, as Cortney Novogratz, host of HGTV's "Home by Novogratz" says, choose bright colors. "To make your environment pop with character, invest your budget in bright throw pillows (and) a colorful carpet," says Novogratz. Some of the top colors for outdoor living spaces include magentas, jewel-toned purples and blues and Caribbean-ocean blues. If you prefer a more Zen-like space, sage green shades are popular.
--Upgrade your seating. Add a small wrought iron bistro table and two matching chairs, or a brightly colored plastic Adirondack chair or two for reclining. And include a low-set table for setting down drinks or your tablet next to your seats.
--Add flooring. An outdoor, weatherproof area rug adds comfort for your bare feet and the rug's color, pattern and texture provide a fresh foundation for your new terrace style.
--Add storage. Outdoor-specified ottomans can open up for storage space during the warmer months and provide extra seating for guests.
--Bring in textiles. Colorful, patterned outdoor-designated pillows placed on each chair or bench add visual flair to your space, and your bistro table can call for a new, small tablecloth in touchable fabric, and coordinating color. And for cooler mornings or evenings, keep comfy throw blankets handy so that you and guests can enjoy the space even when there's a breeze or chill in the air.
--Go green. Potted plants and flowers add life to small terrace spaces, whether set in planters on the ground or lining freestanding or hung shelves. You can also grow kitchen herbs in a planter for fresh ingredients in your foods and cocktails. One trend in garden design is the vertical wall ... a shelving unit that holds an impressive, lush collection of potted plants and flowers and stands tall against a sidewall of your terrace.
--Add lighting. Strung white lights add festive lighting to your space, and LED light cubes or flameless candles create a cozy, romantic and relaxing feel to your terrace, avoiding any potentially forbidden open-flame candles. Some condo owners can install new lighting fixtures to modernize this space.
--Add sound. There's no need to call in an electrician to wire your terrace for the piping-in of music. Small wireless speakers can be carried outside and placed on a shelf to add music to your space. (Just bring them inside after each use.)
--Accessorize. Novogratz suggests decorating with unusual art: "It doesn't have to be expensive. Cool accessories help define a space in an exciting way." Add outdoor-safe pottery pieces, interesting stones or geodes and Etsy-finds such as stone coasters imprinted with botanical or seashell motifs. Wooden signs made from repurposed materials -- purchased or made by you -- add character and perhaps whimsy to your space. One trend in terrace signs is wine-themed images resembling a wine barrel stamp. (And garden centers and vineyards also have wine barrels that can be used as tables themselves or as legs for a larger wood-topped table.)
Complete your terrace makeover by stocking up on one or two matching sets of colorful melamine (or other unbreakable material) plates, bowls, glasses, pitchers and serving platters. With your beautifully set table, you will be ready for a neighborhood party, a dinner for two or a calming night alone.