Privacy, Please

By Christine Brun

May 1, 2017 4 min read

We are smack in the middle of summer, and everyone enjoys having some outdoor respite at the end of a warm day. For those living in tiny places, the space challenge can creep outdoors, too. Some of us live in guesthouses. Others live in tiny apartment courts. Still others live in high-rise condos that offer only narrow balconies. How do you maximize your use of the outdoors?

Consider using potted plants to fashion a soft living screen of privacy for whatever area you have to use. We see here a luscious example of greenery and blooming plants positioned casually to deliver a relaxed sense of privacy. You can do this anywhere with little effort. If you must move the plants into place or to clean, position them atop plant stands with casters, which you can find in any home improvement store. This particular arrangement could be used on a balcony to shield you from a neighbor's view or on a front porch. Add a portable screen and you will increase the sense of shelter. Know that you can buy a huge variety of weather-resistant screens. If you have an architectural element, such as a fascia, that you can mount to, consider installing a solar shade that can be left out unprotected.

If you live in a part of the country frequented by summer rainstorms, think of ways to shield your wooden furniture. I use an indoor wood plank table outside but remove the plastic cover during the summer. I had a good coat of Thompson's WaterSeal applied last summer, and it is still doing a grand job of guarding the wood. To protect the legs, I applied thick plastic leg protectors that lift each leg off the concrete enough for me to be able to clear standing water. My chairs are resin wicker, and the cushions are made of Sunbrella fabric. It is easy to order custom outdoor cushions made of sun- and mildew-resistant textiles. They cost a bit more than the type of outdoor pillows you can pick up at local retailers, but they will last year after year. I bought a darling accent pillow last summer that was decorated with the term "No. 1" but tossed it in the garbage last week because it had faded and was no longer readable. When it comes to outdoor furnishings, you generally get what you pay for, and if you want them to last, consider spending a little more for quality.

You can add side tables so that there is a place to set down a drink, a book or sunscreen. Think about ways to control sun exposure. Check into sun sails that attach to your structure, umbrellas or half-umbrellas. These are terrific on decks and balconies. If your outdoor area gets lots of sun exposure and you own your home, look into electrically operated sunshades. One side of my home becomes like an oven by about 6 p.m. in the summertime. I've tried everything from new dual-pane windows to wood blinds on the inside, but the most effective fix was the awning. Mine has LEDs so that I can sit out and read late into the night if I wish. When the wind comes up, I am relieved to know that the awning will roll up even when I'm not home. We invested about $3,500, and it was the best money ever spent on our summer enjoyment.

From fire pits to water fountains to outdoor lighting, anything that helps you feel comfortable and private in the outdoor space available to you is a great investment. When we talk about staycations, nothing is as valuable as the money you spend transforming your outdoor space into a place where you can relax comfortably. This means rockers, gliders and swivel chairs, too.

Christine Brun's column, "Small Spaces," can be found at

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