High rise living is a common and an efficient way of life for the space-constrained city-state of Singapore. Luxury are translated vertically and often not, the higher it is, the more expensive the apartment is going to cost. Staying on the ground is the dream of many Singaporeans as land is limited and with such scarcity, landed homes are amongst the costliest homes you can find in Singapore. But, does that mean that living in HDB apartments or condominiums will compromise your quality of living? Well, not if you know how to utilize your space available.
Staying above ground is no longer for the poor. Million dollar condominium units are now the new norm. But they often come with big balconies. Are they a waste of space? Personally, I don’t think so. Botannia by the same developer as Lush Acres, CDL, shows how balconies of different size and shape could make an interesting facade for a condominium development (Picture from CDL Website)
Balconies are not a great hit with many Singaporeans. Having a small living space resulted in many Singaporeans wanting to maximize their “livable” space and we would often lament at large balconies as waste of space. This is partly due to the tropical weather in Singapore and heat and rain are a common place here. This mindset had somewhat changed over the years as the next generation began appreciating the usefulness of open spaces and the lifestyle “benefits” balconies could provide. Gardening, Lounging, Verandah Dining and even a mini golf putting green are what large balconies could be used for.
Leedon Residences demonstrated what a really large balcony could offer… A Lap Pool with plenty of greenery! (Picture from ProperSquare)
Hence, the landscaping of the balconies, especially the large ones, become very important to creating a beautiful home. Space design would now have to take into consideration the blending of the interior space into the outdoor space or bring the outdoor space into the interior of the home, for a complete design. Just imagine having a large and empty balcony sitting outside a luxuriously designed and furnished apartment and you will be able to picture the disconnect between the 2 spaces as if the balcony belongs to a public area.
The Topiary 3D Drawings brings out the perfect example of having an empty balcony. The Interior and Outdoor spaces were very much disconnected and looked plain (Picture from The Topiary EC Website).
Of course, the bigger balcony space we have, the more we can do for landscaping. Thankfully, the Lush Acres unit I got had the biggest balcony available in the development (as mentioned previously, this may not be something which everyone may like though). Although Lush Acres’ balconies are not the biggest amongst the Executive Condominiums (EC), there are still some fairly nice landscaping that could be done.
For a start, the plain tiles have to be replaced with more rustic or luxurious outdoor wood planks and artificial turf. Wood and green elements adds warmth to the otherwise cold tiles. More greenery could be added by planning a small garden in it and green is good for the eyes. 🙂 Although there is limited floor space in a relatively small balcony, there is an unique feature (for an EC) for Lush Acres balconies. As I had chosen the Balcony Entrance design, there are quite a few walls in place of metals railings and these walls could be used for vertical gardening. A full slab of wall with greenery may not be that attractive and may prove difficult to maintain. Hence, a neat solution which I like would be the use of “cubes” for vertical gardens, such as those shown in the pictures from Sage Ecological Landscapes and Nursery from the U.S.
Beautiful Landscaping of a small balcony with warm wood and artificial turf. Plants of varying heights were added into the planter boxes (Picture from Passionscape Pte Ltd)
Vertical Gardens are a popular choice for balconies nowadays. This is a full vertical garden. But it may be a little too much for some (Picture from Passionscape Pte Ltd). There is always something for the Minimalist (like myself). 🙂 Below are smaller scales of vertical gardens that may look a lot neater.
Potted Plants with Small Vertical “Cube” Gardens augmenting the greenery. This does not clog up the visuals of your balcony and keeps the setup minimalist (Picture from Sage Ecological Landscapes and Nursery).
Note that the “Cubes” are not perfect squares and they were shaped with a different profile to break the monotony of angular shapes (Picture from Sage Ecological Landscapes and Nursery).
Cloe up shot of the Vertical “Cube” Gardens (Picture from Sage Ecological Landscapes and Nursery)
In addition to turning your balcony into a beautiful garden in the sky, there is the option to further beautify it by adding design elements such as Water Features, Lounging and Verandah Dining furnishings. Furnishing your balcony allows you to truly enjoy your time in the space. I really couldn’t imagine standing in the balcony for an hour and still enjoy my time there. 🙂 It is important that the appropriate furniture are selected. First of all, it is essential that the furnishing will need to be able to withstand the weather elements. Placing a piece that is not designed for the outdoors is simply going to end in disaster in wet wet Singapore. The rain is going to destroy that expensive leather or fabric and corrode the nice mirror finished steel legs of your chairs. If upholstery is a must, choose those with fabrics that had been treated to withstand the rigours of being placed in the open and they could repel water. Not all plastics furniture are meant for the outdoors as well. Some are made with colours that could not withstand the direct sunlight or the water. So, do check to ensure that the designer piece that you had picked are meant for the outdoors to avoid any disappointments or sadness after it get wasted by the Singapore weather. 🙂
Emeco Broom Chair – A perfect example that not all colours are suitable for Outdoor. Probably the colour will fade with exposure to sunlight (Picture from Emeco Brochure).
With furnishing added into the landscape, an appropriately sized balcony could be turned into an interesting outdoor dining area or a comfortable lounging space for entertaining guests. The exterior space could also be brought into and blended with the interior living space with a smooth transition of colours and materials for the furnishing and landscaping. You could even create a landscape of small putting green with artificial turf for avid golfers who wanted to put a golf ball anytime at home. For BBQ lovers, you could even BBQ on your balcony without leaving home if your balcony is big enough (though your neighbours would likely be knocking on your doors after that).
Add some water feature for additional sense of peace (Picture from doyoulovewhereyoulive.com).
Lounging and Dining in the balcony can be a pleasurable experience if you got the righ landscaping and view (Picture from 2nd Phase Design Website).
Golf fanatics can even have a mini putting green! (That is, if your balcony is big enough) (Picture from The Vancouver Sun)
If you look at the above ideas, they all point to one use of the balcony and that is a space for enjoyment and relaxation. As a lover of balconies, it is kind of sad to see many big balconies in Singapore condominiums with huge potentials, being used as a yard for drying their washed linen. But no offense to my readers reading this post who intend to use their balconies for this purpose. It is usually the case of poor layout (by the architects who made really small yards where sunlight just couldn’t penetrate) or simply a household need (for large households that would require large amount of space to dry their linen and the small yards simply can’t do it). 🙂
I hope this post will give an good idea that balconies are not wasted spaces even in tropical lands such as Singapore. We can still create really nice places out of these unassuming spaces. 🙂