Creating An Outdoor Sanctuary

There are many things I love about being a magazine style editor, but making the rounds at trade shows is not usually one of them. One exception, however, is Canada Blooms. This show always falls in the dull brown, is-spring-here-yet season, so all of the lush greenery and bright, fresh smelling flowers provide a welcome escape.

Shortly after I took in that show, I saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Since then, not surprisingly, the idea of creating a retreat from the world to regain one’s sense and senses has been at the top of my mind.

Photo Blog March 26 Balconies Denmark

A retreat like the shop of landscape and floral artist Tage Andersen.

In Denmark quite a few years ago, I was walking around and shopping with an industry colleague and friend when we literally stumbled upon Andersen’s store (above). As I walked down the iron staircase into the shop, it was like being transported into an enchanted forest, with the unmistakably fragrant smell of hyacinth in the air and the sound of trickling water which almost drowned out the beautiful classical music playing.

Photo Blog March 26 Balconies Denmark Bird Cages

This is a corner of the shop with some of the plants, decorative eggs and birdcages he sells. Unlike a typical, cheery florist boutique, his was dark and moody, which I loved. It’s a place I will never forget. They wouldn’t let us take pictures, so these are the only ones I managed to get.

Photo Blog March 26 Balconies Patio Steven Gambrel

I am also completely enamoured with designer Steven Gambrel’s West Village Townhouse in New York. (I’m not alone — check out Habitually Chic blogger Heather Clawson’s favourites.) The lower-level kitchen feels like a rustic French farmhouse, and the patio continues the old world, timeworn look. It is the West Village, but still, quite the escape from the rest of New York City.

Photo Blog March 26 Balconies Patio Plants

I don’t have a backyard or patio, but I’m starting a file of balcony inspirations and I just added this one. I love the mix of greenery and trailing vines in mismatched terracotta planters.

Photo Blog March 26 Balconies Patio Trellis HomeSense

But how do you recreate these magical outdoor spaces in a Canadian backyard or on a balcony? This iron gazebo from HomeSense offers a good solution for a flat outdoor area that lacks interest or a focal point. It is completely open, with no glass. Just imagine it as a little reading nook with a bench and overflowing vines, plants and hanging planters. 


Photo Blog March 26 Balconies Patio 18 Karat Planters

Personally, my favourite planters are the ones that look like they’re decaying from years spent out in the elements, just like these belly vases from B.C.’s 18 Karat.  Putting these on a balcony or patio would add a real sense of patina and history.

Photo Blog March 26 Balconies Patio PC Home Table Chairs

And you can’t beat PC Home for affordable wood bistro sets. The warm wood strikes a tropical note but I would choose it for its clean, simple lines to contrast the patina theme and prevent the look from getting too fussy or feminine. 

And the crucial ingredient that I’m still missing is the actual plants, because I’m still working on my green thumb!

For more patio and balcony inspiration, view our Outdoor Living photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1-2. Andrea Mills
3. Steven Gambrel
5. Morgan Michener
6. 18 Karat
7. PC Home

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