Transform a tiny outside space: make small outdoor gardens, balconies and terraces cosy in winter lockdowns

Stay-at-home is the mantra once again, as the capital lives through lockdown 2.0 – the autumn/winter edition.

And this time round ingenious Londoners are using every scrap of space outside their doors as a home-expander and escape valve.

You can do something with even the tiniest footprint, a big dollop of imagination and a relatively low spend.

Market researcher Pippa Keen turned the communal walkway to her Islington flat into a “fake balcony”, with a little foldable table and chairs, now adding candles and blankets – “just a tiny space I overlooked until this year”.


From £20: Cuprinol Garden Shades are dyes in lovely colours that can coat wood and terracotta

“Blur the boundaries between outside and in,” says interior designer Shanade McAllister-Fisher, with a small balcony off a flat in a Georgian townhouse in Maida Vale. “You need flexible furniture for a tight space” — hers is from Ikea, up-styled with a luxury outdoor fabric from Kirkby with purple piping. A fringe of black planters (from Clifton Nurseries) gives a little privacy.

They are filled with lavender — a hardy English variety for evergreen silver-grey leaves and relaxing scent from the dried flowers right through winter.

Unsurprisingly, cosy garden stuff is selling out again fast — patio heaters are now on January delivery.


£199: Extra large Azteca Mexican chimenea, with BBQ grill,

Fire pits are feisty, festive, essentially elemental and relatively cheap — though they are not suitable for balconies and you should check before using on a deck. Add a griddle for smoky sausages and burgers. The cognoscenti love authentic Indian Kadai bowls hand-beaten from thick steel or made from recycled oil drums (from £95;

The more ambitious of us now have the time to make pizza. The best gadgets are designed by cooks and Ooni is the brand for starter ovens, perfected by a Finnish couple now living in Edinburgh (from £229, portable and charcoal/ wood fired;

Folksy chimeneas with a round belly plus smokestack can still be found at B&Q. City-smart are new minimalist models at (black with brass base; £169). But you will still need plenty of blankets — washable is best — and maybe a hot water bottle, too.

Soften everything up with cushions — stuff them into a big basket to bring inside when it rains. Eco outdoor furnishings are made from old plastic bottles at Weaver Green (cushions from £30; blankets, £45; rugs from £40;


Feel-good comfort: eco brand Weaver Green makes outdoor furnishings from plastic bottles. Juno Navy Cushion, £61,

And if you’ve nothing more than a front step you can still catch a few winter rays and wave at the neighbours from a waterproof beanbag (50 per cent off at — there’s even one for toddlers).

Candles in jam jars or hurricane lamps will provide atmospheric lighting for long, dark evenings. Add festoons or strings of fairy lights (try Always check any electric fittings are safe to use outside — faults could be lethal — at and use a registered professional for installations.

Painting outside space

Harness a fine day for a paint makeover but match your paint to what you are painting because there are lots of different types.

And remember, prep, prep, prep — all surfaces should be dry, clean and smooth.

Cuprinol has a designer palette of wood stains in “nature’s neutrals” — £20 for 2.5 litres from B&Q, open during lockdown (think sheds, furniture and fences).

Add pops of gloss on revamped planters and an old chair or two. A black fence makes small spaces seem bigger – use Ducksback, £11 for a generous five litres (B&Q again) as it’s a great background for plants.

No flower bed?

Make a raised planter cheaply with painted concrete blocks or find slot-together wood at Robert Dyas (also open through lockdown), or have a look at smarter/bespoke options from

Happily, London’s garden centres are still open. Stuff planters with winter pansies, cyclamen, glossy-leaved camellias, “handsome heuchuras” with multi-coloured leaves and evergreens and berries – browse

Try popping in a Christmas rose or three (hellebores) for exquisitely optimistic blooms through December and into the New Year.

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