How a Creative Couple Made an Ideal Outdoor Space—On Their Tiny Balcony
Hand-painted planters liven it up.
Published Jul 7, 2020 12:00 AM
When Michelle Norris and Forrest Aguar—the couple behind creative photography studio Tropico Photo—moved into their Atlanta condo late last summer, they set about transforming their new home, filling it with the vibrant colors and patterns that are their creative signature. They outfitted the small concrete balcony with a bistro table and lounge setup, but kept it relatively simple—until the prospect of both warmer weather and social distancing recommendations inspired them to take it to the next level.
“We wanted it to feel really fun and sort of Memphis inspired,” says Norris. “For the patterns to clash and the colors to be wild.” The first three items they purchased—a love seat from CB2, bistro table and chairs, and tiled coffee table from Final Cut Georgia (an Anthropologie outlet)—all followed a similar color palette of soothing teal and white. When they decided they wanted a small accent table, Aguar suggested getting another blue piece, but Norris quickly disagreed: They needed a contrast. So they added a pop of red—and set about designing a perfectly mismatched space.
Accessorizing was key. To figure out which rugs and pillows they wanted to purchase, they made mock-ups of the space’s design in Photoshop—the same strategy they took to planning the interior of the condo. “And then it’s easy for us to be like, ‘Okay, is this cute or is it actually heinous?’” says Norris.
The couple considered adding turf to the balcony after seeing a neighbor do the same, but they settled on filling it with plants instead, both big and small, and accessorizing that greenery with terracotta pots that Norris painted herself—often while sitting out on the balcony. A vintage basket planter and a yellow-and-blue mosaic one by Clean Cut Mosaics rounded out the space.
It was their intention for this space to be a place where they could enjoy themselves, whether that meant getting creative with a painting easel in reach, having a cocktail at the end of the day, or just using it as a spot where one of them could find some peace and quiet while working from home. It’s where they take Zoom calls with friends and family, equipped with a glass of wine and a cheese plate, and where they can go to feel a little more connected to the people around them—since the balconies in their condo building face one another, one kind neighbor even delivered them a piece of a cactus they were propagating, after seeing the couple eye the process from just a story above.
“There will be nights when it’s nice out, so you see everyone on their different porches,” says Norris. “It’s like a little community.”
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