Amidst the pandemic, balconies have become a joyful escape pod for several Indians

People are now rediscovering the importance of this tiny space and sprucing it up to suit their comfort and needs

When Rati Chaudhary was looking for an apartment in Bandra, Mumbai, a few years ago, she was certain of one thing — that the house should have a balcony. Anyone who is familiar with Mumbai real estate will know what a luxury this is. Eventually, Rati found what she was looking for.

“At that time I just wanted a corner to keep my plants. Who would have thought that several years later, when we would be locked in our houses, this tiny space would become our lifeline. I spend hours working from the balcony now; my daughter and I have picnics here, soaking in sunshine and fresh air,” says Rati.

The lockdown encouraged Rati to redesign her balcony several times. Be it for a playdate with her daughter, or an intimate dinner party with friends, the balcony became her go-to place. “Initially, I had two chairs and a few plants in my balcony but to make it more comfortable, I upcycled a bed that I was planning to throw away. During Diwali, I replaced the bed with a sofa and suspended some string lights from the ceiling to add a festive touch. My family spent the whole evening in the balcony watching Mumbai’s skyline. I then redid the whole space when we were having friends over for dinner. I added a low-lying table and used it for my dinner set up,” she adds.

Anusha Swamy working out in her balcony  | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Like Rati, several others are rediscovering their balconies. With COVID-19, people are turning to their balconies to enjoy a sense of outdoors while being confined at home. From setting up comfortable furniture for work-from-home corners to redoing the space for date nights, the focus now is more on functionality than aesthetics.

Pre-pandemic, Chennai-based choreographer Anusha Swamy’s days always began with a run to the park and a workout under a tree. So when the lockdown was imposed, she felt tied down by the restrictions.

“After a few days, I realised that even if I couldn’t go out, I could bring the outdoors in. I rearranged over 120 plants that I have at home and put up rings and a push-up bar in my balcony. Now, I spend six to seven hours on the balcony, at times even having my meals there. I also spend hours with my plants. My balcony looks lush with a lemon tree, money plants and monstera deliciosa,” she laughs.

Balcony Makeovers redesigns a space for work-from-home routine | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Mahima Chawla, founder of Gurugram-based company Balcony Makeovers, says, “Pre-pandemic, our team would visit the houses, understand the space and then work on the designs for makeover but just a month into the lockdown, we started receiving e-mails and calls inquiring about DIY makeovers. Many people who considered balconies as extra storage space wanted to redo the place to make it cosy and comfortable for long work hours or just to unwind after a tiresome day,” she says.

This was when Mahima’s firm introduced a new service: design consultation. “We now help people understand what designs work for their space through video calls and pictures. The tiles and furniture that work well indoors may not be well-suited for outdoor spaces. The type of designs also vary from place to place, keeping the weather and the location of the client in mind,” she adds.

Another positive change Mahima has been observing during the pandemic is an increased interest in potted plants.

Corner for contemplation

Even as cities are slowly breathing back to life, many are still turning to their balconies for momentary respite, whether it is unwinding after a long day at work or for intimate get togethers.

Savi Munjal and Vidit Taneja, a couple that runs the popular travel blog Bruised Passports, turned to their balcony for a dinner date to celebrate. “Since we could not go out to a restaurant, we decided to bring the restaurant home. It was a good excuse to get out of lounge wear, dress up a bit, and cook a nice three-course meal. The experience was even better than we thought it would be. It lifted our spirits and the slump we were facing during lockdown. Due to this reason, we have planned many more balcony dates,” says Savi.

The couple has travelled to over 80 countries and had to cancel their tickets to Cuba, Russia, and Meghalaya this year.

During the lockdown, like many of us, their only connection with the outside world was their balcony. “Our balcony came to stand for so much more than an additional space in the house. It became the sanctum of peace and contemplation after one was tired of working from home. It was also a makeshift gym when we couldn’t leave our house to exercise,” says Vidit.

He adds, “We spruced it up a bit with new furniture, lots of colourful cushions and fairy lights. We also bought an inflatable mattress and made a comfortable sofa bed on our balcony, which became the perfect corner to lounge after a long day at work.”

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