Photo of the Balcony today

The balcony today

Tom wrote in his last post about our difficult move to Expat Basecamp, the heart attack he suffered because of it, and his need to chill, which he did for about seven minutes.

You see, when we move—as we often have—Tom likes to set up all the furniture and rugs and lamps right away so that he can feel comfy at home. Then he throws a dinner party. He calls it “my nesting OCD.”

The indoor décor fell into place after a bit, but the balcony was bothering us both.

The balcony as it was before the blitz

The balcony before the blitz

The balcony is a goodly concrete space with bad drainage. Some of the paint on the floor had chipped down to the concrete beneath. The air conditioner was just sitting there, the size of a big dog house but not as good looking. We had two sling chaises in a dreary brown. The gas grill lurked in a menacing black coat. Hey, it’s summer! We wanted to go out on our balcony without wincing. But not with it looking as it did.

Our balcony is the one with the cathedral ceiling. Tey and Diana's balcony is directly below ours.

Our balcony is the one with the cathedral ceiling. Tey and Diana’s balcony is directly below ours.

By chance, our downstairs neighbors Tey and Diana invited us for drinks. Their balcony, identical to ours, had been turned into an outdoor living room. Wood floor, wicker arm chairs, a table cloth and tchotchkes disguising the air conditioner. They also put in a mini greenhouse full of pillar candles, which they called their “fireplace.”

And all around the walls of the balcony were banks of green plants and flowers, every one of them fake. Like us, Tey and Diana are travelers who must forgo pets or plants. Three bottles of wine later, we made up our minds to act fast.

The next morning, we were at IKEA by 10:30. We immediately found gray plastic wood-looking floor tiles that would cover the chipped floor. While we were hunting for a round aluminum table, we fell in love with a rectangular one made of white pine. All this fit into the car (amazingly—it’s a small car), and that same day our balcony had a floor and furniture. Tom put a Japanese screen around the air conditioner, which we hope to never see again, and we sat back to admire our effort.

Unfortunately, the result was all a tad industrial and not too colorful. Next day, we were back at IKEA to buy cushions in bright covers, two fake trees, and a slew of phony plants. That same day, another project brought me to Michael’s, where I discovered their fake trees were half price. (Hello, new red maple!) That night, the balcony looked quite a bit fluffier.

The fake trees, the screen around the air conditioner, and Tom's beloved barbeque

The fake trees, the screen around the air conditioner, and Tom’s beloved barbeque

We can entertain now, and Tom seems happy. But I get blue when there’s no more stuff to shop for. Why did we do it all so fast? Well, I can do more for the balcony. An outdoor Persian rug, perhaps. A trellis dripping with plastic ivy. A Margaritaville Adirondack chair. A wall of heavy duck curtains. And because the ceiling arches up 30 feet, maybe a clutch of hanging plants. It’s a whole extra room!

Now I just have to convince Tom that we’re not quite done.