One thing that has really hit home during the long lockdown months is just how valuable having my own little slice of outdoor space would be.
Although I’d moved a few short weeks before everything kicked off into a more spacious apartment, with double-height ceilings and an abundance of skylights, we certainly felt the lack of any kind of outdoor area in which to soak up the sun during those wonderful few weeks of ‘summer’ we had in April and early May. So when rental pioneers Get Living got in touch recently and asked me to collaborate with them on a balcony makeover at their new canal side neighbourhood between Salford and Manchester city centre, I jumped at the chance.
New Maker Yards by Get Living is a community of built-to-rent homes located in Middlewood Locks, within easy walking distance of bustling Spinningfields. It’s not far from where I used to live in Salford Quays and is certainly a new up-and-coming area in the city, with lots of wonderful new amenities and plenty of housing. There’s even a new Seven Bro7hers beerhouse on site! This is their first foray into the North, but I’d previously been wowed by a visit to their East Village neighbourhood in London back in 2013, which repurposed accommodation from London 2012’s athlete’s village (oh, doesn’t that wonderful year feel so very long ago now!) into contemporary private rental homes.
As the UK’s largest build-to-rent landlord, Get Living brings its attractive no fees, no deposits proposition to New Maker Yards. Built around three historic canal basins and bounded by the River Irwell – famously the border between Manchester and Salford – the purpose-built neighbourhood offers brand new fully-furnished homes for rent, with broadband included as standard, and promises to offer “the buzz of two great cities, amidst the cool calmness of the canals.” Crucially, all the homes come with personal outdoor space included – either as balconies or terraces – and as an added bonus, they’re pet-friendly too!
Balconies, especially in Manchester’s city centre, are a key selling point for properties and following the recent lockdown I can imagine they have become even more sought after! I’d given quite a bit of thought as to how I’d style my own outdoor space during those first few never-ending weeks indoors, so already had a million different ideas for how I’d style a balcony when Get Living first got in touch. Even with a fairly modest budget of £250 it’s easy to transform a small outdoor space like a balcony or terrace into your own private oasis to enjoy throughout the day.
For me, a balcony would become an immediate extension of my home’s living and dining space, and I would enjoy nothing more than waking up early and heading outside with a morning cup of coffee to watch the sun rise and the city below begin to wake. On the weekend – or to be honest, any day of the week given how much lockdown has played with the notion of a weekly schedules! – I would love to set a table outdoors with a continental breakfast feast; fresh croissants, honey and jam, fruit juice – and a steaming pot of coffee, of course.
My starting point for affordable, stylish, contemporary furniture was naturally IKEA. Outdoor furniture needs to be durable, flexible and, most important of all – especially in Manchester – weather-proof. The smooth white plastic VÄDDÖ set of table and two chairs – a steal at just £60 – was the perfect choice, especially as the tabletop can be easily removed and the legs closed down flat for storage (either indoors, or tied securely against the balcony railings) whenever you want to give yourself more space to move around the balcony. You know, for sunbathing or early morning yoga – whatever takes your fancy..
A balcony also offers the perfect place to nurture your personal herb garden or flex your green-fingers with a few hardy outdoor potted plants. IKEA has a number of great lightweight shelving options, but I particularly love this vibrant green galvanised steel KOLBJÖRN unit (£45). It can be safely attached to the wall outdoors for added security, but is also a great little unit that can be moved indoors and repurposed in the bathroom or hallway during the winter months if desired. It’s a good height for working when it comes to potting and pruning your plants, and provides ample space for storage – or decoration – depending upon your needs.
For me it would provide a wonderful space for my new Piccolo seed packs to flourish, as well as a spot to store my various planters, pots and gardening tools when not in use. You could even purchase a plastic outdoor furniture cover to protect it from the elements if you plan to leave the shelving out all year round.
Another fantastically versatile piece of indoor/outdoor furniture is the HUSARÖ dark grey side table (£45), which looked equally at home amongst the stylish Scandinavian-style furnishings of the show home apartment as it did outside on the balcony. It’s a piece that has endless uses, serving as a side table for odds and ends, a place to stack up a pile of summer reads, rest your drink as you sunbathe, or serve up evening sundowners when you have guests (or simply want to treat yourself). The over-arching handle makes it really easy to pick up and move around as needed, and the wide sturdy base means a gust of Manchester wind is unlikely to topple it. I love the bulbous geometric shape, and think it contrasts beautifully against the clean white of the table and chairs, and the heritage green colour pop of the shelving.
The simple form of the VÄDDÖ chairs make them really versatile for using throughout the day, and when it comes to mid-afternoon sunbathing, all you need is a colourful beach towel to drape over them (bare skin and plastic is not such a great combo!) and you’re ready to relax. This Cabana stripe beach towel in sunny Mimosa from Cheshire-based heritage brand Christy screams ‘Summer’ to me, and is so soft and gentle against the skin.
I also like the gentle nod towards the Manchester Bee in the black and yellow colour pairing, the emblem for the city for over 150 years, denoting Mancunians’ hard work ethic and idea of the city as a hive of activity. Ditto the yellow cushions used in the breakfast scene. Placing the HUSARÖ side table alongside this set-up makes it a fantastic little spot to while away a good few hours in the Manchester sun (yes, we do occasionally get some..), making sure to have a good bottle of sunscreen close to hand of course!
The base of the HUSARÖ is also the perfect shape for fitting a good-sized basket underneath and keep all your sun-bathing essentials – such as books, magazines, a water bottle and some headphones – close to hand and easily accessible. Or a handy blanket for when the Manchester winds inevitably pick up. I love this monochrome diamond weave throw from Northern Quarter stalwart Oklahoma.
As the afternoon begins to fade I can’t imagine anything nicer than being able to sit out on my balcony with a G&T in hand, simply taking in that breathtaking view across to Spinningfields and Manchester city centre beyond.
The apartment balcony we were photographing was ideally placed at the end of the block, alongside the canal, and had a fantastic view over the new Seven Bro7hers beerhouse, the latest outpost of the Salford-based brewery (which is coincidentally located on the same street I used to live on). That’s certainly an admirable quality of the Get Living neighbourhood ethos, as a champion of the local community and independent businesses. While I’m not personally a fan of beer I know just how many loyal fans Seven Bro7hers have in the city. If you’ve not come across them before, they are seven actual brothers from Salford who love beer, and also have four sisters who love gin. Yes, really! Sis4ers gin is one of my favourites amongst the numerous artisanal gin brands around these days. I met two of the sisters when they first launched their brand at an event at the Lowry in Salford, and would highly recommend getting your hands on a bottle if you’re a gin drinker. They’ve just launched a new Lime & Thyme infusion, pictured here, which is utterly delicious!
So there you have it, that’s how I would style up a balcony with a Modern Minimal flair should I be lucky enough to have my own – or to live at New Maker’s Yards! And if you like my style and fancy winning the look, then you’re in for a treat…
I’ve teamed up with Get Living and their two other balcony stylists, Ania Lysik and Hayley Jade, to offer you the chance to win the components of your favourite balcony look. Included in my Modern Minimal giveaway package are the following:
- VÄDDÖ table and chair set
- HUSARÖ side table
- KOLBJÖRN shelving unit
- GLIMRANDE lantern
- 2x yellow cushion covers
- Cabana stripe beach towel from Christy
- Cotton diamond weave throw from Oklahoma
- 2x Nordic Sand side plates from Rose & Grey
- Set of two retro vases from Nordic Muse
*Nb. all other items used to style the set are my own, and are not included in the giveaway.
To enter all you need to do is head over to my Instagram and:
- Like my post
- Follow @NewMakerYards and @SimplyGetLiving
- Comment on your favourite look (so Hayleigh’s, Ania’s or mine) on the @NewMakerYards channel, and tag the person you would spend a #balconymoment with
The giveaway closes at 17.00 BST on Monday 10 August 2020, and is open to UK entrants only. Full T&Cs can be viewed in @NewMakerYards story highlights. Good luck!
This post is in partnership with Get Living, but all words & opinions are, as always, my own. Photography © Kate Baxter & Luis Leiva.