I’ve always dreamed of having a balcony. Balconies and porches are the best places to relax: a breezy spot for some tea, be it hot or iced, and a book. When Hannah and I considered living off-campus for senior year, we found an apartment with a balcony connected to one of the bedrooms. “You get the room with the balcony,” she said, as soon as we walked through. Because she’s my Hannah, and she understands my love of balconies. Of course, I would also share. Balconies are even better with company.
So when I finally found this wonderful apartment of my very own, that has not only a sewing room but also a balcony, I couldn’t wait to set up my cozy reading-and-tea space. But patio furniture is expensive. Like, really expensive. I only needed two chairs, and I was convinced I could find a deal if I combed yard sales for a few weeks.
So one Saturday in May, a few weeks before my move-in date, I embarked on my quest. I drove out first thing in the morning so I’d have plenty of time to scope out every sale in the area. I had a good chunk of cash ready in the car, and I even packed snacks.
I was low on gas, though, and long quests like this one obviously require a full tank. So I stopped by the gas station, and passed a yard sale sign. The arrow pointed toward a neighborhood of townhouses – not one that I had considered a likely location for patio furniture. But I had to start somewhere, so I followed the arrow.
Two chairs, two ottomans, cushions in need of love. Perfect! I asked the price – 20 bucks. Loaded it all into my beloved wagon and arrived home less than 20 minutes after I’d left. I unloaded the chairs into the yard to give them a quick spray-down with the hose, and my mom appeared in the doorway, appalled that I’d already found what I needed. I mean, I’d packed snacks! And instead I only spent 20 minutes and 20 bucks! It was amazing.
The cushions were incredibly ugly, and pretty dirty, but the chairs had great bones. From there, my job couldn’t be easier. I picked up some outdoor home decor fabric for its resistance to water and fading from UV exposure. Usually water-resistant fabrics only come in a few prints, so it’s hard to find something good… but I managed to find this one that has the best colors. And the brown looks so good with the brown of the chairs!
For actual cushion construction, I started by measuring the original cushions. Then I just sliced the old cushions, retaining the innards: they’re made of a plastic, light-density batting that seems like it would dry quickly if it were to get wet, as you’d expect from outdoor furniture. Usually I use new foam when reupholstering, but for this purpose, the old insides were just fine.
The original cushions were made with piping, but I decided to save some effort and just made standard dart/box corners. I did a lapped zipper on the back of each piece, taking care to match up the flowers as you see above. I only did the flower-matching on the seat-back cushions, because you can see those from my living room. Nobody sees the base of the seat-bottom cushions, so those don’t match up. (don’t tell)
In the use-what-you-have spirit, I used two medium zippers for each cushion instead of buying the long ones. It works just fine, especially since I never plan to remove the cushions. Once I was done, I just slid the batting pieces into the zipper and fluffed them a bit until the corners lined up.
As a final touch, I decided to transform one of the ottomans into a mini table. A few boards glued together, with glue blocks screwed to the bottom so it doesn’t wiggle, and a few coats of outdoor polyurethane, gives me the perfect tea surface. The other ottoman… doesn’t have a new cushion yet. I’ll get to that one eventually! For now, I’m enjoying my last few weeks of fall balcony weather. It’s definitely not iced tea season anymore, but with some hot tea and a blanket I’m still happy out there.