Dear Debbie: I'm looking for some ideas to fix up a plain (boring) city concrete patio. The concrete is old and cracked, but I am renting, so I'm not able to resurface. I'm not much of a gardener, and the area is very shady, so I can't grow much in colorful blooms. - Rita
Dear Rita: You can infuse this space with color in many ways that will elevate its character from plain to punchy. Paint some secondhand wooden garden furniture in bright white or a hot pastel shade. Why not two chairs in funky colors and a tabletop with a bold daisy face? Painting furniture is easy to do, and you can make up any design you like, from crazy bold stripes to circles that overlap. For a more traditional look, you could use a weathered paint effect on the wood and some cushions covered in a brilliant variety of weatherproof fabrics.
But don't stop there. Take your eye away from the cracked gray concrete with an outdoor carpet in a bright modern design. I spotted a series of fabulous carpets designed by Paola Lenti that are guaranteed to add spice to your setting. The Zoe carpet shown here is a swirl of circles produced by winding Lenti's signature cord material into spirals and sewing them together to make up the design. The carpet material is very durable and resists fading from sun, sea and swimming pool water.
Although you say you are not a gardener, try some pots of shade-friendly flowers such as begonias, lobelia and impatiens. They are low maintenance and produce lots of flowers that have vivid color. Any or all of these ideas will make a getaway patio that is sure to brighten the season.
Dear Debbie: I live in a condominium with a 5-foot-by-10-foot balcony off the living area. I would like to put a carpet down to cover up the concrete, but this is not allowed. Do you have any suggestions for making the balcony floor look better? - Andrew
Dear Andrew: Your balcony is part of the building's common elements, and rules do apply regarding your care of the space. When a carpet is soaked with rain and left sitting on concrete to dry, eventually the concrete's top surface will deteriorate and the carpet will grow mold and mildew. Proper care, lifting the carpet and turning it to dry thoroughly, or rolling it up when rain is expected, is required to prevent problems. Not really what you want, and is why the condo bylaws advise against carpets on balcony floors.
There is a solution that does no harm to the existing concrete. There are carpet tiles that fit into an interlocking grid system that raises the carpet 5/8 inch off the floor to allow for drainage and protect against mildew. There are also interlocking porcelain and wood floor tiles that allow standing water to evaporate. However, be sure to check with your condo board to ensure this is acceptable.
House to Home is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.