Founders Lane Masthead
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Her Exteriors: A garden sanctuary in the city

Laura Peppas

Living in an apartment in the city has many perks: convenience, good lifestyle and easy maintenance.

Yet my husband and I, like other apartment-dwellers, often yearn for a backyard space or garden to retreat in.

Kate Gmizic and Kylie Eaton, of local styling business Madame Gazelle, recently showed us we could have the best of both worlds after transforming our own apartment balcony.

The styling process began with an initial consultation, where Kate and Kylie looked at our balcony space and discussed our likes, dislikes, lifestyle and budget.

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Our balcony is large (86 square metres, wrapping around to the bedrooms) and had not yet been decorated aside from a dining table and a few plastic chairs, so there was a lot of room to work with.

A few weeks after our meeting, Kate and Kylie put together a mood board and a recommended layout. We then arranged another meeting to discuss which items we loved and which we weren’t so keen on. (Although, to be honest, they had pretty much nailed the brief dead on, so there wasn’t much to change.)

After getting the go-ahead from us, Kate and Kylie began purchasing furniture, plants and decorative items from a range of local stores including IKEA, Bunnings and Bliss Garden, to fit our pre-arranged budget. A day was then spent setting up and styling the balcony.

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Kylie explains furniture was chosen to mirror the “modern feel” of the apartment.

“We wanted to embrace the warmth from the inside of the apartment, using burnt orange pillows and timber accents, to make sure it was an extension of the whole space,” says Kylie.

“As the balcony isn’t completely covered, we chose heavy furniture so that it can face the wind and other elements, and broke up the charcoal and concrete tiling with the grass feature. Creating different ‘rooms’ is really important with a larger space like this one – you’ve got your living space, dining space, your guest room space spilling out and the private bedroom balcony.”

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When my husband and I walked in to see the new and improved balcony for the first time, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces – goodbye blank slate, hello oasis. The set up was so enticing, you could almost hear the drinks being poured or smell steak cooking on the barbeque. Perfect for entertaining. Meanwhile, the bedroom balcony was our own private haven, a closed off nook with two comfy chairs, a table and screening with jasmine climbing up for privacy. I could immediately picture myself there, reading a book on a lazy Saturday afternoon with the sun dappling through.

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Kate says it’s all about creating a “lifestyle” for their clients.

“Our inspiration always comes first and foremost from our clients,” she says.

“I think every job is unique, even if we are dealing with the same space. So we’ll look at their lifestyle, their indoor space, and the outdoor elements to make sure it completely caters to their needs.”

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With a rise in apartment living, Kate says more people are looking to revamp their balconies.

“We find a lot of people have trouble decorating their apartment balconies, because there’s so many magazines out there with amazing big backyards, and landscapes, but when you’ve got a smaller balcony or little pergola sometimes it’s harder to think about what to do because you’ve really got to make the most of that smaller space,” she says.

“Whether it’s a house or apartment, there’s an emotional value in having a great outdoor area – you want people to picture themselves there. It’s hard to visualise sometimes, so it’s working with the things you like and making it work within your size or area.”

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And while many residents have great ideas for outdoor spaces, executing them on their own can be a challenge.

“Sometimes just the support that we can give is enough,” says Kate.

“Time is more valuable than money these days, if you’re going to walk into a store and procrastinate, as we all do, over three or four different couches on your weekends, it’s very, very time consuming and you can lose motivation.

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“When we’re styling, it can be done within about three or four weeks from first consultation to finished product, and in the cooler months it can happen a lot quicker, so it’s nice to know you can be entertaining guests in that time.”

That couldn’t be more true for my husband and I. If it wasn’t for Kate and Kylie, we’d probably still be stuck in IKEA, arguing over chairs. There’s a sense of relief that it’s all done; and we’ve had more people over for dinner in the last few weeks than since we moved in two years ago.

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Find more information on Madame Gazelle here: www.madamegazelle.com

All photos by Rodrigo Vargas. 

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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