As we grapple with Tier restrictions, ahead of a supposed five-day relaxation over Christmas, Londoners will be looking to spruce up even the minimal outdoor space any visitors will see.
Even if it’s just a doorstep, at a two-metre distance.
You can do something with even the tiniest footprint, a big dollop of imagination and a relatively low spend.
If you’ve nothing more than a front step you can still catch a few winter rays and wave at the neighbours from a waterproof beanbag (pre-Christmas delivery on offer at beanbagbazaar.co.uk — there’s even one for toddlers).
Candles in jam jars or hurricane lamps will provide atmospheric lighting for long, dark evenings. Add festoons or strings of fairy lights (try lighting-direct.co.uk).
Always check any electric fittings are safe to use outside — faults could be lethal — at electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk and use a registered professional for installations.
Market researcher Pippa Keen turned the communal walkway to her Islington flat into a “fake balcony”, with a little foldable table and chairs, now adding candles and blankets — “just a tiny space I overlooked until this year”.
“Blur the boundaries between outside and in,” says interior designer Shanade McAllister-Fisher, with a small balcony off a flat in a Georgian townhouse in Maida Vale. “You need flexible furniture for a tight space” — hers is from Ikea, up-styled with a luxury outdoor fabric from Kirkby with purple piping. A fringe of black planters (from Clifton Nurseries) gives a little privacy.
They are filled with lavender — a hardy English variety for evergreen silver-grey leaves and relaxing scent from the dried flowers right through winter.
Unsurprisingly, cosy garden stuff is still in high demand.
Fire pits are feisty, festive, essentially elemental and relatively cheap — though they are not suitable for balconies and you should check before using on a deck. Add a griddle for smoky sausages and burgers. The cognoscenti love authentic Indian Kadai bowls hand-beaten from thick steel or made from recycled oil drums (from £95; kadai.co.uk).
The more ambitious of us now have the time to make pizza. The best gadgets are designed by cooks and Ooni is the brand for starter ovens, perfected by a Finnish couple now living in Edinburgh (from £229, portable and charcoal/ wood fired; uk.ooni.com).
Folksy chimeneas with a round belly plus smokestack can still be found at B&Q. City-smart are new minimalist models at made.com (black with brass base; £169). But you will still need plenty of blankets — washable is best — and maybe a hot water bottle, too.
Soften everything up with cushions — stuff them into a big basket to bring inside when it rains. Eco outdoor furnishings are made from old plastic bottles at Weaver Green (cushions from £30; blankets, £45; rugs from £40; weavergreen.com).
Painting outside space
Harness a fine day for a paint makeover but match your paint to what you are painting because there are lots of different types.
And remember, prep, prep, prep — all surfaces should be dry, clean and smooth.
Cuprinol has a designer palette of wood stains in “nature’s neutrals” — £20 for 2.5 litres from B&Q (think sheds, furniture and fences).
Add pops of gloss on revamped planters and an old chair or two. A black fence makes small spaces seem bigger – use Ducksback, £11 for a generous five litres (B&Q again) as it’s a great background for plants.
No flower bed?
Make a raised planter cheaply with painted concrete blocks or find slot-together wood at Robert Dyas, or have a look at smarter/bespoke options from woodblocx.co.uk.
Stuff planters with winter pansies, cyclamen, glossy-leaved camellias, “handsome heuchuras” with multi-coloured leaves and evergreens and berries – browse gardeningexpress.co.uk.
Try popping in a Christmas rose or three (hellebores) for exquisitely optimistic blooms into the New Year.