SINGAPORE - Balconies provide a perfect transition between the indoors and the wilderness while adding a marvellous architectural element to an otherwise enclosed space.
More homeowners here are making a concerted effort to transform the space into a well designed and useful area, a far cry from using balconies as simply a viewing gallery.
And plants tend to often be the primary element in such a transformation.
"Greenery and nature in its various elements have a very powerful effect, but need to be used in the right way," explained Colleen Wu Ying, managing director of Consis Engineering Pte Ltd, whose firm has constructed various types of green walls in residential and commercial properties here.
"People have always loved plants but as we see in many HDB alleyways, potted plants all over can be very messy," she added.
In a bid to overcome the logistical challenges posed by potted plants, Ms Wu's firm has developed a patented system that allows plants to be potted against a vertical wall and for each pot to be fitted with an individual drip tube to facilitate easy watering.
The result is a neat and organised garden structure called a green wall, often used in commercial buildings but now slowly being adopted by private home-owners in their balconies.
One such user is architect and facade specialist Kelvin Kan, who recently transformed the balcony space in his apartment by installing two vertical green walls so as to create a neat garden without compromising on space.
A dedicated proponent of sustainability, Mr Kan wanted to ensure that green walls would provide a greater benefit than just having a decorative quality and hence positioned the green walls to act as a curtain, shading the living room from the sun's rays.
The more commonly seen balcony designs that essentially entails a platform protected by balustrades or a rail is due to the fact that balconies have historically been used as a soap box or stage, to hold ceremonies or public announcements changes.
However, this traditional look is giving way to more creatively designed structures that encompass an aesthetic value alongside a useful purpose, especially in urban areas where space is a constraint.
This has led to balcony spaces doubling as a reading and relaxing area or as a service space to dry laundry.
Furthermore, with the growing affluence of residents here, more homeowners are making the special effort to ensure that their balconies exude a sentiment in synchrony with the theme of their home - be it Balinese, naturalistic, or modernistic.