Urban Jungle in a Small Space Condo

 Source: @ studioplants

Source: @studioplants

In a city like Toronto, condos are becoming an increasingly common dwelling. But, as concrete as the exterior is, you don't have to mimic that on the inside. It's possible to have an urban jungle in a small-space condo and despite the challenges, it's a rewarding and beneficial thing to do.

For context, we used to live in Liberty Village, which is well known for its high-rise density. We were surrounded by uninspiring cookie-cutter units with just the tiniest park at the heart of it. The first year we lived here, I barely grew a thing but over time built a green retreat that brought life back into city living. Despite no longer living in a condo, I'm inspired by the continued ingenuity of small-space living (I still practice it in certain areas of our new home) and encourage the idea that you can grow plants despite your limitations.


Layout

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Size: 525sqft

This was what we were working with: only the open concept living area had windows and everything else was shrouded in darkness. This mean we could really only concentrate the plants in one area.

We were south-western facing, so the lighting, when it came, was great. The main issue was simply the lack of windows. We had zero lighting in the bedroom (could you really call it a proper bedroom?).

A further challenge was that I freelance full-time so that meant a portion of that precious living space had to be allotted to a home office so we were left with just enough space for a couch and no dining table. We had a "den" but without proper light, it quickly turned into a glorified storage area.

For a first-time home, it did its job and what it lacked in size, it made up in ease of cleaning and encouraged a compact lifestyle that trimmed unnecessaries.


The Small Space

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Here is the open-concept area with the work desk and the neighbouring couch that was flush behind my chair. The benefits to living in a small space is that it's easy to make it verdant: a handful of plants is all you need and you are already well on your way to urban jungle status.

 

The "Plant Shelfie" Progress:

July 2016

September 2016

January 2017

February 2017

This area was our main plant wall. It served as our green backdrop and is the area I miss the most. This wall was transformative and as bright as our little condo was, it still needed supplemental lighting, which I added later on. I remember nights where I would turn off all the lights and simply bask in its pinkish glow.


Challenges & Solutions

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Limited Space:

This is a given, but it's worth mentioning. The solution was to plant up and that meant exhausting our walls with shelves and planters. Don't limit yourself with traditional tabletops and plant stands.

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Low Humidity:

The way condos are built usually means that they are incredibly dry. I eventually added a humidifier and used a hygrometer to help measure that I was running it long enough. This was a must during the winter! See how to increase humidity in this post too.

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Lack of Light:

Some condos have obstructed views and ours was one. Despite being cascaded in light, it was often for just a few hours: being on the first floor mean it was not nearly as bright as a high story unit of the same orientation. So I substitited sun with a LED grow light in my darkest corner.


Despite the often frustrating feeling of growing in a small space condo, these years were amongst the most endearing years I had with my partner. We were young, newly moved in together and I was figuring out what a nest really meant. It housed colourful swatches of emotions (elation, contentment, frustration and sadness) and I will always remember it as a well-loved former home myself and Waldek had despite its confusingly tense final year. If I, as a former black thumb, grew so much in so little space, you can too.

To see how I gardened outdoors in a tiny patio, click here.


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