We don’t get the warm summer nights they brag about in Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto or Montreal. Those of us who grew up in this temperate rainforest climate know this, so it’s not helpful to keep pointing it out. The rapid migration here from the rest of Canada may explain why suddenly we’re all bent on buying a ‘better’ summer climate by racing out to get this year’s version of that environmental nightmare, the propane space heater. I like the warm and toasty restaurant patio as much as the next guy but I wouldn’t buy one of the gargantuan heaters myself, simply because they’re a colossal waste of energy. They’re also ugly. And they’re prone to breaking down, so I tend to view them as propane bombs.
It comes down to this: Either we can whine about what we don’t have, construct some fantasy of what we demand (hello, leaky California-style condos) or we can work with what we’ve got. What we’ve got are cool, dry summer nights — ideal conditions for a drinks bar or cold appetizer buffet for the small-space dweller who loves to entertain but can’t accommodate more than six dinner guests most of the year. There’s no danger the hooch will boil in their decanters and the glassware stays cool. It’s chill enough to keep the chardonnay from swimming in an ice-bucket full of bath water, and there’s no opening and closing an ugly plastic cooler just to get a beer. Here, the bottles can be nestled into a wide galvanized bucket full of ice, a centerpiece. Anyone who’s ever picnicked in the Okanagan in the height of the summer would appreciate a spread of hors d’oeuvres that doesn’t immediately ossify or break into a greasy sweat before your first bite. Best of all, the whole arrangement keeps people circulating as they dip out for a fresh drink or a nibble, and makes the most out of a small indoor space.
Some ideas for the balcony bar:
>> Two stacked picnic benches covered with a large white tablecloth make a space-saving buffet table.
>> Pump up the glam factor by decanting a variety of drink choices in glass or crystal bottles (with labels).
>> Use wire-mesh domes to keep bugs at bay and arrange nibblies on platters that are about the same diameter.
>> Drape a throw over the back of each chair — for those who love the West Coast chill.
Carlyn Yandle is a Vancouver journalist with her own room-planning business, Home Reworks (www.homereworks.com). She dwells on urban-home issues every Thursday in Metro.