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High-rise dwellers in urban centers have to make do with whatever tiny bit of outdoor space they may have -- and that very much includes rooftops and fire escapes. While they may not be safe to hang out on, they are sometimes people's only view of the great outdoors. And with COVID-19 keeping many Americans housebound, an outdoor view is now more precious than ever.
For people looking to maximize every square inch of living space, a DIY fire escape project might be just the right rehab project for early summer. There's not much space to fill -- with the general guideline being that you should leave more visible metal than decorated space. But even one or two cool ideas could liven up the whole vibe.
Keeping those constraints in mind, here are a few ideas for a visually appealing fire escape where you can escape the indoors for short times without leaving your building.
1. Hanging plants
Place them around the perimeter, either in shelves that affix to the building structure or planters that hook to the fire escape railing. Plants should be within arm's reach for easy regular upkeep.
2. Fire escape garden
If a few hanging plants no longer satisfy your urban green space ambitions, Pinterest has an entire subsection of fire escape gardening décor inspo, which mainly utilizes window boxes, although in places where potted plants are allowed, those are an easier alternative. Container gardens are also an interesting option in this era where more and more people look to grow their own food. Your choices should depend on the climate, the size of the fire escape and what's legal in your city.
3. Affix a shelf
Again, keep in mind that putting furniture out on the floor part of the fire escape is illegal -- it impedes the path of emergency exit, which is its true purpose. Some people get around this by finding shelves that hook onto the railing. On shelves, place outdoor dining accouterments, decorative objects, plants, a mist sprayer, etc.
4. A hammock or hanging chair
This is getting close to the line of what can legally occupy fire escape space, but if your fire escape is big enough that the furniture doesn't obstruct entry or exit, and the railing/structure is sturdy enough to bear the weight, a hanging chair or hammock is something to consider. It can transform your fire escape into usable space without specifically breaking the law that states no furniture items on the floor area.
5. Add fun, funky signage as an accent
This is an easy way to add character and charm. Signs take less upkeep than plants and are basically like wall art that you share with the neighborhood. Vintage tin wall decals, chalkboards, and antique exit signs all make their own sort of statement and are a safer sort of wall décor than lighting would be.
6. Floor coverings
The sturdy metal construction of fire escapes does not feel great underfoot, so putting mats out is commonplace, especially in places where seasonal rains otherwise tend to make for slippery and uncomfortable footing. If you decide to take your fire escape utilization to the next level, you could put down bamboo bath mats, a small but sturdy area rug, or even keep the space for a yoga mat.
Balance fun and function -- keeping safety first
In cities where outdoor space is hard to come by and square footage is at a premium, it's hard to ignore the lure of the fire escape, especially when so many folks have vastly reduced their time in the real outdoors. Just keep in mind, you can't legally utilize a fire escape as a balcony, can't place lots of objects on the floor area, and can't use them for storage. Keep clear the exit path from room to fire escape to drop ladder and down; this is, of course, their critical primary purpose.
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