Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on June 2011How long have you been in Japan and what brought you here?
Nearly 14 years. Japan was my “Academic Accident” as I temporarily took a break from my biology major to add a difficult foreign language to my undergraduate studies at Oberlin College. I was sure I would fail Japanese. Instead, I aced it, and fell in love with Japan. After college, I worked in finance here for 11 years until I started the company in March 2010.
How did Vacation Veranda come about?
The concept came to me epiphany-like in August 2009. I was about to ride the elevator down from my ninth-floor apartment, when I looked out, saw all the empty balconies and thought, “Look at all of this wasted space!” I wanted to help people realize they can take a vacation every day in their own homes. I’d helped friends coordinate their homes before, so this company was a no-brainer because I am naturally gifted at designing and decorating spaces. It’s like turning your hobby into a business. I’ve always wanted to work for myself but never thought it would be in balcony design. To be honest, losing my corporate job catapulted my business idea into a reality—but this is one reality that I wouldn’t change.
What challenges do you find with Tokyo’s small apartment sizes?
Sometimes we have to alter our veranda designs based on balconies that have built-in escape chutes. We have to design around the floor area without obstructing the chute—as safety is a high priority.
Do apartment tenants need special permission from their landlords to utilize your service?
About half our business comes from tenants. All of our designs are strong and durable, but they are also removable, so a balcony can easily be returned to its original state.
Are verandas exclusively for the summer?
Tokyo’s weather conditions allow you to be outside most of the year. Summers might be a bit hot, but save for a few very cold days, winters are mild, while spring and fall are gorgeous. We work with busy city people, so we tend to stick with sturdier perennials as the core structure for the garden design. Then we add other flowers and plants that can be switched out in a few months. Most furniture and accessories can be left outside all year round. We take time to get to know each client in order to determine their needs, and then design and create from there.
Do you design commercial verandas (i.e. for restaurants, offices, etc.)?
We are currently increasing our marketing to reach out to restaurants and other professional spaces as well, so this will be a huge focus for us going forward.
What was your favorite veranda to design?
I’d have to say the Shinjuku Tochomae terrace garden is my favorite because it encompasses all of the elements of nature: earth (lots of rocks and earthy wood flooring), trees (tons of those), water (a fishpond with a small fountain), fire (lights and candles), and sky (with an awesome view of the Shinjuku skyline).
Which Tokyo restaurants or bars have the best use of outdoor space?
Unfortunately, Tokyo isn’t known for having a culture of outside dining spaces like Europe or larger American cities. I love late lunches at the Park Hyatt café as the atmosphere there is nice. On Saturday nights, a lovely meal at Two Rooms in Aoyama on their modern, sleek terrace followed by drinks at the open-air Advocates Bar in Shinjuku. On Sundays after church, I love heading to Las Chicas in Aoyama for brunch. The patio there is lovely and usually very festive.
For more info visit www.vacationveranda.com