Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 October 2020

Before and after: former Emirates crew's balcony makeover transforms into business

Georgina Griffin started Bespoke Balconies DXB after receiving a huge response to her own balcony transformation

For the thousands of people across the UAE who live in high-rise apartments, balconies are their only slice of outdoor space.

And those spaces became more important this year as many people hunkered down in their homes for months due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For Georgina Griffin, 28, the stay-at-home period was the perfect time to give her balcony a spruce up.

At the start of the pandemic, Griffin was working as cabin crew for Emirates, but with all flights being grounded, she took on the project as a way to keep herself busy.

“I had zero work, zero things to do. I had wanted to do the balcony for a long time and couldn’t find any furniture to fit, so I ordered some pallets and got painting them,” she says. “I couldn’t find any cushions to fit so I decided to order myself a sewing machine and at the same time teach myself to sew.”

With the help of YouTube and the remnants of her knowledge from her secondary school textiles class, she started making made-to-measure cushions to fit the pallets, which she hand-sands and varnishes. “Once you’ve done one, you can do hundreds,” she says. “It’s surprising how quickly all my school textiles and woodwork knowledge came flooding back.”

For her own balcony makeover, Griffin, who is from the UK, chose to paint the pallets blue to match the theme of her apartment, adding neutral touches to complement the newly installed furniture.

“I posted some pictures to my Instagram page, and honestly I don’t think I’ve ever had such a huge response to anything,” she says.

When you’ve got a nice space to go to outside, you just want to spend all your time out there, and I just want to be able to do that for people

Georgina Griffin

Soon, her friends were asking her to help them make over their balconies, and before long, a business idea was born.

“My friends were all really happy with their balconies and, after they posted pictures on social media, I started receiving more messages from people asking if I could do theirs,” Griffin says. “It was quite a nice way to start a business, because obviously it’s a bit daunting starting a new thing, so it was great to work with friends and I learnt a lot. Every job I do I learn more and more. Even just the fabrics, you learn what’s durable, what works best.”

Within a few weeks of creating Bespoke Balconies DXB, Griffin was let go from Emirates as part of the company's cuts in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. “I don’t think I would have ever tried to start my own business if I hadn’t had that extra push. I’ve always loved homes and interiors, and I know I’ve got the artistic side of things, but I think I would have continued to underestimate myself in regards to what I could do on the business side of things.

"But if you get pushed into the deep end, you’re going to survive. You’re just going to push yourself even further.”

It’s been three months since Griffin started working on Bespoke Balconies full time, and she has now designed 15 balconies across the city, and has a waitlist of clients. From tiny, narrow slithers to wide, open terraces, Griffin has transformed a number of spaces using made-to-measure pallets and cushions, adding bespoke decorative touches, including fairy lights, flower walls, rugs and candles.

Griffin works closely with a client to draw up plans for the space, and can supply the basic furniture, or help with the full styling of the space.

“When I go to people’s houses, what I like to do is use a lot of the interior design and the vibe that they have already got, and transition that outside so it all flows,” she says. “So it’s actually quite easy to get a colour scheme or a theme based on what they have already got. When you’ve got a nice space to go to outside, you just want to spend all your time out there, and I just want to be able to do that for people. It’s an extension of your home at the end of the day.”

With each balcony design, Griffin says she feels as excited as she did when she was transforming her own space, and that the reaction of her clients has been the best part about starting the business.

“There’s one balcony I did that was really, really narrow, and the client was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it because it was so small, but as soon as I saw it I had ideas flooding my head, and she was so shocked and grateful,” she says. “The before and after was crazy. I need to start videoing people’s responses because her reaction was just amazing. That for me is when all that running around and labour is worth it.”

Griffin has also just been commissioned to create an outdoor space for a hotel in Dubai, a daunting task, but one she can’t wait to get started on. “All I had in my head at the start of all this was to make a really nice balcony for us. But it was just a really natural growth,” she says. “There is a silver lining to everything, and losing my job was a blessing in disguise, even though I didn’t realise it at the time."

She adds: “A lot of people at Emirates weren’t ready to leave, but hopefully I can show that there is hope out there and you shouldn’t be afraid to take the plunge and start something for yourself, you never know where it will take you.”

More of Griffin’s designs can be viewed on the Bespoke Balconies DXB Instagram page

Updated: September 28, 2020 10:36 AM

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