If you live in an urban environment, your apartment balcony may be your only outdoor oasis. With some thoughtfulness beforehand, even the smallest balcony can be a fabulous asset to your living space.
The first step is to figure out what you want your balcony to provide. If you have a gardener’s heart, you may want to fill the space with plants. If you love to entertain, you may have visions of outdoor dining. Maybe you just want an outdoor retreat where you can escape with a good book–and maybe you want all these things for your apartment balcony.
First, what style do you want for your apartment balcony? Do you envision your balcony as an extension of your indoor space or do you want the balcony to be an unexpected surprise? Do you want it to be a romantic space or an exciting space full of color and fun objects?
Evaluate Your Balcony
The next step is to evaluate your balcony. Is your apartment balcony in full sun all day or total shade–or a mix of both? What are the surfaces constructed of? Is there a rail or a solid wall? Does your balcony project out from the building or is it recessed into the building? What is the flooring made of? Most balconies have a poured cement floor, but some have wooden decking. Are there existing lights and electrical outlets?
Take pictures and accurately measure everything. You don’t want to purchase a piece of furniture only to find out it is an inch too wide to fit on your balcony.
Evaluate The View
The last step is to evaluate the view. Does your balcony look over a park or an attractive street below, or are you looking at the parking lot or the roof of the neighboring building? Maybe the view out is great, but the view directly below is objectionable. Are you comfortable with the privacy of your balcony or do you feel like everyone in the next building is watching you?
Determining these things can help you decide how you want to decorate.
So let’s get started! Always check the rules of the building and stay in compliance. It can be very expensive to return a painted floor to its unpainted original state!
There are many options for flooring. Interlocking wood or plastic decking tiles are a great option. They snap together to cover your floor and are easily removed if you are a renter. Relatively inexpensive, these wood tiles are available at stores like IKEA. If you prefer a softer look, consider outdoor carpeting.
These carpets have come a long way and come in solid colors or patterns. Choose a single carpet to cover the floor or several small rugs in coordinating or complementary colors. Just be sure to purchase a carpet that is made for the outdoors and will stand up to the sun and rain. Some people choose to cover the floor with artificial turf to give a backyard feel to their balcony. Painting the floor may also be an option. If painting is allowed, choose a background color and then use a stencil to create more interest and the look of tile.
2. Privacy and Shade
If either of these are an issue on your apartment balcony, you want to address this next. The addition of trellising can provide some privacy, block unfortunate views and provide shade while still allowing air circulation. The open spaces of the trellis allow light in and minimize the closed-in feel of a more solid barrier. Add a vining flower like morning glories to your trellis for beauty and a garden feel. If you want to keep the outward view but hide the area below your balcony, consider covering the rail. You could use reed mat fencing or purchase a solid privacy screen. These also are available online and at stores like IKEA. These come with fasteners that help attach them to the existing rail.
Another option is to line the rail with plants, attach window boxes to the rails and plant with flowers that hang over the side of the planter. Put containers and planter boxes on the floor next to the rail and fill with flowers to attract the eye away from the view below. Some buildings will allow you to attach an awning to the building. These can be made to roll out manually or many have a remote control feature and provide shade when needed.
If you have room, a small table would be ideal. Many can fold up when not in use. There are also shelves that attach right to the top of your rail and provide enough room for dinner to be served.
When selecting furniture, you should make sure to choose items that are made for outdoor use. Also, look for multifunctional use. Choose a couch or chair with storage in the base. A stool can be used as an end table or for additional seating.
Lighting can set the mood on your balcony. Choose solar candles for a romantic feel. They won’t go out in bad weather and are recharged automatically if you keep the solar panel toward the sun. String lights come in tons of different styles and can give a party feel to your balcony or a more serene atmosphere. Also, check out solar garden lights or backlight a large potted plant to feature it at night.
6. Vertical space
Moreover, don’t forget your vertical space. Cover the wall with a heavy wire mesh. Use hooks to attach plants in pots or window boxes. Attach art pieces and shelving. The possibilities are endless. Some people have grown entire vegetable gardens on their balcony wall!
Choose your plants with the amount of sun as your main criteria. If your balcony is in shade most of the time, consider plants like hostas, impatiens, begonias and ferns. A large single plant that takes the role of a tree on your balcony can be a real showstopper. There is no reason you can’t grow vegetables on your balcony if you have at least six hours of sun. Try cherry tomatoes, lettuce, herbs and bush beans.
Your balcony can be a gorgeous space that turns from a simple place to drink your morning coffee to a small oasis designed for comfort, beauty and relaxation.