July 24, 2024

Decorating a balcony has the potential to be one of the greatest joys—or hardships—that come with apartment living. If sizable, you’re naturally in store for a cozy outdoor space that gets you a view and lots of natural light. But if you’re not so lucky, you could be forced to swallow the sight of bricks and the shadow of your neighbor’s bedroom until your lease ends. 

Don’t fret though: No matter the size or shape of your balcony, my golden rule of three will transform it into the alfresco space of your dreams. Get ready for a summer of curling up with a good book while getting some sun and at-home coffee dates.

Apartment Balcony Golden Rule of Three

  1. Create the aesthetic of your balcony using furniture. Choose pieces and fixtures based on your needs, such as cushioned chairs for maximum comfort or a patio set up for socializing.
  2. Add life to your balcony by filling it with greenery: Potted plants, climbers, and a small vegetable garden are all easy to maintain and don’t take up too much space. 
  3. Lighting can be the make-or-break detail of your balcony. Brighten it up with mini lamps, lanterns, and plenty of candles. (You can never have too many.)

First, Furniture 

Appropriate Seating

Choose your apartment balcony design based on your lifestyle. Do you live alone? Get comfortable with an armchair that turns reading the morning paper into the highlight of your day. Fill it with cushions and blankets, and make it inviting for yourself. 

Do you live with a partner or a roommate? Opt instead for a sofa, two chairs paired with a coffee table or a sectional to make use of those awkward corners. Get a patio set if you want that chic, European cafe look—perfect for an early dinner with your best friend or teatime with your neighbor. 

Nesting Furniture

If lack of space is a concern on your balcony, try nesting furniture. These pieces are built to fit together in a way that optimizes the layout. They can also be stacked and stored away and are often lightweight and mobile.

Balcony Workstation

As hybrid jobs become more popular, working from home can feel like a major (and sometimes suffocating) adjustment. Install a hanging table off your railings, and relocate your work area to your balcony for a temporary change of scenery. 

Karin Lidbeck Brent

A Swing for the Kids or a Hanging Chair for You

A larger patio can typically accommodate a hammock, but if you’re looking for a smaller alternative for your apartment balcony, get a swing for your little one or a stylish egg chair for yourself. Either can be safely hung onto sturdy hooks off of the ceiling; just make sure you have enough space to go back and forth a few feet.

Umbrella and Fabric Awnings

Does the sun come in too powerfully to lounge on your balcony comfortably? An umbrella can shield you from those blinding rays. Just find a corner and place it over your seating. 

If you’re a little tight on floorspace, balcony curtains or awnings serve the same purpose without the bulkiness. You can also find waterproof balcony curtains, so you won’t have to worry about them getting ruined by a sudden summer storm.

A Lounge Chair

Alternatively, if you’re looking forward to getting some sun, invest in a lounge chair with good padding for cozy sunbathing. Lather on some sunscreen and kick back on a trusty Chaise lounge chair. 

Consider Your Climate

Keep in mind what the weather is like throughout the seasons. You may want to invest in element-resistant furniture, such as a reliable resin-wicker chair or a hardwood base sofa for long-lasting and wear-proof options. If you prefer fuss-free items, modern plastic furniture serves as a low-maintenance alternative. Furniture covers also go a long way if you like to keep plenty of blankets and pillows on your balcony or your location gets a lot of extreme weather. 

Go Green

Peter Krumhardt

A Vegetable Garden

A balcony is usually the only place in an apartment where you can grow a substantial number of plants. Make use of that outdoor space and fill it up with a small vegetable garden—anything from a tomato plant to a small lemon tree can be your centerpiece. Plus, you get fresh produce to use in your garden-to-table dishes.

Climber Plants

To be economical space-wise, consider keeping your floors clear for furniture by growing climber plants in lantern pots, peppering the walls with them, or snaking them around your railings. 

Climber plants have a unique feature called aerial roots. These roots cling onto objects and wrap themselves around them by secreting a sticky substance, growing toward the direction of the light. Because these plants reach for the sun by themselves, they’re relatively self sufficient. 

Jason Donnelly

Potted Plants

Hanging potted plants can also make a standout addition to any balcony, especially with some gorgeous trailing plants in hanging containers. Just place them at a height you can reach so you can water them effectively.

You can also hang balcony planter boxes over your railings to give the effect of an overflowing garden. Compared to wall planters, these boxes can carry a heavier load and feature deep containers for a larger variety of plants. 

I covered my balcony railing with planter boxes, pairing my red brick exterior with cream-colored furniture and terracotta pots, and I gush at them every time I pass my apartment building from the outside. Just be aware—some buildings don’t allow these boxes because they could fall and injure someone. Check with your building super or HOA before buying them. 

If maintaining a garden doesn’t sound like your thing or your balcony just doesn’t get enough sun, don’t worry: Faux plants exist. The options are now hyper-realistic and hassle-free. 

Little Touches

Decorative Knick Knacks

Just as important as your furniture sets, don’t forget to add little touches to your balcony. Just like the inside of your home, small objects, little knick knacks, and other decorative items give your space personality. I have a kingfisher blue-engraved ashtray on my balcony coffee table (I don’t smoke) and a framed photograph of a dandelion field (I’m allergic), but indulging in making it a place of beauty—not just comfort—make it feel elevated and like my own.

Lamps and Lanterns

Unlike the inside of your home, there’s no need for any overhead lighting (phew!). Use lamps and lanterns to fill your balcony with a warm glow so you can enjoy the space even after the sun sets.

Consider where the electric sockets are located in your balcony. Some balconies might not have any, and then you’ll have to consider getting battery powered lighting. Also, if your area is prone to a lot of rain, think about whether lights in the balcony can be a safety hazard. 

Carson Downing

A Coat of Color 

Giving your balcony walls a fresh coat of paint could be the very change that it was begging for. Consider the color of your building, furniture, and tiling while deciding on the shade. 

Rugs and Carpets 

Adding a rug is one of the easiest ways to elevate a space, but be sure to determine the square footage of your balcony before purchasing. Because of outdoor conditions, it may serve you to not keep the rug under any furniture so you can easily remove it to be cleaned. 

Candles (Bonus: Insect Repellents!)

You can also place candle holders on your coffee or bistro table to create a more romantic ambiance. As a plus, you can use them for lavender or peppermint oil candles to keep those pesky mosquitoes from getting into your apartment. 

Retile the floors

If the tiles that came with your apartment balcony aren’t to your liking, it’s worth changing it up. Find affordable options like wood interlocking tiles from IKEA or peel and stick tiles if you don’t get a lot of rain. 


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