Updated: Jun 16
If you cringe at the daunting task of finding furniture for your balcony, have no fear! Consider this post your foolproof guide for designing a new balcony or small porch space from scratch.
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Having a smaller outdoor space (think condo/apartment balcony or small front porch) presents unique challenges that make shopping difficult. The 5 Fundamentals of Balcony Design is a tried-and-true method to make sure the products you pick match your vision and expectations.
First thing first, you need to identify is your Primary Purpose, AKA what you’ll be using your balcony the most for: sitting/lounging, outdoor dining, workouts, hosting cocktail hours, pet area, gardening, etc… It’s important to keep your Primary Purpose in mind as the first lens you review products through.
"...keep your Primary Purpose in mind as the first lens you review potential products through."
Secondly, grab a tape-measure and measure your space! Outlining the furniture dimensions on the ground with string or tape is the best way to make sure the furniture you’re selecting will fit comfortably in space you have.
Here we go...
#1 - Seating
The most obvious, but also the most important choice you’ll make in your design process! Do you need seating for 1, 2, or 4 people? It’s especially important to keep in mind your Primary Purpose here.
Here’s a few examples of using your Primary Purpose to drive your seating choices. If your Primary Purpose is...
Workout space or pet play area: You might consider a fold up bistro set. You can keep it folded against the wall until needed, that way you can reserve the bulk of your space for your workout mat or Fido's play area.
Reading/lounging: Consider budgeting for nicer furniture, just as you would for indoor furniture that you'll use often. Think cushions and comfort here.
Outdoor dining for two: Consider a bistro set or other high-top styles. A common misstep here is when people opt for "conversation style" furniture, which has a lower table height and is awkward to eat off of.
Lessons we've learned (the hard way): While Adirondack chairs might look tempting, they are typically not a good fit for balconies because of their large base size. Trendy hanging egg chairs (while similarly alluring) also have the same issue. Don’t over-commit your space; Right-size it instead.
#2 - Flooring
Again with your Primary Purpose in mind, think about what type of flooring will add to the usability of your space. Large rug? Small accent rug? Turf? Heat-resistant decking? Anything to cover up that dull concrete or floorboards will go miles in adding character and comfort to your space.
Customer feedback: We’ve had TONS of great reviews from people choosing a grass turf style! Durable, weather-proof, and gives the "bare feet in grass" feeling we all crave. Here's one example that is value-priced and can be cut down to the exact dimensions of your space!
#3 - Lighting
Lighting is generally an easy and budget-friendly element to incorporate in your design, and is important to give your space warm and peaceful vibes.
Tip: First thing to do when considering lighting is to check your apartment guidelines to see if they allow hanging lights (if applicable).
Hanging string lights - the simplest way to brighten your space. Consider solar powered lights if your balcony/porch gets enough sun.
If your apartment doesn't allow hanging lights, there's still an abundance of options for candles, mosquito candles, or firework lighting (as shown below in our featured design). Garden lighting will likely require potted plants to hold the lighting, which brings up to design fundamental #4...
If you're going for a more trendy vibe, you could consider LED runner lights that sit along the floor and change color. We've tried these in some of our sample designs and agree that they are a fun touch!
#4 - Nature
Everyone knows spending time in the outdoors is good for you! Maximize the natural feel in your small space to get an authentic connection to the outdoors.
Decision point: Do you want live or faux plants? Considerations:
Live: Live plants are the most obvious choice for a natural-feeling outdoor space. However, many small spaces don't get sufficient sunlight to support many plants, so be realistic about the best option for your space.
Faux: A fantastic option for sunlight-limited spaces, extreme weather climates, or folks without a green thumb :).
Tip: Nearly Natural is a quality brand that has a large selection of very authentic-looking plants.
In the example above, we've combined a mix of real and faux plants! The small potted plants are all live and thrive in low sunlight. But there's not enough sunlight to support a flowering plant so the draping tree with purple blooms is faux, and the prefect round-out to our nature-immersion small space.
#5 - Finishing Accents
Time for finishing touches - How do you round out your space to peak comfort and style? Consider the following elements and see what works for your space:
Pillows – Perhaps the most common accent, pillows are one of the most fun design elements to add to your balcony. Try a fun design or pop of color!
Light weather-proof blanket – Dual-purpose to protect from sun rays or a cool breeze.
Waterfall – While somewhat challenging to find, a waterfall is by far one of the coolest, most relaxing pieces you can add to your balcony.
Practical items – Do you need to store sunscreen, bug repellant, or gardening items outdoors for easy access? Consider a small insulated Tupperware bin to keep these items nearby and handy.
Easy as 1, 2, 3 (and 4 and 5). Now go enjoy your space!
Pro Tip: Don't give in to decision paralysis!
There are literally hundreds of thousands of outdoor products online, and if you look at them for too long, you’ll scroll yourself into the endless decision paralysis. If a product meets all your criteria (i.e. right-sized, right-priced for value, weatherproof, stylish, and meets your Primary Purpose needs), buy it! You could spend several more hours finding a slightly different model or save a few bucks on pricing, but net/net, the time usually isn’t worth it unless bargain shopping is a hobby for you :)
These five steps will have you spending time on your balcony in no time. Have feedback on the process or tips for other readers? Share and comment below!