Canada's Condominium Magazine
Maybe you don’t use your balcony—apparently most people don’t. And that’s a shame, especially now that summer is here. The balcony can be such a wonderful extension of the living space. With just a little imagination, you can turn that bland concrete and glass strip into something really special.
The basic requirements for any balcony are quite simple: something to sit on, some kind of table for food and drinks, some form of lighting (optional), and plants. Anything else you might add—a water feature, for instance, a sculpture, decorative pillows, a carpet or floor covering of some kind, an awning or umbrella for shade—is icing on the cake.
A table, two chairs, a pot of flowers and a decorative candle or lantern are all it takes to add life to a dead space like an empty balcony. Now it’s a human space: all it needs is you and a companion to bring it to life.
Tips for decorating your balcony
Tip #1. Don’t try to recreate your interior décor on the balcony. So many of the manufacturers of balcony and patio furniture seem to want to encourage this. You can buy sectional sofas and easy chairs and coffee tables that look exactly like your living room furniture, but are intended for outdoors. Why would you do that? Make your balcony or patio a completely different space than you have indoors (and maybe that will encourage you to use it more). Make your balcony the yin to your living room’s yang.
Tip #2. Choose a theme for your balcony. This is much simpler to pull off on a balcony, which is usually a relatively small space, than in an interior space. It also makes it easier to shop for what you need. Say you want an Asian theme. Nothing could be simpler: just choose a couple of key objects—a statue of Buddha or some Asian deity for atmosphere, a couple of plants from Asia (jade, rubber tree, bamboo, jasmine, rainforest fern), a pair of rattan chairs and matching table, and you have your mini-Japanese or Thai or Chinese or Indian retreat. A small table-top or wall-mounted water feature would really make this scene sing.
Perhaps you prefer a Greek beach theme: a weathered wooden café-type table and chairs, lots of reed matting on the floor and walls, a blue-and-white awning or umbrella and some bright-blooming flowers like geraniums or bougainvillea (if you have lots of sun) in white or terra cotta pots is all it would take. You see how easy this is?
Tip #3. Use lots of colour. This is your opportunity to let loose your inner colour demon. A bright red or yellow table that wouldn’t fit your apartment’s decor might look great on the balcony, at the centre of its own little decorative world. The same goes for floor and wall coverings, lampshades, planters and pillows. If you do choose a theme for your balcony, let that guide you in choosing colours.
Tip #4. Use as many plants as you can. In a way, balconies exist for plants. Plants add beauty, but you can also eat them. If you’re lucky enough to have a balcony that gets plenty of sunlight during the summer months, and if you are a bit of a foodie, take advantage: a couple of pots of basil, a few tomato plants, perhaps a wall-mounted herbarium. There’s your theme and your décor taken care of at the same time.
There are so many ways to use plants on a balcony: you can line your balcony railing with planter boxes filled with geraniums or nasturtiums or a thousand other types of colourful flowers. You can hang planters of trailing vines, ferns, ivies, mixed with flowers from the ceiling and walls. Line the window sill, if there is one, with small pots of flowers, or place a plant shelving unit against one wall and fill it with greenery and flowering plants.
Plants can also be used for privacy. A couple of large palmetto palms or schefflera plants could create just enough of a wall between your balcony and the neighbours’ if that is required.
The point is, a balcony without plants is like an aquarium without fish: the life is missing.
Tip #5. Take advantage of your view. If you have a great view from your balcony, try not to put up anything that will obstruct it. Of course, you have to be conscious of the elements, so a wind-breaking roll-down screen might be in order, (check your condo regulations for what is allowed on the balcony). On the other hand, if the view isn’t so great, make the balcony itself the focus of attention by making it so cozy or charming that you won’t notice the less-than-picturesque view beyond it.