Now that spring is definitively in the air, the balcony is beckoning for those of us who live in condos or apartments. And if you’re thinking about how to make the most of your balcony, the design team applauds you. In fact, we think balcony decorators deserve medals for beautifying the cities they live in.
We say this because a distressingly large number of people allow their balconies to become junk collection sites — most definitely a design crime. We sympathize with those who don’t have a lot of space for storage, but subjecting everybody to an eyesore on the balcony is not the solution, believe us.
The problem is basically clutter — a junky balcony means you have more stuff than you can store. And even if we’ve said it a thousand times, we’ll say it again: Clutter kills any attempts at design and stylish décor.
As always, the rule is to minimize, downsize and get rid of stuff that you do not use. If possible, we encourage you to only acquire items you have room to store. In other words, if you live in a small space, limit the amount of stuff you have so it doesn’t find its way outside onto the balcony. Off-site storage is better than a balcony full of junk!
Instead of using it as a shed substitute, make your balcony as good as you can.
Come up with a plan and use every square inch for your enjoyment. If you are blank on ideas, flip through magazines or design books to get some ideas on what you like, and what can be done in the space you have. (You’ll likely also need to check whether your building has restrictions on exterior décor.)
Think about how you would use your space, however small. Do you want to read novels, sip drinks and lounge? Then perhaps privacy is paramount, with screens of greenery, large plantings, blinds or tie-back curtains.
Or if your balcony is a space for intimate dinners and watching the busy city far below, consider plantings to frame the view.
The function you seek on your balcony will dictate the type of furniture and lighting you require as well as the design of the space. Another consideration here is weight. If you plan to use a lot of heavy materials, you may need to check how much weight your balcony is engineered to support. Also keep safety in mind, especially with respect to small children, and avoid placing planters or furniture close to railings.
One of the most important parts of a balcony garden are the plants. But before you choose your plantings, there are a few important points to think about.
One is watering. Do you have easy access to water? If watering requires you to trek water through the living room, you may want to think twice about having a veritable Garden of Eden to maintain.
Tammy Schnurr and Jeffrey Fisher are hosts of Arresting Design on W Network. Tammy is an interior decorator. Jeffrey designs home furnishings and bedding through his company Jeffrey Fisher Home.