For many of us, our balcony is the only outdoor space we have. Decoration, plants and furniture can all help to create a seasonal room and expand the inside space that we have lived with all winter.
Here’s a rundown of great new products that will help to create a useful and attractive place to take sun or serve an alfresco dinner:
Furniture: The reality is that most balconies do not allow for regular sized outdoor lounge furniture.
I suggest buying a chair and ottoman so that you can achieve the lounge effect when they are placed together, and when separates, can act as seating for two.
Keep tables long and narrow in shape and dining chairs foldable so that they do not overcrowd the space.
One of the season’s hottest small-space outdoor furniture pieces is the Aeisha three-piece dinette set from Home Outfitters ($299).
It magically melts into itself when not in use.
Designer idea: Choose the colour of the furniture’s framing to match the balcony. If it is concrete then use pale aluminum or chrome furniture so that it blends in the environment.
Cooking outside: It’s best to check with your condo board or local municipality to find out what is suitable for the type of outdoor space you have.
Many buildings ban gas grills that are not hardwired from the balcony. In that case I suggest an electric grill.
Check out Dimplex for a good-looking, efficient plug-in electric grill that allows you to do some cooking outside (www.dimplex.com)
Designer idea: A portable electrical grill means you can hide it away in your locker during the winter months so you won’t have to look at it.
Outdoor lighting: If you have an outside electrical outlet on your balcony then you are in luck!
Outdoor lights can add complete romance to an outside space no matter how small.
You can also consider an outdoor fountain which will help to drown out unwanted city noises.
Designer idea: Use up lighting in the corners of the balcony; using them under plats will create dramatic shadows at night.
Plants: I am not an avid green thumb and tend to prefer a more structured landscape.
Consider artificial outdoor shrubs for a balcony — they are made to stay out year round and the good ones will never fade or wither away.
Check out Home Depot for some of the best in the city.
Designer idea: Hang your planter boxes inside your balcony, not facing out. You will enjoy your plants and flowers more from the inside of the condo. Also, your everlasting shrubs will look fantastic filled with mini lights during the holiday season.
Flooring: Laying cedar stripped flooring or putting outdoor carpeting down can be a great way to all warmth and colour to your outdoor space.
Look for outdoor floor tiles made of a synthetic decking product.
It will be very durable and stay out year round.
Designer note: Never paint a raw concrete floor before asking permission of your landlord or condo directors.
Sealing concrete can actually do damage to the concrete as it stops if from breathing to release dampness.
Last words on balcony etiquette: Shut down the party noise on your patio at a reasonable hour (10 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on weekends).
Remember that your balcony is common space to the outside of the building, so decorate it so it also reflects the taste of the building’s exterior.
Use a proper container to dispose of cigarette butts if you have smokers that use your balcony.
Using your balcony as a storage shed is often illegal and will cheapen the look of the building.