How to Upscale Your Tiny Apartment Balcony

How to Upscale Your Tiny Apartment Balcony
Photo: polinaloves, Shutterstock

Space is always going to be at a premium; as Mark Twain once said, “buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” That sentiment hits differently, though, when you’re living in a small urban apartment and your only private “outdoor space” is a balcony that can theoretically accommodate two people if they both hold their breath. While it’s not tough to make a spacious outdoor space more comfortable or even party-worthy, tiny balconies in rentals present their own challenges, both in space and because any upgrades you make will need to be removable.

The good news is that all it takes to make that small slice of fresh air usable without blowing your security deposit is a little creativity. Here’s how to upscale that tiny balcony and make it a luxe outdoor space you can be proud of.

Flooring

One of the easiest ways to make a small outdoor space feel a lot more luxurious is to upgrade the flooring. A rough concrete floor doesn’t feel very inviting, so an upgrade is a great investment. You have a lot of choices here, from artificial grass carpets (Petgrow makes some excellent ones that feel great on your feet) to outdoor rugs to wooden deck tiles (or a combination of deck tiles with a rug on top). Deck tiles can make a tiny balcony feel more like a small slice of an expensive deck, and they’re entirely portable and temporary. And because you’ve got such a small amount of square footage to cover, you can upgrade to the really expensive stuff without breaking the bank.

Vertical gardens

A little gardening can provide a host of benefits: Privacy, beauty, and a touch of nature — all in easily transportable packages. While potted plants or raised garden beds might not work on a very small balcony, that doesn’t mean you can’t liven the place up with a little green. A vertical garden can be as simple as a shallow set of shelves with small potted plants or it can be an extremely ambitious design. Literally anything that hangs or stands vertically and fits on your balcony can be used as a structure, from wood pallets left over from a delivery or scavenged from the street to ladders, crates, chicken wire, or even shoe organisers. Adding a crawling ivy of some sort can eventually enclose your balcony in a natural privacy screen — and it’s all easily removed and transported to a new location if you move.

Lighting

Never underestimate how much impact lighting can have on any space, and your tiny balcony is no exception. The right outdoor lights can make your small space seem infinite at night. String solar lights are an ideal solution because they’re so flexible — you can bunch them up to create brighter spots and space them out to soften the impact. You can run them along the railing and around windows and sliding doors, all without having to run an extension cord outside, and usually without needing to use any sort of fastener that your landlord might not like. Adding some lanterns to the floor, especially in the corners, adds depth and texture to the lighting mix, too.

Privacy

A privacy screen is a nice addition to a tiny balcony, especially if you’re very close to your neighbours. Just about anything can be used as a privacy screen, from a bamboo mat to any kind of outdoor fabric. Choose something that complements your furniture and flooring, and attach it to your railing using zip ties or string so it can be easily removed.

Wall decoration

Want to give your balcony a real design boost? Consider using some removable outdoor wallpaper. This stuff is exactly what it sounds like: A way to add texture, colour, and design to the blank walls of your balcony without worrying about removing it when moving day arrives. Not only can removable wallpaper add a burst of colour or visual interest to the space, it can also cover up any weathering, cracks, or other superficial problems that your landlord doesn’t want to bother fixing.

Rail shelf

If your balcony is very narrow, you’ve probably struggled with furniture choices for it, and probably experimented with the classic bistro setup of a tiny table and nearly child-sized chairs that make every balcony activity feel vaguely silly and uncomfortable. The trick is to get some of that furniture off the floor, and a rail shelf is a perfect solution. You can use it as a table for cocktails or coffee service, as a desk for working outside on nice days, as a planter, or even as storage. You can even find one that folds down, giving you extra space when you’re not using it. Best of all, when you’re moving out, you just lift it up and take it with you.

One enormous cushion

If your balcony is really too narrow for any human to use in a functional way, you could simply cover the whole thing in outdoor-rated cushions and pillows and make it a comfy place for a sit or a nap. This is cheap, 100% temporary, and transforms your tiny outdoor space into a retreat — and it makes it a great place for pets to lounge, as well.

A hammock

If you see a hammock, you envision yourself sleeping in it — this is human nature. If your balcony has three railings, you can easily install a gorgeous hammock in a few minutes, and be napping out there in under ten. Add a rail shelf for drinks and a place to stash your phone and you’ve got a napping and reading station that can be vanished in minutes if you ever move to a new place.

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