Small bal­cony, big de­sign

Don’t let a tiny space stop you from re­lax­ing and en­ter­tain­ing out­side

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Helen Carefoot

When in­te­rior de­signer Kyra Williams lived in Paris, she was al­ways happy to see her fel­low city dwellers perched on their bal­conies, en­joy­ing cof­fee with friends.

“If you’re in the heart of an amaz­ing city, your apart­ment is prob­a­bly re­ally tiny, so real es­tate is im­por­tant,” says Williams, lead de­signer for San Fran­cisco-based Bun­ga­low, a home rental startup. Even the small­est, nar­row­est bal­cony can be a great place to re­lax and en­ter­tain. “Con­sider your bal­cony part of the square footage of your space and re­ally uti­lize it.”

Here’s how to trans­form your postage-stamp-size bal­cony into an out­door oa­sis. |

De­cide how to use the space

To get the most seat­ing out of nar­row, rec­tan­gu­lar bal­conies, Williams sug­gests lin­ing a long bench with cush­ions. “That way you could seat five or six peo­ple, whereas a ta­ble and chairs can re­ally only seat two.” Stor­age benches such as Ikea’s wood­stained Ap­plaro bench ($70, can be used to stow items and can be repo­si­tioned.

Cynthia Hoyt, the At­lantabased creative di­rec­tor of the Dar­ling Down South blog, agrees: “You can turn ba­si­cally any­thing into a din­ing sit­u­a­tion,” she says. (She once threw a table­cloth over a mov­ing box for a tem­po­rary out­door din­ing sur­face at an old apart­ment.) If you’re faced with the choice of a ta­ble set or lounge seat­ing area due to space con­straints, Hoyt would pri­or­i­tize a ca­sual seat­ing area and add a small ta­ble, es­pe­cially if you al­ready have a din­ing area in­side.

Williams also likes ce­ramic gar­den stools, which can be used as end ta­bles or as ad­di­tional seat­ing.

Add green­ery and pri­vacy

Plants can beau­tify small out­door spa­ces. Williams per­son­ally loves herbs and red gera­ni­ums, which she spot­ted in win­dow­boxes ev­ery­where in Paris. Hoyt sug­gests con­sid­er­ing the amount of sun­light the bal­cony gets. If you’re short on floor space, Williams sug­gests us­ing planters that at­tach to rail­ings or hang from the ceiling, such as Crate and Barrel’s Al­fresco Rec­tan­gu­lar Rail Planter ($49.95).

Hoyt has a pot­ted rose­bush and likes the look of the cas­cad­ing ten­drils on pothos vines (also called “Devil’s ivy”) hung from the ceiling or on a high shelf. She also likes to po­si­tion odd num­bers of plants in rows. “You can find a lot of re­ally af­ford­able, amaz­ing hang­ing wall planters to pot herbs in,” she says. “If you have three plants, you could have three in a row, and it feels bal­anced.”

It can be hard to get pri­vacy on the bal­cony of a high-rise apart­ment build­ing. “I think a lot of peo­ple maybe don’t use their bal­cony be­cause it doesn’t feel pri­vate,” she says. Plants and screens can help. “Plants not only look beau­ti­ful, but they also give a sense of calm.” Sta­tion taller pot­ted plants that grow straight up, such as bamboo, or climb­ing plants such as a vine or jas­mine, near the edge of a bal­cony to create a nat­u­ral bar­rier.

For those who don’t pos­sess a green thumb, a pat­terned metal or wrought-iron pri­vacy screen, such as Pot­tery Barn’s Ver­adek pri­vacy screen ($399) pro­vides vis­ual in­ter­est and pri­vacy with­out block­ing sun­light, breezes or your view. Hoyt sug­gests adding roll-down shades or hang­ing linen or can­vas cur­tains on a ten­sion rod or with zip ties for re­tractable pri­vacy and a lit­tle added pro­tec­tion from bugs.

Create lay­ered lighting

Both Hoyt and Williams sug­gest adding ad­di­tional light sources be­yond the wall sconce that prob­a­bly came with your bal­cony. Stick with LED lights that are meant for out­doors and add dif­fer­ent lev­els of lighting to create a lay­ered, cozy look.

“Per­son­ally I think that lit­er­ally every out­door space should have bistro lights” Hoyt says. She looks for so­lar-pow­ered or bat­tery­pow­ered LED string lights to cut down on ugly cords run­ning into the house and through the space.

Williams sug­gests zigzag­ging string lights across the top of the bal­cony to create a roof of soft light. Williams also sug­gests plac­ing bat­tery-op­er­ated tea lights in­side clear, square lanterns (such as World Mar­ket’s Black Win­dow­pane Cargo Lantern, $34.99 to $59.99) on the ground and on ta­bles to create low light. “Get mul­ti­ple heights, a shorter one and a taller one next to it, to move the eye around the space and make it a lit­tle more in­ter­est­ing,” she says.

Both Hoyt and Williams sug­gest buy­ing bulbs that emit warm white light, rather than se­vere yel­low or white light. “It brings more warmth and co­zi­ness and a more ro­man­tic at­mos­phere, as op­posed to the bright light, which to me feels more hos­pitable-like and not wel­com­ing,” Williams says.

Add com­fort and personalit­y

Your av­er­age apart­ment bal­cony is likely to start out cold and dreary, with ugly con­crete floors and metal rail­ings. Williams sug­gests cover­ing the floor with flat-weave out­door rugs, nat­u­ral­wo­ven fiber rugs (try jute, sisal or sea grass for a trop­i­cal look) or wood deck­ing that snaps to­gether for easy assembly (Williams sug­gests some­thing such as Ikea’s Run­nen deck­ing, $2.87 per square foot). These pieces make the space look more com­plete and create extra cush­ion un­der­foot. “Rugs are your friend,” Hoyt says. “Buy as many af­ford­able rugs as you can and layer those dif­fer­ent tex­tures. That way you have a lit­tle more vis­ual in­ter­est and it starts to feel more unique to you.”

Pil­lows and throws make for a cozy fin­ish­ing touch. Hoyt likes linen and woven fab­rics for thick ma­te­rial that won’t stain. For cush­ions and pil­lows that stand up to weather and wear, Williams swears by pieces con­structed of Sun­brella, a durable fab­ric that won’t fade in the sun. How­ever, Hoyt and Williams both say you can bring in­door tex­tiles out­doors eas­ily, as long as you re­mem­ber to bring them in­side and shake off any dust when you’re done.


Din­ner for two: Make a state­ment with CB2’s Wa­ter­mark brass bistro ta­ble. It seats two for din­ner, or works as a side ta­ble, $239,

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