With coronavirus making travel a tricky and even potentially dangerous prospect this year, we’re embracing the summer staycation. All week (and all summer) long, we’ll bring you transportive flavors and travel-inspired ideas from around the world, so you can take your tastebuds on a trip and give your mind a mini vacation while you’re still at home. Here, find smart small balcony ideas to inspire a mini makeover of any outdoor space you have.
If you’re living in a compact apartment where green space is at a premium, having an outdoor refuge—however small—can be the difference between maintaining your sanity and feeling like you’re being swallowed by the concrete jungle.
If I’ve learned anything from friends who live in places like New York City and Toronto, it’s that you don’t need a lot of square footage to create a dreamy yet functional outdoor space. Whether you’re hoping to create a South Beach inspired outdoor living room, an epic herb garden, an inspired post-WFH drinks destination or a combination of all of the above, all you need is a few smart accessories and a little bit of imagination to bring your balcony vision to life.
1. Make It Your Own Tropical Oasis
New York based blogger Chelsey Brown’s miniscule tropical themed balcony is proof that you don’t need a lot of square footage to create an outdoor space that’s big on style. If you’re looking to transform your balcony into a tropical retreat reminiscent of Miami or Tulum, try pairing chic metal furniture like this Acme Alivia rose gold end table with quirky boho touches like this macrame rattan hanging chair. Mix, stir, and add as many plants as possible.
Opalhouse Latigo Swivel Egg Chair, $400 from Target
In case you can't mount a hanging chair.
Related Reading: 21 Tropical Touches to Turn Your Place into Paradise
2. Plant an Herb Garden
Who doesn’t love the taste and fragrance of fresh basil, mint, or lavender? Fortunately, it takes very little space to grow an herb garden. Buy seeds individually or invest in a set like this Planter’s Choice herb growing kit, which includes reusable pots, nutrient rich soil discs, and premium seeds for four different herbs: basil, parsley, chives, and cilantro.
Planter's Choice 9-Herb Garden Kit, $34.99 from Amazon
Everything you need to get started.
Related Reading: How to Start a Windowsill Garden
3. Add a Small Rug
It’s amazing how much more luxurious and put together a patio space feels with a small outdoor rug. To give your space a Mediterranean inspired look, go for a fun pattern like this Kailani floral blue indoor/outdoor area rug by Beachcrest Home. Alternatively, bring a picnic vibe to your patio with this popular buffalo plaid rug.
If you’re working with a fire escape, you’ll want to go with something that can easily be removed after you spend time outside to ensure the area remains clear and safe for emergencies. In this case, you can’t go wrong with a classic hand woven Mexican blanket that can also be used at the beach, picnics, or off season as an indoor throw.
Benevolence LA Hand Woven Mexican Blanket, $29.95 from Amazon
Bring a splash of color to any space.
4. Put Up Bamboo Fencing
Rolled bamboo fencing has the magical ability to create the illusion of privacy when there is none—even on the tiniest balconies. Add some string lights to your bamboo fencing to keep the tropical vibes in and your nosy neighbors’ eyes out.
Backyard X-Scapes Bamboo Fence, $109.49+ from Walmart
5. Just Add Ivy
If bamboo fencing isn’t your cup of tea, try attaching faux ivy to your balcony. This artificial hedge fence panel is perfect for creating privacy and green space where there is none.
Colour Tree Artifical Hedges Vinyl Fence Panel, $59.99 from Wayfair
A leafier looking option you never have to water or prune.
6. When in Doubt, Add More Plants
When it comes to creating a soothing outdoor oasis, plant lovers will tell you that there’s no such thing as too many. Maximize your vertical space with shelving, like this Weston plant stand and enjoy allowing your green thumb flourish. Check out Bloomscapes for potted tropical plants and more.
Novogratz Weston Multi-Tiered Plant Stand, $66.99 from Wayfair
Plenty of space for plants.
7. Install a Light Wall
It’s no secret that string lights add a touch of magic to outdoor spaces, so why not create an entire light wall? For a truly bold statement, a set of curtain twinkle lights are a quick and easy way to add a shimmery focal point to your balcony.
8. Stop! Hammock Time
If (and only if) you have the means to safely install a hammock on your balcony, it has the potential to turn a tiny balcony or fire escape into a dreamy summer hangout. If you’re not confident in your hammock tying skills, look for a freestanding one like this Vivere double cotton hammock with space saving steel stand.
9. Create a Dining and Work Area
You don’t need a large table to create a functional dining area. A compact table that’s designed for narrow spaces like the one included this Drayton 3-piece bistro set works both as an outdoor work and dining area. Add a plant or some flowers and enjoy.
Fermob Bistro Folding Table and Chairs, $238-$510 from Food52
These fold away for storage when you need more space outside.
10. Turn Your Balcony into an Outdoor Living Room
Small outdoor sofa? Check. Side tables? Check. Plenty of mood lighting and pillows? Check. Influencer Karola Smyk’s gorgeous balcony is proof that small balconies can be cozy instead of cramped. The trick is being unafraid to bring in elements from inside, outside. Think: a plush blanket like this Connecticut Home Company shag with sherpa reversible throw and plenty of outdoor pillows.
Noble House Buron Minimalist Acacia Wood Right Sided Sofa, $285 from Walmart
A minimal frame takes up less space (and a side table is built right in).
11. Set Up a Balcony Bar
Recreate your favorite happy hour at home! This custom-made wood and metal balcony bar is perfect for eating, drinking, and watching the neighborhood.
Upstream Design Co. Custom Wood and Metal Balcony Bar, $185+ from Etsy
In case you're not the DIY type when it comes to woodworking.
12. Play with Color
Who said a small balcony had to be boring? Even if you have a small budget, a playful use of color can pay off in big ways. This set of 10 hanging pots easily hook onto your balcony railing—adding an instant pop to your space.
Set of 10 Hanging Metal Garden Pots, $29.99+ from Amazon
A rainbow of planters you can fill with herbs or flowers.
Header image courtesy of Westend61 / Getty Images