Styling a balcony isn’t just about making it beautiful – it’s about making the space livable. In built-up areas, balconies are a rare connection to the outdoors and a chance for you to expand your living area. With these styling how-tos, you can overcome the limitations of size and create an inspiring space to spend time in.
1. Think like a designer
No matter what space they are in, a designer always starts the process with the question of lifestyle. Ask yourself how you want to use your outdoor living space.
Your options include:
· Balcony/kitchen garden
· Entertaining area
· Lounging space
This is the part of the process where many people fall short, because they try to do too much in a small space. Choose one function and execute it well, and you’ll find yourself naturally spending more time on your balcony.
At this preliminary stage you should also look into body corporate regulations, as these may restrict what you can and can’t do. In most cases you won’t be able to paint, change the flooring or make significant alterations to the space, which makes styling considerations all the more important.
2. Pay attention to your indoor space
Rather than trying to create a design concept from scratch, think of your balcony as an extension of your indoor space. This gives you a scope to work within and also ensures that the two areas complement one another. Draw your styling inspiration from the colour palettes within your home and ask yourself how you can take them further. For example, choose flowers and foliage that complement the colours of your indoor cushions and throw rugs. These subtle touches create a sense of cohesion and style, and they can also be updated seasonally as your look evolves.
3. Hunt around for the right furniture and accessories
More designers are getting creative with outdoor furniture and we are now spoiled for choice when it comes to our options. Research outdoor furniture shops and designers in your area and you will be surprised what you can find.
On balconies, small table settings, benches and corner couches work particularly well. When choosing furniture, focus on low, slim and streamlined pieces, as these help maintain a sense of space. Bulkier pieces like couches and built-in benches can be positioned up against a wall to ensure they won’t disrupt your view out from the balcony. These types of furnishings often have in-built storage, which is great for putting away cushions, garden tools and other bits and pieces.
To ensure you get the scale right, measure the size of your balcony as well as the space you have for furnishings. Take these figures with you to the shops, in order to eliminate the guesswork.
Once you have chosen your furnishing, you can then start personalising with outdoor cushions, lighting accents and other pieces such as side tables. Soft pastels and bold shades of green, blue and yellow are popular colour palettes you can play with when accessorising your space.
Vibrant pieces of outdoor art are a simple way to add personality to a balcony.
4. Choose low-maintenance plants
Not all plants like to be kept in pots, but most low-maintenance varieties will do well on a balcony.
Plants that are suited to balcony conditions include:
· Small citrus trees
· Cherry tomatoes
· Leafy greens such as lettuce and rocket
· Succulents and cactus
· Laurus Nobilis (Bay Tree)
· Adenium (Desert Rose)
· Rhipsalis Cassutha (Mistletoe Cactus)
· Westringia (Zena)
· Dichondra (Silver Falls)
· Euphorbia (Tiny Tim)
· Carpobrotus Rossii (Pig Face)
· Rhaphiolepis Indica (Indian Hawthorn)
In small spaces, avoid clutter by choosing a large potted plant over a number of small plants, as this will enhance the sense of space. Large pots are difficult to move once they have been planted, so place them on wheels to make life easier. This will let you move the pot when you need to create space or reposition the plant as the seasons change.
When you do have space for several plants, choose varieties of differing heights and contrasting foliage. Position larger plants at the back of a cluster and smaller plants at the front. Also consider using hanging pots as an extra way to introduce plants within restricting your living space.
Plants including succulents, herbs and dichondra silver falls will continue to thrive when confined to pots in a small space.
5. Take advantage of walls and floors
While you probably can’t change your walls and floors, you can decorate them. Add life to a blank wall using a vertical garden, a piece of outdoor art or a climber such as ivy. On the floor, look for outdoor rugs that will withstand moisture and UV exposure. You can also install outdoor decking tiles that simply lock into place and sit atop your existing floor treatments.
L to R: Via ArchDaily: Prahran Hotel / Techne Architecture, photo Peter Clark, Via Names Agency: Elizabeth Bay Apartment, Jason Busch
Use vertical gardens and wall discs to introduce plants to a balcony without restricting usable space.
Related reading: A guide to container gardening