Do you have a balcony that’s so small you can hardly fit any people or normal-sized furniture on it? I’ve lived with these awkward spaces before (and usually just never get around to designing them) and now I’m dealing with it again, but this time is different. Now, if you’re lucky enough to have one of these spaces, they can be very useful, but designing it for function (well, and fashion, of course) is the tricky part. Let’s be honest, balconies are hard to design when they are small, but I’m a firm believer that if you do it right, it can be an outdoor oasis, morning coffee-spot, or the ultimate small entertaining space. If you’re part of the “unused, undesigned, small-balcony” club, don’t worry –– so am I and I’m going to tell you what I wish I had known thus far into the designing process (plus I want your input, so wait ’til the end)…
So, my studio starter apartment design saga continues as I attempt to figure out how to design our teeny-tiny balcony (If you missed the first two posts, you can check out my apartment plan here and feature wall ideas here). I’m really lucky to have a little outdoor space like this in a studio, and I’m desperate to use it to its fullest potential. When I first started this balcony design process, as a beginner, I was lost and really needed someone to tell me where to start and what to do. Every article I found on designing balconies had the same problem: they were real size balconies and my space was so much smaller that it just felt unrelatable. So, I thought I’d use the power of being on the EHD team to write the kind of blog post that I wish I had when first attempting to design my balcony from scratch (no seriously, I had no furniture to start with). I studied up on this “how to design any room” blog post (which you should definitely check out), and I’m going to show you how a beginner is actually implementing these steps & applying them. So consider this a step-by-step guide showing you exactly where to start when designing a small balcony (since that can feel like the hardest part) –– plus I’ll show you what I’m doing and where I’m at in the process. Let’s begin!
My balcony space is a 3 x 7 ft rectangle that fits 2-4 people max (and that’s without furniture). Well, even without furniture 4 people might be pushing it…I’m telling you guys this space is very small. So knowing this information, I took to Pinterest to see what sort of things I could do that would fit the space. This brings me to my first step in this process…
FIND INSPIRATION PHOTOS
P.S. if you haven’t gotten our obvious secret, we ALWAYS start with finding inspiration photos. Even if our final designs look NOTHING like them.
Now, I love all of these above photos and their fun vibes, but the same problem kept occurring, when I was looking for inspiration…these balconies are double if not triple the size of my own. Seriously, they could swallow my balcony whole and would definitely win in a fistfight with their non-dominant hand. However, these photos are an excellent starting point and are helpful to reference, so now I just need to figure out what elements to pull from them. Which leads to the next big question:
WHAT FUNCTION SHOULD IT SERVE?
This is the first big question we asked ourselves. Do we want to use this space as an outdoor dining area? Should we make it a lounge? OR do we set up a bar cart and entertain 3 friends? I think what we want is a little bit of everything (which makes things hard) SO…our MAIN priority is to make it loungey. We want it to be a place where we can comfortably sit and chat, maybe read a book, or have a glass of wine. We want it to be the “chillin” spot in our apartment. Our little hang. We felt that was the best option because, this really has the coolest view in the house, so we want to be able to relax and enjoy it.
MEASURE YOUR SPACE…IMMEDIATELY
I made the most classic beginner mistake here. We moved into our apartment and I took no measurements. Surely I could eyeball anything that came my way at the thrift store, right? Wrong. I was driving and came across a Goodwill, and at this point I still only had a mattress to my name, so I figured I’d stop by to see if I could find any good furniture deals since we were in great need for anything to sit on that wasn’t our floor. I strolled in and went straight for the furniture section and…DID MY EYES DECEIVE ME? TWO BRAND NEW OUTDOOR TARGET CHAIRS? STILL IN THE PLASTIC?? FOR $89 EACH?? These chairs are any outdoor space’s dream you guys. Emily has them at the mountain house and we’ve used them in Target shoots before, so I spotted them instantly. I quickly impulse bought them because wow they were a good deal. I then shoved one chair at a time into my VW bug (I had to make two trips), and drove slowly to my apartment with my trunk wide open and hazards on. I had a feeling when I couldn’t fit them in my car that they definitely wouldn’t fit all that great on my balcony (which ended up being true), see for yourself…
See? The door is completely blocked by this massive chair and now we definitely can’t fit more than 2 people on the balcony at a time. Velinda showed me an awesome tip that I should’ve used, so now I’ll share it with you. Take photos of your space, like your ENTIRE apartment right upon move in, and then use the edit function to draw each measurement on the photo, so there’s never any guessing when you come across that insane (but non-returnable) furniture deal that’s too good to pass up.
Ok now that you have your inspiration, know how you want it to function and have ALL the measurements…
TAKE A STAB AT THE DESIGN
Let’s take a look at my first go with the chairs that I tried to make work.
Design One – Why it didn’t work
We made this moodboard on google slides (tune in next week for a step-by-step process on how to do that), so we could try out different styles, color palettes, and layouts. I’m a very visual person, so for me I need to see everything laid out to make a call. When I first threw this plan together, I didn’t even know if I wanted it bright, colorful, & a little crazy or neutral with strong hits of black (we went with that option because we already have a terracotta toned wall and we want the apartment to be really colorful). Here’s the first design we came up with:
After sitting on this design, I realized it just wasn’t going to work. The plant probably won’t fit (again, I didn’t measure back then) and that light is a suede indoor light, which isn’t super conducive to the outdoors. I thought about DIY-ing something similar, but I might need to assess how many DIYs I’m ACTUALLY going to do in this apartment versus how many I want to do… this might be the line where I’m biting off more than I can chew.
The chairs were really the #1 problem though. We could hardly walk onto the balcony and it restricted any more than 2 people from going and hanging out there (which is REPULSIVE when you can CLEARLY fit 3). So, we wanted to maximize every inch (without having to make something custom). Here’s the thing I’m learning about designing a small area like this, your options seem endless, but they’re really not (which I found sort of comforting…) There are only so many pieces of furniture and so many things you can do that will ACTUALLY fit, so starting with the basics and adding more will probably serve you very well. For example, we figured the chaise below will look best and give us the most lounge we could aks for. Plus it’s modular which means we can keep it a single chaise for the perfect reading/hangout nook for one (or a VERY cozy two). Or we could separate the two pieces so we (or a guest) can sit apart. Here’s what I mean:
Design Two – Why it DOES Work
Setup Option One:
When designing a small space, MULTIFUNCTIONAL FURNITURE IS KEY. A modular chaise like the one above gives us the option two have two different setups, the one you see above, with the couch together, or this one below:
Setup Option Two:
Does this option block the door when it’s set up like this? Absolutely. But you can always push the sofa back together so you at least have the option not to. Small space living usually requires “creative solutions.” As you can see, there are only 3 pieces of furniture here, so we have to make them count. The side table is small and narrow which is very helpful for setting down tasty homemade drinks (like the ones I photoshopped on here…it’s all about the details), but it can also double as a place for another person to sit if needed. See? Multi-function-al. Another reason this design is just better than the original is because we’re using a lot more of the vertical space. When there’s not a lot of square footage, you gotta go UP. That’s why we put these little succulent plants up on the wall instead of the giant plant option in the original design. However, after reading this post about small apartment gardens, I’m also considering getting a rail-planter so we can grow fresh herbs or something without taking up any more of our precious real estate (plus this will add some more of the greenery we so desperately crave).
So, this is where we’re at right now. Obviously, the next step is to kick this plan into action and actually start filling the space with the right furniture and decor. BUT I wanted to ask you guys what you thought thus far. Do you have any other small balcony design tips? Should I add anything else? Take anything away? I genuinely love getting your design advice, so please let me know what you think. TA-TA FOR NOW (when’s the last time someone said that to you??) See you in the comments 🙂