gold line svg

Design

Designing A Tiny Balcony? – The Post That Mallory Wishes She Had Read Before She Started

55

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

Top row from left to right: Image Source | Unknown Image Source | Image Source
Bottom row from left to right: Image Source| Image Source| Image Source

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:

Chairs |Light | Rug | Side table | White Pillow | Throw Blanket | Yellow Pillow | String Lights

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:

Chaise | Side Table | Circle Pillow | Throw Blanket | Yellow Pillow (similar) | Rug | Wall Planters | String Lights

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:

Couch | Side Table | Circle Pillow | Throw Blanket | Yellow Pillow (similar) | Rug | Wall Planters | Rail Planter (not pictured but want) | String Lights

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 🙂

Fin Mark

WANT MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM?

Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

Comments are closed.
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Kim

Love the couch/chairs but if your balcony is only 3’ deep won’t they basically take up the entire floor space at 32” deep? Sure you could enter from the side but I worry it’ll feel really cramped

Jessica

In real estate terms it’s “cozy”, not “cramped” 😉

Lane

If not target then ikea may have European sized/smaller balcony furniture. I suggest going with a smaller (most likely cheaper) sectional or chairs and splurge on a rail planter, pillow, lantern, and a small table. If you want you can do reupholster or change cushions if you don’t like what you get from ikea. I like both ideas. Choose either based on what you find in a store, or based on whatever would be more comfortable for your needs.

Joan Renee Stark

Balconies and patios get filthy here in the Los Angeles area. After a week your pillows and seating/bed covering will need to be washed. I know as I’ve been living here for 40 years and cleaned plenty of patios and patio furniture. What to do? Buy pieces that you can wipe off and find beach towels that you like to drape over everything. Target even makes chaise covers out of beach towels.

Kari

I agree with Kim who posted above – the chairs/daybed is gorg but will still feel cramped and not fit that many people. Would be divine to lounge on alone (sunshine, a book, a yummy drink – so nice), but kind of awkward for more than one other person to sit with you. If it were me, I would shrink the furniture down to some cool stools (bonus if they stack). Then you could fit a couple more people if you’re entertaining, or use the stool as little tables. If you can imagine it, I had a balcony in NY that was even smaller, so small that literally no chair would fit, and yet my roommates and I loved to hang out there. Standing was fine, or we’d throw down some blankets and pillows and sit on the ground. Can’t wait to see what you do with it!

Roberta Davis

like, at 3′ wide, even 2 people will feel extremely crowded! A twin mattress is 38″ wide- too large to fit. And even if it could, it would be like 2 people sharing a twin bed with walls on both longs ides and the end!

Christina

Hey Mallory! Thanks for taking us along for this ride! One idea on the side table, you might consider something like a “laptop table”, which can overlap with whatever chair/sofa situation when you’re not sitting there. I have this one as a maildrop table and love it. https://www.worldmarket.com/product/faux-live-edge-wood-and-gold-metal-sloan-laptop-ta.do?sortby=ourPicks
This one is even tinier and cuter! https://www.worldmarket.com/product/gold+ryder+laptop+table.do?sortby=ourPicks&from=Search

Camille

I live in Sweden and also have a tiny balcony. We have a hanging folding balcony table like this: https://www.gardenista.com/posts/balcony-furniture-10-tiny-tables-for-railings. We also have a railing planter https://www.homedepot.com/p/Kit-Gefen-Planter-for-Railing-White-Plastic-Planter-035225001/307740695 and folding chairs. It’s perfect for eating dinner outside.

Melina

Yes! I’m also Swedish and was going to say the exact same thing 😉

Maya

Check out what your neighbours did; the type of seats they got.

Lynda

Hang a cool hammock, add a plant or two for a great outdoor spot for one person.comment image To convert to outdoor dining for two, take it down and and flip open compact folding chairs next to a tiny folding table.

Cris S.

That was going to be my solution – Hammock! You can hook it to one side when you have people over and then rehook across the balcony when you want to relax. You can even get a two person hammock!

Sarah

A two person hammock is a lot wider than 3 feet…..

I agonized over my tiny balcony too! It’s about 4×6 and I really wanted to be able to use it. I wound up going with a narrow, armless loveseat from Four Hands and I am so happy with it! I have LIVED out there during quarantine. An outdoor rug and textured white curtains that provide privacy and make me feel like I’m at a villa in St. Barth’s really cozied it up too. Can’t wait to see yours finished!

Lexi

I like the mattress idea. A twin is 39″ I think… even *that* may be too wide for your space tho. I would definitely vote for a little privacy. The picture above with canvas – or even curtains – or anything to enclose the balcony would be nice imho.

Discovered the blog a few days ago and loving it ! About to move in with my boyfriend and that will be the first time i’m actually considering my decor. So many cool things to read on ! Thank you for your article.

Rusty

You have just found THE BEST DESIGN BLOG in the Universe!
You’ll become addicted, as we all are. 🙂

Patti

Man, I can’t wait to see what comes of this! l’m downsizing from a large Northern cottage with multiple decks to a condo with 2 very small balconies facing the lake; one off the living room and one off the master. Trying to design one is hard enough! Both have clear glass railings so you’ll be able to see them both clearly from the front lawn. I‘m trying to figure out how to make them similar but not identical as one will be for entertaining and one for private lounging off our bedroom. Yikes!

Cheryl

I wonder if you could make something yourself to customize the space better, like an aluminum bench with a removable cushion that would stay inside until you wanted it? Or hooks along the wall that would hold backrests for your bench as needed, (that would live a clean life inside until needed). It seems like a lot of money to spend on a sectional you will hardly see because it’s squashed into a corner and you won’t use the ottoman.
There are comfortable folding chairs, they just don’t make an exciting design story, I guess. I also vote for the folding table like the Swedes suggested.

Rachel

I agree that it is very narrow. We have an even narrower deck and I’m excited to see what you come up with. What about two “dining chairs” with a small poof ottoman. Something like:

https://www.serenaandlily.com/capistrano-outdoor-dining-chair—dune/m12334.html?utm_campaign=pjgeneric&publisherId=73861&clickId=3121705722&utm_source=pj&utm_medium=affiliate

and

https://www.wayfair.com/outdoor/pdp/ebern-designs-gilbertown-small-outdoor-ottoman-w001417410.html?piid=1360734388

Add a carpet, throw pillow, lights and a few plants.

Brenna

What happened with the too big Target chairs…? I’ll take them off your hands!!!

Currently dealing with a small outdoor living situation as well so thank you for being so open with your process!

Sam

With a small balcony, I would be concerned with how any furniture impacts the view from inside. Your two piece lounge still sounds so big for the space. I would go with something backless or low to the ground, so you don’t block windows. Also have you thought about beanbags? Great for lounging and you can pile to make it appear a clearer space when not in use.

CGinAZ

Hey Mallory, this not about your balcony, which I really look forward to seeing, but just wanted to leave you with a TTFN. ( Ta Ta For Now ). My daughter and I sign off texts and emails with this. Or if we’re in a hurry it’s just Ta. It dates back to her early love affair with Winnie the Pooh.

Marissa

Haha WOW Design 1 is essentially my balcony! Those chairs are perfect for sitting cross legged in with coffee and a book, though also there is no way in hell three people would fit out there at once. Also cannot fit a big plant to my great sadness, so we got two railing planters which were a major value add before the plants started dying (oops). We got a bright orange Target stool/table for the front left corner and a teensy tiled corner shelf for the front left corner. It’s a cheery little spot for quarantine chilling!

Jessica

As a lounge-y type person myself, I think you definitely have the right idea. Design for how you’re going to use the space the most! Personally I don’t really like the look of boxy sectionals but it could be worth trying to find something you can store the cushions inside of. You live in a studio apartment and shouldn’t clog up your closets with something as bulky as outdoor cushions (or maybe get some nice covers and a “side table” you can store the covers in?)

I actually have been pulling up a few EHD posts for inspiration to do my own outdoor space,

https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/how-to-style-out-your-outdoor-space
https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/outdoor-decorating-ideas-target-furniture
https://stylebyemilyhenderson.com/blog/how-to-design-a-room

and I have to say that you could probably just steal the first design from How To Style Out Your Outdoor Space and that would be perfect. You might have to turn it into something like “how we took an EHD design and adapted it for our Palm Springs-inspired apartment” post in order to get new content out of it, though 🙂

Good luck! (Though obviously you’ll end up with something great.) My outdoor sectional arrives tomorrow and I am stupid-excited to have somewhere to lounge outside during quarantine 😀

Jessica

Oh yeah, I’d LOVE a fresh post on coming up with a color palette, the only one I’m finding is super duper old. Obviously I can just pick colors from a picture or wallpaper or rug I like, but I’d still like to hear what y’all have to say, with some stylishly up-to-date and beautiful photos!

Jessica

One of your inspiration pics has a screen creating extra privacy, it could be really cool to add something like that to the railing next to the door and then hang some plants from it. Research has shown that looking at plants is good for you, and I say any excuse to add more plants is a good one! Plus it would add a touch more privacy from all those neighboring balconies (curtains also sound cute)

Lisa

I roomed at a friends condo for a year while at school. She had a tiny balcony set up for morning coffee/evening wine. Small wicker chairs with arms and tiny table stayed out always and we brought out folded throws/pillows from the couch to make our chairs cozy.

Patricia

Our tiny balcony is much longer (but similar width) compared with yours. Big difference, we overlook a busy street and face east. In three years, I’ve sat out there about 30 minutes. It’s either too noisy, breezy or we’ve lost the sun. So I primarily grow plants on ours. I’ve got two railing planters (mine are hung with zip ties and are really sturdy) and three other planters. That’s enough. Sigh.
Good luck.

Annie K

I love your design! I so enjoy seeing your process and especially like that you reference the design process “rules”; you really give them life. I also can’t get enough small space posts. I love that they entail so much problem solving, and can’t be loaded with too much filler. Like a stripped down fruit salad, hold the underripe melon.

Roberta Davis

We spend a lot of time one a pretty small lanai in Hawaii when we’re there (which is a lot). It is a lot larger than this balcony- more like 4′ by 12′, and yet it is pretty tricky to move past one another to get into or out of a patio chair and around a small table. You’ll be much better off to keep it very simple- like 2 folding chairs and a few really nice plants, maybe a string of lights. Although I don’t think you will spend as much time out there as you think. Maybe step out for a few minutes to look at the view or have a cocktail or a cup of coffee. 2 people max, and that will feel very cramped.

Suzanne

I know it will be tight, but I’m a fan of the chaise. I like the idea of adding a railing table, too for standing guests. I had a tiny balcony in on place I rented. In the end, we never used it, because the exhaust put a coating of black dust on everything. It sounds like you have a plan to keep things covered, which should help. The house I have now is in the flight path, so I still have difficulty with the black dust. In the summer I have a good habit of wiping everything down outside daily, which makes it always ready to enjoy. I’m excited to see how your little outdoor space progresses.

Annie K

Oooh what about a railing table and stools?!

Great ideas! Now I know what to do on my balcony!

Nina

Putting up a fence (like in the lower bottom picture) isn’t too hard, and feels more nature-y and private to me. It takes away the view from both sides though, so not the best option if you like the view from your balcony (cant really tell from your pictures whether the view is worth keeping or not).

Nina

I love this post! I definitely agree that most “small balcony design ideas” are still working with too big of a balcony… In general I find that most “small space ideas” are working with large small spaces :p anyways, very much appreciate this post/series, and to give another idea for a post: if you don’t have an outdoor space, can you design a spot beside your favorite window as “outdoor” space (open up the window to make it feel like a balcony). Not sure if that makes sense…

Maria

I have a similarly-sized balcony and what I did was: I have a lounge chair similar to the CB2 one you showed (it’s IKEA’s Havsten) with a little side table, which is great for reading, drinking coffee, etc. Then the rest of the balcony is just empty space that I can use several different ways. I can put a drying rack with clothes (I live in Portugal, where we use the sun instead of a dryer), or a little table with two chairs for eating or working on my laptop (something like IKEA’s Saltholmen). The trick is that the drying rack, the table and the chairs are foldable, so I can choose which one to have open! I think it’s the most versatile and complete setup. In your case, since you don’t need a drying rack, I would put one lounge chair and the small table+2 chairs. Maybe having only one lounge chair breaks some design rule, but it’s super practical!

Victoria

I just discovered this bench that transforms into a table and two stools and am bummed I didn’t know about it when furnishing our own narrow balcony: https://www.wayfair.com/outdoor/pdp/winston-porter-overstreet-wooden-convertible-bench-wnst4240.html

There are also skinny bar tables that attach to the railing or even sit on top of it, and those can add a lot more space too.

Go To Top
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]
[3041]