Recently, hubs and I moved to a new apartment that is blessed with a spacious balcony. Before we even fully unpacked, we were already inviting friends over to enjoy cool drinks and the gentle summer breezes that roll off the nearby Rhine river.
When the previous tenant signed over the lease to us, we also purchased much of their old furniture, including their balcony setup. It lacked style, but since the bare bones were there, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to learn the basic elements of styling a balcony space, and to educate Primer readers along the way.
Here’s what we started with:
Not bad, but it could be better, right?
I’ve discovered eight key style elements of creating a comfortable, stylish balcony. Incorporating these eight elements will almost guarantee you the perfect balcony makeover, so use this article as your guiding light for creating an outdoor space that will be your new favorite spot to host friends, or wind down after a long day.
The Eight Style Elements of a Great Balcony
For a comfy, stylish balcony you’ll actually want to use, you need:
1. Something that defines the back wall
Some people hang planter pots, some hang weather-proof artwork, some hang statement clocks, some hang shelves with small decor, and some, like in the first example, also leave space for their sleek, black grill. The key is to define that back wall with something. Don’t leave it blank!
2. Draping Lights
If you don’t have an outdoor socket, you can use string lights that are solar- and battery-operated.
3. Plants of all sizes and types, but in particular:
Small plants (succulents and cacti are good options) to put on table surfaces;
Medium-sized plants (vines, flowers, small houseplants) to scatter on the floor, on shelves, on window sills, and to hang from railings, and;
Tall plants, like palms, fiddle leaf figs, and monstera deliciosa, to add height and fill in empty corners. Read Primer’s awesome guide to houseplants for more on which to pick and how to not kill them.
4. Candles in decorative glass candle holders
Candles add warm, ambient lighting to the space, inviting you to linger longer.
5. Side tables, to rest your drink.
Or a book, or your laptop.
6. A rug and/or temporary wooden flooring
My flooring originally came from IKEA — it’s the “RUNNEN” outdoor flooring in brown — but you don’t have to install a temporary floor to update your balcony’s look. A rug, sometimes even two or three, works perfectly.
7. Comfortable, inviting pillows and, when seasonally appropriate, cozy blankets
Decorative pillows help set the tone and style of the balcony — modern with clean lines? Boho and casual? Say it with throw pillows! — though they can be tricky to choose. My best tip is to look up “set of 4 pillows” on Amazon, and decide which set you like best. These are pre-selected sets of pillows, which have been curated and chosen because they complement each other, so it’s a good bet that they will all look good together.
Blankets look good for the ’gram, but during the warm summer months, they might not seem so appealing. Keep one or two stored for later use, and opt for chunky knits.
8. Comfortable couch seating, with additional chairs, if desired
You can get away with basic, no frills seating, provided you decorate it well with pillows, and the space around it looks inviting. You’ll probably see what I mean in the examples below.
Seems like a lot? Once you see the elements in action, it won’t feel too overwhelming. Let’s break down the images and identify these eight elements, so you can see the pattern.
Apartment Balcony Design 1
1 – Something set on the back wall, to define it. In this case, it’s the modern, black grill. You could also say that the hanging ivy is helping to add style to the back wall, too.
2 – Draping lights. These ones look like Edison bulb string lights, which are some of my favorites.
3 – Plants! Small ones on the table, mid-sized ones on the floor, and taller ones tucked into corners to add height.
5 – A small table, like this wire and wood side table.
6 – A small, jute rug and a larger, rectangular rug with tassels and a Scandinavian print. Don’t overlook this crucial step; I know rugs can be expensive, but they truly help define the space. Without them, there is no cozy “space” for seating. For instance, in this case, the seating area would bleed into the grilling area.
7 – Comfy, print pillows with a cozy blanket. This couch is a perfect example of how to use nature prints and it still look masculine — large, leafy prints paired with subtly-colored feathers look fresh, mature, and inviting. I like this set, “Tropical Palm Series,” or the “Palm Leaves” option of this pillow.
8 – A spacious, outdoor couch. These can come in all sizes and colors, like this L-shape, but I like how this couch is a plain, neutral color, to allow all the other decorating elements to truly “pop.”
See? Eight style elements. Let’s break down another look; will the style elements remain the same?
Apartment Patio Design 2
1 – A black, beadboard wall clearly frames the space, but if you don’t have a similar exterior wall, you can also hang a large wire grid, to bring in that black color and define the wall.
2 – Draping string lights, this time in a “globe” style.
3 – Lots of medium-sized plants, and one big flower pot tucked in the right-hand corner. The owner hung their herbs along the railing in rail planters, and then set up a tiered, ladder shelf to display more plants.
4 – Candles in clear glass holders also help decorate the ladder shelf.
5 – A wrought iron, double-decker side table adds a masculine touch.
6 – Using two small, complementary rugs adds visual interest.
7 – A collection of boho-inspired pillows introduces new patterns into the space, and echo the colors and patterns in the rugs.
8 – The seating is actually fairly basic — a plain, black couch with a black cushion, but once again, keeping it “neutral” with the color allows everything else to pop. Note that the jute meditation pillow on the floor doubles as extra seating.
For the next example, let’s use a balcony that relies heavily on texture, pattern and color, and has a more “bohemian” vibe, to see if the eight style elements still hold.
Small Balcony Design 3
What I love about this balcony is that it looks so visually complex, yet in reality, there are very few items. This is the power of varied textures and patterns in decor; you can purchase the same eight design elements, but less items, and still make a big impact!
1 – In keeping with the balcony’s rattan furniture theme, the rattan circular wall hangers with potted plants are the “back wall definers.”
2 – Some globe-style lights are casually draped from floor to ceiling.
5 and 8 – Element 5 and element 8 are combined to spotlight the rattan furniture. The side table is complemented by the two chairs on either side, (Article.com has some great rattan options, here, here, and here, if you’re interested to replicate the look) and a footstool with a Scandinavian-inspired print doubles as a table and an extra seating option.
6 – A black and white, Scandinavian-inspired rug ties the look together, and does the heavy decor lifting with its intricate design.
7 – Crushed velvet throw pillows in a soft clementine color draws out the tan of the rattan and is a perfect complement to other colors in the palette.
I hope you’re beginning to see a pattern here. Incorporating these eight style elements, you can pretty reliably create your own stylish outdoor balcony space.
But let’s put it to the test. For our final example, let’s use my own redecorated balcony. Using only these eight elements, can I update its look?
My Balcony Makeover
1 – In my case, there was almost no “back wall” to decorate. However, I created the sense of a wall by hanging neutral-colored curtains and placing a large, vining jasmine plant in the back corner.
2 – My balcony doesn’t have a light socket, but I found these string lights in a “lantern” style that are solar-powered.
3 – In addition to the flowering jasmine vines in the back, I also planted some purple globe amaranth (gomphrena) flowers in a hanging basket off of my railing, and organized some medium-sized plants in a grouping of three beside my couch.
4 – To echo the mint-blue color of my couch pillow and the table runner, I found candles in a mint-blue color, and set them inside gold metal candle holders. I chose this type of holder for a reason: Not only do I like their look, but if it rains, the water will drain more easily. The white lantern was a leftover from the old tenants.
5 – The table in the middle received a small facelift by switching out the boring, vanilla table runner for something more colorful. (The table runner I found was from a store here in Germany, but if I were in the States, I would consider this one.)
6 – A neutral rug would define the floorspace, while allowing the other colors of the balcony to stand out. I’m a fan of jute rugs for their texture, neutral color, and hardiness. I’m fortunate to have the old IKEA wooden flooring tiles left by the previous tenant, too.
7 – Pillows were tricky for me, and I was only able to find ones I liked at a store here. I wanted at least one “statement” pillow, so I found a pillow I thought complemented the table runner’s more “Spanish-esque” design. The deep purple pillows add in a new color to the scheme, while still fitting in with the other colors.
See my note at the beginning of this article for an easy tip on buying a set of pillow covers that will mix well together.
8 – The seating cushions needed a redo, and when I was unable to find a replacement cushion that fit the dimensions of the couch, I decided on the next-best option: covering it. I found a linen (linen is a sturdier fabric, which I assume will be able to take the beating from the weather) tablecloth on sale, and simply covered the cushion in the tablecloth. Easy!
Perhaps I’m biased, but I think that my theory of the “eight style elements for any balcony” worked well! My balcony looks more stylish and put-together, by simply incorporating these eight style elements.
Agree, or disagree? Do you think following these eight principles could work for anybody, or did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!
27 Picks to Upgrade Your Balcony
Solar Table Lamp: Amazon, $27
Fairy String Lights: Amazon, $21
Wood Wall Panel: IKEA, $49
Steel Patio Bistro Set: Amazon, $110
Table + 2 Chairs Outdoor Set: IKEA, $97
Wicker Bistro Set: Amazon, $310
Teak Bistro Set: Amazon, $288
Aluminum Rattan Stack Chair: Amazon, $49
Acacia Wood Lounge Chair: Amazon, $150
Patio Chevron Wood Loveseat: Amazon, $256
Hammock Chair with Lights: Amazon, $70
Glass and Metal Table with Rattan Edging: Amazon, $52
Balcony Bar Table: Amazon, $132
Folding Deck Table: Amazon, $110
Metal Side Table: Amazon, $40
Antique Copper Side Table: Amazon, $60
Wood and Glass Patio Table: Amazon, $95
Bamboo Potted Plant Stand: Amazon $43
Plant Hanger, Set of 5: Amazon, $29
Bamboo Plant Stand: Amazon, $39
Foldable Plant Stand: Amazon $49
Acacia Hardwood Interlocking Tiles, 10 Sq. Ft., Set of 10: Amazon, $50
Acacia Wood Interlocking Tiles, 10 Sq. Ft., Set of 10: Amazon, $55
Floor Decking, 9 Sq. Ft.: IKEA, $19.99 / 8.719 sq ft
Woven Jute Rug: Amazon, $34
Privacy Screen: IKEA, $99