Turn Your Small Balcony into a Daydream-Worthy Summer Escape

White balcony with a black floor.

If you live in a small city apartment, your balcony is your main escape into the fresh air and sunlight, so you want to get as much enjoyment out of it as you can in summer. Because it’s a relatively small space, every element you bring in makes a big impact and the time you spend planning out your design is well worth it.

A magazine-perfect cozy balcony full of sheep skins and candle-lit lanterns is great on a snowy winter afternoon, but in summer you want something cooling. Something that lets you feel the sea breeze fluttering over your skin, no matter how far from the water you are. Here are a few tips on how to achieve that.

Choose Your Furniture Wisely

balcony with benches
Benches along the balcony walls leave more floor space open. Via Miljoma.se

Limiting the furniture to only what’s essential is the easiest way to make sure your balcony feels airy and inviting instead of cramped.

A set of wooden French cafe folding chairs and table is an eternal classic, so it’s hard to go wrong with this choice. They have a light and unassuming appearance that makes them easy to style around. For a budget option, check out Ikea’s TÄRNÖ chair and table.

A leggy metal table and chair set in wrought iron or another metal is a good pick if you’re looking for something with a bit more heft. If you want to keep most of the floor space free, position a bench against one wall on the far end. To save even more floor space, use a table that mounts onto the balcony railing and, ideally, can fold down when not in use.

It might sounds counter-intuitive when you’re talking about outdoor furniture, but look for glass or transparent acrylic. Because it lets light through, glass appears to take up less space and also refracts light for a more open, roomy feel. A glass-topped, balcony-rail table can seem nearly invisible. If transparent isn’t your thing, though, colored glass is still a good way to expand the light you have.

Before you buy anything, measure your balcony and use chalk or masking tape to map out on the floor where you want the furniture to go. This way you’ll know exactly how big you can go with each piece. And remember to take a measuring tape when you go shopping, too.

Cool Your Color Palette

White balcony with a black floor.
A black floor adds depth and sophistication to this white balcony.

Nothing opens up a room quite like pure white, so if a sense of spaciousness is what you’re going for, make this the neutral color in your palette. If white feels a little too bright or stark for your taste, opt for light shades of sand or grey. For the rest of your color selection, generally, it’s cool colors like blue and green that will create that breezy seaside summer feel. That said, sticking with black and white will give your balcony a polished, modern vibe with minimal effort.

Your floor color matters, too. A drab-looking floor can drag down the look of your whole balcony, but refinishing isn’t the only way to rescue one. Try stick-on vinyl floor tiles. You can even find these in a white-washed wood grain for a traditional Scandinavian look. For a more earthy look on the cheap, take a look at Ikea’s RUNNEN wood floor decking.

On the other end of the spectrum, a black floor can look just as good. Black flooring creates a sophisticated contemporary air instantly, but be aware it’s not easy to keep looking spotless. Black floors highlight dirt, rather than hide it.

Soften Your Space With Textiles

balcony seating with pillows
Textiles add personality and inviting softness. Via Lansfast.se

Light, summery fabrics like linen, cotton and hemp are the way to go here. Depending on the weave, hemp’s texture is similar to that of linen. Both are soft, breathable, and eco-friendly.

For your textile accessories, two or three pillows and a throw are really all you need on a small balcony. Give some thought to buckwheat hull pillows. Buckwheat is one of the best fillings for keeping you cool and it’s decidedly eco-friendly. Even if you find them too noisy for sleeping with, that won’t matter much on the balcony.

A rug in a light, neutral shade adds a finishing touch. In the photo above, the mosquito net gives the seating area dreamy, fanciful feel and helps fill in the high ceiling space, not to mention it keeps the mosquitoes away. The apartment’s in Sweden, after all.

Then when the cool weather moves, replace your summer textiles with plusher stuff like faux fur and woolen knits.

Bring in the Green

A few well-chosen plants for a clean, urban minimalist look. Via Metromode.se
A few well-chosen plants for a clean, urban minimalist look. Via Metromode.se

Besides furniture, plants are big part of what creates the ambiance of your balcony. If you want a clean, contemporary look, stick with a few stand-out specimen plants. Ferns, palms, and others plants with fine, lacy foliage are ideal. Potted trees with large leaves, such as fig, create a shady garden feel. Ornamental grasses are another good choice. Quite a few species, including miscanthus and Japanese sweet flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’), do well in containers.

Concrete planters work well on this type of balcony because the material’s light color doesn’t draw attention to itself. Wood containers and crates also fit nicely, especially if you’re going for rustic feel. To create a lush, Old World garden atmosphere, think in vertical layers. Use trellises, shelves, plant ladders, wall-mounted pots, railing-mounted containers, hanging planters to make use of your vertical space.

Then round out your design with a few carefully chosen accents. Ceramics and glass are ideal for a summery look, if you’re brave enough to leave them outdoors. Wall decor such as mirrors and framed artwork . And to really make your balcony an escape from the everyday grind, playful, whimsical additions like party bunting, tree pompoms, bird cages, old watering cans, and whatever else catches your attention.

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