ama""For city dwellers, a house or apartment balcony might be the only bit of private outdoor space you have, so you probably want to take advantage of it. Even on the smallest of outdoor spaces, you can transform a boring strip of cement and railing to an urban oasis.

First, know that the best balcony decorating ideas for you will depend on what you want to be able to use your outdoor space for. The most common balcony uses:

  • Relaxing
  • Eating/Drinking
  • Entertaining
  • Gardening
  • Any mixture of the above

Relaxing balcony design ideas

Fabric, Rugs and Textiles. Simply adding some visual “softness” can instantly make a balcony feel more welcoming and comfortable to be on. There are thousands of stylish outdoor area rugs and runners to choose from, such as this  floral print indoor/outdoor rug to the right. has a great selection of inexpensive and attractive rugs appropriate for balconies. Outdoor pillows can survive most types of weather and create a comfortable place for humans or pets to rest.

Privacy. Many balconies, especially in modern buildings, jut straight out from the building and leave you feeling exposed, whether or not your neighbors can actually see onto your balcony. You can use potted plants to create a visual barrier, or create a “fence” of sorts. One popular choice is to weave branches, vinyl or weather-resistant fabric between your balcony slats, or you can rolls of a privacy barrier, such as bamboo slats.

Relaxing Layout. Make sure you consider the size of your balcony when choosing furniture – many standard patio furniture pieces are designed for suburban homeowners with huge backyards or decks, and will likely not fit on a typical urban balcony. Think small chairs or narrow benches instead of sprawling chaises lounges, and bistro tables instead of full-sized dining sets. If you have two sturdy pole structures, you can even put up a hammock to lounge in when the weather is nice, and roll it back up to create more space when you need it.

Enjoying meals on a balcony

Outdoor dining furniture. The most popular option is to squeeze a bistro table and a couple of chairs on the balcony, but if you don’t have enough room for that, some people make a small, narrow bench and then use tray tables so they can sit side by side while enjoying the view. If you’re using chairs, folding chairs might be a little less comfortable, but they can also quickly and easily be moved to allow more open space, if that’s a priority for you.

Meal accessories. It’s the little details that will make your balcony truly a special place to eat. Citronella candles can do double duty as mood lighting and insect repellant while you’re eating. Cute dinnerware sets that are durable enough for outdoor weather can make your meal more formal without risking your more expensive, or fragile, normal dining set. Add some cute place mats or a vase of  flowers to add a special touch to the experience.

Setting up a balcony for guests and entertainment

Lighting. Strings of lights or bulbs can provide enough light to see with while adding a fun element to the balcony. Solar powered lights don’t even require access to an outlet to stay lit up. Candles, as long as they are safely out of  reach of an accidental nudge, also can provide attractive lighting.

Seating for guests. You’ll want to maximize room for socializing and sitting without using bulky furniture. Easily re-arranged furniture is best, and even better is easily moved furniture that serves multiple purposes. Deck storage benches, for example, can hide gardening tools or other balcony necessaries, but become a cute and comfortable seating area when a stylish cushion is added on top.

Ambiance. Outdoor speakers can be connected to your mp3 player to supply quality sound, rain or shine. Use outdoor heaters or floor fans to keep the temperature comfortable for your guests. Brightly colored patio umbrellas can be propped up to provide shade, if your balcony doesn’t provide sufficient sun protection.

Gardening on a balcony

Finding planters and pots. If you move frequently, select pots that won’t be difficult for you to carry. If you don’t have any open floor space, you can still get window or balcony planters that will hang over the edge of your railing. Choose containers that have a coordinating color, shape or style theme to get a cohesive look. If you want a homey look, make non-traditional planters out of objects like pails, old boots, or glass jars.

Choosing plants. Are you looking for a beautiful oasis of flowers, or a place to grow organic food? Do you have pets with access to the balcony that might eat, and possibly be poisoned from, certain plants? How much time will you devote to your gardening? has an excellent search tool to quickly find plants that meet your needs and your area’s climate.

Balcony Decorating Inspiration