If you have a balcony, you probably want to take advantage of your personal slice of outdoor space, and relax or entertain with your friends or family without worrying about the rest of the world being able to see exactly what you’re doing. Unfortunately, many apartments and condos have views that aren’t attractive, or are very exposed-feeling, with little shade and perhaps easy visibility into your neighbors’ balconies.

Apartment leases and condo owners’ agreements have different restrictions on what you can and can’t put on a balcony, but most associations will not interfere as long as you don’t make permanent changes to the balcony or patio, and the decorations are not outlandish and do not call attention in a negative way.

Here are some suggestions to use balcony privacy screens, fences, and shading options to turn your balcony into a truly private, intimate retreat.

Reed and bamboo fencing

Bamboo or reed fencing is meant to be attached to an existing fencing structure, which makes it a great, inexpensive choice for renters who must live with their existing balcony or deck fencing. Bamboo screens can be found in a variety of heights ranging from 2-3 feet tall to over 8 feet tall, as well as stain colors, from a bleached pale yellow to dark brown.

The fence can be attached to the current railing with zip ties or staples. Be careful to attach firmly, as bamboo is lightweight and can fly off in a storm if it’s not attached securely. Also be aware that bamboo will have gaps that let in light. They are good to give off a sense of privacy, but they are not completely opaque.

Patio umbrellas

Using outdoor umbrellas can give a patio or balcony a lot of privacy without the hassle of a permanent or semi-permanent solution. The umbrella can be tilted at an angle to provide more shielding from the street, and can add a pop of color to your balcony as well as well as serve as an attractive privacy screen.

Look for heavy-duty umbrellas that can survive harsh weather so that you don’t have to bring it inside every time it storms, and make sure the base is heavy enough to weather any wind gusts without tipping over. Many umbrella stands also have a tilting option; useful for easily providing more or less obstruction from outsiders.

Balcony and patio privacy screens

Most outdoor privacy screens come in the “folded accordion” style, and can be moved around fairly easily, but are limited in their width. They are best used to provide complete blockage of light in a specific place on your balcony or patio, or to screen off a specific, unsightly area. Be sure the type of privacy screen you’re looking at does not need to be staked into the ground to stay upright.

Other balcony screen ideas

  • Garden Trellis. If you have any interest in gardening, you can train vines to provide a foliage barrier from the neighbors. Many trellises have support beams that are dense enough to provide decent privacy even before the plants grow completely up the height of the trellis. Consider a rolling trellis if you move often.
  • Tall Bushes and Trees. Again, if you’re willing to take the time and money for the upkeep, dense potted bushes or container-grown trees can be an environmentally-friendly way to provide a barrier from your patio and the outside world.
  • Balcony Curtains. There are heavy-duty outdoor curtains you can hang inside your balcony that are durable enough to withstand harsh weather and can block out sunlight, as well, if you need.
  • Privacy Slats. If you have a chain link fence, there are many options for weaving plastic slats or even faux-ivy through the fence to create a much denser barrier from the world. This is time-consuming and while it technically can be removed, it would be time-consuming to undo, as well. Some stiff slats can also be woven in and out of  a vertical-only type fence.

Whatever you decide to do with your outdoor space, you will be amazed at how much more secluded and comfortable your patio or balcony feels with just a little bit of privacy. Enjoy your time outside!