There are plenty of factors keeping you from tending to your apartment balcony (The expense! The limited space! The fact that there are only a few months of the year to actually enjoy it!). But, creating an outdoor retreat can do more good than you think.
I never thought of my balcony as a sanctuary—as something I'd ever want to retreat to—despite my appreciation for having an outdoor space in Toronto's core. Unlike most balconies in the city, mine is large, and like most balconies in the city, my view is the pits. A dodgy alleyway, after-hours bars and a strip club are all a stone's throw away it, so forgive me if I've ignored its presence for a few years.
But then, I went to Paris, and got inspired (as you do) and decided to fix up my balcony. I repositioned my unused bistro set, got a rug and added some greens. I also hung planters—that hold cascading blooms, naturally—from the railing, which help to block the unpleasant view and also offer the space a bit of a French feel—my favourite feel. And guess what? I actually use my balcony now. It makes me happy to enjoy the fresh air and take advantage of the warm weather, and I find myself entertaining more.
Because I want to spread the word—hey guys, have you tried this whole outdoor living thing?— I reached out to "personal trainer for the home" Jill Pollack. She says your balcony can offer benefits to your mental health. "Fresh air is always therapeutic, physically and mentally." Isn't that enough motivation to work on that balcony of yours? Yes? Good. Now that you're on board, here's how to create an outdoor space that makes you feel good and live better.
1. Get rid of clutter.
We often rely on balconies as a storage space—out of sight, out of mind, right? But, as Jill says, "this is precious real estate!" So, you're going to want to take advantage of every square foot, and your first task is tackling all the clutter. Give it away, throw it out, or if you're not ready to bid farewell, find a place for it elsewhere. Buy outdoor furniture with built-in storage, take it to a storage locker, or try Alluster, which Jill calls a "concierge service for your stuff," as the company's team will take your clutter away and deliver it right back to you when you want it.
2. Decide what you want to do with the space.
Once the excess is gone, you'll be left with a blank space. That may sound daunting, but it doesn't have to be. Jill says the easiest place to start is deciding how you want to use your balcony. For reading? Then maybe a hammock is best. For drinking your morning cup of coffee? Then you need a bistro table. Does it rain a lot where you are? Is there too much sun? Maybe you should add an umbrella to your shopping list.
3. Fill with low-maintenance pieces.
"The last thing you want to do after a long day is to have to come out and set up the space," says Jill. She advises choosing waterproof, easy-to-clean pieces and not overloading your balcony with too many pieces. Among the essentials? A comfy place to sit, a place to put a glass of wine and plenty of plants. But, the number of pieces you fit into your space should depend on its size and where you're able to place the items. "Avoid a cluttered look by keeping as much floor space open as possible," says Jill. Save space by hanging plants or using shelves to hold them.
4. Your goal should be to make it look comfortable and inviting.
You want it to be a place you're looking forward to spending time in. So, be sure to include a soft place to sit or lie down, candles and an outdoor rug to give it a homey vibe. Is your space too small for furniture? "Fill it with all sizes and heights of plants and just open the doors and invite the outside in," says Jill. You'll be welcoming in the free air while giving yourself a healthy dose of #planttherapy.
Ready to create a Parisian-inspired (or whatever-inspired) balcony? Shop my picks:
Bombatta Indoor/Outdoor Chair, was US $398, now US $250, anthropologie.com.
Shore Polystone Planter, $96-199, cb2.com.
Zellie Indoor/Outdoor Printed Rug, $49-224, urbanoutfitters.com.
Celeyan Umbrella, US $228, anthropologie.com.