Six Ways To Elevate A City Balcony Experience

29 Greenbank Park Patio
Top designers share tricks and touches for elevating a smaller outdoor space such as a patio or terrace. (Brilliance Capital)

Whether you live in New York, Los Angeles, or another major city, having a smaller outdoor space such as a balcony or terrace can be a true gift. Unfortunately, many people don’t get much use from these spaces because they don’t know how to use or properly decorate them. Interior designer Cheryl Eisen shares this sentiment: “City balconies are the most under-utilized after-thought of the homes I’ve seen, specifically in urban cities. But it doesn’t take much to turn your balcony into a beautiful zen den.”

Whether you’re starting fresh or simply trying to work with what you have, here are six ways to reimagine a city balcony.


Even with the smallest of spaces, it helps to start by establishing a purpose for your outdoor space.

Find One Function For The Space

When space is sparse, it’s best to opt for a single function and enjoy it for that purpose. “The balcony is an often neglected opportunity in apartment living, and it often ends up as the de-facto bike storage space. There are far more exciting possibilities, you just need to start with ideas about the function of the space” says Matt Baran of Baran Studio Architecture.

Choose one function and run with it: “If the living space has large openings out the balcony, you can make it an extension [of that space],” says Baran. “It can also become its own discrete and separate space. Options include a dining area, a bar, garden, or outdoor space that you can share with pets.”

Baran also suggests keeping the furniture and decorative elements small and minimal. “Avoid an overly busy space. Calm, minimal, and integrated into the architecture of the balcony itself is ideal.”

outdoor dining space

A dining space is an easy space to start for most condo dwellers.

Create A Dining Space

Creating a dining space is an easy go-to for most balconies and apartment/condo dwellers. “The smallest balcony can squeeze the following elements to create a cozy and quaint oasis,” says Eisen.

hanging planters and lights

Hanging plants are an easy way to create visual interest above.

Hang Plants

A balcony can be a dream for someone with a green thumb. However, it’s important to hang plants as safely as possible, especially if you are on a high floor. “Hang or set planters inside of the balcony railing. You don’t want your plants to drain or fall on your neighbors below,” says designer Ryan Benoit, who is also the creator of SkyPots and co-founder of TheHorticult

Benoit also emphasizes the importance of choosing plants that will thrive in the given light. “Assess which direction your balcony faces before choosing your plants. If your balcony faces north, make sure to grow low-light plants. If your balcony faces south make sure to choose plants that can withstand full sun. If your sunlight is obstructed most of the day, choose plants that are good for part sun or part shade.”

balcony garden

Just because you’re in an urban area doesn’t mean you can’t grow some types of veggies.

Grow Vegetables

Just because you’re in an urban area and have a very limited amount of space doesn’t mean you can’t grow some types of veggies. According to Matthew Geldin, who is Farmscape’s Head Farmer in Southern California, even a little sun on your balcony can yield some crops. “Vegetable crops do best with full sun exposure,” he says. “If you have partial sun, consider growing crops that produce smaller fruit— think cherry tomatoes instead of beefsteak, or jalapeno peppers instead of larger bell peppers.”

outdoor rugs

Outdoor rugs can make a big design impact on any balcony.

Accessorize With A Rug

Outdoor rugs can make a big design impact on any balcony. “Outdoor rugs are a great way of bringing the indoors out and creating a natural extension of your home,” says interior designer and founder of FabHub, Haggie.

You can also consider layering rugs on larger terraces. “The layered finish is a great way to bring in individuality and personality as well as add depth and texture to your home,” she says. “Layering rugs provides additional textural contrast which creates more interest.”

So how do you know you’re choosing the right rug? “The right rug should ground a space, giving a balanced, harmonious feel,” says Haggie.

Rooftop Living Room With Turf Fire Pit

Try AstroTurf for a patch of grass on a terrace or balcony. (Hendrickson Photography / Shutterstock)

Install AstroTurf

Not into outdoor rugs? Astroturf can be a fun and unique alternative according to celebrity designer and HGTV star, Wilfredo Emanuel. “For me, when someone lives in the city, their balcony can be a place to escape from the city life temporarily. I try to bring as much nature to the space as possible which not only looks beautiful but also helps to create a relaxing atmosphere.”


I am a writer, design expert, host of the podcast Bougie Adjacent, and comedic performer. I am absolutely fascinated by all aspects of décor and design. It once took me six months to choose a soap dispenser and I can’t even remember what it looked like. I like bright prints, southern exposure and any location you can call a “village or town.” There are currently over 100 episodes of House Hunters on my DVR.