How to make the most of your small balcony

  • 03.April 2018
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Small it may be, but it is likely to also be your one and only kind of personal open space – that protruding bit of floor, just out of the balcony door, surrounded by stone wall, metal railing or glass, that allows you to walk out without falling from a height. It also allows you to look outside, see the world and acknowledge it.

Frankly enough, your small open balcony also allows you to keep that full and probably not so fragrant garbage bag out of sight. It gives you open space in which to smoke your cigarette without disturbing the homestead. It probably also serves to hang out some washing or all of it, depending on its size. Whatever the case, even if you use it to just keep now empty and defunct pot plants where you cannot see them, that little open space can become a haven of sorts if you just put your mind to it. Here’s a simply project progress plan for you:

Start by clearing the balcony out

Empty the dead-plants and tired soil from those old pots and planters. Just throw away old soil where mealy bugs and aphids may still be lurking. Wash the empty pots in clean water and vinegar. Throw away anything else of scant value – weathered broom sticks, the mouldy ‘hasira’, jaded water buckets which have been sitting in the sun so long they have changed colour.

Once the balcony is clear, examine the stonework, ironwork or glasswork. Clean, re-varnish or whitewash as required. The space is not large, so it will only require one morning or two of steady work.

Consider fundamental practicalities

Is it north or south facing? Does it ever see the sun or too much of it? Would you need a ‘hasira’ hanging over it permanently in summer or not? Whilst the ‘hasira’ is the most traditional screen to go for, it does tend to hamper exit and mask the view. An awning is a better option  – lower down and raise according to the level of sunshine and light required. Go for something bright and colourful that blends well with the facade against which your balcony sits.

What about garbage?

Another practicality is to plan where to store the full garbage bag before garbage collection time arrives. A bin with a flat secure lid is the neatest option and you can get one in strong coloured plastic. (Metal will probably rust.) The bin can be parked in a corner. Some people need to also park their spare gas cylinder in minimal space – just place that bin over that cylinder, making sure the bin is constantly weighed down to avoid it flying off during a storm. Easiest idea is to place a stone slab in its base.

Save space when you air your clothes

There do exist extendable systems that fit onto railings or walls. Shop around for space-saving solutions that can be folded in and out, can be fitted on the side of your balcony rather than the front. Just google ‘washing line for balcony’ and you get plenty of ideas.

Give your balcony character and style

It is time for the fun part of this project. Decking out the balcony to give it character and style. How large is it? Can you see it holding a deckchair or just a foldable stool? Whichever, if it can sit there comfortably, place it there. Again choose canvas colours that match your awning. You could also get pillows covered in water resistant and wipeable covers. Decorate with little things such as wind chimes, ceramic sitting ducks or a weather cock.

Your personal forest

Now for the plants. Fresh plants are the most effective method of breathing life into your balcony. Apart from placing potted plants and planters around the perimeter of the balcony, you can also purchase plants that hang over the the balcony, climb against the wall, or can be suspended above it. If you require an increase in privacy, a climber and a trellis can be optimal solutions.

Keep in mind that if you live above traffic, you can select plants that have air-purifying qualities.


Make your balcony an extension of your home

Ultimately, make your balcony an extension of your home, not something that is shut outside, where you can sit and have tea, read, sun yourself, watch the world go by and show off to the world your creative masterpiece.

(Always keep child safety in mind when adopting any of the above ideas. If a balcony or something therein poses a safety threat for a child, keep the child away from the balcony or remove the danger.)