Tip 09 // Make the most of a tiny city balcony
My favorite part about joining the small house movement is the creativity required to turn barely-there spaces into ones worthy of our lifestyles. You don’t get much surface area living in a tiny abode. It requires being alright with carving out a little nook for the cat litter box, combining your husband’s office with the bedroom, and using the same barn door to close off the laundry closet and the upstairs bathroom. The dining table has to double as a makeshift office during quarantine, the living room acts as a yoga room in the mornings, and the kitchen once doubled as a bakery.
Despite living in what is considered to be a small home, I am proud to say that our cohort of three has thrived in creating extremely intentional lives. If anything, I would say a small space does that to you. It’s as if the smaller the home, the more mindfulness is required in order to create a functional dwelling place.
And now that we have been contained indoors for some time, it has become necessary to add something to our home that would replace what the outdoors once served us. I wanted to add to our habitation something that would function as a reprieve from man-made things, but also, from each other. No offense to my company, but I miss the smell of fresh air, the way wind and my hair fought (the wind always won), the sound of rustling leaves and chirping birds, the feel of warm sun rays and cool grass – I miss the invisible things. Plus, to be completely candid, I wanted, simply, a place to go. I know it’s a lot to ask, what with so many suffering. But I needed space that would allow me to step outside. I love my squad but I wanted to be able to shut a door (it’s been so long). Get some privacy, for once.
Because a part of creating a functional space out of 900 square feet entailed not having any doors or walls to separate space into even tinier space. Before the quarantine, such minimalist living was fine, since I got my breathing room by going somewhere. I got headroom in the yoga studio, I got expansion on the beachy sand, I got personal space at the office. Being cooped indoors brought to my attention my need for the outdoors – a “somewhere else” if I may.
So the project that I came across was our tiny city balcony. I wanted to turn it into more than just an extension of our home that collected dust and made our tomato plant and green onions grow. I wanted to turn it into a breakfast nook, a new work space, a reading area, a place to drink cocktails, a place to tan, and a grassy knoll – all at the same time. This is quite the feat, considering the space is only 59″ x 114″ in size. But, with a bit of planning, it was definitely something we were able to do.
Below are a few tips on how to make the most of a tiny balcony.
- Use Dual Purpose Flooring – We chose two different types of flooring for our balcony. A grayish wooden slat for half of the space, and fake grass for the other half. The grass is great for sunny afternoons when we want to sit in a lounge chair and drink cocktails or read a book. We hope our cat Theo would eventually meander out there and soak up the rays (he’s still hesitant to step outside). The slats are for when we want to sit on a bistro dining set and pretend like we’re sitting on a Parisian balcony instead of in the heart of downtown. Additionally, I felt like the slats was the more practical of the two options. As much as I loved how the grass reminded me of the parks I was missing, I wanted something more “serious”, for days when I want to work on the blog outside. I guess having both gave us an adult balcony and a whimsically quirky one, too. That’s the thing about creating an intentional space. You want it to fulfill the parts of your lifestyle that you love – both the serious side and the fun side. Probably the best way to make the most of a tiny balcony is to embrace the possibility of duality in much the same way that our indoors operate as different rooms within the same space. Plus, I like the way the two contrast each other, both in functionality and aesthetically. I mean, just look at it.
- Choose Minimalist Furniture – When it comes to choosing furniture, be intentional with how it looks as much as how it functions. I like minimalist furniture that require little upkeep. For example, these lounge chairs have a drain-hole at the bottom of the seat for days when it rains. They are also easily wipeable with a cloth rag in case they get dusty, and reviews online report that their white color makes them easy to bleach, in case they get scuffed or become insanely dirty. Also, furniture that is light in weight is a consideration for me. It facilitates their shuffling around, which I oft do to change up their functionality or to change up the space. Fold out furniture like our bistro set is flexible and easy to move around. I like furniture that I can put away to make room for other activities (Step Brothers reference).
- Store Things in Practical Ways – When it comes to storing things, I think people fall into two camps. I am of the variety who prefers zero fuss when it comes to storing our stuff. I do not believe in buying “storage solutions”, seeing it as another episode of stuff begetting stuff. Therefore, I prefer things to store themselves, or be beautiful enough to hold their ground when their haphazardly left out in plain site. In the case of balcony furniture, these were my solutions. The bistro set that we chose is foldable and remains so against the walls when not in use. The reason is two-fold: to decrease the collection of dust and rust by limiting the surface area exposed to weather wear, but also, so that the balcony always has s-p-a-c-e. The lounge chairs, on the other hand, are stack-able and made quickly out of the way. This is especially useful if we want to bring out some dining chairs when guests are over for tea or breakfast and we want a nook for four instead of two. Lastly, I purchased a pair of seat cushions for our bistro set, but in order to maintain them well, we remove them every time we fold up the chairs and bring them indoors. They sit on a bookshelf, always clean and ready for the next time we want to set up the bistro set.
- Lean towards neutral colors – So grass green isn’t exactly a neutral color. (That’s part of what makes it so FUN). But, in general, the pieces that we picked out are of neutral colors. I have found that design is highly dependent on the colors you choose. Color is the one factor that carries the most weight in determining the vibe of a space. Colors that are too loud can act the same way clutter does – it can distract our attention and detract from a room. Neutral colors help create an environment that allows me to do quality thinking and relaxing. In order to make small spaces seem bigger, I try to go with lighter tones. Colors that I like to stick to include shades of brown, grey, white, and blue. The flooring is a light blue-grey color and the bistro set is beige. The seat cushions are an oat hue to blend in better with the chairs. When you disguise things as one, it is easier on the eyes and is processed much quicker by the brain. There is less stress placed on both organs. Additionally, the lounge chairs are bleach-white. White is the one neutral color I use to create contrast. It looks especially good against the grass and the wooden palette.
- Limit the clutter. As you already know, I’m not a fan of clutter. I’m a less-is-more enthusiast, and I apply the rule liberally to all my spaces. I also have found that limiting clutter is the best way to make any space look larger than it is. So when it came to selecting the balcony decor, I went with my usual mantra and kept it to the furniture themselves and nothing more. I skipped planters, umbrellas, wall hangings, shelving, and art. Not only does it bring the cost of the balcony remodel down, but it also decreases the amount of stuff to maintain, leaving us with more time to be able to enjoy the balcony itself. Isn’t that what making the most of this space really all about?
A final word on making the most of your city balcony (or space, for that matter). Use it to it’s fullest potential. Find ways to enjoy it for more than just breakfast on the weekend or reading in the afternoon. Turn it into a new office space. Stack the lounge chairs and post up the bistro set so that you can roll out the yoga mat. We’ve already got plans to bring out the projector for summer movie nights. This is the best part of small space living; making use of every square inch, squandering every possible memory, and squeezing in as many house guests possible. That’s where the fun in small space living begins.