How to Transform Your Balcony Into a Garden Oasis
Our Resident Design Wiz, Nicole Crowder, on how she decorates her outdoor space with color, texture—and whimsy.
Follow the Pattern is a brand new column from furniture maker and upholstery expert (and Home52's Resident Design Wiz) Nicole Crowder. Nicole is here to show us how to breathe new life into old furniture, reuse and repurpose materials, take chances with color and pattern—and develop a signature aesthetic. Today, she shares her tips for transforming a balcony.
Spring has unfurled across the country, reminding us that it’s the perfect time to start cultivating our outdoor spaces: the patios and balconies that have felt so far removed through a cold, long winter. Like so many of you, I live in an apartment building in a city (luckily, one with a small patio), and find that even just adding a few chairs and plants on the patio makes all the difference. This year, I went a step further to try to create a garden-like oasis where I could feel transported every time I set foot outside. The result is an outdoor space filled with color, texture, and just the right amount of whimsy. Read on to learn how I did it.
Creating privacy shields through plants
If you live in a big city—or have neighbors with outdoor spaces close to yours—you might crave a little privacy. My favorite way to do this is by staggering plants around the perimeter of my balcony railing. Use tall plants or plants with big leaves that span out, like philodendron, palm leaf, and monstera. You can also add height by staggering your plants on stands. I love a modern plant stand like this one by Blomus.
Because I live in Minnesota, where it stays cool for longer through the year, I opted to add some artificial plants to the mix, so I don’t have to worry about them wilting or dying. I bought this hanging wisteria that I’ve strung along the balcony railing, as well as some artificial green vines that drape the frame of the balcony door. Michaels is a great source for dried and artificial hanging plants, and prices can range from $18 to $125, depending on what you pick.
Picking the Right Chairs
There are infinite options for patio and balcony chairs. I think the most important thing to consider, no matter the fabric or color palette, is the materiality of the fabric and chair frame. Take the white canvas chairs I have (which sadly are no longer in production), for example: Canvas is always a great choice because it’s super easy to clean and holds up well against the elements, and the wooden frame is treated, so it’s less susceptible to rain, sleet, and sunlight.
Another thing to keep in mind when styling your balcony is the dimensions of your furniture. My chairs are wide enough to be comfortable for a sustained period, but not so wide that they took up too much space. I chose single standing chairs so I could have the flexibility to move them around.
If you prefer to create a seating zone, this sectional corner is the perfect size and shape for fitting into a corner. Or if you have the space, splash out on an entire sectional.
If you really have some outdoor space to work with, a hanging egg chair like this can help elevate your outdoor game. You can also use pouf cushions or ottomans as alternatives to chairs, which can also help maximize space and add dimension to your balcony.
Here are two other chairs I’ve got my eye on: a wicker lounge chair that I would definitely never want to get up from, and this modernist cashmere lounge chair that’s a little more of a splurge.
Adding Color and Texture Through Rugs
The other catalyst for creating this garden oasis was wanting to extend the color in my home to the outside. My first thought was to put down some Astroturf, but then I found these vibrant reversible mats made from recycled plastic (even better!). I love the idea of overlapping rugs to create a tapestry because it adds texture and opens up the space.
I wanted a round table to help break up the angular lines of the chairs, the rugs, and the balcony rails, but also be able to continue to maximize space on the balcony. And because I love having snacks and wine on the balcony, I wanted a table large enough to fit plates of food and a couple glasses of wine. I eventually found this small, round table with a quartz top and brass frame from Hobby Lobby through a seasonal sale, but also had my eye on this lovely quartz table.
Some other ideas for practical but cute tables: This fold-up and carry table acts as a picnic table, but also stores and carries your snacks and wine for easy transportation—for re-creating park picnic vibes right at home; and you can never go wrong with a classic bistro table.
Ultimately, when styling your balcony space—whether your desire is to replicate a garden oasis, a desert getaway, or a seaside vibe—the key is in creating texture by layering, layering, and more layering. Add multiple rugs, a variety of plants that love direct sunlight, colorful pillows to your chairs, and printed pouf cushions to the floor. Bring along your books and an outdoor bar cart. Flank your doorway with tall ceramic sculptures to create a sculpture garden vibe. The possibilities are as wide open as the outdoors themselves.
See what other Food52 readers are saying.