Unless you live somewhere perpetually warm and sunny such as Miami or Los Angeles, you’ve probably neglected your patio or balcony over the long winter. If it is looking a little desolate – or if you haven't touched the space since the day you moved in to your apartment because you just didn't know what to do with the space – it's time to prepare for the upcoming warm weather and turn your patio or balcony into one of your favorite "rooms" in your apartment.
First, think about how you would like to use your patio. Will it be a quiet spot in the mornings to sip your coffee and thumb through the news on your tablet? Perhaps you want to use it as a spot for entertaining. Maybe you'd like to unwind after work in a cozy, relaxing oasis. Or maybe you want a sunny, peaceful spot for sunbathing. Decide on the patio or balcony's main function before you start so you'll have a clear vision of what you want the space to look like.
Now really look at your space. What is your view? What can you see on either side? What about above you? Listen – do you hear neighbors, traffic, or some other type of noise? Take note of the trouble spots so you can find ways to deal with them. Measure your space, write the dimensions down, and take that with you.
Patio or balcony furniture can range from a wrought-iron bistro table and two chairs to a modern, cushioned settee. If you plan to use your space for your morning coffee and perhaps an evening meal or two, consider a table and chairs. If you want to entertain, consider a settee and perhaps a chair or two. If you just want to relax and soak up the sun, then you'll want a lounge chair or perhaps an outdoor couch. Since the space is small, you won't be able to add everything, so pick what you would use most.
You don't have to spend a lot, either. Look in thrift stores, shop garage and moving sales, or search the local second-hand shops. Don't forget – you can paint, change cushions, and update hardware to make the piece your own, and it will only cost a fraction of what you would pay for a brand new piece of furniture.
Don't forget about the lighting, especially if you will be using this space at night or for entertaining. Consider string lights, a hurricane lamp, a wall sconce, lanterns, or solar lighting.
If you don’t know how much sun your patio or balcony gets per day on average, keep track for about a week. If the space is full sun during the hottest part of the afternoon, you may want to consider adding a patio umbrella or other shade element. The amount of sun is also important for the type of plants you'll choose. (If you have pets, be sure to check this list of plants that are poisonous to them.)
Plants will add privacy and color, will absorb some of the noise from traffic and neighbors, and will add texture and scent to your patio or balcony. If your balcony or patio sees mostly shade, consider using plants such as fuchsia, impatiens, and geraniums in your garden. If your space is mostly sunny, consider petunias, angel's trumpet, bamboo, and lantana.
Consider adding a trellis, especially if you want to block a neighboring balcony or patio from view. Collect odd containers in different sizes and shapes, and don't forget to add a few hanging baskets, as well. Your containers don't have to come from the nearest garden center – consider upcycling "found" items to create a fun look to your patio or balcony. Add height with bamboo and other tall plants, and add visual interest by stacking containers or including garden statues, gazing balls, water features, and other garden décor.
Your apartment patio or balcony is an extension of your space – don't let it go to waste by just storing your bicycle out there. From extra space for parties to a serene location to start your mornings off right, a functional and attractive outdoor space is a fantastic apartment amenity, so use it!