For those of us trying to put together an area outside for entertaining, space–or rather, a lack of it–can be quite the complicator. We all wish we had an acre with a patio the size of our living room (plus kitchen?), but alas, we must make do with what we have.
In fact, some of us have the extra challenging task of outfitting a small balcony to receive guests. In these cases, efficiency and working within your limitations are key. You can always shop and drool, but it’s no use filling such a small space with all your favorite balcony furniture. That’s how we start to feel cramped. But fret not–there are tricks, there are always tricks!
Below, we’ll discuss three principles for taking full advantage of your outdoor entertaining space, however large or small it is.
Built-In Balcony Furniture
No matter how big your deck, patio or balcony is, it has little ledges and surfaces built into it. Sometimes these are just the concrete patio floor and the steps leading down to it. But other times, there’s a wide retaining wall that can be used as a sort of functional countertop; a safety wall around the balcony that can be used similarly; or bench built into the deck.
If you’re working with a little balcony, chances are there’s no deck-like seating built into it. You might have a safety wall if not a rail, but these often aren’t wide enough to set anything on safely. But, chances are your balcony’s safety wall or railing makes a corner, either at the leftmost end or the right. You can grab any old shelf that’s long enough (maybe a moveable bookshelf?) and set it across this corner to form a triangle, thus making a relatively stable, safe surface on which to put anything light–a drink, a plate, a phone.
On the other hand, if your deck does have seating built into it, see what happens when you place a small bistro table in the corner. Does it even need a chair or can enough folks enjoy it from the deck bench? Is the bench comfortable enough? Maybe you could invest in some durable, well-covered cushions instead of chairs.
The point is, before buying and filling your limited outdoor entertaining space with too much balcony furniture, see what you’ve already got, use it, and build out from it.
Explore the Space
While you’re scoping out your area to see what to add to it, make sure to also think about where to add things. A well-placed bistro table and chairs can be plenty functional and leave most of the balcony still empty. This makes it much easier for the balcony to feel positively–luxurious, even–spacious.
And it’s nice that these things don’t need to be symmetrical. They say symmetry is undesirable in art and arranging balcony furniture to impress and accommodate friends is certainly an art. Take what your balcony gives you–if you have a square deck with built-in benches, maybe don’t put a table in every corner. See how a second bistro table feels on the side so that one person can sit on the deck’s bench and one person can sit across the table in a chair. Perhaps a small loveseat with an end table would be nice.
At the end of the day, a small balcony means small balcony furniture. There are always tricks, but we’re not sorcerers over here.
Bistro tables and bistro chairs are the go-to balcony furniture for small spaces. The tables are big enough for two, maybe three, and small enough to leave at least half the balcony open for shuffling, standing, and retaining a feeling of spaciousness.
They are also small enough to evoke a feeling of coziness and luxury, practically automatically. With a good bistro table and chairs, it’s not hard to remind the eye of a Parisian cafe in the summer. Many a romantic meal al fresco has been enjoyed atop a bistro table.
Luckily, bistro tables and chairs are some of the most commonly sought balcony furniture items and can be found in all kinds of styles at any store or website that sells balcony furniture.
The Three Principles of Small Balcony Furniture
It is so very helpful to start shopping for small balcony furniture with an attitude of adaptation. This isn’t the time to try and manifest some mental image of a grand backyard patio setup. It’s the time to meet your space where it is and give it what it was made to contain.
The first thing to do is to see what built-in features of the space you can use in place of furniture. A wide ledge or an improvised shelf can help immensely. Built-in deck benching is nice too, for eliminating the need for at least a couple of chairs.
After you feel like you’ve maxed out your resourcefulness, it’s time to plan where your balcony furniture will go. Don’t overcrowd the area; the art is to make it feel cozy, but not cramped. The eclectic, “thrown-together” look is especially handy for this.
Finally, whatever you do buy, pretty much has to be small, like the space it’s going into. True, a full loveseat or even a couch can just barely fit and even look good in certain nooks, but generally speaking, a small bistro table, small chairs, and the willingness to go small with all your balcony furniture is key.
Lots of times, small and inexpensive seating comes uncushioned. Never think you have to compromise comfort for functionality! It’s easy to find your own cushions and choose your own covers for them. Again, work with what you already have; making your existing small, functional balcony furniture uber-comfortable is the perfect way to do that!