How to use new balcony
September 8, 2016 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Brainstorm request: Husband and I just moved into a new house that has a 4-foot-wide by 20-foot-long balcony off the master bedroom. How should we use it?

The house has a really wonderful backyard full of great plants and shady spots, places to sit, etc., and the main back door is off the kitchen. The master bedroom is on the second floor and the balcony goes overtop of some of the back yard. The obvious use would seem to be to have a little table & chairs for morning coffee or lounging or whatever, but I think if I’m going all the way downstairs to make drinks, I’m just going to proceed out the kitchen door into a shady/comfy sitting space at the ground level. So, I just don’t think we would really use table/chairs out there very much. (Also, having only 4 feet of width is a bit of a challenge with a table & chairs.) Ditto comfy/loungey seating -- same problem.

My other thought was to put some more plants up there, but watering would be kind of challenging because there’s no outdoor faucet on the balcony, and anyway I have so many plants in the backyard already that I’m kind of at (or possibly over) capacity in terms of what I can take care of.

This is a west-facing balcony in coastal San Diego (however, the view is nothing particularly special). The entrance to the balcony is all the way over on one side (sliding glass doors). I can't think of anything else that would be important to know, but if I left out some key piece of info, please ask!

Mefites, please hit me with some creative suggestions for how to use this space!
posted by hansbrough to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A lounge chair for sunbathing, if that's your thing?
posted by zebra at 4:34 PM on September 8, 2016

Also, do you have any electrical outlets out there?
posted by zebra at 4:35 PM on September 8, 2016

Yes, there are outlets (I think 2... maybe only 1, but we could always add more) and also lights for night-time. I am not much of a sunbather, but that's a good suggestion! Please keep them coming!
posted by hansbrough at 4:37 PM on September 8, 2016

If the bedroom looks out over the balcony, I'd focus on making it nice to look at from the bedroom (and theoretically out of the corner of your eye in the yard) rather than specifically being nice to be on. Maybe some gauzy curtains (I do this with shower curtain liners, they're tough), fairy lights, LED candles. Maybe a hummingbird feeder, some hanging glass art for the light to catch, air plants or succulents.

You know, make it look like you live in a music video.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:39 PM on September 8, 2016 [13 favorites]

posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 4:49 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

20 feet, excellent! Could I suggest building out a large art project of a purple sea serpent. Use part of the dips to make comfortable spots to lounge. Fins as side tables.
posted by sammyo at 4:56 PM on September 8, 2016 [12 favorites]

I have a single chaise lounge on my balcony, and a single table for water/ phone/ ect. It is only for me, and only for reading.

If I had a longer balcony, and didn't live in the land of rain, I'd put an easel out there and done art supplies in a plastic waterproof bin. Do you have a hobby you could move out there?
posted by Valancy Rachel at 5:00 PM on September 8, 2016

Do you have cats that might enjoy it? Maybe install a kitty door (and make sure it's safe for them).

You could, alternatively, cultivate friendship with local birds by setting up a feeding station up there.
posted by amtho at 5:01 PM on September 8, 2016

I'd just fill it with plants and bird feeders and keep a watering can in the bathroom.
posted by tavegyl at 5:07 PM on September 8, 2016

Agree with amtho, this is an obvious place for some kind of outdoor kitty enclosure. If you don't have cats, you should go adopt some just for this reason.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 5:22 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, we love the balcony off our bedroom. Does yours have an awning or cover? Otherwise, it's a lot of sun hitting the doors in the morning even though you are westward. (Ours is South facing, also in San Diego!)

On our patio, we have two comfy chairs with cushions and ottomans. It's our preferred spot for reading the news and curling up with a book. It's also where we hide out when we want to take a break from the world.

We do have a little coffee spot in the dressing area. It's just a Keurig, and a small fridge for wine, half and half, ice and a Brita jug. It came with the house - we wouldn't have put it there, but it is so damn luxurious to have a jug of cold water upstairs.

If the balcony were longer, then I'd put a rowing machine up there.
posted by 26.2 at 5:26 PM on September 8, 2016 [6 favorites]

Hang dry your clothes out there, on a line or on a foldable rack. Saves energy, makes whites brighter, makes everything smell fabulous.
posted by Capri at 5:35 PM on September 8, 2016 [5 favorites]

Here is a page full of long narrow balcony ideas. The best of them have seating across the end of the balcony, usually with a feature like a magazine rack or some other decorative shelving above it.

There's even one with a cooking area on the end, stove and sink, which is probably way OTT for your situation but I'm thinking a half-sized fridge wouldn't go amiss.

I think your main challenge is keeping it not-cluttered and maintaining the light and space while also not letting it seem too empty.
posted by tel3path at 5:40 PM on September 8, 2016

We had plants galooooore on our last balcony. Plus a hammock on a stand, which I highly recommend. It was like a little green oasis forest on the 12th floor...
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:42 PM on September 8, 2016

That sounds awesome. If it were me, I would get two extremely comfortable chairs with a good lean, end tables for drinks and flowers and a candle and expect that the railing would be where I put my feet when i wanted to hide from the world.

Positioning is key-if the chairs aren't there you'll never want to be there. You need chairs you'll aspire to sit in. Maybe even just one. But if it's not lovely and comfortable, it won't satisfy your needs in that niche way only a 20 by 4 balcony can afford. You're like on a cruise ship or something...a place of stillness.

Don't worry about water for plants; search on drought tolerant container plants. Per an earlier ask of mine, sedum and echerveria are great, and in your area you have a hundred other options. Buy a cool pot and a few plants at the garden center.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:00 PM on September 8, 2016

Air hockey table?
posted by vrakatar at 6:12 PM on September 8, 2016

dart board and dry bar.
posted by vrakatar at 6:13 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yoga? You'd have to modify some poses to keep from hitting your hands into the house, but I could imagine it being really nice to have a sparse clean space with nature nearby but no clutter.

Instead of thinking of it as just another chair in a yard full of planty shady chair/lounge spots, think of it as the queen's dais for surveying your domain. It's not part of the back yard, it's for sitting above the backyard and thinking to yourself what an awesome back yard you have.
posted by aimedwander at 6:17 PM on September 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not good at non-metric, but it sounds similar to my balcony off our upstairs lounge. We recently put a lounger with a sun umbrella that clips to the balcony railing, plus a little half-table and chairs from Ikea out there together with fairylights and a plant. It's a lovely spot for lying on the lounger and reading. I lie out there and browse metafilter most mornings, even though I also in theory have a nice backyard where I could do it. The stuff cost only a couple of hundred dollars from Ikea all up.
posted by lollusc at 7:29 PM on September 8, 2016

I'd avoid putting up bird feeders unless you want to spend you time cleaning up after the birds (messy seeds scattered on the balcony floor, bird droppings, etc.).
posted by sardonyx at 7:45 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have a third-floor balcony that suffers from similar limitations: hard to water plants, no where near the coffee maker or the wine glasses, etc. It's a lovely space, and isn't even hard to furnish, like a four-foot wide balcony is. I knew when I bought the house I'd never use it, and I didn't, until I started hanging up laundry ... and now it's a wonderful space for me. Hence my suggestion above to do just that. Until I used the space that way, it was a place for my pine needle collection.
posted by Capri at 9:16 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you did find it in yourself to deal with plants, I'd look into ones that would make your bedroom smell really nice. (Jasmine?)
posted by salvia at 10:01 PM on September 8, 2016

I would put up some plants around the edge creating some privacy and use it for sunbathing and outdoor sexy times.
posted by AugustWest at 11:59 PM on September 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bowling alley.
posted by Jubey at 3:17 AM on September 9, 2016

With no view, I don't think it'll be much use in summer, except possibly in the evening. But in winter, it'll be a great place to sit in the afternoon sun. I'd put in a small table and two chairs, or a pair of deck chairs, depending on which you're more likely to use.

Or a telescope.
posted by kjs4 at 3:24 AM on September 9, 2016

That would be my perfect reading nook - cozy chair with a footrest, small table for drinks, and maybe even a bookcase?
posted by Mchelly at 9:26 AM on September 9, 2016

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