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6 simple ways to turn your balcony into an outdoor oasis

For anyone living in an apartment or condo, having a balcony is a major perk. Although it’s not as luxurious as a sprawling backyard, even a tiny balcony provides a private outdoor space where you can kick back and take in some fresh air. And with a little extra attention to the design, your balcony can serve as a cozy outdoor hangout that’s well equipped for dining, entertaining, gardening and unwinding. These balcony decorating ideas demonstrate how you can turn even a sliver of space into a relaxing outdoor retreat.

1. Personalize your balcony with pretty accessories.

Bring in color and pattern to transform a lifeless balcony into a stylish oasis. Start by anchoring the space with an outdoor area rug for a large dose of pattern. Pull up a couple of chairs and top them with colorful pillows made from weather-resistant fabric. Plants are another easy way to liven up a small outdoor space; just be sure to choose varieties that are suitable for the light and temperatures on your balcony.

2. Create a balcony entertaining station.

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Outfit your balcony with a bar cart that’s stocked with the essentials for outdoor entertaining. Along with your favorite cocktail-making ingredients, be sure to include a few accents, such as a potted plant or framed artwork. If you’re worried about your dishes taking a tumble, use drinkware that’s made of durable, shatter-resistant materials like melamine, plastic or stainless steel. Choose a cart on wheels that you can easily roll back inside when happy hour is over.

3. Establish privacy on your balcony.

Complete privacy will be difficult to achieve if your balcony butts up to other apartments or opens onto the street, but there are a few simple ways to establish a more private space. Position containers of tall plants along the railing, or hang a row of plants with trailing leaves to screen your balcony. Outdoor curtains are another easy solution that blocks harsh light as well as views from nosy neighbors.

4. Set up a balcony dining area.

A small table and a couple of chairs are all you need to enjoy your morning coffee or a casual meal out on the balcony. Choose a round table shape over a rectangular one to make it easier to navigate around. A small settee or cushioned bench offers seating for multiple people without taking up too much space. Add a centerpiece and a few tabletop accessories to elevate your alfresco meal.

5. Consider scale and durability when choosing furniture.

Furnish your balcony with pieces that match its scale. Trying to squeeze a bunch of bulky furniture onto a minuscule balcony will quickly overwhelm it. Instead, choose options with streamlined, low-profile shapes, such as armless chairs, bistro tables and petite side tables. Durability is another key consideration when decorating a balcony. Look for furniture and accessories made from materials like aluminum, wrought iron, resin wicker, plastic or teak that will stand up well to the elements.

6. Carve out zones on a larger balcony.

If you’re lucky enough to have a large balcony or even a rooftop terrace, break it up into zones for different activities. Designate areas for entertaining, dining or relaxing with a book, for example. This outdoor space includes a cozy conversation area situated around a fire table and comfortable seating for solo relaxing. A freestanding patio heater keeps the balcony cozy on cool evenings.

(Better Homes and Gardens is a magazine and website devoted to ideas and improvement projects for your home and garden, plus recipes and entertaining ideas. Online at www.bhg.com.)

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