Originally Published on March 14, 2019. Last Updated on August 15, 2022.
So you’ve ventured into the heart of a sprawling metropolis to chase your dreams and expand your horizons. The rent is higher, the traffic is louder, and the lawn is smaller. A lot smaller. Many city apartments have no yard space whatsoever, but if you’re lucky you can sign a lease that includes a modest outdoor balcony to decorate and furnish to your liking.
Many small balconies in urban apartment buildings sit completely unused or contain a single plastic chair ravaged from years of neglect. With a little brainstorming and creative flair, you can transform a balcony into a functional space full of life, even if the total square footage doesn’t hit triple digits. Follow our guide to get the most use out of your small outdoor space.
How Small Is Your Balcony? Let’s Measure It.
Before you make any big decisions you should understand precisely what you have to work with. Measuring your outdoor space on a home property can take an entire afternoon — we have assembled a complete guide to measuring your outdoor living space so you can map out the outdoor areas in your home and begin to transform them into outdoor living rooms, dining areas, or chaise lounges.
Measuring a balcony is fairly straightforward.
- The tools you need are measuring tape, graph paper, a ruler, and a pencil.
- Measure all of the boundaries of your balcony or small outdoor space and draw them to scale on your graph paper. Round to the nearest inch. Most balconies have corners at 90-degree angles, but if you have a balcony with a unique design use a carpenter’s square to get a more accurate representation on your graph paper.
- Measure the length of door frames and doors. Include these measurements and markers on your graph paper. Use the measurement of the length of your door to draw a quarter-circle with dashed lines to indicate where the door opens. This will help you plan the space with enough room to walk around every furniture piece without being blocked by an open door.
- Finally, measure the length and width of any permanent fixtures like planters, a grill, or archways and include them in your sketch.
Average Sizes of Outdoor Furniture
Once you have completed your balcony measurements you can begin considering the dimensions of popular outdoor furniture items to understand what is realistic given your space. A small dining set may look feasible in your mind, but run the numbers before committing to a particular plan.
Here is a quick rundown of the dimensions you can expect from POLYWOOD outdoor furniture to help you narrow down your options:
Small balconies can typically fit at least a two-person dining set. Dining tables suitable for balconies vary between 36 inches and 48 inches in both length and width depending on the style and collection. Dining tables are a standard 29 inches in height. Dining chairs can vary in size based on the overall design — modern, geometric dining chairs are likely 23 inches by 23 inches, while more casual and roomy dining chairs can measure 27 inches in width and 29 inches in depth.
Deep Seating Chairs
Plush deep seating chairs offer a no-fuss way to decompress with the flexible support of all-weather performance cushions. Read, watch the clouds, or drift off to sleep with a deep seating chair. If you plan on outfitting your balcony with two of these and an end table, keep in mind that deep seating chairs are spacious, measuring about 29 inches wide and 35 inches deep.
Speaking of end tables, many common balcony layouts include an end table to place drinks, snacks, reading material, and anything else you need in arm’s reach. Standard POLYWOOD end tables measure approximately 22 inches on all sides, with some variation between styles.
Skip the cushion and opt for contoured, classic comfort with the ultimate in outdoor lounging. Measurements vary based on the collection, but expect an Adirondack Chair (or Adirondack Rocking Chair) on your balcony to take up about 30 inches in width and 34 inches in depth.
When you’re addicted to sunbathing and working on that flawless tan, a chaise lounge is a top priority for your precious balcony space. A POLYWOOD chaise lounge will measure about 26 inches wide and 78 inches long.
Determine the Use of Your Small Balcony
The most important step before settling on a design layout for your small balcony is choosing the use of your space. Smaller balconies only have room for one primary use, but if you have a wider medium-sized balcony you can segment the space for two distinct uses. Choose between the following based on your interests and lifestyle:
- A spot for dining
- An outdoor bar for drinks
- A casual spot to relax
- An open area for sunbathing
- A space to entertain guests
5 Layout Ideas to Get You Started
Do any of those uses above call out to you? Are you a cook who often has guests over to sample your latest dishes, or do you yearn for a cozy nook to curl up with your cat and read in privacy? No matter what you envision we can help you find the perfect furniture match.
We have pre-selected furniture sets for many outdoor spaces, including patios, porches, and poolside retreats. To springboard your balcony planning process, read our layout ideas for each of the uses above to get started:
A Dining Spot
Small balconies are ideal for breakfast nooks instead of full-blown family dining sets. Especially if you are in a congested urban area, choose a sleek dining set like the Braxton 5-Piece Nautical Trestle Arm Charm Counter Set. Push the table slightly off-center and round out the balcony with two standing plants in the corners opposite the dining set to add some vitality.
Create and share extravagant cocktails while overlooking the breathtaking view of your balcony. Again, space is key, so choose an intimate outdoor bar set like the La Casa Café 3-Piece Bar Set to create a relaxed atmosphere free of formality. Keep your bar cart against a side wall, and stick to hanging planters that extend beyond the barriers of your balcony to free up space for movement.
A Cozy Hideaway
Add some privacy to your napping spot or reading nook with hanging plants that drape from the top of your balcony to block out unwanted distractions. Add a plush rug and two Vineyard Deep Seating Chairs with accompanying ottomans so you can stretch out without a care.
A Tanning Retreat
Super tight quarters are ideal for a singular purpose and few pieces of furniture. If you live in a sunny and generally warm climate go for a Coastal 3-Piece Wheeled Chaise Set so you get the added functionality of a side table and wheels to easily re-orient your chaise lounges as the sun tracks across the sky. Don’t block out your rays with tall plants or obstructions. Keep decorations simple, such as waist-height sculptures or artwork on either side of your chaises.
A Party Hub
With an eye for design, you can turn your small balcony into the ideal spot to congregate when you host apartment parties. For this layout keep the center space open for people to freely move about. Place long seating options like the Rockford 72” Chippendale Bench and the Harbour Deep Seating Sofa along the three outer walls of your balcony. In the corners between seating place a couple of La Casa Café Round Bar Tables for guests to place drinks and snacks as they chat. Elevating the tables encourages guests to get on their feet and move around instead of staying stagnant in one place for too long. Don’t forget to be generous with throw pillows along benches so everyone is comfortable!
A small balcony can add a great deal of utility and charm to any apartment or small home. Take advantage of every square inch and enjoy the unique setting of an outdoor balcony with appropriate furniture to suit your needs. POLYWOOD outdoor furniture is designed to withstand the elements even in harsh climates without rotting, cracking, chipping, or fading.
Choose your favorite balcony layout without worrying about your favorite dining set or sofa falling apart after a bad storm — our furniture is engineered to last for years. Share more of your favorite balcony layouts in the comments below!
To help you plan your space, check out the POLYWOOD Outdoor Furniture Planner. We’ll ask you about the size and shape of your space, a few quick questions, and then provide you with some furniture set results.
Blog Post Updated June 1, 2021