Standing on the balcony of a friend or a relative, overlooking the sea, or a lake, a forest, or even city lights; many of us would have admired a splendid view sometime or the other. Such experiences often become memorable and create an aspiration among most of us to own a house, which has a balcony with a beautiful view. While we have the aspiration for that dream balcony, we must realize that our home may be so located and oriented that our balcony may not be overlooking the sea, or a lake, or a forest to offer that breathtaking view. But don’t lose heart. By following some useful design tips, any balcony, large or small, at whatever height, location or orientation; can become your favorite space and bring a smile to your face whenever you go there.
Before applying some design concepts to a balcony space, one would need to know the purpose it is likely to serve for the residents. The residents could be a young working couple or even a retired couple. The family could be joint or nuclear. While a working couple may not have much time to spend on the balcony, a retired couple, on the other hand may like to spend a lot of time reading or just lounging in the balcony. If the balcony is very large, an upwardly mobile family may use it for multiple purposes such as lounging in groups, parties and entertainment, or creating a nice little garden.
Once we know the purpose and size of the balcony, we need to consider the architecture that we wish to adopt. Even if the view is not very scenic, it is not a good idea to enclose the balcony and use it as a store room. In fact, if the balcony overlooks a slum, a large drain or nullah, or an ugly brown patch; you could block the offending view. This can be done by creating a barrier at the railing level of the balcony. A barrier is best made with a row of green plants. Most balconies have a two to three feet wall, over which railings are built. Some balconies may have an acrylic wall of 3 to 4 feet height with no railings. If the wind speed is very high or if your apartment overlooks a busy road with high vehicular pollution, the balcony may have to be enclosed with glass windows. Flooring of the balcony is also important. It can be made attractive with colorful and elegant tiles. If drab looking tiles are already in place, then a floor covering in the form of a carpet or a rug can be used.
Seating and Furniture
Balcony is not a place for a quick visit or for standing for a few minutes at times. It is a place to take a break from household chores and from mundane work. Availability of seating makes one spend some more time which helps in getting refreshed and rejuvenated. A large balcony can have wrought iron benches and some chairs as well. Large and medium size balconies may also accommodate a swing or even a hammock. A smaller balcony may have to do with just a couple of chairs and may be a small table. One could even have a settee and a few movable pieces of furniture. Cane and bamboo table and chairs provide a good look and are durable too. An enclosed balcony could have conventional wooden furniture.
Just like the rest of the house, a balcony too should have a decor of its own. It could have a wall hanging or a mural. One can place artifacts on the floor or on a stool or table. Hanging a wind chime in the balcony is also a good idea. The balcony enclosed with glass windows can have full length curtains of appropriate design and color.
Greenery and Plants
A good balcony must have some greenery, for being environment-friendly is not just a fashion. It creates a healthy ambience for the residents. One could have different types of plants. There could be potted plants or creepers. If space is a constraint, small plants could be grown in metal trays or even terracotta trays. If one is to create a green barrier, flower pots or planters could be fastened to the balcony railings. This also results in space saving. There could be layered formation of plants or they could be grouped based on type and color. One has to choose plants according to the direction of the sun. Direct sunlight may not be desirable for some types of house plants. Some plants need a lot of maintenance and this too should be kept in mind. However, the presence of greenery is desirable in all balconies.
A balcony has a lot of natural sunlight, but its intensity varies depending upon its orientation. To guard against direct sunlight one can have blinds or curtains or different type of shades. For artificial and night lighting, appropriate light fittings should be selected. The light fittings could be wall or ceiling mounted. It is good to have an outdoor type of well sealed all-weather light fittings for durability and safety. To express your creativity, you can go for paper lanterns or bamboo or even terracotta lanterns. Large balconies can have different type of lighting in different areas.
However well designed the balcony maybe, it must be totally safe for people of all ages. Height of the balcony wall or railing should be raised with a green barrier if it is too low. A slippery floor in the balcony especially during monsoons, can be dangerous. So, the floor tiles must be chosen with care. Placing some wooden gratings or rubber mats can be of help. Some light fittings can also pose a danger of electric shock and should therefore be selected and earthed appropriately.
Balcony is not meant to provide only a great view. It could fulfill several purposes and become the residents’ favorite place to lounge, read, listen to music, or even have an odd meal or snack. It offers a lot of scope for design, be it in furniture, wall or floor décor, or even in pots and plants. So, let your balcony be any height, any size, or any direction. You can make it your space of choice using your creativity and some design tips.