Long, warm summer evenings spent on the balcony in good company are one of the bonuses to apartment living. But as winter comes and temperatures drop, chilling on the balcony takes on a more literal, less desirable meaning. During the cold season, it’s easy to neglect your balcony and venture out only for the occasional cigarette.
However, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy your balcony throughout the year. Find out how to turn your balcony into a cold season haven below.
Stay warm and toasty
As the mercury drops, the first thing you need to do to make sure that your balcony is inviting is to keep it warm. Nowadays, there are many ways to heat up an outdoor space, such as overhead UV heaters or gas-powered patio heaters. It’s normally best to avoid electric space heaters, as there’s always a chance they might get wet and short-circuit.
Placing your heater properly makes a huge difference, and it’s good to take time to consider the best spot. Be careful with UV heaters, as they can become uncomfortably hot if you’re standing too close to them, and they typically work best when placed higher up. With gas heaters, make sure they’re in the right place before you turn them on.
Let there be light
The cold season means shorter days, so it’s a good idea to put some lights up to brighten your balcony up. You don’t necessarily need to worry about fitting a permanent outdoor light if you don’t want to. Instead, try hooking up some rope lights for a quick and easy solution. Otherwise, hanging lanterns are also a nice touch, and you can find them in a wide range of styles. Keep your haven cozy and choose warm, yellow light bulbs rather than cold, white light.
Rain, rain, go away
Some balconies are open to the elements, and others are covered by the balcony above. Either way, with the cold season, you’ll normally get rain or snow every now and then, so it’s good to be prepared. A quick and easy solution is to buy a large, outdoor umbrella, with a heavy stand to keep it in place. One or two of these will keep you and your guests covered from the elements, and can be folded away when you don’t need them. A more permanent solution would be to fit something like a fold-up shop front canvas, which can be fixed into the wall and rolled out when needed.
Keep the wind at bay
So we have heat, light, and shelter from the rain, but sometimes it is the wind that ruins all the fun! Keeping the wind at bay is perhaps the toughest challenge, though it’s not an issue everyone has to face. If the wind whips up where you are, you can try fitting a semi-permanent solution that can be erected and dismantled each year.
You’ll need to build wooden frames to fit along all the exposed sides of your balcony. These will be filled with durable, exterior-grade plastic sheets, to allow you to keep your view. The frames can then be bolted into the floor, and if possible also the ‘roof’, i.e. the bottom of the balcony above. If there isn’t a balcony above, you can make your own roof in the same way, or with canvas. Windows that open can be fitted in any of the panels if required.
Make it comfy
Now that your balcony is protected from the elements, it’s beginning to look a bit more inviting during the cold season. You just need to make it cozy by adding in some stylish, but durable furniture. What you add depends on how you want to use the space. A small table is always a nice touch, as well as a few seats, or even an outdoor couch. You can also add in less practical touches, perhaps a thick, warm rug, or some decorative items.
Add in some plants
Finally, if you want to remind yourself that you’re in an outdoor space, try adding in some plants. This might sound counter-intuitive, but certain species will do well, even during the cold season. Look for hardy, winter plants, such as fir trees or potted spruce, as well as hanging ivy or striking bamboo arrangements. Flowers are harder to keep, but if you want to give it a go, winter jasmine blooms throughout the cold season. Keep your plants potted, and be careful not to put your heater too close to them.
And just like that, your balcony is a warm and welcoming space all year long! Be sure to check with the apartment complex management as to what is and isn’t allowed before you start though, as certain changes might not be allowed.