If you live in an apartment or condo, a small outdoor space to call your own can feel like a far-off dream. The best you can hope for is a small patio or balcony overlooking the world below. If you’re lucky, it might even have enough room for a grill.
No, it’s not the same as a backyard full of green grass or lush garden beds. But your apartment patio can still serve as a personal escape from your home’s four walls. Whether in an urban high-rise or a suburban condo, we all need a little fresh air from time to time.
Making the most of your apartment patio means treating it with the same love and attention as any other part of your home. Adding a few pieces of outdoor furniture and decor can help your patio feel like an extension of your living space — even if it’s just a couple of square feet.
If you’re ready to transform your balcony into an open-air oasis, keep reading for the best apartment patio ideas the home design world has to offer.
1. Balcony Apartment Patio Ideas
We often use the terms patio and balcony interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. Patios are just as often at ground-level as they are higher up. On the other hand, balconies are always elevated.
The biggest design challenge for a balcony is the non-negotiable amount of space. No matter how big or small, treat your apartment balcony like an extra room.
Decide on the space’s main purpose and design your balcony around it. Will your balcony serve as a private reading nook? Or somewhere to enjoy dinner when the weather allows? Invest in furniture that suits this purpose. If you can build a balcony that serves more than one purpose, even better.
Apartment balconies often lack any notable lighting. If your balcony space relies on a single lightbulb (or is completely unlit), brighten up the outdoor area with string lights or solar-powered lamps. Don’t forget to include functional details in your decor, like an extension cord for charging electronics or a wall-mounted Bluetooth speaker.
And you don’t need to give up comfort because a space is outside. Adding an outdoor rug or faux turf to your balcony floor will make it feel more welcoming. There’s no need to suffer a cold concrete floor when other options are available.
2. Garden Apartment Patio Ideas
For anyone with a green thumb, an apartment patio represents far more than an outdoor space. It also represents one of the only ways you can grow a garden while living in a tiny apartment or condo.
You can use a large potted plant to fill in an unused corner of your patio or frame your outdoor furniture set. To maximize your tiny patio garden’s potential, place plants on shelves and in wall-mounted containers. Vining plants can be trained up a wall, trellis, or along your balcony railing for added privacy.
If you live in a climate with dramatic seasonal changes (particularly come wintertime), make sure you can move your balcony plants inside as needed.
Before filling your apartment patio with plant life, take the time to learn about its exposure to sunlight, rain, and wind. Many patios are in partial or full shade. If part of your deck receives far more sunlight than the rest, your garden design should reflect this. Place garden containers against your patio walls to protect more sensitive plants from strong winds.
3. Furniture for Apartment Patios
If traditional patio furniture isn’t your thing, that’s fine. You can find tons of sofas, chairs, tables, and more that are made for outdoor life yet look like they belong in a normal living room.
A table or another piece of furniture that doubles as a table is a must. A folding table and lounge chair are an excellent compromise if you don’t want to fill up your small patio space with a bunch of furniture. With the right setup, you can easily convert your patio from an outdoor workspace to a private escape.
Outdoor upholstery is necessary if you want comfortable seating that will last. Make sure your furniture cushions stay in place with Velcro or tie-downs — the last thing anyone wants is to lose their outdoor pillows to a gust of wind.
Shelving units offer a place to display decor while also being functional. Look for a shelf that mounts to a wall for added stability in bad weather. If that isn’t an option, ladder-style shelves have a wider footprint and are available in all kinds of outdoor-safe materials.
4. DIY Apartment Patio Ideas
Renting an apartment means your hands are tied when it comes to renovations. This includes bringing your favorite deck ideas to life. Making temporary improvements to your patio’s design can help make the space feel like your own.
Depending on your building’s exterior, hanging decorative items can be a daunting task. Use wood paneling to liven up the space and protect the brick or vinyl underneath. You can drill into this paneling without worrying about damaging your apartment’s exterior. A sturdy trellis can serve the same purpose.
If you’re having trouble finding patio cushions that suit your style, fret not. Outdoor upholstery fabric isn’t hard to come by (and it’s often no more expensive than regular upholstery). You can make your own seating covers using your own sewing skills or by enlisting the help of a local seamstress.
Hanging string lights over your apartment patio is a quick and easy way to make this small space feel warmer and more inviting. Outdoor string lights provide just enough light to wine and dine by. Play around with vertical space by draping lights overhead or hanging them along your patio’s wall. You might even find your deck railing is the perfect place to secure some string lights.
5. Minimalist Apartment Patio Ideas
If you’re looking for small apartment patio ideas, look for inspiration in minimalist decor. Minimalist design often goes hand-in-hand with modern-inspired trends. However, you can also combine minimalism with contemporary, classic, or Bohemian decor.
Ditch the unnecessary furniture. In most cases, all you need for a functional apartment patio is some simple seating and a table-like surface. Speaking of your patio’s surfaces, resist the urge to add tons of decorative items — one or two items per surface will suffice.
You may even want to invest in some on-patio storage solutions to help maintain the minimalist aesthetic. Look for a patio table with a built-in storage compartment. Or replace your regular table with a weatherproof chest.
Keep your patio decor’s color palette clean and simple. Natural elements like wood or stone will add texture to a small space without creating visual clutter. Plus, these materials will complement nearby greenery, whether in the form of landscaping or potted plants.
6. Privacy Screen Apartment Patio Ideas
When it comes to making your small patio ideas a reality, privacy is a finite resource. It doesn’t matter if you rent or own. You’re surrounded by constant reminders that your neighbors are just feet (or inches) away. Putting up a privacy screen is one of the best ways to reclaim your apartment deck as a comfortable outdoor living space.
If you’re concerned about the optics of a traditional privacy screen, a trellis might be your best option. A well-placed trellis and a densely grown vine can be as effective as a normal privacy screen. For those lacking a green thumb or living in a cold climate, faux leaves work just as well.
Wood planks can be used to secure your balcony railing and add a decent amount of privacy from prying eyes below. Bamboo screens are another simple solution that can be put up and taken down with a moment’s notice.
Your privacy screen can serve more than one purpose, so weigh your options carefully. If your patio sits in direct sunlight for much of the day, invest in a privacy screen that will protect you and your loved ones from its heat and UV rays.
7. Decor for Apartment Patios
You might be hesitant to implement many decorating ideas on your patio, especially if the space is quite small. If you want your apartment patio to feel like an extension of your home, however, a few personal touches are exactly what it needs.
Potted plants are the obvious choice and for a good reason. Green foliage goes with everything, and you don’t need to worry about exposing most plants to the sun or rain. Fill a planter with succulents if your balcony gets a lot of direct light. Tall plants can even provide shade and a dose of privacy.
Functional decor will always reign supreme in a small space like a balcony. Swap out boring light fixtures for ones that add a touch of personality to your patio design. Choose outdoor furniture that is just as stylish as it is practical.
Of course, you should only place decor on your patio that can withstand the elements. Lightweight items are liable to blow away, so it never hurts to nail, tape, or Velcro these items down. But you should still keep an eye on the weather forecast and bring patio decor indoors before a storm!
8. Wood Apartment Patio Ideas
You don’t need an elaborate balcony idea to give your apartment patio a facelift. Approach your patio design with classic elements like natural wood for a simple, elegant aesthetic.
Wood tends to go hand-in-hand with patio furniture. Wicker and rattan furniture are extremely popular in outdoor design. Mix and match natural wood furniture for a relaxed, Bohemian aesthetic that will look right at home on a tiny balcony.
Wood paneling is a great way to cover unattractive porch siding or an open railing. If you can’t permanently install wood paneling on your apartment patio, look for lightweight vinyl sheets that mimic the look of real wood.
It’s incredibly important to ensure your wood decor is outdoor-approved before placing it on your patio. Exposure to rain or extreme temperatures will permanently damage wood furniture that isn’t properly treated.