Honestly, sometimes the best thing about apartment living is spying on the neighbours. The flip side is, sometimes the worst thing is knowing neighbours are spying on you and losing your balcony privacy.
It doesn’t have to be that way. With creativity and crafty splurging, you too can enjoy a special outdoor space while not letting yourself be a spectator sport and improve your balcony privacy.
Building rules are tricky since they vary from place to place. Do your research before you start, as you may have to use freestanding solutions – or else lose a damage deposit or incur wrath from other residents.
Another consideration is the climate. With frequent windstorms and rain on the Pacific, anything installed on a balcony needs to come down with minimal fuss. Hooks or fabric are your best friend for a quick transition in inclement weather.
Take a moment to think about the conditions of the porch at all points throughout the year and use that assessment to help determine the best balcony privacy project for your space. Here are a few ways to build yourself a private retreat on the most public of balconies.
Check out Hitch Property Constructions for a wide range of balcony repairs.
Brilliant Balcony Privacy Ideas for City Dwellers
Grow a Flower Garden.
Potted plants that stand tall around the outside of your balcony will make the interior glow with a green light in the summertime, and keep prying eyes at bay. Bushy, foliage-heavy plants pair well with bright flowers and trellis vines.
Give your balcony a romantic, walled-garden vibe and lounge there in privacy all season long.
Hang long, lightweight, bohemian tapestries for a breezy, boho look. Light, cotton-y fabrics with vegetable-dyed prints are ideal for these eye-catching curtains. They’re substantial enough to keep your balcony space private but sheer enough to welcome sunlight and cool breezes. Deck these flowy fabrics with white Christmas lights and beads to make your balcony a bohemian paradise.
This option is ideal if you want the balcony to feel like a private room. They can be tied back too, for those days when you do want to show off for your neighbours.
Check out fantastic indie-shops like Neel Creations for access to sustainable, repurposed sari fabric. You can use it to drape inside your urban sanctuary. Sheer, beautifully embroidered, and eye-catching, sari fabrics pair well with candles and a few potted flowers to create a magical retreat in the heart of the city.
They’re less concealing than tapestries, but they still distract and discourage prying eyes while letting in plenty of light.
Bamboo screens are an ideal option for lovely, minimalist spaces and a whole lot of balcony privacy. Simple, beautiful, and uncluttered; these screens created a structured backdrop for your outdoor retreat.
I love bamboo screens for quiet breakfast balconies or writing nooks. The light, airy feel of bamboo combined with its solid feel is ideal for a functional balcony. Pair it with some living bamboo plants for a fresh look that doesn’t overwhelm your little space. It’s easy to find pre-made screens or make your own. They’re an easy DIY project.
Behind Closed Doors
Old doors are easy to find in salvage shops. Check your local Restore to find fun, vintage options to paint and make a balcony privacy screen all your own. Repurposed doors are a fun way to say “privacy please” to your neighbours and are a great conversation starter for new friends.
Doors are big, however, and balconies often aren’t. Avoid overwhelming your space. One or two smaller doors can give you the privacy you need without walling you in and making you feel claustrophobic.
Pallets are the do-everything material of the decade. They’re great for everything from bookcases to beds, and privacy fences as well! Making a simple fence is a great way to get started working with pallets.
Like doors, these can be funky and fresh when done well, and a bit overwhelming if you go overboard. Set up a partial wall at one area of your balcony and hang it with planters to give a welcoming feel. I’d recommend painting your pallets as well, for the lovely balcony herb garden.
If you have a bit of building experience, stretch some lovely fabrics inside a wooden frame for a simple, versatile privacy screen. Folding screens are ideal for a moveable balcony privacy wall. Fabric screens give a cozy, soft feeling to outdoor spaces and help keep traffic noise in the background.
They pair well with cozy, balcony couches and study tables. Best of all, they can be moved around as needed to keep the sun out of your eyes.
In the Grasses
Ornamental grasses are an easy and portable option for city dwellers who want to improve their air quality as well as give their personal space a visual border. Ornamental grasses are graceful and easy to grow. They grow quickly and give your neighbours a beautiful barrier to enjoy while keeping your balcony space out of sight.
I love using tall grasses as a screen because they don’t look like an intentional barrier. Ornamental grasses are great if you have sensitive neighbours whose feelings might be hurt by a more obvious wall.
Extend Your Wall Space
Build an easy, DIY slat wall to give your balcony a solid side. The bits of space between the slats allow light to filter in as well. It’s structured, urban, and best of all, absolutely customizable. You can even turn your balcony space into a gallery by hanging the slat wall with art!
These walls preserve privacy. They’re easy to pair with less labour-intensive privacy options as well. Build a slat wall at one end of your balcony and grow some ornamental grass at the other. Balance is key to finding what works for your space.
For an old-world, earthy vibe, trying building a wattle screen. This type of screen is made of bendable saplings and long branches, woven into an airy structured wall. Wattle screens are lighter in weight than slats or pallets, but just as concealing.
Wattle is for the city person with a rural heart; for the folk art-loving, tree-hugging apartment dweller. Plant climbing vines in pots beneath it and hang fabric birds along the top to bring artsy country charm to your urban-dwelling.
I know it might sound a bit overwhelming for a small space, but potted trees are a low-labour border. Growing small trees in pots form a slim, graceful, living barrier. Plant a tiny forest between you and the eyes of everyone on the street.
Birches, lilacs, Chicago figs, and miniature citrus trees are ideal for balcony privacy. If you have a fair bit of space to work with, set a couple of small cafe tables among the trees for a Parisian cafe feel.
Tomatoes are a tasty option for a trellis wall, as potted tomato plants will grow straight up if they have a line of twine to cling to. A row of tall, bushy tomatoes along your balcony’s rail will make you the envy of the block. But don’t worry, they won’t know what you look like!
Tomatoes are lush concealers with the added benefit of providing a bounty of fresh fruits. Add a little window-sill greens garden, and you’ll be having lunch on the deck all summer long.
Back to Basics
Sometimes the simplest options are the best. If you’re a low-key kind of person who wants a basic privacy screen, you can’t do better than white, wood lattice.
This type of lattice is light and easy to work with. You can attach it in place with twine, rope, nails, or even wood glue (but check with your landlord first). The screen is attractive, bright, airy, and functional. It’s easy to take down, and lattice won’t die back in the wintertime either. Perfect for lattes on the balcony in the morning whether it’s December or June.
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Curtains are another easy option for the apartment dweller who wants an easy solution to overly attentive neighbours. You don’t need to drape tapestries or grow grasses. They’re lovely and fun, but if you’re just a simple renter with casual tastes, curtains can be your balcony’s best friend.
The best thing about curtains is that they come all ready to hang up. No planning, building, or DIY websites required. Pretty curtains are easy to find—mix and match or create a consistent flow of colour across your balcony. It’s all up to you.
Stain the View
If you’re not so basic, and you have access to a great architectural salvage shop, like this one in Portland, ME, gather up some stained glass and make your balcony into an abstract painting.
Four or five small stained glass windows hung along your balcony will add a bit of mystery to your urban life. Stained glass is an indulgent, artistic option for the creative urbanite, providing a bit of balcony privacy and bathing your space in coloured light. Pair these beauties with a few trellising plants and frequent dinner parties for glamorous city life.
Ways to Maximize Your Small Balcony Space
We get it: minimalism isn’t for everyone. But sometimes the saying “less is more” reigns true. In a tight space, too much décor can come off as clutter. Instead, try adding one focal point, like a lounger, and one or two finishing touches in coordinating colours.
Hang a Swing
There’s something inherently ironic about porch swings. But swings aren’t always easy to hang up—especially if you’re renting. That’s why we love the idea of a freestanding egg chair swing. They stand up on their own, they don’t take up too much room, and if there’s a storm brewing, you can easily pick it up and carry it inside.
Create a Reading Nook
Let’s be honest: There are probably very few activities you’re doing on your little balcony. You might spend a few minutes outside drinking coffee or enjoying the sunset, but reading a book is the classic balcony activity. So, why not convert your haven into a reading nook? The key here is finding an accent chair that’s big enough to curl up in but small enough not to overwhelm the space.
Take Advantage of Wall Space
When it comes to any small space, the biggest mistake we see people make forgets to utilize their wall space—even outside. Add shelves for plants and lights, hang wall slats for added organization, and install a floating table that easily flattens down. This way, you can enjoy your space without feeling claustrophobic.
Let Plants Take Over
If you have a green thumb and a balcony, you’re probably already growing a small collection of basil or cilantro outside. But why stop there? Line the window sills with pots of different sizes, drape ivy over tall shelves, and hang spider plants from decorative baskets. Before you know it, your tiny space will feel like a luxurious greenhouse.
Ditch the Furniture
When we were little, there was nothing quite as dreamy and magical as our very own fort made of pillows and blankets. A couple of decades later, and the same sentiment applies to balconies. To make your adult fort, throw down some faux turf, add a soft, weather-proof blanket, and finish with all the pillows you can find.
Let the View Do All the Talking
In cases when square footage is extremely limited, it might not be feasible to create a conversational set up with furniture. Instead, try arranging everything facing out towards the view—this way, you can still converse over a glass of merlot while taking in all the natural beauty of sunsets.
Trade-in a Couch for a Daybed
In a perfect life, we’d all waste our days away poolside in a private cabana. But since we have to wait for our next vacay to make that happen, you might as well make the most of the outdoor living space you do have. To get that same luxurious cabana-like ambience, opt for a giant daybed (even if, yes, it takes up all the retail space your balcony has to offer).
Transform Your Railing Into a Breakfast Bar
No room for a table? No worries. Build your breakfast bar with a little plywood or buy a pre-made table that fits snug on your ledge. Just add a few bistro stools, and you’ll have a small space to enjoy your coffee while scrolling through your social feed.
Play With Patterns
Patterns have a wonderful way of making anything feel louder, bigger, and so much more important. If you only have room to add a few pieces of furniture, try elevating the rest of your space with various patterns like ikat chair cushions, floral rugs, and striped pillows. It might feel a little busy at first, but once you find the right ratio of pattern play, it’ll all fit into place.
Add Textural Interest
Too much concrete and not a clue what to do? Pair woven jute textures with fake fur, soft knits, and crochet details. The mix of different textures will give any blasé space a feeling of high-end luxury. Just remember to take the faux fur inside before it rains, or you might ruin the fabric beyond repair.
Light It Up
If you’re the kind of person who tends to use your balcony after hours, lighting is essential. Instead of relying on a harsh overhead light or built-in sconces, create soft-focus lighting with lanterns, candles (fake or real), and string lights. If you ask us, it makes for the perfect date-night ambience.
As much as you might want to hang out on your balcony to soak up the sun, it’s important to make sure you’re protecting your skin on, especially sunny days. If you have a railing, use the space to hang curtains, add a tent, or prop up a giant umbrella. In the heat of the summer, you’ll thank yourself.
Get Creative With Color
It might be easy to rely on a neutral colour palette for your outside space, but don’t be afraid to dive headfirst into colour. Try going for small pops of bright coordinating colours—the result: a balcony that begs to be used, even in the dead of winter.
DIY With Wood Pallets
Wood pallets are the best-kept secret in the DIY world. They can be used to make everything from platform beds to tables and even swings. And they’re also ideal for balcony spaces. Stack them to create an easy DIY daybed that looks custom-made.
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Don’t Limit Yourself.
You’re a creative individual with style all your own! Use your imagination to take these suggestions and run with them. There are no limits to what you can do… except maybe your budget and your landlord’s permission.
The most important part of decorating is making space the delights you. If privatizing your balcony makes you feel closed in or uncomfortable, switch it up. It should feel like an extension of your home, not an afterthought. So go for it!
There’s so much you can do to personalize any of these projects. Feel free to explore your creative solutions, inspired by these ideas. Walkthrough apartment-dense neighbourhoods and look at how others achieve privacy on their decks.
When your life’s tucked into an itty-bitty apartment, the balcony is an important space that too many urban dwellers leave largely unused. By making it a slightly private getaway, you might find yourself enjoying summer moments at home more often. With a little creativity, a small investment, and an afternoon of work, it’s a gift that’ll pay off time and time again this summer.
There are lots of ways you can approach the question of how to make an apartment balcony private.
Hopefully, you’ve found the one that’ll suit your needs. And once privacy is ensured, you’ll be free to bring other cool balcony design ideas to life.