Experts share how you can turn any exterior space into your new favorite spot.

Balcony Outdoor Dining
Westend61/Getty Images

My sister recently purchased a condo with a shockingly expansive wraparound balcony. The only problem? She has no clue how to fill the space. How much furniture is too much furniture? Should it match the black and white decor she’s collecting for her interiors? Is the comfy lounge chair she’s been eyeing really worth the investment? In an effort to answer these questions and more, I reached out to several California-based designers for their insights. 

Below, the best expert-approved ideas for outfitting a smaller outdoor space, like a balcony, porch, or patio.

Courtesy of Ashley Clark

1. Consider Your Lifestyle and Your Space’s Potential

Before you can start adding to your shopping cart, you have to determine how you’ll spend time on your balcony or porch. 

More Videos From Sunset

“Is it perfect for morning coffee or more of a spot to convene for evening entertainment?” asks designer Christine Markatos Lowe of Christine Markatos Design in Los Angeles. “If you have beautiful views, you’ll want to make sure to take that into consideration when arranging your seating areas. If you entertain often, a porch is the perfect place for alfresco dining. You’ll want a large dining table with comfortable seating and an outdoor bar for easy entertaining.”

Outdoor Dining by Skout Design

Courtesy of Ashley Clark

2. Connect Your Indoor and Outdoor Decor

Even though there’s separation between your interior design and any exterior space you might have, there’s still room for connection and coordination. 

“A balcony or deck should be an extension of the home,” says Ashley Clark of Skout Interior Design. “We love using the same materials and colors that are in our indoor spaces for our outdoor spaces. It makes the entire house feel cohesive and intentional.”

CB2 Sunset Teak Lounge Chair

Courtesy of CB2

Sunset Teak Lounge Chair, $674

3. Look for Furniture That’s Actually Comfortable

Designing any room or area in your home can feel daunting, and sometimes aesthetics take priority. For Clark and her team, however, comfort is key. 

“There are so many incredible fabrics and finishes that are outdoor-friendly but feel like they could be in your living room,” she says, citing CB2’s Sunset Teak Lounge Chair (above) and La Paloma Marble Outdoor Side Tables (below) as two examples of this concept.

CB2 La Paloma Marble Outdoor Side Table

Courtesy of CB2

La Paloma Marble Outdoor Side Table by Ross Cassidy, $1,399

Clark also recommends checking out outdoor seating options from Mexa and anything from Business and Pleasure Co., a company based in Laguna Beach, California. Their line of luxury outdoor furniture and decor features fun fabrics on pillows, umbrellas, and more.

Business & Pleasure The Patio Umbrella

Courtesy of Business & Pleasure

Business & Pleasure The Patio Umbrella, $1,199

4. Layer Textiles for Coziness and Style Points

Just as you might layer textiles and patterns in your home, designers use a similar method with exterior spaces. For instance, a throw blanket or rug not only provides more interest, but it also makes it easier to enjoy your balcony—even on a chilly summer night.

“The more you can layer, the better!” says Kishani Perera, a designer based in Los Angeles.

Hanging Chair Balcony

Courtesy of Ashley Clark

5. Bigger Furniture Is Often Better

“Scale is so important,” Clark says. “Often, people put tiny chairs on a small balcony, which makes the space feel ever smaller! Don’t be afraid to put in larger chairs or a larger table.”

For alternatives to classic furniture items, Clark suggests a more unexpected piece like a hanging swing or daybed. One of her favorites is the Serena & Lily Outdoor Hanging Chair.

Serena & Lily Outdoor Hanging Chair

Courtesy of Serena & Lily

Serena & Lily Outdoor Hanging Chair, $748

6. Create Ambiance with Mood Lighting 

Depending on your specific outdoor area, there is a wide range of lighting options that can transform the overall look and feel of your balcony, porch, or patio. 

“Whether your space allows overhead lighting options, such as outdoor pendants or chandeliers, or simply a string of lights to add a touch of magic,” Perera says. “If not, there’s nothing I love more than an outdoor floor or table lamp to really create that indoor/outdoor living room feel!”

On a porch, Markatos Lowe often hangs lanterns and wall sconces as decorative and illuminating elements.

Plants Balcony

Thomas J. Story

7. Change up the Sizes of Potted Plants

“No matter how big or small your balcony or porch is, adding a collection of potted plants at various sizes is going to immediately make it feel more inviting,” says Brady Tolbert, a designer based in Los Angeles.

Plus, choosing the right plants can elevate even the smallest balcony. “Balconies look amazing with potted topiaries because they frame the view and provide a little greenery,” adds Markatos Lowe.

Pottery Barn Mallorca Handwoven Seagrass Mirror Collection

Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Mallorca Handwoven Seagrass Mirror Collection, starts at $359

8. Add a Mirror

Another surprising outdoor feature? Hanging a mirror on a blank wall near your porch or patio. 

“Mirrors are not just for your indoor spaces,” Tolbert says. “When you add one outside you can immediately make the area feel larger and if you’ve got a covered patio it can also help bounce the light around.”

We only recommend things we love. If you buy something through our site, we might earn a commission.