My LA Balcony – Before and After

DIY, Outdoor

How time flies! It’s already been a year since I transformed my balcony from a sad worn out unused outdoor space into a beautiful cozy outdoor room. It was a lot of work but it was well worth it: not only has it given me more usable square footage, it’s also provided a much better view to look at from the inside of my apartment!LA-Balcony-before-and-after_edited-1Finished-balcony-front-view-with-flowers-with-speakerThe first part of the transformation entailed sprucing up the walls. I did this by first making caps for the concrete walls – having the back of the caps extend up a few inches prevents things from falling to the ground and makes the top of the walls usable space. This also creates the illusion that my very narrow balcony (it’s only 3.5 ft wide) is a little wider. I made the caps using cedar fence posts and furring strips so they slide right over the walls and I painted them with a solid white outdoor stain.LA-balcony-wall-caps-before-after To give the tired looking walls a new look, I used a reed fence to make panels by stapling and gluing them to corner molding at the top and then screwing that into the wall caps. I love how it hid the walls and gave them a tropical feel.LA-balcony-wall-covered-with-reed-fence part 1LA-balcony-wall-covered-with-reed-fence part 2Next I wanted to address shade and privacy. For that, I made lattice privacy panels using furring strips that I painted in a white outdoor stain.LA-Balcony-Privacy-panels-designLA-balcony-privacy-panels-part-1LA-balcony-privacy-panels-part-2Since I’m renting, I didn’t want to make any holes so I used sisal rope to secure the panels to the bottom of existing columns and used zip ties at the top.LA-balcony-privacy-panels-part-2For the side panels, I had to get creative since there were no columns on one side. I ended using cabinet levelers at the top and secured the bottom to the wall caps.LA-Balcony-Privacy-panels-side-panelsThis video shows in detail how I made the wall caps and the privacy panels:Next came furniture and accessories: I wanted to create an area for lounging, eating and a little garden and it all had to fit my 10 ft x 3.5 ft balcony.LA-Balcony-layoutThis required some custom DIY furniture so I first I built a storage lounging bench using inexpensive 2″x3″ and pine boards. By building a trap door for the top, it gave me a storage space to store gardening supplies and other things that can be stored outside. You can see the detailed steps for this project here.DIY outdoor storage benchStep-3-Complete-frameStep-8-finished-bench-structureNext, I needed a small table for the dining area. I found this inexpensive table from IKEA that was perfect but the top was a bit too small and I didn’t like the black legs. To give it a new look, I used antique gold rub n’ buff on the legs and then I built a new top  that slides over the existing one to make the table slightly larger.LA-Balcony-outdoor-table-makeoverFor the garden part of my balcony, I didn’t have a lot of floor space to work with so I made a vertical herb garden by attaching metal planters to a trellis, which I then attached to the wall caps.LA-Balcony-Herb-PlanterHerb-garden-full-side-viewLast but not least, I added some plants and hung a lantern to give my small balcony that outdoor room feel.Finished-balcony-left-side-You can see how I built the bench, and the other projects in this video here:All the effort I put into this balcony makeover was so worth it – it has truly become an extension of my living space that I get to enjoy day and night.finished-balcony-nighttime-I hope you enjoyed this recap of my balcony project and that perhaps it will inspire you to make the most of your outdoor space if you’re lucky enough to have one!

34 Comments

  1. Suzie

    Wow, it is even pretty at night! Especially love the lattern.

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thanks Suzie, I love the lantern too, it gives such a beautiful glow at night!

      Reply
  2. Christina

    WOW!!! That is an amazing transformation! Your creative engineering is Divine! Thank you for the ideas and inspiration.

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thank you Christina! And you’re welcome, happy to share my ideas!

      Reply
  3. Ryan

    Awesome job. Looks fantastic.

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thanks Ryan!

      Reply
  4. Sue

    Hi Isabelle,

    What a fantastic job you’ve done on this small balcony. Keep up the great work, I love swing what you create.

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thank you Sue!!

      Reply
  5. Elaine

    Simply amazing!!!

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thanks Elaine!!

      Reply
  6. Kate

    Great use of space, practical ideas – will transfer to my New Zealand balcony – always a pleasure to browse through your projects – keep returning to them

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thank you Kate! And I would love to see pics of your balcony projects! Isabelle

      Reply
  7. Elisabeth

    Thanks so much for this great and inspiring post! You are so clever and creative, and the ideas are so do-able for everyone. Thanks again!
    Liz (Australia).

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      You’re welcome Liz! And thank you so much, I’m happy to share my ideas!!

      Reply
  8. Soledad

    Dear Isabelle, thank you for sharing all your creative ideas. It’s been great stumbling onto your YouTube channel! My boyfriend and I are international students from Argentina, which means that we rent (im California too) and are also on a budget. You’re posts and videos have given us a lot of ideas and we are really thankful. Hope to see much more of you soon!!

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thank you so much Soledad, means a great deal to hear that my ideas have been helpful for you and your boyfriend! Thanks for watching! Isabelle

      Reply
  9. mary beth mabe

    Hello. I started watching at 6:30pm and it is now afte midnight. Kinda got hooked on the videos, and I am now subscribed. I do have a small question, how did you do the ‘reed’ wall hanging above your bed in the NYC studio? And Did your camera person move with you?[ the quality improved from season 1:3 to the next and has improved since .

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Hi Mary Beth! That’s so amazing to hear, thank you for watching! I had some frames from IKEA that I used (they had a groove that made it possible to attach the reed to the frames). IKEA doesn’t make those frames anymore which is why I never showed that project. I use a tripod to film (no camera person) so I guess that means I’ve improved in my filming technique, thank you!

      Reply
  10. Jill

    Wow, what an amazing transformation! What ideas do you have for a mudroom with one wall of windows facing a shared backyard? I thought about some paper roller shades of some kind. I love whites and light colors, and I have plants in there so the shades would need to be up during the day for more light. But after seeing your balcony, I’d love to put a small table and chairs in my mudroom to enjoy it with some privacy!

    Reply
  11. Priti

    Simply love your ideas. Seeing you I got the guts to try out DIY transformations at home.

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Hi Priti, So happy to hear that!! Can’t wait to see some of your projects! Thanks for watching 🙂 Isabelle

      Reply
  12. Priti

    How do we maintain this during 3 -4 month of rainy season?

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      I used outdoor fabric/cushions and all the wood is painted with an outdoor stain to protect it.

      Reply
  13. Linda N

    You have such great ideas and do-able projects. I found you on a search for wall sconces, and saw your YouTube video, and then your site. Going to build a sconce for my new bathroom because I discovered the outlet is about 2″ off center… I can change some measurements and the sconce will hide the problem. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thank you Linda! I love to hear stories like this – send me some pics when you’re done, would love to see your new bathroom with its new wall sconces!!

      Reply
  14. Jean

    You sure have given me some great ideas. I can start buying supplies for next spring and maybe I will be lucky enough to have great looking deck as yours. Thanks for sharing .

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Hi Jean, Glad to hear that and I can’t wait to see what you make! Isabelle

      Reply
  15. Wangu @ Pineconeshelf

    I love how you always transform your balconie.. This one looks so lux, I love it

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Thank you!

      Reply
  16. Eva

    Wow, I’m a new renter and hated the fact that there was no privacy to the tiny outdoor living space I did manage to get. I had my fair share if ideas but never sure which one to use. Looks like you put mine all in one and made it work. Amazing how we can all learn from each other, thanks! BTW, I love the homemade furniture.

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Hi Eva,

      So glad to hear my ideas were helpful for you to see what might work for your outdoor space. I agree, it’s great to see what people come up with and how it can inspire even more new ideas! Hope you’ll share pics of your projects – I would love to see what you come up with.
      Thanks for watching and all the best in the new year!
      Isabelle

      Reply
  17. Alessandra

    Hello Isabelle. thank you so much for your great ideas! I am planning to make those white privacy walls, but my problem is that I dont have a ceiling or any walls to mount them. Are they going to be secured enough when I just mount them on the ground somehow? Do you have any idea? Also, how many meters/ft of the material did u use approx.? Thank you

    Reply
    • Isabelle

      Hi Alessandra, You’re welcome! You could dig posts into the ground but that would be a lot of work! A more temporary solution would be to make something like this panel with “feet” to hold up the panel: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/209206345169039824/. Or you could use wood planters to secure the panels to like this idea: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/209206345169039828/

      Hope this helps and sorry it took so long to get back to you on this! Hope you’ll send me pics of your finished balcony!

      Isabelle

      Reply

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