Reader submission:We recently moved into a second-floor apartment with a balcony, and our current seating is camp chairs—comfy, but not cute. I’d love recommendations for comfortable, attractive seating that won’t be too cramped and will be good for relaxing. I’m open to a bench or to chairs, and I’d love a little end table for drinks or snacks. I’m trying to think of our balcony as another room in our home, not an afterthought. – Beth

Whether it’s a small balcony just big enough for a couple of chairs or a full-on screened-in porch, an outdoor oasis can serve as a much-needed respite to enjoy your morning cup of coffee or sip your evening glass of wine. Even if it looks over an alley or run-down stairs (like mine did), a balcony—big or small—offers a change of scenery and a chance to reap the benefits of fresh air, without having to leave home.

In order to be fully enjoyed, though, such outdoor spaces need furniture that fits the resident’s needs and has an ambiance to match. While some camping chairs will suffice, investing a little thought (and just a little cash) can take an apartment balcony from an afterthought to an oasis.

Find your purpose

While small, balconies can actually serve many purposes. Before diving into design, determine yours. What do you want to use your balcony for? Do you need a comfortable place to sip your cup of Joe, a chic setting to serve hors d’oeuvres and cocktails to dinner guests, a space to do a little gardening, or a combination of these?

Once you know what you want to use the balcony for, you can determine what to put there. For an apartment balcony, each item you buy needs to be intentional since space is limited. Since this reader asked for comfort and leisure, that’s what we’ll be focusing most on here.

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