Whether you live in a studio, a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom apartment, living space is probably limited. That's a major reason it's so important to maximize your outdoor living space.
An outdoor area gives you somewhere to have breakfast, grow a garden or simply relax.
"With a little bit of creativity and a lot of elbow grease, you can make something pretty desirable," says Gina Bishop, who writes a blog, "Homegirl," about things related to the home.
Even if your living space is small, if you have a patio or balcony, you have more room than you think.
"No matter how big or small the outdoor space is, you want to be out there and be a part of it," says Michelle Slatalla, editor of Gardenista, an outdoor living site that launched in May.
"It's all about bringing the outdoors in," says Slatalla. "By blurring the lines between the outdoors and the indoors, you realize you're surrounded by nature year-round."
Sit on your patio to enjoy nice weather, lie down for a nap or entertain guests. With so many outdoor options, you need to make sure your space is relaxation ready.
"People are spending more time at home," says Bishop. "They want to feel good about their home."
Bishop has a couch, a rocker and an ottoman on her patio. "I really use that space," she says. "We drink our coffee out there."
It doesn't take much to get started. One of the easiest fixes is a coat of paint.
"An outdoor space is a really fun way to experiment with paint," says Slatalla.
Make sure your landlord approves your paint plans, and then have some fun reinventing your space.
"I love to use bright colors outside," explains Bishop, who says spray paint can transform items from drab to fab. "I like things fun that make you smile," says Bishop.
Brighten up the area with some decorative lights and candles and lanterns.
"A string of lanterns will twinkle above you and make you feel like you're at a party," says Slatalla.
Since patios and balconies tend to be small, keep things simple, yet fashionable.
Slatalla recommends choosing "stylish, sturdy and practical" items. You don't have to spend a lot of money either, especially since many outdoor items won't last long-term.
"They'll be under harsh conditions like rain and sun bleaching," says Slatalla. "Look for good value in pieces that are comfortable to sit on."
Her backyard basics include a table and a chaise, "so you can sit outside and enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal."
Dress up the floor with an outdoor rug that's durable and attractive. Many outdoor rugs look so good you'd think they're actually for the living room.
Whatever pieces you choose, be sure you love the look.
"Make the ordinary extraordinary," says Bishop. "Find a few things and make them special."
Outdoor living is casual, rustic and a great way to get in touch with nature. Surround yourself with flowers and plants. You can even start a garden.
"It's a small space; you've got to think vertically," says Bishop, who suggests a container garden of tomatoes, peppers and cilantro to make salsa.
She recommends using nontraditional containers, like planting herbs in pasta strainers or rooting plants in old cowboy boots.
"We took old mailboxes and used them as a planter," she says of the mailboxes, which are hung vertically with open lids.
Bishop also grows plants and flowers in old dresser drawers.
"It's so cute because we put cool polka dot knobs on the drawers," she says. "They fit on top of each other, and the plants are spilling out."
Little details like the colorful knobs add personality, which makes the space an inviting extension of your home.
*Enjoying the Outdoors
Whether you add paint, furniture or just a few plants, you can transform a balcony or patio from a blank space into a cool place.
"I think the more time we spend outside, the better we feel," says Slatalla. "Anything that makes the space feel comfortable, that you want to live in, is good."
Set up your outdoor area so it's fun and functional.
"Don't do too much," says Slatalla. "Relax, and enjoy the space."