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Honestly, sometimes the best thing about apartment living is spying on the neighbors.

The flipside is, sometimes the worst thing is knowing neighbours are spying on you.

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.

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Building rules are tricky, since they vary place to place, so you need to 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 climate. With frequent windstorms and rain here on the Pacific, anything installed on my balcony needs to come down with a minimum of fuss. Hooks or fabric are your best friend in quick-transitions-needed situations.

If you’re often seasonally affected, like me, how your project affects your light indoors should also get some thought. A privacy project that creates a dungeonesque mood inside your apartment can do more harm than good for some of us.

That said, here are a few ways to build yourself some privacy on smaller balconies:

1. Outdoor Plants

Jungle Cover

There’s a lot to be said for plant-covered balconies. Besides being pretty, it pumps needed oxygen into the polluted city. Plus, busting out jungle cover means you can even buffer some of the noise around you as an added bonus. Not much, but, in the city, every decibel counts. If you do opt for this route, plants need to be local, hardy, and able to survive year-round life out there, given the higher wind-shear of elevated-balcony life, unless you want your living room converting to a greenhouse for the winter.

artificial osmanthus fence

Century Home Living Fence Covering Artificial Plane Osmanthus Leaf SKU: 15033046

Unfortunately, lots of plants can be lots of work, as there are watering issues for most urban balconies. Hauling pots filled under bathtub taps through the living room to the deck isn’t the wild party you’d think. So if your watering source isn’t at a close proximity, or if gardening isn’t exactly your strong suit–opt for faux jungle cover! Get creative with this artificial greenery from Century Home Living that attaches to fences! Easily attach these to your deck or balcony railings to fill in any gaping sight-lines and improve your privacy.

2. Balcony Shutters

The Shutter-up

If you’re allowed to install permanent features, you could consider hinged Caribbean-style shutters that hang from hooks and can be raised and clipped to the ceiling. It’s a great installation for anyone committing long-term to a space, as it’ll offer year-after-year use without between-season fussing.

3. Balcony Privacy Screens

Shoji-style

If your building doesn’t allow built-in solutions, don’t fret! A simple freestanding screen can be put away or brought out with ease, and being a simple solution, it’s one you can invest in knowing it’ll effortlessly move with you when it’s time for a new home.

browse privacy screens

4. Bamboo Roller Blinds

Bamboozled

These are a popular solution in my area. Nicer-looking ones are installed with a hook on the balcony rail that the blind can be secured to, keeping them spiffy and orderly. As bamboo weathers quickly, in hardy areas you’ll want an installation that can be easily taken down at the end of the summer. The upside in August is, bamboo gives great shade and can really cool you down if you’ve got a hot deck, since a breeze can travel through the bamboo (unlike most Roman blinds). Similarly, wooden slat blinds will also do the trick here — seasonally.

5.  Sheer Mosquito-netting Curtains

It’s Curtains for You

This solution can give a deck an exotic feel, while rugged canvas options can have a “safari” or “pioneer” appeal while offering protection from hot summer sun. With easy-to-install curtain “wires,” curtains are now among the most flexible solutions for balconies. They’re washable, seasonal, able to be opened or closed, depending where your exhibitionist level on any given. They’re also the most affordable and least-risky installation for storm-prone areas.

6. Beaded Curtains

Just Bead-it

Old-school beaded curtains, and similar beatnik-shop finds, can affordably be bought in multiples and used as one larger privacy object on a deck. The beads sure won’t hide you from the masses, but will make you less noticeable, and your deck a whole lot more groovy. Beware of neighbours who might loathe you as it click-clacks in soft breezes, if untied too long when not in use.

photo: Joseph Robertson

There’s so much you can do to personalize any of these projects, and there are many more creative solutions. Walk through apartment-dense neighbourhoods and look at how others accomplish it.

When your life’s tucked into an itty-bitty apartment, the balcony is 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 creativity, a small investment, and an afternoon of work, it’s a gift that’ll pay off time and time again this summer.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.