Before and After: This $135 Balcony Redo Is a Masterclass in Upcycling

published May 6, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Outdoor Spaces
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
plain corrugated metal "wall" or partition on balcony before renovation/makeover
Credit: Deborah Bonelli

Sometimes, moving into a new home means you have to make some trade-offs. You might have a bigger bathroom but a longer commute, for instance, or lots of nearby amenities but less quiet. For apartment owner and New Yorker Deborah Bonelli, moving from renting to owning meant she had to give up a little bit of square footage — but in the process, she gained something, too.

Credit: Deborah Bonelli

“Going from apartment renter to apartment owner meant downsizing from a large sunny three-room apartment to a much smaller two-room apartment, but there was a big bonus with my new apartment: an 18-foot terrace overlooking the Hudson River,” Deborah says. That terrace came with a great view, and the added bonus of extra space to accommodate some of the things that would no longer fit in the smaller apartment. Unfortunately, looks-wise, it needed help.

Credit: Deborah Bonelli

“The depressing drab red brick walls and the fiberglass panel separating my terrace from my neighbor’s made it a rather uninviting space,” Deborah says. “My goal was to turn the terrace into a bright welcoming space without hurting my pocketbook.”

Credit: Deborah Bonelli

To do that, Deborah leaned on lots of low-cost DIYs that included plenty of clever upcycling. First up was freshening up those dark brick walls; Deborah used masonry paint in a crisp white for the job. The new, brighter paint color was instantly transformative.

Deborah furnished the space on a shoestring by “shopping” free resources. The sideboard, for instance, is actually a set of kitchen cabinets she found on the curb and painted a charcoal gray. In a seriously ingenious hack, she used wood fence post finials for the legs.

Credit: Deborah Bonelli

At the other end of the terrace sits her seating area. The sofa is an old leftover futon from Deborah’s old place, which she cut to fit using a handsaw (“Never again!” she says). Her neighbor, a retired handbag designer, gave her several yards of denim to sew a cover for the mattress. Deborah also found four outdoor pillows on sale, two of which she sewed together to make one long pillow; she made a cover for that one using fabric scraps from her past sewing projects.

Sewing scraps were also the base of the new hanging that covers the old fiberglass divider. Now, instead of dreary beige, Deborah is greeted with a multicolored floral display when she steps outside.

Credit: Deborah Bonelli

Finally, for the table, Deborah used a piece of wood that had previously served as a support for the futon when it was used as a bed. She stained and sealed it, then added legs made from metal pipe from the hardware store. The folding chairs used to belong to her grandparents; after a new coat of paint and newly recovered seats, they’re ready for action. Underfoot, Deborah also added a new floor covering that hides old floor stains. The total project cost: just $135, thanks to Deborah’s resourcefulness and creativity.

“I love how bright and cheerful the space is, and having a long table out there is great for summer and fall entertaining,” Deborah says. “I sit on my terrace and don’t even feel that I’m actually in NYC.”

But the most important part of this redo was how it came together. “I’m proud of how I made use of and repurposed items I already had to create the furnishings,” Deborah says.

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