A Grimy NYC Balcony Transforms into a Lush Oasis for $2,000

published Jun 14, 2024
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For many city dwellers, access to a private outdoor space is a big selling (or renting) point. And for NYC resident Nic Miller (@nick.blyn), the balcony off his apartment, “a classic Friends climb-through-the-window city balcony,” as he puts it, sealed the deal. 

“After my partner moved in, we decided together that it was time to make the balcony a part of our home,” Nic says. “We wanted a place to soak in the sun, enjoy iced coffee, and give our dog Rooney a people-watching perch. An additional factor was giving ourselves extra space to work. We both work from home, and sometimes our Zoom calls compete.”

The only problem was that the balcony was pretty grimy and cluttered with the previous tenant’s stuff. “Our first project was to deep-clean the balcony — not glamorous, but highly rewarding,” Nic says. “Wiping away literal years of city dust and grime was an immediate improvement.” He also hired Just Rubbish Removal to help move the old belongings out.

Credit: Nic Miller
Credit: Nic Miller

The flooring got a major upgrade.

After the deep clean, Nic and his partner, Morissa, added new deck tiles, gravel, and pavers, which Nic says made the biggest difference to the 50-square-foot space. The deck tiles are from IKEA, and the landscaping gravel and patio stones are from Lowe’s.

“Implementing a flooring solution was easier than expected,” Nic says. “For a while, my brain was trying to figure out the precise math of deck tile shapes and sizes and the quantity of gravel to buy. In the end, we took some rough measurements and made a few guesstimates. Everything turned out great!”

Nic’s best project advice? Just jump into projects, in every sense. “It’s better to just get started and not worry about making mistakes or having regrets,” he says. “It’s going to be a while before I own my own house, but I’m not going to wait until then to create a sense of home. To me, ‘renter-friendly’ means creating a space that is friendly to the renter … Make “home” wherever you are — you deserve it.”

Credit: Nic Miller

Smart lighting and furniture made the balcony feel homey. 

Nic and Morissa’s project is also renter-friendly in that they can take a lot of the materials with them if they decide to move. “I am taking my Lutron Caseta switches with me!” Nic says. Those are the fancy dimming light switches for the new black wall light “that makes the space usable at night and adds an extra bit of charm,” Nic says. 

Nic and Morissa also have solar-powered string lights — a clever workaround because their balcony doesn’t have any outlets. A new table and chairs, flower boxes, and lush plants (Nic’s favorite part!) complete the balcony project.

“I get to wake up to the brilliant purples, pinks, yellows, oranges, and reds of the flowers blooming just outside my bedroom window,” Nic says. “That is a great way to start the day. I also love getting to congregate on the balcony with my little family. A typical moment includes at least one of us basking in the sun, another armed with a laptop or writing utensil, and at least one of us chomping on a rawhide bone (the dog, mostly).”

Nic says there were no big setbacks or surprises in the project, but he’s had to learn what taking care of an outdoor space in a city entails. “I’m constantly at war with pigeons, pests (including mice/rats that like to burrow in the planters), and the sun,” he says.

For tips for keeping your beloved outdoor project pristine, check out these 10 cleaning essentials for a spotless patio and these tips for cleaning outdoor cushions.