This is the Coolest Apartment Balcony in Chicago

the Coolest Apartment Balcony in Chicago

Ryan Lange and Emily Belden were, by their own admission, “the weird, artsy kids” when they were growing up. Things haven’t changed so much judging from how they decorated their small apartment balcony.

Emily is a writer and doer of creative things. Her husband Ryan does creative things, too, often with a welding torch or a computer-controlled gizmo that cuts stuff. They pretty much earn their living just making very cool stuff. Check out Handmade America to see what we mean.

We wanted to find out what they could do to amp up the teeny-tiny balcony attached to their Chicago apartment. So we signed them up for our Patio Style Challenge. We sent them a patio set and a Home Depot gift card and got out of their way while they did their thing.

All we can say is, wow. We never would have thought of using a skate board deck as raw material for a patio makeover, or that we’d see an airplane motif in outdoor décor. That’s what you get with Ryan and Emily, though. And it’s awesome.

Here now, the coolest apartment balcony in Chicago…

When The Home Depot asked us to be a part of their Patio Style Challenge, we couldn’t believe it. Mostly because it forced us to imagine a time where there wouldn’t be snow on the ground. C’est la vie when living in Chicago, right?

So what exactly did the project include? A sturdy patio set (we selected the color) and some Home Depot gift cards. Other than that, there were no rules. So we went no-holds-barred.

We had one handicap: space. We weren’t outfitting a backyard deck or patio; we were working with our small city balcony.

Even so, we were able to completely transform our tiny balcony and create a very sweet outdoor space.

Emily and Ryan's apartment balcony before the makeover

The arrival of the patio set for Emily and Ryan's apartment balcony

Emily Belden picking up supplies at The Home Depot for her apartment balcony makeover

Herringbone Wood Balcony Deck

Our balcony flooring was originally just black rubber mats, similar to what you may find exercise equipment on in the gym. Not only were these mats unsightly, but they were extremely heavy.

So we got rid of them and instead began to frame-out a deck. To make the most visual impact in this small space, we decided on a chevron pattern. With power tools plugged into our living room, this build-out took just a few hours total (even though our neighbors wanted to kill us every minute).

In addition to its aesthetic quality, the deck also raised our view of the city by an extra four inches. Now, our unit officially has the best view in the building!

Ryan Lange installing the herringbone deck on his apartment balcony

Ryan Lange installing the herringbone deck on his apartment balcony

Mason Jar Herb Garden

With a small space, it’s difficult to rope in all of the qualities of an outdoor living space that homeowners are used to, such as a robust garden. But as people who like to cook, we couldn’t omit an herb garden.

So, we quickly emptied our canning jars and filled them with soil, seeds and fresh herbs. We then used zip-ties to adhere them to our balcony, where they would get plenty of natural light. It’s a really simple way for anyone in an apartment to grow herbs.

Let it be known, the first dish we used our “garden” for was brown butter and sage mashed potatoes. Tomato basil pasta sauce is next.

Picking up garden supplies at The Home Depot for the apartment balcony makeover

Flowers and herbs on an apartment balcony

A mini-garden on an apartment balcony

Skateboard Deck Table with Grill

What’s a patio without a grill? Alright, maybe it’s not this biggest or the baddest grill, but our little Smokey Joe does the trick.

To save on space, we welded steel legs to two old skateboard decks and cut a hole in the top to custom fit the grill so it would slide right into the middle. Whether we are using it to grill burgers, roast marshmallows, or keep warm, the best part of the table is that there is still room for a glass of wine on the side of it. Cheers to that.

Ryan Lange making a skateboard deck table

A skateboard deck being modified to be a grill stand and outdoor table

Firing up a Smokey Joe grill

Skateboard deck grill stand, with wooden iPod speaker on an apartment balcony

We also added in the Hampton Bay Marshall 5-Piece Patio Dining Set, which looked perfect and fit in the space.

Airplane Trellis

We loaded an airplane template in our custom CNC machine to cut the pattern in plywood.

The finished product were these perfectly-cut trellis patterns.

We sanded them down, spray painted them orange. We zip-tied them to the side of our balcony, where we laced vines throughout.

Why an airplane motif? Why not?

Cutting an airplane motif trellis

Painting an airplane motif trellis

Skate Deck iPod Speaker

Using our trusty old skateboard decks again, we custom cut shapes into the wood using the CNC machine. After that, we adhered a few pieces together to create a sound chamber.

The last step was creating a slit at the top to slip our iPhone into and press play. You’d be surprised how much sound you get from this little guy, which makes it the perfect noise machine for our patio.

Skate deck iPod speaker by Ryan Lange

Take a look at more photos of how we made this iPod speaker on our blog.

“Style” Lightbox

We used a wine crate to create this custom Style Challenge light box. We sketched out our design, and let our CNC router cut the letters and Home Depot logo.

We painted the box with metallic paint. There’s a hole in the back of the box to feed a cord for the light bulb, which is mounted inside a mason jar.

Sketching plans for a custom-made lightbox

Creating the Home Depot logo design for the lightbox

Cutting the Home Depot logo for a lightbox

Supplies used to make a custom-designed lightbox

A custom-made lightbox by Ryan Lange

A custom made lighbox illuminates an apartment balcony at night

Enjoying a chilly night on a newly decorated apartment balcony

You can see more photos of how we made this lightbox on our blog.

The Coolest Apartment Balcony in Chicago

The Coolest Apartment Balcony in Chicago

The Coolest Apartment Balcony in Chicago

So that’s it. Our Patio Style Challenge complete, with a pretty sweet apartment balcony to show for it. When the weather warms up, knock loud–we’ll be out back.

Ryan Lange and Emily Belden will design, engineer, hack or make just about anything you can think of–digital, physical, or both. Check out their website Handmade America to see them in action. Emily has her own blog focused on her writing, too.

For more simple decorating ideas for your patio or backyard, see other Patio Style Challenges here on the Home Depot Blog.

Follow our Patio Style Challenge pinboard on Pinterest, too.

And browse our online Outdoor Living Department for everything you need for your patio, backyard or garden.

Style Challenge is a series of articles from guest contributors who aim to bring you fresh inspiration and ideas for your home and garden using a single Home Depot product as a starting point. Ryan and Emily received the patio set from The Home Depot and a gift card. The opinions and ideas they expressed are their own.