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What Is a French Balcony?

C. Mitchell
C. Mitchell

A French balcony is any of a range of very small balcony extensions, the majority of which are designed to be more decorative than functional. Most French balconies, which are sometimes also called “Juliet balconies,” are nowhere near big enough for people to stand or sit on. Some will hold small potted plants, but others are just for show. Their main purpose is to provide the feel of a true balcony without the expense or upkeep.

The most basic French balcony is little more than a grating or railing stretched across glass doors. There is usually a bit of clearance all around, but not any functional deck space. When the doors are opened, the railing provides protection from falling and allows fresh air, but does not provide much of a platform. The largest versions are often wide enough for small potted plants or very limited storage, but still do not provide much space for recreation.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

There are many different French balcony styles. The most traditional are made of wrought iron, and resemble many of the balcony screens seen in homes throughout the Mediterranean. Many neighborhoods in this region are characterized by tight housing where true balconies are impractical, but sunlight and fresh air are coveted. A home balcony in the French style often provides a solution that is functional as well as artistically significant.

True to tradition, French balconies are very popular for homeowners around the world who want to add more sunlight or the feel of the outdoors to a space without having to undergo a major renovation. Depending on how a building is constructed, adding a true balcony is often a major undertaking. Replacing a window with a glass door is usually much easier, particularly if the window already takes up most of the wall.

Sliding glass doors or traditional French doors cannot open to nothing, however, which is where the balcony comes in. The grating or railing extension provides the feel of a balcony without requiring much construction at all. Many different manufacturers sell premade or custom French balconies that homeowners can install themselves with very little expertise.

High-rise apartment buildings and cruise ships are also venues where the French balcony is particularly popular. A French balcony can give the illusion of more space, while keeping costs low. Property owners do not need to engage in any sort of balcony care or upkeep under this scheme, either.

A range of balcony materials can be employed when building a French-style railing. More modern examples are often made of steel or polished metal alloy, and are meant to look chic and streamlined. In most cases, the French style is more of a broad category than a specific balcony design. There is usually a lot of room for creativity, both in terms of balcony decor and balcony features.

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