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Your balcony can be a great place to relax and entertain, especially when you utilize every square inch of space. Here’s how to transform your postage-stamp-size balcony into an outdoor oasis.

Determine its use

Do you want a cozy reading nook or a place to host outdoor gatherings? If you want a space to fill more than one role, consider multifunctional or adjustable pieces that can be moved around.

To get the most seating out of a narrow, rectangular balcony, use a long bench lined with cushions. That will seat more guests than chairs will. Consider a storage bench, which will give you a place to stash your cushions. If you’re on a tight budget, stackable storage crates topped with cushions create great DIY seating and storage in one.

If you need to seat only one or two people, a hammock or hanging chair is a fun option. There are numerous ways to suspend them from the ceiling, but check the rules of your rental agreement before you buy hanging furniture.

Add greenery and privacy

Plants can beautify small outdoor spaces. Everything from geraniums to herbs can thrive in pots, hanging baskets or windowboxes. And this time of year, you can find discounts at most nurseries.

Be sure to check to see how much sun your balcony gets. And be sure to water frequently (wind can dry out plants quickly) and feed as needed.

In addition to adding a touch of nature, plants also make excellent natural screening. Try taller potted plants that grow straight up, such as bamboo, or climbing plants such as a vine or jasmine, near the edge of a balcony to create a natural barrier.

For those who don’t possess a green thumb, a patterned metal or wrought-iron privacy screen provides visual interest and privacy without blocking sunlight, breezes or your view.

Create layered lighting

Adding additional light sources (beyond the standard wall sconce) will immediately make your balcony more welcoming. Stick with LED lights that are meant for outdoors and add different levels of lighting to create a layered, cozy look. If you don’t like the light fixture you have, change the light bulb or get a new sconce. Be sure to buy bulbs that emit warm white light, rather than severe yellow or white light.

And every balcony deserves bistro lights. Look for solar-powered or battery-powered LED string lights to eliminate ugly cords. You also can place battery-operated tea lights inside clear, square lanterns on the ground and on tables to create low light.

Add comfort and personality

Consider covering the floor with flat-weave outdoor rugs, natural-woven fiber rugs (try jute, sisal or sea grass for a tropical look) or wood decking that snaps together for easy assembly. These pieces make the space look more complete and create extra cushion underfoot.

Colorful cushions and pillows add the finishing touch. Be sure they’re designed for outdoor use. (Some designers swear by Sunbrella fabric, which won’t fade in the sun.)

Of course, any indoor textiles will work outdoors, as long as you remember to bring them inside before it rains.