How To Fake Outdoor Living Spaces When You Live In A City

Outdoor spaces are a great pleasure, offering opportunities for favorite activities like gardening and reading, as well as spots for socialization and enjoying a meal. Very often in urban areas, however, the liveliness of communal living in apartments and condo units is underscored by very limited, or sometimes non-existent, outdoor space. While freestanding homes offer much more in the way of front and backyards and porches, multi-unit buildings can often provide, at most, a balcony or stoop, with many more offering no outdoor space at all to residents. While many developers are making outdoor living spaces a priority in newer builds and renos, just as many city buildings lack this important element.

Cities do offer much in the way of community green spaces, such as public parks and bountiful outdoor cafes — all perfect for picnics, lounging, and dining alfresco. Still, city dwellers can be left longing for an outdoor space that's a little bit more customized, private, and close to home. Whether you're intent on adapting unused spaces to your needs, or figuring out ways to take advantage of attached and internal areas to achieve an outdoor-space feel, there are a few different ways to maximize what outdoor spaces and décor you have available. And yes, even fake it if you must.

Underused spaces

A great way to achieve an outdoor space if you lack a proper balcony or yard is to take advantage of whatever outdoor spaces might work as a stand-in. These include overlooked spots like rooftops, gangways, courtyards, and unused grassy areas. Depending on your landlord or management company rules, and what's allowed in communal spaces, you and your neighbors might just be able to create your own little oasis in the middle of the city. 

Rooftops are a great option that can be developed with the addition of safety rails, seating areas, and planter boxes, shrubbery, and trees. With the eco-friendly and growing popularity of roof gardens, your landlord or homeowners association might be willing to help foot the bill to create the perfect roof deck as well as make sure everything is up to code. If you're on your own, a great way to create an outdoor spot, if you're allowed access, is to just set up a corner of the roof as your own on a temporary basis. This can be lovely with folding tables/chairs and other portable pieces. Other, more ground-level spots include gangways, other small spaces between structures, and grassy areas adjacent to the building or parking lots. 

Outdoor adjacent spots

If your building in the city lacks available outdoor spaces at all, you might try creating small touches in adjacent spaces that give a similar outdoor feel. These can include the addition of window boxes on an exterior ledge, which often are perfect for growing both flowers and herbs in good weather. They not only look great from inside, but outside as well and are accessible simply by opening your window. If your building has a metal fire escape outside the windows, this may be a great spot for adding plants and boxes, which are usually allowed as long as you don't block emergency exits (consult with your landlord to see what is allowed). They also make a great spot for a temporary folding chair or small bistro table for enjoying your morning coffee. 

Present in many vintage buildings, narrow or "Juliet balconies" are larger windows that open to a metal railing with no, or a very small, ledge. These are a great architectural element to throw open in warmer weather, particularly if you place a small table or seat near it inside for a very Parisian feel even if you can't step outside onto it. If the ledge is large enough, you can also fit plants and climbing vines along the railings for a more botanical feel.

Faking the outdoors inside

If you don't have access to even as much as a ledge or fire escape in your apartment or condo, that doesn't mean you can't do a lot to create an outdoor feeling inside. This works particularly well if you have large windows that can be opened to screens that allow in the fresh air. Bright rooms with a lot of windows are a perfect place to build an indoor sunroom or conservatory-feel space, complete with an abundance of greenery and the sort of furnishings you'd expect outdoors like wicker and rattan pieces. 

Even without a huge, sun-filled space, though, you can still create smaller areas of your home that have a similar effect. For example, place a small outdoor sling chair by an open window in the summertime to enjoy the view. Or try adding a forest of houseplants and trees near the windows in your apartment, as well as pieces in earthy materials like rattan, sisal, and bamboo, to create an immediate outdoor feel inside; this is especially stunning in high-rise windows with expansive views.

You could also place a daybed or a settee in front of an open window to catch the natural breeze. Or why not grow an herb garden in the window above your sink? You can also fake an outdoor feeling space by adding in details like lanterns, small fountains, tilework, and twinkle lights to your little indoor/outdoor oasis in the city.