Design Challenge: Ten Urban Balcony Garden Ideas

June 7, 2011 by

Grass Mosaic

Garden Unique, a new premium outdoor section of spoga+gafa opening in September in Cologne, Germany, is sponsoring Garden Goes Balcony, a design contest inviting new or established designers to submit fresh ideas for creative balcony spaces. The focus is on innovative furniture ideas, especially those that maintain harmony between the balcony space, its building, and the surrounding environment.

To harness the creative power of a large group of designers and architects, the Garden Goes Balcony contest is being managed by, a creative online crowd-sourcing platform with more than 20,000 registered users from graphic and product designers to architects. The contest is open for another 7 days with a total prize value of 12,500 euros and an introduction to manufacturers.

Of the current submissions, here are some of my favorites:

1. Grass Mosaic

Grass Mosaic, according its designer, “is a very flexible system of shallow pots made of acrylic stone or similar material. They can be filled with prefabricated lawn grass or with wooden panels. The bottom of the pots allow water fluctuation. They can be arranged freely, walking paths can be dominated by wooden bits while corners can be fully grass. One can design one’s own pattern.”  Grass Mosaic’s designer offers that there are a number of small lawn mowers on the market that would be perfect for maintaining the grass modules.


2. Combix

Combix is a modular furniture system for balconies and gardens that allows one the flexibility of using the pieces as seating, tables, storage shelving, space divider, screening, and even as a vertical garden.

Combix works well indoors or out.


3. Sitting On Plants

Sitting on Plants is a collection of transparent furniture that includes a planting bed and ventilation holes.

Constructed of  acrylic and frosted polycarbonate, it is also, according to the designer, comfortable–in addition to being just cool to look at.

The Sitting on Plants system includes a chaise and chair, each with cushions, a table and various sized modular units that can be stacked to create a green wall that doubles as storage system and privacy screening.


4. The Garden Room

Modular seating meets decking meets waterproof storage and more in The Garden Room. Ok, it’s really too large for most balconies, but I like the concept for all its funky flexibility.

The surrounding modular planters, when moved up to the seating elements, function as a backdrop or screen. The cushions provide comfort, and when removed, can be replaced with Yellow Balau smooth planed hardwood, allowing one to place a platter or drinks there: instant table.

There’s storage beneath to stow cushions or even tuck away your garden tools and small equipment.

Got sun, want shade? the design’s canopy offers respite from the rays and also creates a cozy cocoon for curling up with a book or maybe a lover…

5. Pot Puzzle

Pot Puzzle consists of three pieces: a pot, table, and a seat. The designer suggests it can be made of any of the solid surface materials like Corian or HI-MACS, materials that work well outdoors and tolerate the elements. The Pot Puzzle’s seat would be made of soft, water resistant foam. I can see this design working well in a hotel or restaurant lounge area.


6. Tree Stools

Tree Stools are a set of stools and a coffee table which, when stacked one above another, form a single object: a tree.

Ideal for small balconies, the “tree” offers a space-saving vertical gardening solution that transforms easily into a set of stools and a small table for breakfast on the balcony, relaxing time, or cocktail parties. Each piece has an attached plant pot, representing the leaves on branch.

Seats are made of foam, covered with vinyl polyester, offering a variety of seat colors for for mixing and matching. Tree Stools are made of eco-friendly fiber cement, an easy-to-shape material.


7. Brick

Brick is a colorful modular piece that can serve as a balcony wall and vertical garden when stacked and planted. I like its simplicity: use a s few or as many pieces as you need to create a low wall or a taller one for privacy.

…or, as the designer says, create something like Babylon hanging gardens!


8. Daisy

Like a flower that opens and closes it petals, Daisy is another take on the multi-tasking piece: multi flower-pot, table/bar, stool, wine cooler, coffee table, and any other creative use you can dream up.

Opened, Daisy works well as a multi flower pot or as table with built-in wine cooler. Closed, she becomes a stool or table. Versatility makes it great for balconies, gardens and other outdoor areas. Daisy’s double vases system makes it easy to water or replace plants–just lift the pots out of the receptacles.


9. Green Umbrella

This one gets credit for the thought process, but it’s not yet resolved. I like the idea of a living umbrella utilizing plant material when one can’t get enough shade from a tree alone. But this concept has some problems. Wouldn’t moving the plants around or folding down the upper part stress them (not to mention the person who is moving them)?

This modification of the original idea works better: a decorative screen onto which you can train the climbing plants. The decorative screen design would have to be wonderful as this is not really a new concept. Back to the drawing board!


10. Seljavegur: Wall Planter and Lighting System

Seljavegur is a modular wall tile component system comprised of different sized modules that function as plant containers or lights:
1. Single Holder Down: A tile with small plant holder
2. Single Holder Up: Same as the “Single Holder Down” but oriented to operate as a down light
3. Double Holder Top and Bottom: A two tile system used for containing a plant with longer roots
4. Wide Holder: A mirror-reversible tile used for wider plants

The wall system’s flexibility offers a multitude of possibilities. Holder tiles can serve as planters, resting spots for small items, and can be reoriented to fit lighting systems.

The panels can be quickly detached from the wall-mounted track system so that, as your whim changes, so can your wall.


  1. Ellen said:

    Some of the coolest ideas in a long time

    — June 8, 2011 @ 10:22

  2. lucy schwartz said:

    You are killing me, Urban Gardens….great goodness soo cool.

    — June 8, 2011 @ 13:52

  3. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Oh Lucy, love hearing this, thanks!

    — June 9, 2011 @ 15:19

  4. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    Coming from you Ellen, this is high praise!

    — June 9, 2011 @ 15:20

  5. Libertyin2011 said:

    These are some of the most amazing and practical designs I have seen in a long time. I would love to purchase them. Please let me know who manufactures these. Please email Thanks.

    — June 10, 2011 @ 02:00

  6. Garden benches said:

    Wow, so modern.. love it.

    — June 10, 2011 @ 18:22

  7. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    These awesome ideas are at present concepts that were submitted to this contest. I do hope some of them get produced so please do check back to see!

    — June 14, 2011 @ 13:12

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    — June 18, 2011 @ 04:07

  9. Sustainable Urban Development said:

    Wow! Those are some amazing and modern ideas to bring green to your home!

    — August 10, 2011 @ 10:25

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  11. Suzy said:

    Love these fab designs. Buy some plants………… palms, climbers, cordylines etc online to full your pots at for your balcony. But sorry only in Australia

    — October 9, 2011 @ 02:10

  12. chile said:

    “Id like to introduce you to my passion. I love working with glass mosaic tile. I’m eager to share my work with you so
    please visit my gallery, which features mosaic tile and glass mosaic art that adds beauty and warmth to our home. You’re
    welcome to use my work as inspiration for your own ideas, mosaic designs, and mosaic patterns. Enjoy!

    If you have questions about my techniques, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My goal is to share with you the fun and
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    Most mosaic books and websites don’t adequately teach you how to make mosaic tables or glass mosaic tile art. They
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    to make mosaic art, from choosing the right base material, adhesive, and tessera type for your project; to selecting the
    mosaic design; to drawing the mosaic pattern; and to hanging the finished masterpiece on the wall (which can be quite
    tricky because of the heavy weight).

    — October 10, 2011 @ 05:57

  13. kinh mat thoi trang said:

    Are you starting a garden this spring? For the last several years, the only gardens we’ve been planting have been in containers. But growing food in containers shouldn’t be a drawback; urban gardening in pots, containers, and windowboxes can yield quite a lot of food. Take a look at this gallery of ten different containers and good ideas for gardening in small spaces.

    — March 5, 2012 @ 06:12

  14. Balcony Suppliers said:

    Thanks for Sharing!!

    Amazing balcony garden ideas….

    — May 19, 2012 @ 03:07

  15. Phuc Tran said:

    Pls take a little minute look around my company ( We have some products which you need.

    — May 25, 2012 @ 02:15

  16. home builders Missouri said:

    These are great ideas for urban balcony gardens. Those people who are living in these areas are surely inspired with these wonderful samples. Thanks for sharing.

    — June 29, 2012 @ 05:56

  17. Deborah said:

    Unless I’m missing something, can you please also put the “resources” in here? In other words, where can these items be purchased? It’s great to see them, even better if we know where to get them! : )

    — July 17, 2012 @ 21:28

  18. epoxy flooring Louisiana said:

    These are certainly fantastic ideas. All these are so creative and will surely be great for balconies. I do love the idea of the grass mosaic and the garden room is something very interesting. The green umbrella is also wonderful since plant shades create a cooler environment. Finally, the wall planter and lighting system is so adorable. It is simple yet it has that stylish touch.

    — September 26, 2012 @ 22:31

  19. Cora said:

    Wow the plant mozaic and pot puzzles are my favorite! Here’s an idea I saw for people who have smaller balconies or who don’t have access to or the budget for all of these futuristic decorations:

    — October 1, 2012 @ 19:47

  20. room additions Las Vegas said:

    These are very beautiful designs! This goes to show that one can still have plants in city lofts and it does not have to be inconvenient at all. The designs are inspiring for those who are looking for ideas when they pan for their remodeling projects.

    — October 8, 2012 @ 02:14

  21. Brownlee said:

    I see that this was posted almost 18 months ago. Is there any updates to this competition yet because I would like to see some updates to the lounge chairs with grass on them?

    — January 4, 2013 @ 16:17

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  23. Robin Plaskoff Horton said:

    I don’t know of any updates to the competition.

    — January 10, 2013 @ 20:27

  24. Barbara Hairelson said:

    What kind plants that would do good on.the west side olf a high rise building? I live on the east coast of Virginia

    — May 15, 2014 @ 10:55

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  26. CeeCee said:

    I wish I only had a little balcony to worry about instead of 2 acres. NOT.

    — November 30, 2014 @ 09:13

  27. Robin Horton said:

    You are indeed fortunate to have 2 acres of land CeeCee. But some people, notably urban dwellers, often have much less outdoor space yet still want to garden or grow food. We try to encourage people–even those with limited spaces–to use whatever area they have (even if it’s just a windowsill) to create an ornamental or edible garden, extend their living space outdoors, or make other creative use of what is available to them.

    — December 1, 2014 @ 00:42

  28. Robin Horton said:

    Thank you!

    — December 1, 2014 @ 00:43

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  33. Deepa said:

    I love the garden room. How do I place the order?

    — May 16, 2023 @ 14:46

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