In densely populated cities like New York or San Francisco, saying that space is a premium is an understatement. Even inches can be costly especially for apartments in high-rise buildings where the game is building upwards to maximize space. Aside from making sure that every inch inside an apartment is utilized, property developers have found ways to utilize outside space as well.
This brings us to Juliet balconies.
If you’ve looked through listings on apartment rentals websites in New York, you might have noticed many apartments would boast about having a Juliet balcony as one of the unit’s sought-after amenities. However, after looking through the images, you might wonder why such a small exterior space would be so important.
So, what are Juliet balconies, and why are they such a big deal in NYC?
Let’s find out!
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a Juliet balcony is defined as “a structure like a very narrow balcony with vertical metal bars, fitted to the outside of a building in front of an upstairs full-length window in two parts that can be opened like doors."
In a nutshell, a Juliet balcony is any small and narrow space on the exterior of a building that is accessible by full-length windows. The exterior space must have some kind of barrier for safety purposes. In some listings, you will find the term “balconette” can also be used.
You might think that the name is derived from the famous scene in the even more famous Shakespearean play. You know the one: fair Juliet steps out on her balcony and calls out to her star-crossed lover with the immortal words, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?”
However, it might surprise you to know that the original play did not feature a balcony at all! It was only in subsequent performances that the iconic scene was added, and the romantic notion of the Juliet balcony was born.
One of the biggest issues with Juliet balconies is that there is no architectural standard to designate how the term can be used. Thus, some people might see Juliet balconies as simply a way to increase the value of an apartment by tacking on an “outdoor space” as an amenity. After all, a listing that has the word “balcony” on its amenities would draw much more attention than one without it.
While it is true that there are instances when a Juliet balcony is depressingly small and cramped, it might help to view the Juliet balcony in another light.
Instead of perceiving a Juliet balcony as a “true outdoor space”, think of it this way: Juliet balconies are a way to bring the outdoors into your apartment.
What does that mean?
Since the typical Juliet balcony features large windows that reach the floor, it allows air and light into the apartment. This brings a feeling of openness and airiness to the interior of the unit. Any apartment that is filled with fresh air and natural light will feel roomy, calming, and peaceful.
Aside from giving your apartment a burst of natural light and fresh air, what other advantages does a Juliet balcony offer?
If you’re lucky, the Juliet balcony in your apartment has space to accommodate small furniture. A small table, maybe a chair or two would be enough to create an outdoor seating area for you and a friend. Sure, it might not sound like much, but in a city like NYC, even a small outdoor space can be a huge deal.
If there isn’t enough space for furniture, the narrow space of a Juliet balcony is usually enough to store a bike. You won’t need to pay any fees to store your bike and you won’t have to worry about leaving dirt tracks inside your apartment.
Perhaps one of the best things about a Juliet balcony is that it does have aesthetic value. The design of the bars is often intricate, especially in old brownstone buildings. The design of the balcony usually complements the exterior of the building. For example, pre-war buildings with Juliet balconies would usually have a classic design, while modern Juliet balconies are typically more chic and minimalist.
There are a few reasons why a developer might choose to put a Juliet balcony instead of a full one. It might have to do with space, available air rights (yes, that’s a thing in NYC), and return of investment. Some developers reject putting in a balcony because it makes the cost of the apartment prohibitive.
In a sense, Juliet balconies are a compromise so that tenants can have an affordable apartment while still having some access to the outside. If nothing else, the wide windows would offer a great view!
So, the million-dollar question: is a Juliet balcony worth it?
We’d say...yes, to a certain point.
If the Juliet balcony has enough space to place furniture or at least act as bike storage, then yes, it’s definitely worth it as an amenity. However, if the space is too small for you to step out on and the Juliet balcony is purely decorative, it’s up to your personal taste.
You can ask for an apartment tour to see whether the Juliet balcony adds any value to the interior of the unit. Try timing your tour early in the morning to see whether there is enough natural light to make the Juliet balcony worthwhile.