What is a balcony?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines balcony as “A platform enclosed by a wall or balustrade on the outside of a building, with access from an upper-floor window or door”, but they are so much more than that. Have you ever wondered how long balconies have existed?

A brief history of balconies

The earliest examples of balconies are thought to have featured in Ancient Greek architecture although at the time it was likely they were more functional than fashionable, with heavy stone buildings requiring an outlet through which air could circulate and natural light could enter.

Ancient Greek Architecture

The timing of the balcony’s evolution into a more ornamental feature is unclear, but early examples seem to point towards the famous Juliet balconies that were adopted by European architects during the 18th and 19th Centuries and added to homes to make them appear more grandiose. This effect was furthered during Britain’s Regency era, when the falling cost of iron allowed craftsmen to produce more elaborate designs.

We’ve all heard of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and the famed balcony at the Casa di Guilietta – or Juliet’s House – in Verona. Despite the balcony never being referenced in the original play, the location has always been popular. Nevertheless, the character of Juliet is often portrayed giving her famous monologue from one, and as a result, it has become an iconic image in romantic literature.

Romeo & Juliet's Balcony - Verona

Despite its name and because of the limited terrace space on which people can stand, the Juliet balcony is more appropriately referred to as a French balcony.   Traditional Juliet balconies are false balconies in that they typically don’t have a platform to stand on.

Types of balconies

Although French and false balconies are similar, there are significant differences that architects consider to be crucial. Faux balconies are just railings affixed to a home’s exterior, but French balconies are named from the French doors that usually precede them, making them perfect for rooms in need of a bit more light and ventilation.

French Balconies

True balconies are exterior balconies with space for standing or sitting, and are commonly seen in holiday homes, where spectacular vistas may be enjoyed, or wine shared over al fresco meals. Although the styles and uses of the humble balcony have evolved over time, they have remained a prominent architectural element throughout history until the present day.

As a result, there are many things  to consider when choosing a balcony to add to your home. It’s important to match your preferred design to your type of home and the area you live in, in addition to examining the many varieties of balconies available to you. Rather than competing with the beauty surrounding it, your balcony should complement it.

Whether you prefer the minimalistic look or the more traditional style, whatever your needs F.H. Brundle offers a choice of modular Juliet balcony systems available in a range of sizes.