“But Soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.”
– William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
On this Valentine’s eve, we are inspired by one of the most iconic images in romantic literature: Romeo and Juliet’s balcony scene. We can envision Juliet, framed within her bedroom window, listening to Romeo’s heartfelt professions. That grand image, which looms large in romantic prose, belies the intimate scale of the “Juliet” balcony it made famous.
Historians believe the earliest exterior balconies date back thousands of years to Ancient Greece and were used as functional architectural adornments to help increase air circulation and introduce natural light to the building’s interior. The precise time when balconies transitioned from a practical to “decorative” adornment is uncertain, but it is clear that in the 18th and 19th centuries, European architects adopted balconies as a central exterior feature. They believed balconies were an integral part of a building’s façade and were desirable both because they made buildings appear more “grandiose,” and because they provided a beautiful aesthetic to passersby.
Today, depending on the homeowner’s objectives, we introduce small balconies as both exterior and interior design elements. As an exterior feature on a second or third floor, balconies create a desirable link between the inside and the outside of a home. While there are several architectural versions of a Juliet balcony, they typically surround French or double doors, are shallow in depth and provide a suggestion of outdoor space without actually leaving the house.
As an interior design feature, small balconies on a second floor (sometimes called overlooks) create an open, architectural dialogue between the two stories. From the upper floor, the balcony engages both levels and allows us to experience the space from an elevated podium. From below, it gives us a hint of the space above, where there would typically be a wall, creating a sense of seamless continuity.
Centuries after Shakespeare’s famous courtship of Romeo and Juliet, the balcony remains an enchanting and enduring architectural feature. We wish you all a Happy Valentines Day filled with romantic inspiration!