A balconet, balconette and a Juliet balcony are three terms used to describe the same architectural form – a type of a false balcony, which doesn’t have a platform. A metal barrier is arranged right in front of a high window-opening at the outer plane of the building. Also, there are options with platforms available, but they’re so extremely narrow that one can hardly put a foot on it (“go to the balcony”). So, a balconette is merely a decorative element of the exterior and a kind of a high window designed to let in much daylight into a room, as opposed to genuine balconies serving as storage spots and lounge areas.
This architectural form is most often spotted in Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. By the way, in many European languages Juliet balconies are most frequently referred to as “French” balconies. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out why – you already guessed that this is because France was the first country to place such balconies. But originally they were not meant for decorating exteriors of the buildings – in the medieval times balconettes had a far more practical purpose.
Although sanitation was invented in ancient times, during the Middle Ages everyone seemed to forget about its existence. This was the period of total neglect of hygiene and pervasiveness of weird unsanitary attitudes. In European towns and villages people would discard dirty water from their windows right in the street. And the Parisians did this especially well – their city reminded more of a huge smelly cesspit. In 1270 the city government legally prohibited to pour swill from the windows not to squirt passers-by at the threat of a fine. But more than a century passed and nothing changed, and city authorities allowed this practice again, but on one condition: now before outpouring dirty water one was obliged to cry three times: “Beware, I’m pouring!”.
And do not get the impression that this referred to poor people only – the same scenario characterized huge houses of the noblemen and even the royal Palace – the Louvre – which didn’t have a single toilet. In the best cases the courtiers used special chamber pots that were then emptied in the backyard of the palace. But a more common practice was to relieve oneself in the royal garden, on staircases and… on windowsills. Of course, the latter option was extremely inconvenient and unsafe. That is why the architects of those days started to build houses with high floor-to-ceiling windows without sills and with special guardrails in the exterior part. So, historically balconettes were nothing but a trivial means of insurance of French noblemen when they were doing their deeds. And their primary curved shape was for the sake of convenience when squatting.
Fortunately, a modern Juliet balcony is a piece of exterior décor and it’s no longer used for its original purposes. Hundreds of years and generation change have modified their appearance. Trivial metal barriers became more sophisticated. Dressed up with curls, smooth curves and even floral patterns, wrought railings have gradually become pieces of art per se. Moreover, mistresses have turned them into beautiful flower gardens, trying to keep them tidy and more beautiful than their neighbor’s ones. Thus balconettes have gradually become a part of European architecture and a visiting card of Paris.
Nowadays the guardrails are usually made from metal, matte glass, plastic or their combinations, depending on the style of the building. The window can open in full or in part, inwards or outwards, is can be closed with shutters or absolutely open. Some people have wrought railings coated with golden leaf or patina, to make the latticework even more eye-catchy. In some two-floor houses you can even find indoor Juliet balconies. These details are just a matter of choice, but anyway a Juliet balcony is always something to admire. That is why we’d like to show you our selection of the most beautiful and inspiring balconettes. Enjoy!
Houses with Juliet balconies
Styles of wrought railings of Juliet balconies
Flower gardens at Juliet balconies
Indoor Juliet balconies
Juliet balconies from interior perspective