Many apartment buildings residents had a concrete balcony that added extra fifty to sixty square feet to the apartment’s total floor space. Many residents enclosed their balconies with glass windows, thus turning this exterior area into another room of the apartment. Some balconies were merely fitted with iron grilles to deter burglars but were otherwise left open to the weather. Whether open or closed, however, most balconies were used primarily as storage rooms… .
The artifacts visible on these architectural appendages often provided clues to the occupants’ hobbies, interests, skills or professions. Many balconies exhibited big glass jars of homemade sauerkraut next to smaller ones of jewel-toned jellies or jams. In autumn pale green cabbages were piled next to burlap bags of carrots and potatoes. Hanging to dry on clotheslines were whole yellow onions and ears of fresh corn, strings of brown mushrooms and bright red peppers, and rows of gutted fish, their silvery skins glistening in the golden light. In spring, behind the greenhouse glass of enclosed balconies, narrow wooden shelves held pots of tomato and cucumber seedlings, cradling the gardeners’ hopes for a successful summer harvest.
Old furniture served as makeshift storage closets on many balconies. In Vladivostok the wooden cabinet of an early television set, its innards removed, was mounted on a balcony rail and used as outdoor refrigerator. Bicycles, bathtubs, sleds and spare tires were suspended of the exteriors of balconies when there was no space for them inside. From one balcony protruded a homemade television antenna: four metal 35mm film reels, wired together and attached to the end of a pole… .
In her book “The Other Side of Russia: A Slice of Life in Siberia and the Russian Far East”, Sharon Hudgins makes detailed observations of balconies in Russia. While balconies supposed to be strictly regulated, many apartment owners turn them into DIY multi-functional outdoor spaces.