Decking Out Your Roof Deck

In and around the city, any scrap of outdoor space is highly prized, but roof decks, in particular, lend a glorious sense of space and freedom to their lucky inhabitants. If the deck happens to capture a bit of our area's iconic water or skyline views, even better.

But roof decks, which are often barren blank slates, can often lead to decorating indecision. No worries! We've come to your rooftop rescue with a few tips and tricks that'll make sure your deck becomes a remarkable outdoor living space worthy of its world-class surroundings.

1. Maximize Views

This is practically a no-brainer, but make sure that your rooftop decorating plan begins and ends with views in mind. Every seating and lounging area should be positioned to capture your best vistas as a focal point. Taller trees and structures, meanwhile, should be kept out of prime sight lines or used to camouflage less-than-breathtaking scenes.


2. Sit Down, Stretch Out

The key to creating a modern, inviting deck space is maximizing a seamless indoor/outdoor feel. Gone are the days of vinyl strap loungers and plastic tables! Today's outdoor furniture and fabrics are durable, comfortable and available in an array of colors and customizable configurations. Add an assortment of seating areas for different types of gatherings: low sofas, chairs and coffee tables for conversation; chaises for sunbathing and lounging; and dining tables for eating and games. Contemporary outdoor carpets are nearly indistinguishable from their indoor cousins, so use them liberally to define seating areas and create soft spaces for your sure-to-be bare feet. A hammock is an unexpected addition to an urban rooftop, while a chiminea or fire pit provides warmth on chilly nights.


3. Provide Privacy

As the saying goes, fences make good neighbors, and that can hold true whether on the ground or on the roof. To provide a bit of privacy and separation from ultra-close neighbors, incorporate a trellis and climbing vine or add a row of tall evergreen trees along your roof line. Installing a pergola outfitted with privacy shades or tie-back curtains can also add privacy to seating areas while also providing a bit of shade and wind protection.


4. Get Made in the Shade

Speaking of shade, if there's one drawback to rooftop decks, it might be their overabundance of sunlight. Without trees or other buildings to block out the sun, things can get really hot, really quickly. Spend some time observing the path of the sun across your roof and plan a bit of shady space in the spots that receive the most light. A small gazebo can provide a respite from direct light without blocking views and air, or add a few oversized umbrellas on wheels that can move with the sun.


5. Don't Forget the Greenery

Unlike in ground-level outdoor space, plants and trees can be an afterthought on blank-slate roof decks, but even a bit of greenery can go a long way in taking a plain deck from meh to magnificent. Tall evergreen trees like Japanese Yew and junipers can provide shade and privacy, while Skimmia japonica and leucothoe are great broad-leafed evergreens that do well in the New York area climate. Plant your tallest trees in wheeled containers for flexibility, place shrubs in planter boxes to provide leafy borders or in bright ceramic pots to provide pops of color to your outdoor design scheme. Want to copy the look and feel of everyone's elevated outdoor space? Read up on Gardenista's gardening ideas from the High Line, including the park's must-read plant list.


6. Make it Food Friendly

One of the primary benefits of outdoor space is the ability to dine and entertain al fresco. If your roof deck doesn't happen to have access to a nearby kitchen or wet bar, things get a bit trickier, but it's nothing a bit of extra equipment can't handle. For cooking, invest in a gas grill that can accommodate a multitude of grilling and warming chores, and for chilling, add a permanent ice chest. We love this personalized one from William Sonoma that can also do double duty as an end table. You'll also want some space for serving and storage. IKEA has some great outdoor cabinets, including this tall version that's perfect near the grill and this low version that works as a bench or coffee table. Stock up on large, handled tubs and trays that can schelp food and dishes back and forth, and you'll be all set for your next spectacular rooftop soiree. Cheers!