Treat your rooftop like an outdoor living room

This stylish indoor-outdoor Parisian rooftop terrace has all the trappings and comforts of a living room inside the house, such as cushy furniture, wall art and lighting. For your own terrace, try seeing the space as though it were a room inside, and imagine how you would arrange it — likely more lavishly than a room outdoors. While not all decor makes sense outside, investing in comfortable outdoor furniture and adding details such as an outdoor rug, potted plants, a shade structure or umbrella, and lighting will make the space all the more inviting.

Grow a green screen

To make your rooftop feel more like a secluded garden retreat and less like a fishbowl, invest in screens, fences and planters, and grow vines and shrubs to block views of adjacent buildings.

Add softness

Make a rooftop of any size seem more inviting by arranging a scattering of brightly colored weatherproof pillows and laying down outdoor rugs to soften the floor. The informal setup would encourage you and your family or friends to use the terrace as a summer hangout.

Carve out curves

Adding curves can help tone down the feeling of being surrounded by hard-edged man-made structures and make a rooftop terrace feel more like a garden. The metal fountain is also in a loose S-curve shape rather than a more common vertical plane. While not a curve, per se, the decking set at a diagonal also visually breaks up the boxy space formed by the surrounding buildings.

Set plants up for success

Lush vines, leafy shrubs, swaying grasses and colorful flowers all help transform an urban terrace into a calming oasis. For plants to thrive on a rooftop terrace, they’ll need the right light exposure and adequate soil and water. Invest in built-in planters or medium to large containers that won’t dry out quickly. Ideally, hook up a drip irrigation system. Vines and tall, skinny plants, such as arborvitae, and large ornamental grasses offer a good bang for your buck in terms of providing lots of green while only taking up a little floor space. City terrace gardens often have an “urban Landscape” light exposure, where plants are either in the deep shade cast by buildings or in full, blaring sun. Hanging a shade Sail that still allows light to penetrate, creates a more consistent growing environment for plants and a more comfortably shaded hangout spot for people.

Make room for your top priorities

Whether your main objective is creating a spot for outdoor entertaining or a tranquil, private retreat (or both), design your rooftop terrace to support how you’d like to use the space. A skillfully planned rooftop design includes a couple of distinct seating areas, each with a different intended use. A lounge chair on the upper level would be a great spot for solo relaxing, while a trio of chairs could be used to host a small group as sit-out or chillout area