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top private roof terraces in central London

10 top private roof terraces in central London

This collection showcases contemporary private roof terraces I have created in the centre of London. Some of the terraces have been photographed recently by the photographers Marianne Majerus and Clive Nichols and show the gardens in maturity. Some of the photographs were taken by me after construction. I was fortunate to have been commissioned in 2002 to work by Tower Bridge on one of the penthouses in Butlers Wharf and ended up working on 4 of the predominant ones. Working primarily on the River Thames, I have since developed my attitudes to working in harsh conditions, finessing my planters and containers and experimenting with lighting and seating.

1. Hepworth Court 2. Caro Point 3. Kings Chelsea 4. Butlers Wharf 5. Covent Garden 6. Tempus Wharf 7. Shoreditch 8. Antonine Heights 9. Albert Dock 10. St George Wharf.

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Presented here, 5 years on, this majestic 360-degrees open roof terrace had stood the test of time. I wanted to document the terrace again – in maturity, not just with the photographer Marianne Majures, but also to benefit from the completed surroundings of the whole development and the Battersea Power Station before the demolition of its chimneys for a 4-year renovation.

It was the first time we used LED light strips embedded in the surfaces and this worked well as directional lighting – particularly with the orientation towards Chelsea Bridge, the landing airplanes towards Heathrow and the surrounding linear architecture. The trees are some of the best species to cope with wind, sun and pollution: Olive, Pine and Silver birch. Other than a simple surface and the slanted planters to contrast them, the views speak for themselves: Big Ben centred in the London Eye, the arch of Wembley Stadium, the Power Station and Pumping tower, Chelsea Bridge and BT Tower. The terrace is situated on top of the penthouse and is not seen from the living space. The balcony surrounding the lounge was therefore designed in a similar fashion so that it sets a rhythm and pattern to form a cohesive scheme.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Hepworth Court

5 years after completion


The client who commissioned the terrace at Hepworth Court, had relocated to the completed Caro Point – just opposite. This time around, there were 4 terraces to deal with – all of them on the same level – thus forming a sequence of rooms relevant to the indoor spaces it is attached to. Located on the 11th floor – twice the height of the previous terrace the wind is far greater and the ability to take certain materials up to the terrace is limited. We used a combination of sandstone and granite, which created a high contrast – augmented by the unique limestone cladding of the building.

Named after the sculptor Sir Anthony Caro CBE who had just passed away two weeks ago at the time of writing at the age of 89, the openings in the elevations called for sculptural planters that will respond to the views and the tonality and textures of the cladding. I used a combination of my specialised powder-coated planters as well as Dutch fibre planters with deep veins. In the main exposed terrace I created a raised concrete bed – as I would in a ground garden and this gives a true garden feel with recessed coping and a floating base with an LED light. This bed is accentuated with a multi-stem Eucalyptus tree. The tree has done very well and is easily observed from the river embankment. In the kitchen terrace, which is sheltered, I used a Japanese Maple – a rare sight on roof terraces but here it works contrasting the pale walls with its dark foliage. The study terrace also acts as a focal point to the apartment’s entrance with a tall Chusan palm, while the last balcony simply features grasses.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Caro Point

1 year on


This terrace is situated right above Stamford Bridge Stadium in Chelsea. It is awkwardly shaped, north facing and benefits from no significant views. It does also absorb enough pollution and has no privacy… I lifted up all the existing square tiles and re-orientated them at my favourite angle of 40 degrees; this immediately injected a dynamic to such a triangular space. I removed only a handful of bands of it at regular intervals and replaced the stone with beautiful Derbyshire lilac sandstone flags, 90cm x 45cm. These large flags made the space breath, appear larger and gave it a finesse, which keyed it perfectly with the innovatively decorated Kelly Hoppen apartment.

In the south facing long terrace on the other side I introduced herbs, Lavenders and even a Lemon tree. It was great to revisit the space with the photographer Clive Nichols to see the terraces getting a lot of use. The terrace’s focal point is a graceful contemporary sculpture created specially by Elliott Brotherton.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Kings Chelsea

Chelsea rooftop terrace


This was a complex project by any means as the access to Shad Thames is restricted and available only at very specific times. The apartment is facing north and has 4 internal courtyards as gardens – each unique – each with its own character. The solutions had to be simple and minimalist – for a Dutch client. I began with the top north facing balcony – depicted in the below photograph. This was the magical view of Tower Bridge and the one that drew you out as you entered the living space on the top floor. I used a simple combo of Dalmatian Iris with Japanese sedges; this gave me enough structure and all year round interest. From this balcony one overlooks the very shaded courtyard below, which is accessed from the master bedroom and study. Here I planted a jungle of foliage of tree ferns, evergreen Clematis climbing on an architectural stainless steel frame, Hostas, Ligularias and Sasa bamboo. I also added a Welsh oak bespoke bench, curving around a concrete table and an opal sculpture.

In the top south facing terrace outside the kitchen I used Olive trees and herbs and some simple grasses in unique glazed German pots from the Eschbach Company. This terrace overlooks the north internal entrance courtyard, where I created a simple but bold triangle of planters. 3 stems of Himalayan Silver birch in a square steel planter on the right, 3 spherical pots with Sword ferns on the left and at the bottom right 3 upright vases with Fountain grasses.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Butlers Wharf

After installation


As much as I enjoyed watching the London Olympics, the phenomenal tourist density around the site – one the busiest turnings in Covent Garden meant a longer programme than usual. The client had some set prerequisites – one of which was an outdoor kitchen. A tiled breakfast patio leads via 2 steps up to an upper deck with seating, a kitchen framed by Lavender hedges, grasses and scented Mock orange shrubs. 2 steps lead back down to a sun lounge surfaced with artificial grass and surrounded by a jungle of Mediterranean shrubs: Strawberry and Olive trees, Nerium, Mexican lilies, Fan palms and Jerusalem Sages.

The long and large terrace of 120 square metres was divided into 3 areas, which naturally lend themselves to their uses and each space benefits from a unique London landmark in immediate presence. The breakfast tiled patio overlooks BT Tower. The outdoor kitchen has a direct view to the London Eye, while the grass lounge benefits from the remarkable view of Nelson’s Column. This terrace covers the entire blueprint of the apartment and is situated right above it with 2 long terraces either side at the lower level. The clients had installed a significant outdoor sound system, kitted up the kitchen and purchased some wonderful furniture for each of the spaces. Just over a year after construction I returned with the photographer Marianne Majerus.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Covent Garden

1 year on


Situated near the Design Museum on Bermondsey Wall West, Tempus Wharf is a small residential building with all the conserved charm of an old wharf. The top penthouse benefits from a terrace both on the north facing side on the River Thames and a similarly sized one on the south outside the master bedroom. Connecting the two terraces is a long and narrow walkway. The landmark views on the north terrace, outside the living room, are spectacular as the building is equally situated between Tower Bridge to the west and Canary Wharf to the east. I wanted to create a completely new series of planters, each unique – each to correspond with the architecture in the view. One of the first requests from the client was to raise the level of the terrace to be able to appreciate the Thames better. I was able to create a split level deck and orientate half of it towards Canary Wharf at 40 degrees. I Chose European Oak for the deck to continue the interior Oak and incorporated 3 width planks in a random sequence. This is contrasted with a wave shape in a sandstone deck. The step is bridged by a stepped curved planter – part of a duo which mimics the shape of the Gherkin in the distance. A triangular planter in the far corner presents a multi-stem Scots pine in a cloud form, which frames the view to Canary Wharf.

In the south terrace I wanted to reiterate the presence of water by creating a series of 3 ‘Wave planters’. These are backlit with LED strips, as are most of the features on the terraces. In this terrace we also needed privacy on the sides from emerging new apartment buildings so evergreen hedges of Magnolia and Californian Lilac were used. The long connecting terrace was paved with angular sandstone, which changes into artificial grass half way through.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Tempus Wharf

After completion


The client had 2 large terraces either side of the apartment, supplied and kitted up as part and parcel of a newly converted warehouse. The spatial qualities of the curved ceilings, circular skylights and glazed elevations called for something quite special, yet simple. The client had already an interesting Asian art collection, panache for gothic furniture and some contemporary art on the walls. The design had to work with what was there or not work at all. I stripped out absolutely everything and started from scratch. The terrace was laid to Ipe hardwood to the line of the existing interior walnut floor and continued with granite slabs where the kitchen commenced at exactly the same grid. I designed 4 new red curved vases to appear at intervals demarcating the large windows. Contrasting the vases are 2 trios of tall, grey tapered planters with large Box balls framing an existing terracotta Buddha. On the two far ends of the terrace I designed lighter planters with a recess underneath with tall bamboo to give scale and movement.

Two years later, I was invited to design 3 more long tall and thin troughs behind the sofas with Mexican feather grasses and trailing Honeysuckle. This gave me an opportunity to check on progress. In 2011 I revisited again – this time with Helmut Reinelt, a German photographer documenting the terrace for a book publication and changing the Phormiums in the red vases to Libertia grasses. 2 further years on, just recently, I visited again with the photographer Clive Nichols to document the terrace.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Shoreditch

6 years on


SE1 is certainly the most prolific postcode for creating roof terraces and Bermondsey is right at the heart of it. Antonine Heights, on Long Lane, is situated and presents perhaps the most balanced view of the city of London’s emerging new architecture. From the seventh floor one can observe every new landmark of the last 20 years. When I first arrived, one thing was obvious though: this great view is partially blocked by a rendered concrete wall rather then a glazed one. I therefore devised 3 pairs of hollow planters to allow a sense of plasticity which can be augmented with lighting. The back walls of the terrace had a strong blue colour to them – part of the fabric of the entire development, which lent itself to the striking white of some multi-stem Himalayan Silver birches. I used Mediterranean shrubs along the sides whilst the trio of front planters change bedding displays each year to give some seasonal change.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Antonine Heights

2 years on  


Perched over the canal in King’s Cross, right behind the wonderful façade of the new King’s Place Concert Hall, this terrace curves around a converted warehouse with a fantastic white interior and a totally minimalist concrete structure. The wind tunneling in between the buildings, the noise and pollution all contribute to a rather hostile environment. I needed to create something minimalist that’s going to tolerate all of this and stay looking good all year round. I navigated around the curve of the building with hardwood decking, long sandstone flags and LED strips and centred as the main focal point a huge pair of white planters. A glass barrier on top of the existing walls takes away some of the wind off, while two Himalayan multi-stem Silver birches anchor the corners and provide movement and see-through veils to the landmarks beyond.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Albert Dock

2 years on


This 250 square metre roof terrace sits atop the 7th floor of Bridge House, at St George Wharf, on Vauxhall Bridge. The terrace, needles to say, takes the battering south western wind coming in from Battersea every single day, the sun is pounding, then the shade gets dense from the tall buildings which surround it. The views are second to none though, the sunsets are beautiful and the feel is very cinematic. In my design I followed the natural boat shape of the building and made sure the deck is just the right proportion to the building and the rest of the terrace. I used varying width planks of iroko hardwood and contrasted it with the concrete slabs of Blanc de Bierges.

The steps lead up to an artificial putting green with built-in raised beds and seating. I used low Yucca, grasses, Euphorbia, Rosemary, Convolvulus, Succulents and Phormium. Box hedging creates a wind shield by the main seating area and along the façade of the living room. The main focal points are off-set to the middle sides where 3 large Agave americana are featured in each curved raised bed.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Bridge House

3 months on

Working on roof terraces brings endless fun – be it the hustle and bustle of Covent garden; the breathtaking heights of the Barbican Towers; or the wide open sky of a Wandsworth Common low-rise terrace. As the city skyline gets ever more crowded with new skyscrapers, new apartment developments and new monuments, the views become more complex and more challenging. Yet the wind, the sun, the shade, the pollution and the lack of privacy always remain the overriding factors to resolve.

amir   Written, photographed (unless indicated) and posted by Amir Schlezinger.

10 top private roof terraces in central London : Bridge House sunset

3 months after construction

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