Fond of thorns, spines and prickles, our clients cultivate a small arid plants collection in the warmth of this south-facing terrace. Since the sheltered conditions are optimal for Pine, Aloes and Cacti to thrive, we focused on integrating this valuable flora seamlessly into the new scheme, infusing further character by adding fresh succulents. The architectural design is enhanced with turquoise pebbles glistening in sunrays, where the Pine tree projects sculptural silhouettes onto a grid of smooth sandstone and hardwood decking.
The layout design for the south-facing terrace integrates desert essence amid ethnic influences, featuring a waterfall and a shade arbour, while hardwood is repeated across the handrail on top of the parapet wall and horizontal cladding. This intimate roof terrace is abundant in effortless detail design, where every inch of its space is maximised to enable frequent outdoor use, and complements the interior's warmth. The arbour improves scale, and casts dynamic shadows onto the walls – defining a low-key, sunny perching spot.
The cosy seating under the arbour is screened with a trio of Agave americana ‘Variegata’; displayed on the parapet wall, these Mexican succulents are featured in a bespoke slanting trough, and finished in granite chippings to maintain a dry bed. Conditions here are apt for cultivating arid species, where plants bask in sun, enhancing privacy. This minimalist mindset sustains an evergreen, architectural design, within a minimal upkeep terrace planting scheme, and while our clients spend more time travelling than at home, a water efficient roof terrace seems to be the way forwards!
The north-facing roof terrace is shaded, yet sheltered, providing an ideal setting for growing woodland plants. An Acer palmatum cultivar, a purple-leaved Japanese maple, is featured above an angular, built-in bench in a well-lit, custom-built planter, where its composition keys into a tall Silver birch tree we planted in the neighbours' roof terrace. Designed as a space-saving triangle, this social hub links to a cantilevered bar in the perimeter wall for entertaining while gazing at the Gherkin, Shard and Tower Bridge. The Japanese maple requires minimal upkeep, and when selecting a fluid outline, without crossing branches, it'll form a graceful space, entailing only a sporadic shear.
There's great charm in including unusual flora every now and again, and Snake plants provide such horticultural playfulness. The contrast between a dry desert roof terrace and seductive flow of water creates a captivating continuum of opposite qualities. The tender species may only last a winter or two, yet this approach of utilising ephemeral, seasonal displays forms a practice we draw on to augment a client's willingness to diversify and embrace new roof terrace ideas. In doing so, maintenance is minimised while enhanced with an exciting new layout – it's our own production of Cactus on a Hot Bermondsey Roof!
sound & reflection
While the front terrace features an expansive city vista, the design for the back rooftop required its own narrative in the absence of noteworthy landmarks. A 1.8-metre-long, custom-made water feature fits snugly across the terrace width, invigorating the rooftop during summertime. The sizeable waterfall enhances sense of space in this small niche, augmenting the desert plants with sound and aquatic elements, where its powerful, accurately specified pump is pivotal in maintaining a vertical flow in the breeze.
Our well-travelled clients love to display the ornaments they avidly collect, throughout the jam-packed loft and the three roof terraces which surround it, where such personalisation unfolds their story – a mindset we derive inspiration from and design specifically for. A bijou Buddha statue rests serenely inside a custom-built alcove under the arbour's boundary partition, imparting tranquillity. We constructed a bespoke screen, featuring unique, detailed designs for each elevation, where the neighbours' facade is cladded in horizontal bands, while here, the deck curves upwards into an exhibit niche.
The exquisite view towards Tower Bridge from the front terrace is framed with a low hedge of tactile Lavenders. To save precious space, we designed and installed customised roof terrace troughs onto the parapet wall, extending the design we built for the neighbours. The renewed elevation spans the building's entire length, enhancing its Bermondsey streetscape with textured foliage, although tidying these English Lavenders after flowering is pivotal in retaining shipshape form, and that's about the only maintenance they require.
When the tender Snake plants have withered in a chilly winter, their essence was restored by another set of architectural succulents. This time around, the colourful Red pancake Kalanchoe from South Africa is producing a vibrant focal point; their crimson foliage echoes the hardwood gamut defining the terrace, while the plants remain dry by a covering of small granite chippings. Maintenance is reduced to a bare minimum, until the next lot of succulents takes centre stage!
10 living aloft
Every nuance in this city suntrap is packed full of personality, from the narrow street turning in the centre of Bermondsey to the quaint building and the clients' anthology of cultural mementos. With a third terrace at the back, we sought to integrate the various zones into a cohesive outdoor canvas for our clients to enjoy all year round. To achieve this ambition, we included low upkeep essentials, as we often do in small city gardens. The clients travel every so often – best have a space where they can hop into and relax rather than drudge over!