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roof terrace blog / city rooftops

design & words Amir Schlezingeramir schlezinger

Penthouse Roof Garden

When the planting in this private Shoreditch roof garden in Central London had matured for a while, materials weathered and the space utilised frequently by our client, we returned to site with renowned photographer Clive Nichols to document progress and soak up some cosy EC2 ambience – nestled among a captivating urban backdrop. The spectacular open-plan living room, its curved ceilings bathed in natural light and minimalist architectural details were an inspiration for a sculptural and intimate roof terrace project a while back, and continue to frame an integrative rooftop scheme adjoining a modern penthouse apartment renovation. In this in-depth roof terrace blog post, we take you through the design process, context and setting of a unique roof garden, its bespoke elements, exuberant lighting and our client's distinctive creativity, personal style and panache with contemporary art amid outdoor city living in eclectic Shoreditch.

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1. luxury 2. design 3. offbeat 4. upkeep 5. artiness 6. detail 7. colour 8. topiary 9. interior 10. grasses

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1 luxury

penthouse living

Not all penthouse apartments are made equal, and this unique, 2,500-square-foot turnkey city home was a bona fide architectural find for our client, complete with two large rooftop gardens facing both north and south. Snugly tucked away behind Curtain Road, this utterly sumptuous city pad is equipped to the hilt with state-of-the-art technology which adeptly elevates a radiant, lightful space, and complements the nuances of an aesthetician extraordinaire and his penchant for unusual artworks. A new, trendy roof terrace to extend these architectonic benchmarks was to be the cherry on top.

2 design

minimalist approach

While the interior decor was perfected long before we arrived, the roof gardens remained in a rather mediocre state, requiring a clear transformational vision and a comprehensive redesign to boost them on a par with a pristine indoors. In the north-facing roof garden, we matched the kitchen tiles with a grid of flamed granite pavers, and continued the Walnut wood flooring through corresponding lines of Ipe hardwood – producing a pure design layout which fundamentally increases a pivotal sense of depth in this elongated roof garden.

3 offbeat

personal style

Engagingly, the anthology of artworks, personal travel artefacts and unorthodox furniture compiled by our client weaves alluring contrast between the apartment's sleek and lustrous architectural framework and the interior's gothic resonance. Fittingly bold in stature, the scale of various focal points, their coarse textures and charismatic colours infuse auxiliary depth with intricate shadows and light interplays, as the sun's arc moves perpendicularly at a dramatic clockwise rotation.

4 upkeep

minimal maintenance

Since our client works ungodly hours in the city, we specifically selected remarkably low maintenance plants and materials to enable a roof garden scheme which is easily sustained all year round. Only 5 plant species were integrated, layered in well-defined scale, shapes and textures, and are entirely evergreen. The granite flooring is highly resilient, augmented by robust, powder-coated rooftop planters and automatic irrigation. The hardwood decking requires annual attention to revive its patina, creating a visual flow from indoors to outdoors.

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5 artiness

art collection

Having returned from a visit in the Far East before commencing the rooftop design project, our client brought back cratefuls of mementos, introducing tactile exoticism into an existing modern art collection. With an apartment bathed in natural light emanating gloriously from sizeable portholes, curved ceiling openings, glass floors and glazed elevations, the new art additions found their home in opulent niches, and while some were interspersed throughout the roof gardens, the bulkier wall pieces were mounted up by our team near the entrance.

6 detail

architectural gamut

Designed and built with sheer minimalism, the penthouse contains a serene juxtaposition of linearity and curvature in forms and details, heightened by floating cavities, concealed LED lighting and precision engineering. This clear-cut architectural approach was maintained in the roof gardens, where existent outline elongation was refined with eye-level focal points in zoned outdoor hubs, narrated by meticulous detailing, and wrapped in effective yet compelling design simplicity.

7 colour

vibrant accents

With a rich Walnut patina permeating the entire apartment alongside terracotta textures, augmented by pockets of red hues in fabrics and paintings while contrasted with turquoise and green glass expanses, we designed burgundy red low vases to complement the residence's quintessence. This colour palette is highlighted by a progression of muted hues in the planter tinting from a light taupe for the bamboo troughs to the deep slate-grey of supersized topiary planters – aptly underlining the contrastive merits of an urban designer rooftop.

8 topiary

clipped spheres

Six voluminous Box balls form distinct focality, flanking a terracotta Buddha statue, and creating a highly sculptural hedge design. Buxus sempervirens, our native woodland tree, finds its cosy home out here in the centre of Shoreditch, clipped to perfection by the maintenance team. Displayed in 1.2-metre-high tapered vases, and grouped as two trios, these green spheres produce pivotal scale which balances the rooftop's back elevation. Fitted with anti-topple brackets and gently backlit, the topiary's verdant globularity provides a reliable selection to define solidity beside the breezy movement of feathery grasses, while flawlessly framing the outdoor sculpture.

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9 interior

open-plan space

The building's unassuming facade, perched quaintly within a rapidly developing Shoreditch, preserves low-rise authenticity amid towering edifices which are swiftly colonising a richly historic part of London. Contrasting this outward modesty, the modernised interior unveils its intentions right from the moment visitors are welcomed by the foyer's textured concrete walls. Following a short journey to the fourth floor, transported via a dedicated lift entry, the interior's majestic opulence reveals angular shafts of daylight which saturate a colossal open-plan living room through curved steel beams across the lofty ceiling, where capturing this lavish sense of space with its grand freedom formed the impetus for our subsequent roof garden design.

10 grasses

feathery outlines

Nassella tenuissima, the Mexican Feather grass, finds its home handily here in Shoreditch, thriving profusely even on a north-facing rooftop garden, where morning and afternoon light filters through its soft translucent foliage. In contrast to this daintiest of true grasses, Libertia ixioides ‘Goldfinger’, a striking orange-coloured cultivar of the New Zealand grass-like Mikoikoi, forms sturdy, leafy clumps, elevated by small white flowers in summer. These easygoing grassy selections sustain a low maintenance rooftop planting scheme, while providing variety of outlines between the Bamboo and Box spheres.

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– coda –

Landscaped in Shoreditch

Our client has added some fabulous Dedon furniture to make this roof garden a truly liveable, luxurious and well-integrated outdoor space. The rooftop lighting scheme lustrously accentuates both the apartment's modern architecture and its roof garden, aptly sustaining a non-stop city lifestyle with an abundant, warming afterglow. Having matured gracefully, mellowing into a thoroughly urbanised Shoreditch backdrop, this successful roof garden project is a testament not only to a well-planned rooftop design & build process and sympathetic landscaping, but also, most importantly, to our client's aspirational vision, relentless energy and inspiring ingenuity!