The Outsider: Oversized Roof Terrace in Williamsburg


    THIS EDITION of The Outsider, Brownstoner’s Sunday garden column, is the last to be written and produced by journalist/blogger Cara Greenberg. It’s been fun… now get growing!

    THERE’S REALLY NOTHING you can’t grow in containers, provided the container is big enough — trees, shrubs, grasses, bulbs, perennials, annuals. On a 4,000-square-foot bi-level roof terrace atop a converted factory building in Williamsburg, garden designer Rebecca Cole has done just that, creating an urban woodland for her client, with elements of prairie meadow, too.

    The view is a triple whammy, with the East River, Manhattan skyline, and monumental latticework of the Manhattan Bridge all seen in close-up. It cried out for equally dramatic landscaping. The client, who is in real estate, hired Cole to turn the vast 11th floor terrace into something a couple could enjoy without feeling lost in space.

    Cole, a well-known TV personality and author, created the look of natural landscaping, with metal cubes containing birch trees and grasses, ‘carpets’ of sedum, and lots of annual color. She carefully planned the placement of containers to break up the space into functional areas. “You can literally wander as you would through the woods,” she says, “taking different paths around birches and evergreens, coming upon places to sit, noticing pretty little ground covers.”

    More after the jump.

    Photos: Courtesy Rebecca Cole


    Shallow rubber trays (“Green Grids” from Weston Solutions) are planted with sedums in mixed shapes and colors, forming patterned ‘carpets’ positioned for all-season viewing from the loft’s floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a low-flow, energy-saving, well-hidden irrigation system.


    Cole designed the layout using the existing 24-inch-square concrete pavers like graph paper. She started with the trees (clump birch and red maple are the mainstays), “putting them in spaces that feel like they’re making winding paths. Then I figured out how many containers should surround them.”


    Cube-shaped metal and resin planters from Ore are filled with tough, country-style perennials like black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, Russian sage, coreopsis, spirea, catmint, salvia, and ornamental grasses. Sun-loving and drought-tolerant, they are perfectly happy on an exposed urban roof. Furnishings include a rustic loveseat carved from redwood and, on the upper level, a dining table and chairs.


    The client wanted a water feature, but because of the windy rooftop conditions, a fountain was out. So Cole came up with an architectural solution, simple and geometric – little ‘infinity pools,’ flush with the ground. Here, too, the experience resembles a walk in the woods, where streams pop up every once in a while.



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