Re-imagining a Roof Terrace as a Garden and a Pool Deck

Good news! We just got a building permit for the daycare center project. With the load off, I can spend some time preparing for the presentation I wrote about last week. This time the focus will be on re-imagining the building’s roof terrace not just as a pool deck, but as a roof garden. 

My parti or the overarching theme for the project (as explained in DIY Like an Architect) is bohemian — uncluttered with a dose of texture & color. We know that the pool deck feels dated and unwelcoming. It’s begging for a transformation. However, we can’t start from scratch. Instead, we should uncover beauty in things that deviate from standard and usual. We should embrace the constraints. That’s what I mean by re-imagining.

We can be innovative and infuse the space with atmosphere by gently tweaking what’s already there. I just came across a nice article on London’s alluring roof terraces and gardens. It made me think about solutions to some of the problems we are dealing with here, in Los Angeles.

re-imagining, pool deck, terrace, garden

While re-imagining the pool deck as a roof garden, I have to reconcile its best feature — panoramic views — with the need for privacy and a sense of enclosure.

Besides maximizing on the 360-degree views of the entire city, the design goals for the roof terrace are as follows:

  • Create clear separation between public and private;
  • Provide sun protection/shade;
  • Anticipate severe winds;
  • Replace furnishings;
  • Consider deck resurfacing (if budget permits);
  • Update pool waterline tile;
  • Design landscaping;
  • Incorporate landscape lighting.

Speaking of turning constraints into opportunities. Here’s an example of a project I did that involved all the issues above. For help with landscaping, I turn to Cheryl Lerner, a garden designer extraordinaire. My own garden was the best place to test how well our collaboration can work.

A roof terrace hedge can be strategically designed to frame the view, not obstruct it.

Lush foliage, beyond the practical benefits of adding a screen for privacy and mitigating wind, can calm the mind. It should block out the distractions of the greater world, but not the enchanting view. It’s tricky. That’s why we need an expert.

We’ll specify self-sustaining, tough and drought-resistant plants that are relatively maintenance-free. Cheryl tells me about a special soil that is used for planting on a roof where adding weight is a huge factor. This amazing product is engineered to weigh only 1/3 of the regular type. Apparently, plants do very well in it. Cheryl knows what plants are sun-loving and are appropriate for the roof terrace.

Whatever we do on the deck, the size and placement of plants, should showcase the pool as a focal point, not compete or crowd it. In addition, I think there’s a potential to create a pergola or an arbor attached to the elevator housing. I am re-imagining it as a sheltering sky of sorts, a cocoon of comfort. If we use a scented climber on it, the terrace or the roof garden will be filled with fragrance.


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  1. Bob says:


    When I look at the photos of this roof terrace, I find myself focusing on the views of the city and the existing elements of the terrace are simply a distraction. I look forward to seeing how you transform this space. I am sure it will be amazing!


    1. Alla DIY Ally says:

      Thank you, Bob!
      The meeting is tonight. We shall see if I get this job.

  2. Jemma says:

    I love the idea of a scented rooftop garden. I would suggest Poet’s Jasmine and St. John’s creeper. They both smell divine and don’t need a lot of attention.

    1. Alla DIY Ally says:

      Jemma, thank you very much for your suggestion!