Throw a party on the roof

An SE1 sky­gar­den is made for en­ter­tain­ing, with Med plant­ing, a bar­be­cue and a putting green

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Outdoors -

ON THE sev­enth floor of a con­verted ware­house near Tower Bridge is a rather won­der­ful and pri­vate gar­den, cus­tom made for din­ing, en­ter­tain­ing and en­joy­ing the panoramic skyscape. The en­tire space is sub­stan­tial — al­most 40ft by 50ft — but whereas pre­vi­ously it com­prised shabby deck­ing and a few pot plants, now there is an out­door kitchen, a gen­er­ous seat­ing area with weath­er­proof so­fas, a din­ing table that ex­pands to seat 18 and a car­pet of lawn which acts as a rooftop putting green.

Gar­den de­signer Katharina Nikl was called in by the Amer­i­can own­ers to pro­vide a se­ries of out­door rooms with easy-care plant­ing. Un­usu­ally, there was al­ready a green­house, which pro­vides shel­ter on cold but sunny win­ter days, so Nikl de­signed the rooms around the glass build­ing, in a U shape.

She re­placed the worn deck­ing with durable ipe hard­wood that, by lay­ing the boards hor­i­zon­tally or ver­ti­cally, de­lin­eates each space. The “chill” area of three so­fas and glass-topped cof­fee table is fur­ther de­fined by a band of dec­o­ra­tive peb­bles hid­ing a drainage chan­nel. Cedar­wood pan­elling along the back of the roof gar­den, be­hind the central sofa, cre­ates in­stant pri­vacy from the neigh­bours, pro­tects the seat­ing area from the wind, and will even­tu­ally be cov­ered by ev­er­green jas­mine.

At the op­po­site end of the roof gar­den, Nikl rolled out an ar­ti­fi­cial lawn that will stay per­ma­nently green and main­te­nance-free.

she de­signed a built-in bench to run along the length of a raised bed that is cur­rently a mass of tulips. “I in­sisted on ex­tra seat­ing,” says Nikl, “be­cause that way, when the sun trav­els around the space, you can fol­low it around. And a long, float­ing bench like this takes up lit­tle space, yet is in­valu­able for en­ter­tain­ing.”

In one corner, near the din­ing table, a long, lean hard­wood sur­face with stor­age space be­neath and a per­ma­nent bar­be­cue on top serves as a food prep­ping area. Nikl de­signed rows of shelv­ing for the wall above, but the clients, who are art lovers, de­cided to sac­ri­fice the wall space for a bold painted mu­ral by friend and artist Lau­ren Mele.

Aside from an acer sal­vaged from the orig­i­nal pot­ted plants for its deep pur­ple fo­liage, Nikl chose rel­a­tively drought­proof Mediter­ranean plants. But she in­stalled an ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem so there’s no need for wa­ter­ing.

The long raised bed holds olive trees, cis­tus, rose­mary, sage and or­na­men­tal grass Stipa tenuis­sima, which swishes and sways with the wind. “The two olive trees are still quite small, but they will es­tab­lish bet­ter than large trees, which are sub­ject to win­drock,” says Nikl. In spring, tulips fill the bed, and in sum­mer, the pur­ple lozenge heads of Al­lium sphae­ro­cephalon draw bees and but­ter­flies. Light­weight faux-lead troughs — weight is an is­sue on rooftops — hold clipped box balls along one end of the space. On the other, be­hind the so­fas in the shade, they are pret­tily planted with white hy­drangeas and trail­ing ivy. “Light­ing is one of the most im­por­tant fea­tures in a city roof gar­den,” says Nikl. “When you en­ter­tain in the even­ing you need light, but you don’t want to fight the city lights. There’s a fine bal­ance.”

She used three kinds of light­ing: “Pur­pose light­ing for the out­door kitchen, which has to be at the right an­gle, so you’re not stand­ing in your own shadow when you’re prep­ping food. Mood light­ing to en­hance the plant­ing, com­pris­ing up­lighters in the raised bed at the foot of the olive trees and tall grasses. Lastly, safety light­ing that sub­tly skims across the floor so peo­ple can walk around with­out fear of stum­bling.”

Trans­form­ing the gar­den took six weeks, and the trick­i­est part, says Nikl, was the lo­gis­tics of mov­ing out the old, and bring­ing in the new. “The clients had just moved in and didn’t want to up­set the neigh­bours. We called in a Ful­ham­based com­pany, The Gar­den Builders, who are used to this kind of sen­si­tive work in Lon­don, and they used a hoist lift. We had one day to get ev­ery­thing out, and the next day to get ev­ery­thing in. It was hair-rais­ing, but it saved a lot of dis­rup­tion and hours of traips­ing through the build­ing.”

Katharina Nikl can be com­mis­sioned on kathari­nanikl­land­

Chill zone: weath­er­proof so­fas make for a re­lax­ing seat­ing area and a pan­elled screen of jas­mine serves as an ef­fec­tive wind­break

Greener grass: a length of fake lawn, above left, acts as a putting green, while a jolly mu­ral en­livens the food prep­ping area

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