A never-ending real estate dilemma is whether it is better to rent or to buy. For one lucky Brooklyn tenant, renting is clearly the way to go. Her apartment is on the top floor of an elegant, newly renovated Fort Greene brownstone. Just beyond her front door, her “backyard” is a lush roof garden, designed by Marni Majorelle of Alive Structures, a specialist in bringing natural beauty and native plants to the urban landscape.
Although the roof garden is a natural place for relaxation, the brownstone’s owners (who live below the rental apartment) installed it mainly for its value as insulation. They are not fans of air conditioning and say the garden on the roof helps cool the building in summer. And, being a couple consisting of a cook and a gardener, they enjoy other benefits as well. The roof basks in bright sunlight so they are able to raise an abundant supply of herbs, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, habanero peppers, and other vegetables in a custom raised bed. The owners share the crops with their tenant and produce such generous quantities of mint, basil, coriander, oregano, and dill that they frequently urge her to do more cooking to take advantage of the bounty.
Photography by Marni Majorelle except where noted.
The clients requested a wild, natural look, which precluded the use of pre-fabricated tiles of low-growing sedums commonly found on green roofs. Instead Majorelle used grasses and native plants liberally to give the project the feel of an unruly, indigenous space.
Lolling on the chaises or sipping coffee at the mosaic table while listening to bird song is guaranteed to be a quiet, calming experience. In summer when the surrounding trees have leafed out, the nearby buildings almost completely disappear.
Baptisia ‘Purple Smoke’ provides spring color along with early blooming phlox, dianthus, alliums, and amsonia.
For more on green roofs, see:
- Fresh as a Daisy: A Wildflower Roof on a Home Designed by Fraher & Findlay
- Architect Visit: Green Roof Design by Goode Green in New York.
- Hardscaping 101: Green Roofs.