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Garden Designer Visit: A Manhattan Terrace with Panoramic Central Park Views

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Garden Designer Visit: A Manhattan Terrace with Panoramic Central Park Views

April 12, 2019

The Scenario: The clients have a pied-à-terre on Manhattan’s Upper East Side (near the Frick Museum) with astonishing, postcard-perfect views of Central Park.

The Challenge:  To design a terrace—on a small L-shaped space just slightly larger than an average budget hotel room—that would function as an elegant outdoor room: for dining, entertaining guests, and enhancing the round-the-calendar green views visible through the apartment’s windows.

The Solution: Some landscape designers might have balked at the list of requirements for such a small space, but not Harrison Green. Partners in business (and life) Damien and Jacqueline Harrison, who specialize in turning tiny New York City patios, balconies, and terraces into meticulously detailed and high functioning outside rooms, were undaunted. Here’s the terrace garden, floating above Manhattan:

Photography courtesy of Nicholas Calcott

L-Shape Layout

The client requested separate areas for entertaining and for dining. Taking cues from the playbook of interior designers, Harrison Green created dedicated &#8
Above: The client requested separate areas for entertaining and for dining. Taking cues from the playbook of interior designers, Harrison Green created dedicated “rooms” in the 360-square-foot space and delineated those spaces with plants.

The designers placed a small table and chairs in a niche in the narrow portion of the terrace. A planter with a Stewartia tree separates the dining area from the living room seating area.

Color Palette

Cold-hardy Hydrangea paniculata &#8
Above: Cold-hardy Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’ lights up a planter filled with flowering perennials.

Harrison Green created a cool-colors palette of green and white, with boxwood and flowering shrubs such as hydrangeas and rhododendrons.

A boxwood hedge (Buxus x &#8
Above: A boxwood hedge (Buxus x ‘Green Mountain’) and Rhododendron ‘Cunningham’s White’ have evergreen foliage for year-round color.

When it comes to choosing plants, Damien Harrison says “you can get in a pickle when you try to use too many colors.” He prefers to steer clients away from bright hues and toward muted shades of blues and whites mixed with liberal amounts of green (“the best color”). The perennials chosen for this terrace include a white flowering climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris)  trained to cling to a custom-designed trellis. There are also climbing white roses (Rosa ‘White Dawn’) and a subtle pop of pale purple-ish blue in the blooms of catmint (Nepeta faassenii ‘Walker’s Low’).

Herringbone Deck

Damien Harrison believes it is important to work closely with the architect and interior designer on both large and small projects.  In this case the philosophy led to the creation of the most distinctive design element on the terrace: the striking wood floor. Both the client and the interior designer,  Carol Egan, wished to continue the design of the herringbone oak floor from inside the apartment onto the terrace. Because the outdoor flooring needed to be weatherproof, Harrison Green turned to ipe, an extremely durable tropical hardwood from South and Central America.  Ipe weathers to attractive shades of gray and is said to be as fire resistant as concrete and steel.

The firm created a herringbone design consisting of
Above: The firm created a herringbone design consisting of 2-by-2-foot pallets, which they had built. Damien Harrison describes the installation as an extremely painstaking process in order to match the pattern precisely.

Although building a custom floor was challenging, Harrison says that his firm “likes to push it” by including unique design features.  He notes that in a typically small New York City space, it is important that each element be outstanding in both function and appearance.

Disappearing Act

The clients are justifiably protective of their stupendous view of Central Park so Harrison Green installed a low boxwood hedge that blends with the tree canopy of the park while concealing an ugly parapet.
Above: The clients are justifiably protective of their stupendous view of Central Park so Harrison Green installed a low boxwood hedge that blends with the tree canopy of the park while concealing an ugly parapet.
The unadorned powder coated planters were chosen for their light weight and durability and were custom built.
Above: The unadorned powder coated planters were chosen for their light weight and durability and were custom built.

Furniture

To maintain a clean, uncluttered look on the terrace, Harrison Green and Egan selected Richard Schultz classic aluminum seating designed in the 60s.  Not only is it comfortable but it is lightweight and stands up to New York City weather extremes.
Above: To maintain a clean, uncluttered look on the terrace, Harrison Green and Egan selected Richard Schultz classic aluminum seating designed in the 1960s.  Not only is it comfortable but it is lightweight and stands up to New York City weather extremes.

Richard Schultz’s 1966 Three Seat Lounge is available in nine color combinations (including Onyx with Onyx Mesh and Strap) for $2,188 from Knoll.

Sunset Views

The terrace faces west, which provides premium seating for sunsets over the park.
Above: The terrace faces west, which provides premium seating for sunsets over the park.
Damien Harrison prefers to provide services such as installation and maintenance for clients without the use of outside companies.  Every two weeks Harrison Green staff visit the terrace to perform routine maintenance such as keeping the boxwood hedge neatly trimmed.
Above: Damien Harrison prefers to provide services such as installation and maintenance for clients without the use of outside companies.  Every two weeks Harrison Green staff visit the terrace to perform routine maintenance such as keeping the boxwood hedge neatly trimmed.
New York City seems to stand at attention in this twilight view.
Above: New York City seems to stand at attention in this twilight view.

For more of our favorite New York City gardens, see:

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