Rooftop

Rooftop Designs: How Interior Designers Are Extending a Home's Look Outdoors

As rooftops become more popular, homeowners are getting more creative when it comes to designing their outdoor living space.

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Thanks to minimal ground floor outdoor space in cities, the only way residents can really expand is by going upward. With more rooftop decks popping up at restaurants, the need and want for home rooftop decks is on the rise.

Adam Miller, design principal at Chicago Roof Deck & Garden, said clients have become accustomed to hotel rooftop bars such as Chicago’s LondonHouse or Cindy’s Rooftop, and they just know they want an outdoor space that has a different vibe to it.

“Clients have become more sophisticated looking for spaces that aren’t just their parent’s backyard and gazebo from the suburbs,” he said. “They’ve seen outdoor spaces that have top quality finishes and are expecting that now.”

But what goes into expanding an outdoor space to the rooftop? A lot of it comes back down to the client’s lifestyle.

Donald Maldonado, lead designer of Chicago Green Design, said it’s up to the individual to decide what they want. Maldonado has encountered clients who want to mix up their outdoor space from the inside of their home, but has also had clients who aren’t comfortable mixing things up.

Miller said Chicago Roof Deck & Garden tries to engage their clients’ lifestyles.

“Is this rooftop for keg parties for Cubs games or is it a scotch and cigar kind of space?” he said. “How people envision using the space is the first step.”

Miller and Maldonado have had clients that are heavily involved in the design process and clients that are a little more hands off.

“If the client has any input, it can make for a more interesting piece, it makes for a more enjoyable piece for the client,” Maldonado said.

Miller said once he figures out city code and structural necessities with a client, that’s when they get into the fun stuff. He said he dives into programming the outdoor space, whether that’s appliances or shade elements. Miller said he has seen a vast improvement in product for outdoor spaces. He said five years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to find an outdoor TV or outdoor ice maker or a retractable awning that was affordable. But with rooftop decks on the rise, more products are available.

Maldonado said his clients tend to gravitate toward Chicago Green Design for higher end designs.

“(Rooftops) are very personal,” he said. “It’s got to fit their lifestyle.”

Maldonado stressed it’s important to know what your limits are for the project. Your budget and your limits help drive the design, he said. Maldonado recounted a project he worked on where they hired a graffiti artist to tag a wall up on a client’s rooftop. It gave the outdoor space a little more of an urban feel, he said.

“I don’t like doing cookie cutter, I don’t like doing things over and over and over again,” he said. “I could make it very easy for me and make it very easy for the craftsman, but I’m always throwing a wrinkle into the design and that makes it a little more exciting not only for the clients but for the team too.”