rooftop gardens

by Grace Bonney

Outdoor space is most New Yorkers’ ultimate real estate wish. We initially hunt for more light, bigger rooms and better locations, but even after you’ve found a great apartment, it’s impossible to not eventually hope for a place to plant a garden to sit outside. While the reality of an amazing rooftop garden feels about a hundred years away for me, for some New Yorkers, it’s sitting right in front of them. Rizzoli recently released a book full of those people’s homes called Rooftop Gardens: The Terraces, Conservatories, and Balconies of New York and I’m totally hooked.

When I first moved to NYC I would wander down fancy streets and try to get a glimpse inside people’s homes, but after eight years here all I want to do is look up. I find myself hunting for little terraces and rooftop gardens to see who’s really got a space worth coveting. Rooftop Gardens is full of those spaces, some of which are larger than most of our apartments combined. While the larger gardens in the book can feel a tad formal for me, there are some really spectacular small spaces in its pages that feel relatable and even (one day) attainable in their scale. I love seeing what people do with their outdoor rooms and if you enjoy the combination of fresh air, a great view and spaces that have been considered so carefully every inch of real estate is used, this book is for you. For me it’s a reminder that there are still spaces left in New York where trees grow and people can find a glimpse of the river or sky that isn’t invaded by honking cars, billboards or skyscrapers. Click here to order the book online. xo, grace

*If you already have an outdoor space and need tips for decorating, click here to check out Kevin’s post from last week.

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  • As someone living in the Florida ‘burbs, I always forget how limited some folks’ access to the outdoors and greenery are and how grateful I should be to have such a simple pleasure. Outdoor living spaces are a must have for me, although admittedly, the lanai of our new house hasn’t quite reached this level of beauty yet!

  • Grace,
    Congratulations on your new design. I didn’t know where else to leave this comment, but have a few requests. When I open your blog now, with the lovely new design, there is big advertising square that sits over the ribbons and cuts off the whole effect of the top header. I keep wanting to click on it and move it…..I want the presentation of your blog visual to be what I see first as an identifier. Is this your set up or the way it comes up on my screen?

    Also, as I type this and last week as I read your long post on the NYTimes piece, the ads down the side keep changing pictures…..this is so distracting. It drives me crazy and almost made me stop reading last week. For a visual person, the constant motion is not pleasant. It feels like ‘Las Vegas” not ‘design’.

    I read your blog everyday because you have a point of view and keep it focused. Great job. Just a few comments.

    • ann marie

      hi, please see my “welcome to the new d*s” post for more info on most of this.

      as for the ads, i know rotating ads aren’t anyone’s favorite, but they’re sadly an industry standard. we’ve had them for over 4 years on the site, so im hoping they’ll fade away into the background like they always did after the new site design wears in a bit :)


  • I feel insanely lucky – especially after visiting New York a few weeks ago and being reminded of everyone’s lack of space – to have a backyard with room enough for grass, a garden and chickens. However, I adore rooftop gardens and have since the days when the movie Green Card first came out. I wonder if that garden is in the book. I think I need it.

    Congrats on the redesign. I cannot imagine the work that went into it but the result looks so lovely.

  • I’ve written about conservatories for Realtor.org…but I hadn’t really thought of building one on top of a building…but it makes perfect sense…a way to get a way from most of the city (expect perhaps fire engine sirens). And that garden is just totally arresting, virtually protected by foraging squirrels (a real problem with urban gardens here in Chicago).

  • OK, not only am I just full of envy and jealousy for those who even live in Manhattan but now I am bitterly jealous of those who own these rooftop patios in NYC!!! I LOVE these – and I love to see what they can do with spaces of all sizes! It has inspired me to jazz mine up here in Vancouver, BC!

  • Grace, you should do a “Living in…” for the movie Green Card with GĂ©rard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell. Actually, I guess this post IS like a “Living in Green Card” but without the 90’s fashion.

  • I just love anything to do with ourdoor living and what better place than a rooftop garden with spectacular views! New York City has some awesome ones over looking the park!

  • I’m obsessed with rooftop gardens! My favorites are the less formal – even slightly wild ones. (The one in the 90’s flick “Bed of Roses” was gorgeous.) But these formal ones are amazing, too. My husband and actually got engaged spontaneously while on a friend’s rooftop in San Francisco, so I guess any kind of rooftop will always seem special to me.

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