Pimp My Roof
February 10, 2012 9:02 AM   Subscribe

My new apartment has an accessible roof with an awesome view, and this summer I would like it to be an Awesome Party Spot. At the moment it is completely bare. What makes YOUR roof great?

The roof, at the moment, is nothing more than a flat surface with (annoyingly) some raised beams running across it. (So like- five feet of flatness, a raised area about a foot high by a foot wide, repeat.) Another irritating feature: it's only accessible by trap door. We apparently share it with two neighbors who have their own trap doors, so we can only really furnish the middle section, but we could get some lightweight chairs and move them around if needed.

I have never attempted to furnish or decorate a space like this, so I'd like some inspiration. So far I'm thinking of a little table with chairs, some solar-powered Christmas lights from Ikea, maybe some potted plants and a gas grill... what's necessary? What's nice? What SEEMS like it would be nice but is actually just pointless or annoying? What am I missing?

Personal experience and links to inspiration are both welcome!
posted by showbiz_liz to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Grill, cheap plastic lawn furniture, beer cooler, sun umbrella.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:07 AM on February 10, 2012

If you own/can invest in a laptop, LCD projector and some loud (not necessarily good, just loud) speakers, rooftop movies are hella fun. A few friends of mine made a screen out of a white bedsheet stretched over a home-made wooden frame, balanced it on a pair of chairs and had people over on nice weekend nights.
posted by griphus at 9:08 AM on February 10, 2012

Oh yeah, even just portable ipod speakers are a must.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:09 AM on February 10, 2012

Speakers with ipod or phone dock, ash trays if applicable, somewhere for trash.
posted by CheeseLouise at 9:10 AM on February 10, 2012

Propane fire pit., to go all seasons comfortably.
posted by Amplify at 9:10 AM on February 10, 2012

Not to be a party pooper, but if you haven't already done so it might be worth skimming your lease or obliquely asking someone if your landlord allows this. Some places it's no problem, but some places are stricter and will hit you with a big fine or even potentially break the lease if you are caught doing this.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:12 AM on February 10, 2012

As far as the iPod speaker suggestion goes, unless you own a set, borrow before buying. I'm not sure if you've tried blasting music in an outdoor space, but if you're in NYC you're going to have to compete with street noise. The friends who did the rooftop movie thing were on 125th and Amsterdam and had to use a guitar amp to get the sound at a volume that beat the traffic.
posted by griphus at 9:14 AM on February 10, 2012

Oh, I should have mentioned that my roommates have lived in the building for a while and know the landlord, and have had parties on the roof on several occasions. They just never bothered to decorate it before.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:14 AM on February 10, 2012

Would suggest planters on the raised beams, thereby drawing more attention to them so fewer drunk people will trip over them.
posted by kindall at 9:20 AM on February 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Any furniture that you're planning to leave up there should be heavy enough that it won't go anywhere with a strong gust of wind. If you're getting cheapo plastic stuff, definitely tie it down somehow when you're not up there. A stack of chairs with a cable bike lock threaded through the armrests should do the trick.

Do you even have access to electricity up there? That will make a big difference between having sunbathing and lemonade afternoon parties, vs. movies and music and twinkle lights at night parties.
posted by vytae at 9:22 AM on February 10, 2012

So from 05-10 I had a roof deck roughly the size of my one bedroom apartment in the West Village. It was awesome, but a lot of work.

Do you own your apartment or rent? If you own I recommend building a deck over those beams. One - level is good for a roof deck Two - It'll lift you up off the hot roof and cover some of the black tar w/ wood. You'll actually find that during July - August in NYC your roof deck is actually really fucking hot during the day. Like don't want to sit out there hot. And the heat will radiate up at you for hours after the sun goes down.

How do you access the deck? Is it a straight shot from your apartment or up a ladder or something like that? Do you have water outside? If you want plants you need to have a way to get water out there. And in July and August you will be watering at least every other day - and that was with a professional install with bit deep pots and soil additives to keep moisture levels up. I used a hose with a coupling that attached to my bathroom sink and ran that out to the deck. A life saver. Plants themselves - you really need to decide how much effort you want to put into them. I care a lot - so I had planter boxes that I changed three times a year with different annuals and a bunch of trees - some of them chosen for their spring flowers (Magnolias), others for the summer flowers (Bougainvillia that I didn't overwinter), and other for fall foliage (Japanese Maples), and a bunch of Hinoki Cypress for year round interest. Wind becomes a concern as well. I built a screen out of bolted-in galvanized planter boxes filled with Annual Grasses I knew could handle the wind and would grow quickly. So I probably spent 5-6 hours a week just maintaining the set up.

Grill - So technically you know they are illegal right... I actually used to keep a charcoal Weber on a little pad of bricks I built after I almost set the deck on fire the first season I had the whole thing. That was a good move. Especially when its like 2 am and you decide to fire up the grill.

Furniture - you want a table you can eat at + and an umbrella to protect you from the sun. Personally I say get a nice Cedar or Teak table that can stand up the elements. During the winter you have to stash it away under a tarp with the rest of your furniture. We also had a chaise lounge - cool in theory, but never got that much use except when we had parties. There was some other furniture we acquired over time - but really it just becomes a function of how many people you plan on having over regularly. The other piece of advice is get a bunch of cheapo plastic chairs you can stash out of sight for when you have a big party.

Music and Lights are a function of your ability to get electricity up there. Normally we just had a bunch of tiki torches and hurricanes. There is enough ambient light in most parts of NYC that you don't really need artificial light.
posted by JPD at 9:24 AM on February 10, 2012

Clever idea I once saw on one of those home decorating shows:

Get a bunch of cheap buckets/flowpots, a few bags of readimix concrete, some dead tree branches. Put the big ends of the branches in the buckets, fill with 6" of concrete to make a stable base. Decorate with streamers and/or christmas lights. Very inexpensive, looks really cool at night.
posted by bonehead at 9:31 AM on February 10, 2012

How do you access the deck? Is it a straight shot from your apartment or up a ladder or something like that? Do you have water outside? If you want plants you need to have a way to get water out there.

I am wondering about this. You have to climb up a ladder to get to the roof. The bathroom is right next to the ladder, so I could maybe attach a hose to the sick, but I don't know if a hose will still work if it's vertical for 10 feet...
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:39 AM on February 10, 2012

Here's my splendid roof spot - not the roof of the house, but it's 20ft above the road and has an amazing view over the hills.

The things that make it a great roof spot are:

- it's not too big
- it feels enclosed, even though you can see the view
- the sides make it feel less overlooked from the road
- if there's only a few of us there, the benches work kind of like chaise longues (more so now we've closed in more of the sides).

Depending on your budget, a small battery powered busker's amp could get you music without needing to run cables. Solar powered lighting is pretty cheap now too.

Instead of plants I'd go with the above mentioned branches in pots and perhaps murals of plants, or fencing painted green. If there are any taller buildings in the vicinity, then you should have the water pressure to get water on that roof, but it sounds like a major hassle.
posted by emilyw at 9:43 AM on February 10, 2012

2nding JPD on building a deck. It may not be feasible - but it will definitely be the biggest possible improvement in terms of comfort and creating an awesome comfy spot to chill.
posted by gnutron at 9:51 AM on February 10, 2012

Sounds like the beams would be good for plants, or for seating if cushioned? Fake grass is amazing at making a deck look lush and contrasting it to its surroundings. Word of warning - it is very hot underfoot when in the hot sun.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:19 PM on February 10, 2012

Looks like you live in a big city. How many stories up are you?

Please remember that it will get very windy sometimes. Don't be responsible for the "MYSTERY PATIO UMBRELLA SPEARS GRANDMA" headline in the Post.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

On watering plants: I have a friend who ran a hose from her apartment up to the roof. It works. You keep the hose on the roof and lower the end down to connect it when you need it.

Rooftops tend to be quite windy so plants there have fairly high water needs. You may need to give them some shelter - a piece of latticework stabilized to posts set in contractor buckets filled with cement.

Is the roof black? I don't know if NYC is still subsidizing painting roofs light colors, but it might be worth looking into.
posted by sciencegeek at 1:49 PM on February 10, 2012

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