A spectacular view of Boston's South End and Back Bay is the focal point of a contemporary urban terrace in the South End - Boston

The owners of this elegant loft in an up-scale building are fortunate to have outdoor space with a commanding view of the South End and Back Bay skyline. Unfortunately, the original space was hard and uninviting. It was composed of utilitarian building materials installed by the developer. The owners required a landscaped roof deck that connected the exterior and interior of their urban home and masked the existing construction elements.

The landscape design uses a subtle palate in the decking, custom planters and metal screening. It quietly unifies this outdoor living area, allowing the view to take center stage - both from the deck or viewed from the living room of this urban home.

Design Challenge:

The terrace was paved with cast concrete patio block, designed to be removable in the event of roof replacement or repair. The surface was unattractive, unlevel and impractical for its intended use as a patio.

The parapet wall was clad in black rubber roofing membrane, making for a particularly unattractive outdoor living space. Worse yet, the living and dining room look across this foreground to what should be the main feature of the home: the incomparable view across the South End towards the Back Bay skyline.

The main terrace is long and fairly narrow. It is connected by a even narrower walkway to a deck off of the master bedroom. The main terrace needed to scale better to the living room of the home. The smaller deck off of the bedroom needed to relate to the whole scheme, while still being a separate, private space.

There is no water on the terrace and no practical way to run it there. This required some creative choices of plant material.

The vinyl fencing between abutting terraces are not particularly attractive or up-scale, but are standard to the building and had to stay in place.

Design solution and installation:

We designed new mahogany decking to soften the space and to be easily removed in sections should repairs to the roof be necessary. We installed the decking with the boards running perpendicular to the building and without seams to visually add depth to the main outdoor living space.

We commissioned a custom-designed and colored aluminum screen and installed it in front of the black rubber parapet wall. We chose specific colors to accent the color of the wood and interior furnishings of home. We installed built-in planters in mahogany and added custom aluminum containers that duplicate the screen. These additions give this urban space continuity of design.

We constructed the deck off of the bedroom as a separate "room" by changing the direction of the deck boards. This deck is designed to be more than an extension of the main deck. Now, it is an intriguing destination that visually relates to the rest of this landscape design through the repeat of materials.

We installed plant material that survives on the average rainfall for Boston. It requires minimal maintenance, softens the angular lines of the custom mahogany planters, and gives life to the whole of this urban space.

When seen in person, the drama and texture of the screening, the direction of the decking and the unified color palate draw the eye to the view beyond, The design minimizes the periphery, allowing the fencing to fade into the background. This is urban landscaping at its finest; the ability to distract attention from that which is unattractive to that which is a beautiful.