Craving outdoor space for grilling and gardening, designer Laurie Blumenfeld-Russo and her husband, Bob Russo, considered buying a weekend place in Connecticut. Instead, the couple went vertical, turning the roof of their brownstone into a multi-season entertaining oasis. Complete with lush greenery, a restaurant-worthy outdoor kitchen and room for hosting, "It's like a vacation home, but we have the shortest commute!" says Blumenfeld-Russo.
Five stories above Brooklyn, a tar-paper roof becomes a gourmet cooking space and party hub with panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline. Half the weight of concrete pavers, 16-inch-square quartzite tiles were laid without any grout. "They're easy to replace if one cracks," says Blumenfeld-Russo. "And since water drains between them and down the gutters, there's no puddling.
The wraparound banquette has under-seat storage and is made of ipe, a hard-wearing wood that is naturally mildew resistant. "Adding the chaise extension on the left side created a cozy spot for post-meal lounging," says Blumenfeld-Russo.
Flowering clematis vines scale the pergola, softening the industrial feeling of the support beams. Billowing like sails beneath the slatted structure, tied-on Sunbrella fabric panels hide the patio heaters and act as a retractable awning: The twin panels can be removed after sunset for stargazing.
Container gardens along the roof's perimeter bear herbs, tomatoes and jalapeños, and that means fewer trips to the farmers' market. A retractable hose, hidden behind the plantings, makes daily watering a breeze. Blumenfeld-Russo used potted birch trees and ornamental grasses, which can grow up to four feet high, to gain additional privacy and the backyard feeling she desired.
The eight-foot-long custom table, built from reclaimed oak, seats 10. Enamel Crate & Barrel plates and glassware and vases from CB2 welcome guests to the table. "Our friends have stayed until as late as 3 a.m." says Blumenfeld- Russo. "We put on the music, and it becomes a dance party — nobody wants to leave!"
A Fire Magic charcoal grill anchors the outdoor kitchen, which also includes an under-counter refrigerator, a beverage station with an insulated bin for chilling drinks, stainless steel cabinets for plates and platters and weatherproof stone counters. Gooseneck LED task lamps allow Russo, an avid chef, to cook recipes with the same intricacy as he would inside.
Thanks to back-bar features like a slide-away cutting board, an insulated ice bin and a stainless steel prep sink, the Lynx Built-In CocktailPro Station makes whipping up drinks a snap. ($2,149, )
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This story originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of CQ.