Up on the Roof
There's something inherently charming about a roof deck. Those in the area who have roof decks-and there aren't many-agree that a private retreat, often high among the trees, elicits a sense of delight and tranquility.
Linda Reinisch of Cabin John wasn’t planning on building a roof deck when she decided to add a room and a screened porch to the brick bungalow she’d lived in since 1992.
But as the project got under way in 2010, she began considering the idea after a friend mentioned how green roofs benefit the environment by absorbing stormwater and carbon dioxide.
“I knew I wanted to do more for the environment,” says Reinisch, 56, a consultant for educational institutions and a vocalist and keyboard player. Plus, the new one-story room she was adding would be just below her second-floor bedroom window, and she wasn’t thrilled about looking out at an unattractive, flat rooftop.
Her architect, Bill Hutchins, owner of Helicon Works in Takoma Park, designed a roof deck of steel and wood that was strong enough to hold the weight of about 4 inches of soil, snow in the winter, about six average-size people and other amenities to make the space comfortable—even though Reinisch initially didn’t plan to use it for socializing.
The roof garden appeared so inviting during construction that Reinisch asked Hutchins to install a door in her bedroom wall that would lead outside.
Hutchins brought in Greg Long, design director at Capitol Greenroofs in Arlington,Va., to install the garden. Long and his workers spent two days hauling 5-gallon buckets of soil up to the roof via scaffolding. After spreading the dirt, they planted drought-tolerant perennials, including wild columbine, creeping phlox and woodland stonecrop.
“I specifically requested low-maintenance plants,” Reinisch says. “I have a bit of a brown thumb.” Still, she weeds daily, and the plants have since filled in.
The garden takes up most of the 225-square-foot deck. Stone pavers form a short path, and Reinisch has added two red Adirondack chairs and a small, three-legged fire pit. Vines are gradually growing on the house near Reinisch’s bedroom, and pine, cherry and apple trees hovering near the roof deck create a cozy space.
Reinisch says she often entertains on the deck or invites her daughters, ages 13 and 16, to join her there. But mostly she uses it as a private retreat.
“On a warm night, I’ll sit and look at the stars,” she says. “You feel like you’re up in the trees. It’s heaven.”