Roof garden ideas: 21 fun and stylish ideas to make the most of your rooftop garden

Got a roof? Transform it into an inviting oasis with these stylish roof garden ideas...

roof garden ideas with a pizza oven
(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

We've pulled together 21 different roof garden ideas to show you that there are lots of ways to transform a roof into an inviting oasis. Make the most of a flat roof area to create a space that's perfect for sun bathing during the day and sundowners at night. From small rooftop gardens to sprawling roof terraces complete with ponds, hot tubs and outdoor kitchens, you're bound to find an idea here that works for you.

When it comes to gardening, every roof terrace has its issues. Strong winds and extreme exposure can desiccate even the toughest plants while weight restrictions, safety regulations and getting materials to the top of a building all make vertiginous outdoor spaces among the most challenging sites.

The below roof garden ideas navigate these challenges with clever ideas like sunken seating to avoid cold winds, and potted grasses for low-maintenance greenery.

1. Welcome the rewilding trend

One of this year's biggest garden trends is the emergence of 'rewilding', which is all about allowing plants to lose their manicured neatness without letting them take over. Free-flowing plants help to give sleek, minimalist gardens a more relaxed, informal feel.

This meadow inspired city roof garden is a prime example. Designed by Aralia's Alastair Henderson, this eighth floor city roof garden feels immersive and naturalistic thanks to wildly planted garden borders.

modern garden ideas with rewilding plants

(Image credit: Future)

Despite neighbouring blocks, the city roof garden feels private thanks to the layered planting and carefully placed trees.

modern garden ideas with rewilding plants

(Image credit: Future)

The main planting included osmanthus hedging with its rich jasmine-scented flowers in mid-spring as well as several trees; amelanchier (with beautiful blossom in March), small olives and multi-stem heptacodium trees that flower in autumn and are beloved of bees. Dotted in between are ilex balls, pittosporum and Pinusmugo – a tough, slow-growing shrub. The terrace is always buzzing with bees and there are often birds, too.

modern garden ideas with rewilding plants

(Image credit: Future)

2. Consider building a conservatory for year-round indoor / outdoor living

The top of this stylish home features a private conservatory space that opens onto a roof terrace. French doors swing open during warmer weather, blurring the line between the indoors and out. But the space is used during colder months too, and the conservatory is the perfect space to curl up with a cup of tea while watching the the rain fall on the glass roof.

roof garden with greenhouse conservatory

(Image credit: Manolo Yllera)

The roof garden features a covered area too, perfect for shade as well as drizzle, plus it means the owners got to invest in comfy, upholstered seating. It means that this rooftop gets used all year round.

roof garden with greenhouse pergola and conservatory

(Image credit: Manolo Yllera)

3. Add a fence for privacy

This Brutalist apartment in Paris is crowned with a tiny roof garden. Yet despite it being compact, it fits a lot in – including an alfresco dining and lounging area, a herb garden and even an outdoor kitchen.

apartment in Paris

(Image credit: Sebastian ERRAS, @sebastianerras)

apartment in Paris

(Image credit: Sebastian ERRAS, @sebastianerras)

apartment in Paris

(Image credit: Sebastian ERRAS, @sebastianerras)

There's a covered barbecue area, and a patio area perfect for warmer months. Tall fencing provides privacy.

apartment in Paris

(Image credit: Sebastian ERRAS, @sebastianerras)

4. Or use tall plants and grasses instead

Meanwhile low maintenance potted grasses cocoon this roof terrace, giving privacy and a pop of colour. 

roof garden with tall plants for privacy

(Image credit: Paul Massey)

5. Zone a large roof terrace into different seating areas

The Hollywood home of Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy features a stunning two-storey roof terrace, complete with outdoor kitchen, fire pit, al fresco dining area, and this sun deck for sunbathing and sunset drinks.

funky penthouse

(Image credit: Zeke Ruelas)

The roof terrace features sun loungers for sun bathing, a bar table with bar chairs for sunset cocktails, and a lounge area at the back for socialising and relaxing.

funky penthouse

(Image credit: Zeke Ruelas)

funky penthouse

(Image credit: Zeke Ruelas)

funky penthouse

(Image credit: Zeke Ruelas)

6. Add built-in bench seating

The roof garden is the piece de resistance of this stunning art-filled home in Covent Garden, designed by Studio Ashby.

Plants sit on a raised level, with a sunken level for seating. Featuring lush evergreens, meaning that the space is green all year round, the plants have been arranged in such a way as to appear wild and spontaneous. The stunning roof terrace was designed and created by Hay Joung Hwang.

The stylish built-in banquette seating is upholstered in chic stripes. Built-in bench seating not only lends a more designed look to your space, but it can also seat more people than regular garden chairs.

modern garden ideas with built in bench seating

(Image credit: Photography by Phillip Durrant)

7. Refresh garden walls with colourful tiles

Tiles work just as well on the walls, and colourful gloss tiles work particularly well. They give a roof garden a fresh, clean, shiny and colourful look.

modern garden ideas with teal wall tiles

Get the look: See more of the designer's work at kingstonlaffertydesign.com

(Image credit: Barbara Corsico)

8. Short on space? Plant vertically 

The wall of this tiny roof garden boasts a living wall of cascading foliage. It's a clever way of introducing greenery in compact spaces.

modern garden ideas with modern living wall

Get the look: The Float sofa is by Francesco Rota for Paola Lenti at The Modern Garden Company. This is the Filo + Irony coffee table by Paola Navone for Gervasoni at Exterior-Interior. The Tio chair is by Massproductions at Twentytwentyone. These are Flaster tiles by Ivanka at Strata Tiles. The living wall was designed by Space+Matters with planting by The Girl who Gardens.

(Image credit: Future)

9. Create a canopy for shade, shelter – and a place to hang your hammock

Extending a canopy or roof into the roof garden space will not only give you shelter from the sun and the rain, but it's also a structure from which you can hang a swing seat or hammock.

roof garden with hammock

(Image credit: Matthew Williams)

10. Accessorise with a pizza oven

Decorate a roof garden how you might any other garden space. Always dreamt of having a pizza oven one day? What are you waiting for? A rooftop is as good a place as any – plus unlike ground floor gardens, you get to enjoy home-baked pizzas with a view.

roof garden with a pizza oven

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

11. A fire feature will add a focal point

The homeowners made the most of this tiny roof garden space with some simple seating and a stylish Morso fire feature. Great for toasting marshmallows, and for keeping warm in the evenings.

rooftop garden with fire

(Image credit: Morso)

12. Add potted olive trees for a Mediterranean look

Modern furniture and a simple olive tree keeps this London roof terrace looking chic and simple. 

modern roof garden

(Image credit: Rei Moon)

13. Choose a clear balcony to maximise views while keeping things safe

If a rooftop is open, then of course it will need a barrier of some sort to avoid lethal accidents. A glass barrier will offer safety without obstructing views...

roof garden ideas modern

Contemporary Modular Outdoor Garden Chairs and Pouffe £POA from Juliettes Interiors

(Image credit: Juliettes Interiors)

14. Add a vegetable patch

Who said you can't have a vegetable patch in a city dwelling? This New York roof garden has raised beds full of vegetables and extraordinary views out across Manhattan.

balcony ideas with vegetable patch

(Image credit: Future)

15. Keep plants along the border to free up space

Built-in planters against the wall make sure there's still plenty of floor space for lounging on this London balcony. A 19th-century advertisement on a now listed wall provides a historic backdrop. The challenge was to create a calm environment that doesn’t impinge on the presence of the wall. Simple, shady plants are kept to a minimum, so there’s space for all to roam. 

modern garden ideas rooftop with few plants

Get the look: The garden was landscaped by Alexander Armstrong Garden Design. For an updated version of this outdoor chair, see the Ixtapa at CB2.

(Image credit: Future)

16. No space for a pond? Add a pond in a pot

No garden for a pond? A large urn or pot filled with water can create a fun feature, especially with additions like water lilies and pretty pond plants, live fish or a water feature / fountain. 

balcony ideas with a pond in a bowl

Get the look: The Peacock chair is from Dandy Apple Vintage on Etsy.

(Image credit: James Merrell)

17. Create a games space

Have a little fun with your roof garden space by creating a zone for games and entertaining. Design firm Angel O’Donnell created this shuffleboard area on a London city balcony, perfect for outdoor entertaining.

balcony ideas with games spaces

(Image credit: Taran Wilkhu)

18. Dip your toe into Palm Springs style

Take inspiration from The Berkeley hotel with some bright parasols and sun loungers. The effect will be a Palm Springs inspired look. Add potted lemon trees for an Italian twist.

The below roof deck also achieved a Palm Springs style vibe, with potted palms and pastel furniture.

roof garden palm springs vibe

(Image credit: Matthew Williams)

19. Use potted plants to create an urban oasis

Can't dig down to plant your trees, shrubs and flowers? Transform your rooftop garden with potted plants instead.

modern garden ideas with potted plants

Get the look: Find outdoor and balcony plants at Patchplants.com.

(Image credit: Future)

A collection of containers is the new way to garden, but there are tricks to make it work. ‘Sticking to either angular or round pots leads to a coherent finish, as does limiting the materials,’ says Tom Harris, author of Pots for All Seasons (£20, Pimpernel Press). Here, Tom combined spiky cordylines and phormiums with soft Japanese maples for a low-maintenance scheme.

balcony ideas with potted plants

(Image credit: Future)

20. Consider a raised border or sunken seating for cosier vibes

The below roof garden is in Notting Hill, and features a rooftop office pod as well as a roof garden area surrounded by wild, meadow-inspired planting.

The sunken seating area keeps things cosy, and keeps wind chills at bay. 

The architects at Boundary Space wanted to create an antithesis to London by incorporating wild planting.

modern garden idea with glass border

(Image credit: Design by Boundary, London)

21. Go all out like this rooftop garden achieves

For a sprawling roof garden, why not approach it as the homeowner below did? This roof terrace incorporates grassy areas, a pond, a hot tub and even a garden shed, all on the roof with London's skyline as its backdrop.

roof garden design

(Image credit: James Merrell)

roof garden design

(Image credit: James Merrell)

roof garden design

(Image credit: James Merrell)

roof garden design

(Image credit: James Merrell)

A garden room at the end provides storage and a space from which to work.

roof garden design

(Image credit: James Merrell)
Lotte Brouwer
Lotte Brouwer

Lotte is the Digital Editor for Livingetc, and has been with the website since its launch. She has a background in online journalism and writing for SEO, with previous editor roles at Good Living, Good Housekeeping, Country & Townhouse, and BBC Good Food among others, as well as her own successful interiors blog. When she's not busy writing or tracking analytics, she's doing up houses, two of which have features in interior design magazines. She's just finished doing up her house in Wimbledon, and is eyeing up Bath for her next project.