Leah & Matt's Enviable Rooftop Oasis

Outdoor Space Spotlight

I loved every square inch of Leah & Matt's home that I photographed not too long ago for a house tour (coming up soon!). Though three floors sounds like a lot, their home in South Austin is a tall and narrow condo with simple interiors and a lovely, fresh style.But I just about lost it when we stepped onto their rooftop patio. Though admittedly they've got a great space to work with (there's even a view of downtown Austin!), I were really blown away by Leah's imagination and ability to transform a plain gray space into an outdoor hangout zone bursting with greens, bold colors, comfy seating and edible foods.

Whether you've got your own rooftop patio or a tiny apartment balcony, we asked Leah to share some of her tips and ideas about outdoor spaces, as well as some of the resources they found for their happy space, to inspire:

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What's your outdoor space style? Life outdoors. That's two sided for me. It's the standard idea of outdoor living spaces — eating, entertaining, and lounging outside. But it's also the idea of watching life outdoors. There's a part of me that wants a pristine, manicured garden, but that'll never happen. I really enjoy watching the life plants bring. I'll have holes in leaves because I love to watch caterpillars. I'll have plants that look nearly dead because I've let them go to seed and I'm waiting to collect them. I'll have volunteer plants in random pots and cracks in the floor because I can't bear to pull something that worked so hard to be alive.

Your outdoor space inspiration?
I've always connected with the idea of a "garden party" — this is like an ongoing version.

Special problems that you had to overcome in your outside space? This is a rooftop deck, which means that it gets a lot of wind. That can be a good thing when the breeze cools the summer heat, but it puts a lot of stress on the plants. I've worked to create wind breaks and have to water more than a typical patio. I've also had to work on furniture and pot placement. The row of boxwoods helps keep the couch from moving during particularly rough weather.

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Plants in the area:
Lots! Veggies/herbs/flowers change seasonally and I'm currently dealing with a succulent addiction. The dominant permanent ones are:
• Green tower boxwoods as hedge
• Trumpet vine on the light trellis
• Passion vine and wisteria on one railing
• Star jasmine on the other
• Yews flanking the door

Furniture resources:
• Sectional: I stalked this from a number of places, but got the best deal from an ebay dealer.
• Pillows: Mix from West Elm, Target, Pier One and Home Depot
• Rug: Chilewich
• Custom veggie planters: Michael Blair at The Urban Owl
• Pottery/containers/plants: The Great Outdoors, The Natural Gardener, Ikea
• Wood trellis: Lattice Stix
• Iron oblesiks: The Great Outdoors, The Natural Gardener, and Round Top Antique Festival
• Metal benches: Ace Mart Restaurant Supply
• Table & chairs: DWR
• Dirt from Geo Growers

How much time did it take to put this together? The space was blank 2 years ago. Now I marvel at the idea that a grasshopper made it up to the fourth floor.

Plans for the future? Now that I've gotten the placement of everything down, I'm ready to have a professional come in to install a drip irrigation system.

(Images: Adrienne Breaux)

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