When my husband and I converted an old garage into a studio apartment five years ago, one priority was to connect the studio to the landscape, which in this case, was a garden filled with Japanese maples, rhododendrons, and all sorts of perennials which were right outside the windows, as well as a filtered views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains visible just over our neighborhood rooftops.
We swapped some windows for a sliding door and built a small deck to provide direct garden access, .
relocated another window along the bed/desk wall to provide privacy by eliminating the ability to see into the house.
The only problem with the window relocation on the bed/desk wall was that the new window, which was just above the desk, looked onto the roof of the new garage—which had been a two-walled carport until we enclosed it. I’ve stayed in plenty of hotels with great city views from the upper floors, but all too often, they also incorporate the ugly flat expanses of neighboring roofs.
How could we spruce up the roof, which currently leaked and was covered with a tarp?
We thought about painting a mural, about adding planter boxes, after we fixed it, but it would still look like a roof. And then my husband came up with an idea: grass. We didn’t want seed or sod, that would need to be watered and mowed and would brown down in the height of winter and summer.
What about artificial turf—Astroturf—we called it decades ago? It would always look green, but it wouldn’t look real up close. But nobody sees a roof up close, right? This roof was not only outside the writers’ retreat; it was also just feet from our dining room, which had a sliding door that led to a deck that was only a few feet wide. Why couldn’t we use the roof as part of our yard?
My husband, brilliant again, looked at the short span between the existing deck and garage and decided to build a bridge, so we could enjoy the water and mountain views from the garage roof—which really was the best vantage point.
Kevin located Synthetic Turf Northwest, a company that installs real looking artificial turf—blades of varying heights with some browned down short grass near the “dirt”—on playfields, golf courses, and private homes. We were their first rooftop installation.
We cleaned the old roof, put on self-adhesive ice and water shield rolled roofing, and then the installers rolled out the turf, sprinkling sand to weight it down. The result was a lawn that looked great year round from the studio window, and that was soft underfoot and cooler than wood decking in the summer heat.