Modern Rooftop Deck Design Tips & Inspiration

While rooftop decks were once an amenity reserved for swanky hotels and high end apartment complexes, the popularity of residential rooftop decks has been on the rise in the past decade. Whether it's to take advantage of better views from this elevated vantage point, or to gain more outdoor space on a small city lot, realtors report that in many markets rooftop decks help to sell homes and can provide a great return on investment.

After giving our rooftop deck a complete makeover this spring, as well as recently working on rooftop deck design projects for a couple of clients, I've realized that the design considerations for these spaces can be a bit different than for a traditional backyard patio project, so I wanted to share some design considerations and tips to help you plan a space that you will really use and enjoy!

Modern Rooftop Deck Design Tips & Inspiration

1. Give a Rooftop Deck a Defined Purpose & Design It Accordingly

When we bought our home, I was in love with the idea of our rooftop deck! Living in an urban neighborhood, we have a very small backyard, so the roof deck nearly doubles our outdoor living space. But I made one big mistake when first furnishing the deck - I didn't stop to think about how we would really use it, and as a result, we didn't really use it.

The design of the deck needs to fit your lifestyle andadd something that your other outdoor space doesn't offer, otherwise it runs the risk of becoming out of sight, out of mind. That's exactly what happened to us. We initially put a couple of lounge chairs and an outdoor dining table on our roof deck, and then for the next decade, we rarely used the space. Finally we took the time to think out how we'd really use the space and we redesigned the deck to better fit our families' lifestyle.

Here are some rooftop deck uses to consider:

Dining. Think realistically about whether you'll use the space for outdoor dining. Will you want to transport all of the food, plates and drinks up to the deck each time you want to eat outside?

For us, we have a small backyard right of the kitchen, so it was easier for us to BBQ in the backyard and use our rooftop deck for a different purpose. If your rooftop deck is your only outdoor space, then it can make good sense to use this deck for BBQing and dining al fresco.

Outdoor dining on rooftop deck BBQ
Image from TimberTech

If you plan to use your rooftop deck for cooking and dining, in addition to a BBQ and an outdoor dining table, you'll want to equip the space with other items to make it more convenient. Add storage space for BBQ tools, and consider storing your outdoor plates and flatware on the roof deck as well. This will save you a few extra trips at the front end of the meal, and you'll only have to bring everything inside to do the dishes. Also consider adding an outdoor mini-fridge or a large rolling cooler to keep drinks cold in the heat of summer so you won't have to run inside for each refill.

Entertaining. Is the rooftop deck a space where you'll want to entertain friends and guests, or will you use this space more privately? A roof deck - especially one with lots of square footage or great views - can be a great place to host a party, but be sure to consider the logistics.

Do you want to take all of your guests upstairs through other parts of your home to access the rooftop deck? If guests don't all arrive at the same time, will you hate running down the stairs over and over to answer the front door and show them up to the deck?

If entertaining on your rooftop deck fits your lifestyle, then be sure to design the space accordingly with lots of seating and space for people to easily move around. Choose flexible furnishings, such as garden stools that can do double duty as a side tables or extra seating.

Entertaining tips modern rooftop deck
Image from TimberTech

Lounging. If neither dining nor entertaining on your rooftop deck fit your lifestyle, then the deck can be an ideal family space for relaxing and lounging. In this case, comfort should be key! Consider adding deep couches with ottomans, hammocks, or even a swing bed for the ultimate in rooftop lounging.

Since our rooftop deck is located off of our master bedroom, we want to use it primarily as a cozy outdoor living room, but because we already have a patio in the backyard, I knew I needed to give the deck a defined purpose in order for us to really use it. We decided to use our deck as an outdoor movie theater for warm summer nights. [Read this post for more on how we set the space up for outdoor movie watching.]

2. Choose Decking That's Durable & Makes a Design Statement

These days, most contractors and homeowners are choosing composite decking for rooftop decks. Our rooftop deck has a capped composite decking, and after living in our home for eleven years, it's still in great condition and has required minimal maintenance.

Durability. I recently asked TimberTech, who is generously sponsoring this post, for more information on the benefits of composite decking, and why it's the best choice for a roof deck. I learned that synthetic boards are engineered to withstand heat and moisture, so they don't fade, splinter, warp, or split. Additionally, they're much lighter than natural wood, too, making them a great choice for a rooftop outdoor space.

benefits of TimberTech composite deck boards

Make a Design Statement. Beyond durability, TimberTech's capped composite decking provides lots of opportunities to make a major design statement. When designing a backyard, you can use a wide variety of landscaping materials and plants to create visual interest, but when designing a deck instead, you have to get a bit more creative.

Modern Deck Design with composite decking and stone
Photo from TimberTech

Multiple Widths. 
TimberTech AZEK deck boards now come in three different widths - narrow (3.5"), standard (5.5"), and wide (7.25'). With multi-width decking, you can choose the board width that best fits your style, or you can mix and match for a more dramatic deck design statement. See the color options and more multiple-width inspiration photos here.

different deck board widths
Photo from TimberTech

Multiple Colors. Composite decking comes in a wide variety of color options that mimic wood varieties, allowing you to choose the one that best fits the style you desire for your rooftop deck. Of course, you don't have to choose just one color.  The TimberTech PRO Legacy Collection provides color combinations that allow you to create a more custom deck design. You can find recommended color duos here.

mix multiple colors of deck boards
Photo from TimberTech

Play with Angles.
If you want to get even more creative, lay your decking in an interesting design. When inlaid into a deck, a design - such as herringbone - can define a seating or dining area and eliminate the need for an outdoor rug, making it a far more durable design choice! If you choose a specific design for the entire deck surface, keep scale in mind so that it doesn't become to visually busy. Learn how to create this inlaid herringbone pattern deck here.

Inlaid herringbone pattern deck
Photo from TimberTech

Use the TimberTech Deck Designer Tool for help with every step in the process. From deck design inspiration and sampling colors, to creating a plan and estimating costs, right up to building - TimberTech has the resources you need for each step in the project.

3. Rooftop Deck Decor Tips

Play Up the Surroundings. Since rooftop decks are all about the views, when deciding how to decorate, play up the surroundings without distracting from them. For a rooftop deck overlooking the city, consider sleek, modern furnishings. If your rooftop deck has an ocean view, decor inspired by the colors of the beach, like sandy browns, whites and blues.

Our rooftop deck is smack in the middle of a neighborhood surrounded by mature trees, so we decided to play up the tree-top vibe by decorating in blues and greens to match the sky and the leaves.


Decorate with Plants.  Adding natural elements is very important when designing a rooftop deck - you are outside after all: sun-tolerant flowers can add a nice pop of color; low maintenance succulents can provide lots of texture and visual interest; large pots filled with lush grasses can add needed height and scale; and climbing plants on a trellis can help to soften the hard edges of a roof deck.

In addition to choosing plants that can thrive in lots of intense sun, but be sure to consider the logistics of watering plants on the deck. Do you have access to a hose or other water source, or will you need to carry a full watering can up and down the stairs?

Don't be afraid to opt for faux plants if maintaining life plants on your roof deck isn't feasible. You can add the vibe of natural elements to the space with art and decor - like the large scale Agave canvas art  {affiliate link} that I chose for our roof deck.

Add Lighting. Be sure you can enjoy your rooftop deck from day into night with ambient lighting. Bistro lights wrapped around railings or strung overhead add just the right amount of sparkle. Lanterns filled with candles (battery operated makes a safe choice) can add a romantic glow.

Plan for the Seasons. You'll want to use your rooftop desk for as much of the year as the weather allows, so take this into account when planning the space. Consider adding a trellis for shade from the harsh summer sun. Add some outdoor throw blankets, or even a heat lamp for cool summer and fall evenings. And be sure to create a plan for storing your cushions and decor during snowy winters. Adding some deck storage boxes can save you the hassle of carrying everything inside and down the stairs each winter.

Modern rooftop deck trellis
Image from TimberTech

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