Before & After: This Sad Rooftop Gets a Dreamy Makeover with a Stunning Dining Space

published Jul 1, 2022
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Before: Barren rooftop with ventilation unit in middle
Credit: Erica Ashe

Private outdoor spaces in big cities are hard to come by. Big balconies often come at a premium, and so do residential rooftop decks. Adding to the problem is that for many tall old townhomes or apartments, clunky ventilation units and pipes on the roof can make restricted outdoor space even less functional — making it impossible to place furniture or move around parts of the roof — as was the case at Erica and Chris Ashe’s former Chicago home.

“Poorly placed ventilation systems and air conditioning units on rooftops in the city of Chicago are a big pain point in outdoor living,” says Erica (@chitownhouse). “With already limited square footage to work with outside, as with most homes in the city, we wanted to maximize every square inch of space that we possibly could.”

Credit: Erica Ashe

When Erica and Chris bought their house, the relatively spacious urban rooftop (and its sweet skyline views) sold them on the property. Half of their rooftop was usable for seating, but there were old rooftop caps right in the middle of a prime dining area.

Enter a dual-purpose, custom design piece by Chris: a ventilated surround for the caps that also doubles as a dining table. Using leftover Azek TimberTech boards from installing their deck, Chris built the base of the table, which features openings so that the caps can still get plenty of airflow. The top is also removable, so when the table is not in use the couple stashes it away to keep the caps totally uncovered.

Credit: Erica Ashe

The first step was to measure the area so that there was plenty of clearance for both airflow and to access the caps in case of future repair and maintenance.

Once the measurements were set, Chris built a box frame with treated lumber and secured it to the deck with screws. Next, he cut the deck boards and attached those, starting at the base of the box and moving upward. The corner pieces were shaped with a miter saw.

Once the base was completed, it was time to top it off (literally) with a sanded and stained Douglas Fir slab. “Wood can be precut at your local hardware store, which is what we did,” Chris says. They screwed 2x4s underneath both short ends of the table, which helps the tabletop sit snugly on the table base.

Credit: Erica Ashe

Erica and Chris say this was the most difficult part of the project, since the top needed to fit securely on the open box base so it didn’t move while they were eating. To be extra safe, they added smaller 2×4 pieces for additional stability.

Credit: Erica Ashe

Finally, the couple filled out the rest of their outdoor space with a cozy sectional atop an indoor/outdoor rug, as well as practical side tables and some gorgeous potted plants.

Now, Erica and Chris have a large dining table that nearly doubles the usable space on their dreamy rooftop. “This has truly been the ultimate solution,” Erica says. “We live on our rooftop all summer long.”

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: This Dreamy Outdoor Dining Setup Makes Smart Use of Wasted Square Footage