Christopher and Christine Cornell wanted to add a few chairs and hanging plants to the otherwise barren 200-square-foot terrace outside their floor-through apartment on West 22nd Street. Simple enough. But the couple—he’s a music merchandiser, she’s a jewelry wholesaler—hadn’t hired any old designer to do the job. They’d tapped Douglas Fanning, a veteran green builder and furniture designer, who proposed something considerably more elaborate. For the Cornells, Fanning created “a green roof with no roof”—an open-air steel-and-wood structure framed by cedar planters and topped by six-and-a-half-foot box beams that hold more plants and provide slats of shade below. The job was finished in four months. Working with his friend, landscaper Damion Lawyer, Fanning filled the planters with lettuces, root vegetables, and flowers, which would be tended by Lawyer year-round. Fanning also selected a special hose and ladder to get to the delicacies above. Even the old brickwork looks happier now.
• Fanning fitted cedar planks on top of the original ground tiles (two-by-two-foot concrete pavers) on the terrace floor. The wood floor can be removed for roof maintenance. The brick walls are from an earlier renovation to the 1851 building.
• The metal shell for the planter structure was custom designed and welded by Fanning in his shop in Red Hook. He installed the structure, then a few weeks later added the cedar planters and floating benches.
• Many of the plants are edible and meant to be harvested throughout the year. To help with the gardening, Fanning included a telescoping ladder and a hose outfitted with a long adjustable spray wand.