Urban Oasis: Rooftop Gardening in Pittsburgh

Even in the heart of the city, it’s possible to create a perfect outdoor space — and what better place than a rooftop garden?



(page 1 of 2)


Coleus, verbena and hydrangeas are a few of the many plants that decorate the rooftop | photos by John Altdorfer
 

Two major renovations have created rooftop havens for city residents.

Nachum Golan and Steve Hough extended their penthouse space in their apartment building in Shadyside to create their rooftop oasis, while Jon Withrow’s addition to his home on the North Side has provided the ideal space for a rooftop deck.

Withrow’s patio overlooks a courtyard complete with a bubbling fish pond and neighboring structures in the Mexican War Streets. Golan and Hough have created a refuge — the noise of the street is almost nonexistent, and the only hint of the surrounding city is a church steeple or two rising a few streets away. 

In both cases, the gardens are essential parts of the way they live, and both spaces exhibit the possibilities to be realized, even with a small space and lack of a yard. 
 


 

Treasured Transformation

When Golan and Hough purchased their penthouse apartment in Shadyside in 1988, the building elevator opened to a small, nondescript entryway.

Three wooden stairs led to the building’s (purely functional) roof, where maintenance workers ventured only if there was a problem. To Golan, who now is semi-retired after years of running his own interior-design business, it seemed a shame to waste the space.

“We knew right away it was a treasure,” he says.

Little by little, he and his husband began expanding their space outside and creating their own garden haven. The approximately 900-square-foot rooftop now has two sections divided by a wooden island that becomes a serving area for food and drinks when the couple entertains as well as lots of plants that Golan has lovingly nurtured through the years.
 


 

The space immediately outside the home’s double doors is an open area with a table for four, while the opposite end of the roof holds a large canopy with plenty of seating and more tabletop space underneath.

“It’s really having a larger room to live in,” Golan says. “In the summer when it’s raining, we have umbrellas extending from the entrance, and you bring a blanket and your favorite magazine and it’s heaven.

“We love our house. It’s so restful and private.”

​Golan, who immigrated to the United States from Israel, says water is very precious in his home country, so he knew of — and implemented — irrigation techniques, including hoses with different-sized nozzles to prevent water from being wasted while keeping his plants thriving. 

Most of the plants are annuals: ivy topiaries and potted hydrangeas. Along the edge of the rooftop is what Golan calls his “Christmas village:” Japanese palm, pine trees and miniature Alberta spruce trees keep the noise from the street at bay and create an illusion of a secret hideaway. 
 


 

“Once everything is in place, you have no idea where you are, that you’re in the middle of a city neighborhood,” Hough says.

Golan’s advice for anyone who wants to create a garden on his or her roof is to “make it a dream.” People should install plants they love and play around with various types to see
what works best, while paying attention to the amounts of shade and light available in the space.

“Buy one of each, and you’ll see what they like — they’ll tell you,” he says.

Furniture is important too — all-weather furniture means you can leave it outside during the harsher months, and all of the tables on the couple’s roof have granite surfaces so they can withstand the winter.

“It’s heaven,” Golan says again. “It’s my joy.”
 


Next: A Restful Rooftop Retreat
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best Restaurants 2017

Best Restaurants 2017

This year Pittsburgh Magazine's independent Restaurant Review Panel recognizes 34 establishments as our regions's top restaurants. Our list includes All Arounders, Killer Casual, Fancy Night Out, Best Budget and Classic Comfort establishments.
Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Bill Fuller’s portfolio includes overseeing five specialty restaurants — Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen and Wine Bar, Soba, umi and Kaya — as well as 14 fast-casual Mad Mex restaurants and a full-service catering operation. Even in an increasingly competitive environment, his restaurants remain in-demand and relevant.
Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Apteka, operated by Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, is a vegan eatery that draws on Lasky’s sixth-generation Pittsburgh roots and Skowronski’s Polish heritage.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Getting Started with Startups: A Peek at Alphalab Demo Day

Getting Started with Startups: A Peek at Alphalab Demo Day

Technological innovators present what could be “the next big thing” at the Carnegie Music Hall in Homewood.
Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference Helps Writers Tell Their Stories

Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference Helps Writers Tell Their Stories

The fifth annual Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference brings writers from across the country together to improve their craft.
Watch: Radio-Synced Highlights of Pens 7-0 Win in Game 5

Watch: Radio-Synced Highlights of Pens 7-0 Win in Game 5

Nothing beats listening to Mike Lange describe a Penguins' goal.
Break It Down: Byham Theater

Break It Down: Byham Theater

When you walk into the Sixth Street entryway of the Byham Theater, Downtown, you will see patches of green and black tile on the walls: These are originals from the early 20th century, says John Mumper, facilities manager at the Byham. The grand theater has plenty of history to go with its 100-plus years; let’s break it down.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best Restaurants 2017

Best Restaurants 2017

This year Pittsburgh Magazine's independent Restaurant Review Panel recognizes 34 establishments as our regions's top restaurants. Our list includes All Arounders, Killer Casual, Fancy Night Out, Best Budget and Classic Comfort establishments.
Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Bill Fuller’s portfolio includes overseeing five specialty restaurants — Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen and Wine Bar, Soba, umi and Kaya — as well as 14 fast-casual Mad Mex restaurants and a full-service catering operation. Even in an increasingly competitive environment, his restaurants remain in-demand and relevant.
Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Apteka, operated by Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, is a vegan eatery that draws on Lasky’s sixth-generation Pittsburgh roots and Skowronski’s Polish heritage.
Can the Restoration of a Church Lead to the Revival of a Town?

Can the Restoration of a Church Lead to the Revival of a Town?

A small group of dedicated residents sees the restoration of their church in Tarentum as a window to the potential rebirth of their once-booming community in suburban Pittsburgh.
Remembering Henry Hillman

Remembering Henry Hillman

Reflecting on the impact of the businessman, civic visionary and philanthropist.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Getting Started with Startups: A Peek at Alphalab Demo Day

Getting Started with Startups: A Peek at Alphalab Demo Day

Technological innovators present what could be “the next big thing” at the Carnegie Music Hall in Homewood.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Station's Hours Expand and Le Lyonnais Opens Downtown

Station's Hours Expand and Le Lyonnais Opens Downtown

Station, the excellent Bloomfield eatery, now offers lunch service. The Big Y Group opens a French bistro in the space previously occupied by Sonoma Grille.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Vital Happy Hour Alert: Great Cocktails at the Wigle Tasting Room

Vital Happy Hour Alert: Great Cocktails at the Wigle Tasting Room

The third outpost of local distillery Wigle, found in the Omni William Penn Hotel, is an instant destination for cocktail fans.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Frightened about Game 7? You Should Be

Frightened about Game 7? You Should Be

A win will send the Penguins to the Stanley Cup finals for a second year in a row and re-write team history.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Pittsburgh on a Plate

Pittsburgh on a Plate

The way to a beer lover’s heart is mapped out on notNeutral’s plate, which highlights Pittsburgh breweries (and other points of interest) across the city.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The Alien Series Jumps the Shark with Covenant

The Alien Series Jumps the Shark with Covenant

Reviews of "Alien: Covenant" and "Everything, Everything," as well as local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
New York Bridal Designer Shares Her Secrets

New York Bridal Designer Shares Her Secrets

Pennsylvania native Jaclyn Jordan brings her newest collection to the Blanc de Blanc Bridal Boutique in Carrick.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get to the North Side for Home & Garden Tour, Epic Yard Sale

Get to the North Side for Home & Garden Tour, Epic Yard Sale

Explore lavish homes and gardens with the West Allegheny Historic District’s annual Tour and Tasting, or go on the hunt for hidden treasure during The Great Mexican War Streets Yard Sale.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Explore Your Future with Point Park University

Explore Your Future with Point Park University

The university will host three summer workshops for high school students from July 17-20.

Comments