Refined rooftops: Five trends in deck design

Leslie Rohrs' deck in the 600 block of Harvey Street.

In Baltimore City, where rowhomes are the norm, rooftop decks are the outdoor space of choice. And they’re not just the bland, pressure-treated wooden structures typically associated with the home accessory.

“Decks have made leaps and bounds in the past 10 years,” says George Brown, president of Greenleaf Construction in Hampden. “People are giving it their style and characteristics. They want to make it beautiful and unique.”


With an abundance of decks in the region, we’ve come up with top trends that will allow your deck to stand out among the mass of others. So whether that means what colors to use or which decor aspect will give you more privacy, we’ve got you covered.



Typically associated with gardens, the grate-like wooden structures are growing in popularity for roof decks, according to Brown.

He first started seeing the structure used on decks three years ago. Although pergolas can come in any color, the ones that Brown has installed have been white.

“It’s just personal taste,” he says.

They can cost as much as $15,000, according to Brown, but the end result is worth it, he says.

“It can create separate spaces within the deck,” Brown says. “It gives the space some flexibility. It makes it appear larger, with multiple rooms.”

The shade the structure provides is likely its best feature, according to Brown.

“Sometimes the sun can be brutal in the afternoon. Sometimes you need a space to retreat to,” he adds.

Built-in function


Built-in design details — such as lighting, grills and bars — are the latest trend with decks, according to John L. Rhine III, president of Rhine Landscaping in Sykesville.

“Lighting is a huge add-on to every single job,” says Rhine, who adds that lighting — often low-voltage LED — increases safety and allows for nighttime entertaining. “Lights for the post and the stairs is a must these days.”

One thing that you won't see much of these days is built-in benches instead of or near railings.

“Built-in benches are very out of date these days and considered unsafe, as children can stand on them and fall over the rail,” Rhine says, adding that they aren't allowed in many counties.

Instead, choose an entertaining option, like a built-in grill or bar, he says. They “save space while adding functionality.”

Aluminum pickets


Although treated lumber has traditionally been the go-to material for deck projects, aluminum pickets are quickly taking over.

“The No. 1 thing I see homeowners asking for are the black aluminum pickets so that you can see right through the railing, leaving a nice clean view,” Rhine says.

In addition to its sleek appearance, aluminum can’t rust.

“They come powder-coated in different colors, with black being the most common,” Rhine explains.

And they’re not much more expensive than the wood variety. “Cost is almost the same to slightly higher,” he says.

White and pink decor


Decks — especially treated lumber ones — are typically in neutral hues. Pops of color in furniture and deck decor provide a nice contrast to the wood, according to Belvedere Square-based interior designer Stephanie Gamble.

“Outdoor is a great opportunity to have more fun than you would inside,” she says.

She recommends using white — a color that’s hot among Baltimore’s design community — in grounding elements like a vase or planter.

“It always looks good with greenery or flowers,” she says.

Pink — especially with decor such as pink flamingo pillows — is also a go-to for Baltimore designers.

“The old days of pink just being feminine is over. It’s great for outdoors,” she says. “I thought the pink flamingos are really fun. That was kind of my little nod to Baltimore.”


Gamble advises to use two pink flamingo pillows and an additional two solid pink pillows on a rooftop couch.

“It’s fun,” she says. “And less is more.”


Planters are trendy, too, Gamble says.

“It can create privacy on the deck — especially when you live close to your neighbors,” she says, recommending ferns and palms such as the banana or Majesty. “You can create a vegetation wall.”

She also recommends placing them near the entrance of the deck as anchoring elements.


Four to six planters are typically plenty for a rooftop, she says. “Having them next to your seating is pretty, too.”