The Truth About Owning Outdoor Space
For those who embrace home and the outdoors, finding the right outdoor space can be life changing.
Owning outdoor space is more of a prized possession than ever before with more of us working from home. The dream of having private outdoor space varies from the modest desire of owning a balcony large enough for morning meditation to a grand terrace which can accommodate a gathering with one hundred of your closest friends.
“The biggest change in the outdoor space is the shift of how an outdoor environment is being utilized as an additional room,” said Vincent Falls, owner of Harlem-based Vincent Falls Designs. “It needs to function as a work space, family room and most importantly, a place to relax and recharge.”
Most buyers imagine the dream and forget that the space comes with the real responsibility of paying for it through a higher purchase price, a higher monthly carrying cost and maintaining it through inclement weather.
I don’t want to dissuade anyone from their dream of private outdoor space, yet in my experience having access to a roof deck can give you the same utility with far less effort. However, there are many people who own outdoor space and thrive in the city because of it.
A few years ago, I had a very active client who was constantly on the go. During the pandemic he felt like a caged animal and yearned for a private outdoor space. After owning his place for a very short time he asked me to sell his two-bedroom apartment so he could purchase a smaller two-bedroom apartment one floor above him which had a terrace running the length of the residence.
It was a costly proposition which didn’t figure into his retirement plan but he has never regretted the move.
I sold another home at 117 West 123rd Street where the outdoor garden area was almost as large as the living room. The owners had a lush urban oasis complete with a gardening shed and water feature. An elaborate irrigation system kept it all in bloom giving them the freedom to travel for extended periods of time. It was hard to be in this garden and believe you were in the heart of Harlem. When perched amongst the flowers, watching the butterflies, it felt more like the Hudson River Valley.
A few blocks away in another Harlem condominium a friend purchased the Penthouse in a new development. A successful media executive, her idea of outdoor heaven included a large flat screen TV shielded from the weather along with a grilling station to keep her large group of family and friends fed.
Owning a brownstone is another way to get private outdoor space. Most townhouses have approximately thirty feet of space between the back of the building and the next property. A desirable Harlem brownstone is about eighteen feet wide giving you five hundred forty square feet for your outdoor room.
One clever, design-obsessed owner, who prefers to entertain rather than spend all his time tending to the garden, opted for an exquisite architectural concrete poured backyard with multiple levels and built in planters. The space is ample for a table which seats six and an impressive gas grill to whip up his culinary delights.
My building has a beautiful roof deck with open views of all the other lovely Harlem condominiums, area parks and impressive views downtown. There is also an additional landscaped terrace of over 5,000 square feet off of the second floor. On the days I work from home in the warmer months, I cherish my outdoor time, having lunch on the roof and relaxing for a few minutes in the fresh air.
After a sunny break, I find I am more productive than I would normally be returning to my desk with renewed vigor. I equally enjoy not having to clean or plant the space. Yet if owning private outdoor space is your dream, there are many wonderful options to suit your lifestyle throughout Manhattan.