A penthouse terrace responds to unique challenges and opportunities to create a distinctive, personalized setting.

Entry to this fifth floor penthouse on a busy street in downtown Palo Alto is by way of a private elevator, direct from the sidewalk. Yet the potentially dramatic passage was in fact undistinguished, opening abruptly onto an ill-defined rooftop terrace that did not live up to the quality of the dwelling’s interior.

The design reorganizes the terrace to form an elegant entry sequence. A screen of perforated, nickel-plated panels separates the elevator landing from the terrace proper, offering a pause before guests join the gathering. New finishes applied to the existing deck and walls create not only a coherent exterior realm, but also strengthen the continuity between exterior and interior. Careful detailing allows these new finishes to be attached with a minimum of disruption to the existing structure, simplifying condominium association approval.

A lyrical canopy, designed in collaboration with a noted tensile fabric artist, casts a beautiful pattern of shadows in counterpoint to the canopies of a half dozen olive trees, set in custom, geometric planters.