The Azotea: An Inventive Use for Your Roof

K. Emily Bond
Home & Garden

azotea roof deck in Spain
Photo by Angela Contreras

Many single-family homes have sloped roofs, which are great for sloshing off rainfall or snow. But multi-unit dwellings and houses in the city or in climates with low precipitation often feature flat roofs. If you happen to live under one (and are fortunate enough to have access to it), it’s an ideal place to set up a Mediterranean-inspired azotea.

The word azotea is of Hispano-Arabic origin and means, if you haven’t guessed already, flat or spread out roof or terrace. Here in Southern Spain, most people use them for hanging clothes to dry. Those who like to indulge in something a bit more luxurious -- since having an azotea is considered muy lujo -- use theirs as lushly adorned gardens/extra living rooms.

The practice reflects the influence Islamic architecture has had on Spanish architecture and design since the eighth century when medieval Spaniards started using the Mudéjar style for palaces, churches, and other buildings.

Angela Contreras, whose azotea I had the extreme pleasure of visiting during lunch one afternoon, prefers Casa-style. Casa is a Belgium-based home design mecca that’s sort of a cross between Pier 1 Imports and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Angela’s azotea features a table, chairs, and a lounge from their garden collection, along with some street finds.

And, of course, no azotea would be complete without muchas flores.

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