Residents at the Hearthstone retirement home at Seattle’s Green Lake enjoy the changing scene at their imaginary rooftop farm.

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Imagine a farm in the city. Not one that grows crops, but one that provides space for a couple dozen animals to bask on beach towels, play baseball, drive cars, roast marshmallows on a campfire and watch the Seahawks on TV.

That’s the scene, complete with colorful country cottage and chicken coop, that residents at the Hearthstone at Green Lake see when they look out on the roof of the retirement home’s one-story Health Center.

“We wanted to do something fun with it,” said Hearthstone CEO Mary Lou Stuenzi.

Carpenter Gary Robertson creates the elaborate displays with animals and props atop a building at the Hearthstone retirement community at Green Lake.  (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

The farm scene, visible from the floors above it in the 10-story building, attests to the power of camouflage, the talent of Seattle artist Melissa Koch and the scene-setting abilities of Hearthstone’s carpenter, Gary Robertson.

“She (Koch) created this gorgeous scene and he (Robertson) brings it to life,” Stuenzi said.

This quirky tableau was created from humdrum metal structures that house heating, venting and air-conditioning equipment, with the largest unit 9 feet tall and 25 feet long.

The scene wasn’t always this happy.

Although the building offers views of Green Lake across the street, some residents had grumbled about the industrial-looking foreground presented by the roof’s mechanical works.

Stuenzi agreed the “HVAC” equipment was no showpiece but didn’t know what to do about it.

Simply painting the metal monsters wouldn’t accomplish much, she figured. And screening it off with sections of wooden lattice might create a safety hazard on the sidewalk below if any lattice pieces blew off during a storm.

The solution grew out of brainstorming sessions with Koch, who had done some murals for the home.

Koch said she and Stuenzi sang, “Old McHearthstone had a farm,” to help them decide what to include in the scene. Stuenzi tracked down most of the animals from garden-art stores, nurseries and other sources.

In designing the cottage, Koch faced this constraint: Every hatch on the equipment had to continue to function after the transformation, so workers could still access it to change filters and do other maintenance.

So that’s where Koch put the doors and windows to the cottage, which appears to have a peaked and gabled roof rather than being a plain box.

After Hearthstone residents complained about having to look at the roof cluttered with mechanical equipment, the retirement center called upon the talents of artist Melissa Koch and carpenter Gary Robertson to create a “farm” of whimsy to mask the machinery. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

A lower piece of ductwork became the chicken coop, and broken bits of bright-blue recycled glass were laid down to create the pond.

As charming as the scene appeared, it’s the changing nature of the display that keeps Hearthstone residents intrigued.

“We peek every day to see what he’s up to down there,” said Barbara Lundquist, 81, who has lived at the Hearthstone since 2005. “He has a great sense of humor.”

Residents who are on the opposite side of the building see the farm when they’re waiting for the elevator down to breakfast.

Robertson’s masterpiece, Lundquist said, might have been the Thanksgiving scene in which pilgrims in buckled hats feasted alongside Native Americans at a long table.

Other residents cite the Super Bowl scene for which Robertson hung pennants spelling out “Go Hawks” and gathered the animals around a wooden box he used as a vintage TV set with a coat-hanger-style antenna, filling the screen with a Seahawks action photo.

Lundquist, whose husband died just months after the couple moved in, said she enjoys the fact that although Hearthstone residents vary in abilities and the level of care they need, the simple joy of watching — and commenting about — a make-believe farm is something nearly all can share.

She especially likes it when the display reflects area activities. If there’s an “Ultimate Frisbee” tournament in the park across the street, she said, chances are a Frisbee will show up on the farm.