An intrepid traveller from a young age, Tessa has always found herself drawn to cities, fascinated by the way people gather together in a small space. With an eye to the future, Tessa became concerned about how cities were clogging up. So she put her design skills to work and founded her company RoofLife dedicated to restoring balance and greenery atop our cities. Working in a male dominated industry Tessa has found her own path, becoming an expert and acknowledged as an equal business partner.

Read Tessa's story below.



Natural Vision Bracelet

For Tessa, the opportunity to combine different metals lent a diverse feel to her bracelet, allowing her to elegantly mix and match with her watch and other jewellery.

Like her efforts to achieve a sense of equilibrium in our cities, Tessa has chosen links which symbolise her ongoing search for balance in her life.





Tessa Duste’s passport has certainly collected some stamps. She was born in Muscat, Oman, but relocated with her family to Aberdeen, and then to Cairo before the family returned to the Netherlands. Craving adventure, and not yet ready to settle, Tessa’s university years saw her living in Paris, Stuttgart and Ho Chi Minh.

Reflecting on her travels, Tessa surmised, “I was always in a city environment, beautiful in a way but always crowded and I saw a lot of problems, so there was always a thing that interested me about city environments.”

Tessa’s design studies provided the perfect outlet for her urban interests. She looked specifically at automotive design, with a focus on how we can successfully transport all these extra people moving to the cities, when experts believe that 75% of the world’s population will reside in cities by 2050.

But Tessa had a more pressing concern:

”If you look at the cities they are clogging up. The green is disappearing... a lot of people will need to live somewhere - all of us living together in one small environment. I think the balance between grey and green areas is becoming more important – a balance between animals, our people and green – in order to live together. That’s a challenge I’ve found really interesting – how are we going to do that?”

Relishing the challenge that presented itself, Tessa founded Rooflife, whose mission is to transform rooftops into usable spaces through design and engineering. Their work melds innovation, and aesthetics to produce living environments complete with flowers, trees and irrigation systems; urban oases if you will.

Somewhat ironically, while Tessa has been conquering rooftops and improving our urban environments, her Rooflife team have faced archaic gender attitudes, the kinds that make you wonder how evolved our 21st century society really is.

A young female team in a male dominated industry, Tessa and her staff have at times struggled for legitimacy: “it’s about roofing techniques and it’s quite technical, though partially creative, and sometimes we notice during meetings that they don’t take us seriously.” However, Tessa has learnt that the best retort is knowledge acquired through study, site visits and asking questions. Gaining this knowledge has been empowering for the whole team, shaping Tessa’s advice that if you can show you’re a serious contender, people will take notice and respect you. For Tessa that has meant speaking about roofs in expert terms, though she believes that now the team have a portfolio of beautiful roof spaces to their name, this obstacle has largely melted away.

In terms of inspiration, Tessa does not have one single role model, but celebrates strong, ambitious women who have followed their dreams. She is also spurred on by the knowledge that what Rooflife is doing is not just important for this generation, but for future generations who would otherwise face life in drab, congested cities, devoid of nature and oxygen. As she puts it, ”whenever you see the result of what you’ve done – a roof that’s turned from grey to green - that the best thing that can happen because you know you’ve created a result in this world.”

Making a difference in the lives of others is, after all, the ultimate motivation.