Mix Up Materials
Where do great patio design ideas come from?
You might see patio designs on TV or get garden design ideas from a garden tour.
Outdoor patios can be attached to a house, or detached. They are often designed and oriented with the landscape. Patios are versatile: they can take on any shape and be built with various materials, like concrete, travertine pavers, stone, tile, brick or gravel. Most patios are set on a concrete slab or a sand and pebble base.
Once you’ve decided to build a patio and chosen a site, there are other design considerations:
- Space: Available space will determine your patio’s size.
- Shapes: Squares, rectangles, ovals.
- Levels: Multidimensional surfaces work well with slopes and uneven levels.
- Drainage: Working with existing runoff systems or determining the best place to build one.
- Grading: Deals with soil redistribution for a flat, even patio base.
- Privacy Screening: Walls and enclosures turn a patio into an outdoor room.
Patios are versatile: they can take on any shape and be built with various materials, like concrete, pavers, stone, tile, brick or gravel. Most patios are set on a concrete slab or a sand and pebble base.
Division of space and suggesting a separation or another area outdoors can be achieved by altering the direction of pavers or bricks, or by mixing materials.
The following pictures include these design elements.
Gravel Fire Pit Patio
As you look at this patio, keep in mind that there was no mixing of mortar involved. Using the circular fountain as a focal point, the gray stones radiate out in a sunburst pattern from the edge of the fountain. Underneath is a loose material — pea gravel. The larger flagstone pavers can be spaced apart for pathways or butted-up closer together and leveled for a seating area. When designing a patio surface, remember that there’s no hard-and-fast rule about using just one paving material.
Round Pavers in Gravel
Loose materials like gravel are an easy way to create an almost-instant patio or hardscaped area in any part of your yard. Gravel is much easier and more forgiving than the concrete-pouring process or even a brick-and-sand patio. Round aggregate pavers in assorted sizes were common and available at hardware stores and garden centers in the mid-20th century, and are once again finding their way into yards and on pathways as an interesting alternative…
Flagstone with River Rock Mosaic
Flagstone pavers on this patio floor get a framing effect with a mosaic border of Mexican river rock. The smooth rocks used for this mosaic are usually laid flat — note how these are turned on their “sides” for a more richly textured and unusual look.
Three Patio Floors
Three paving or patio flooring materials are combined to show variety but also demonstrate that you don’t need to be limited to one type. So what do we have here?
- Decomposed granite (DG) is the solid-packed dirt-looking material
- Bricks in a semi-whorled pattern with concrete pavers
- Pea gravel, which is small, pea-sized pebbles
Each patio flooring area has flexible edging that allows you to make curves, circles, or meandering, non-geometric pathways.
Brick Pavers and Black Gravel
A study in contrasts, both in shape and color: terracotta-colored square brick pavers of a patio are edged or filled-in with black-rock gravel. The result: even though both are on the same level, you know where one ends and the other begins, or vice versa.
It’s a striking, geometric, modern look – and not all types of plants would look good in this planting bed. The cacti and succulents work well here; a cottage garden would not.
Mid-century Modern Patio
Two vintage designer lounge chairs are positioned poolside on a smooth, subtly patterned concrete patio floor. The Agave americana in containers are an appropriately architectural plant choice for this house, which was designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, in the late 1950s. The home and garden were part of the Theodore Payne water-wise garden tour.
The View From the Terrace
A terrace-style patio at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, California, takes full advantage of the breathtaking ocean view. The low, curved wall establishes a definite shape to the patio area as well as a barrier.
While the patio is situated on a “bluff” that’s only about 4 feet from ground level, the wall and landscape design give the illusion of being set on a much higher level. Note also that the seating area is kept to a minimum and faces toward the view — it’s not designed in the standard conversation-style layout.
Low Wall for Privacy
A raised patio that is used as a room-like outdoor entryway requires some privacy, especially when the homeowners dine outside. This is where a low wall serves a few purposes: it encloses the patio and makes it more of an outdoor room, offers privacy by not being as visible from the street, and provides a physical barrier, so you don’t scoot your chair back too far and end up in a prickly shrub.
When entertaining, add some pillows and use the wall for additional seating; place containers for color and interest; add candles or lanterns for evening ambiance.
The mixed materials used on this patio are saltillo tiles and glazed ceramic tiles where they show on the stair risers.
Front Yard Flagstone Patio
Instead of a boring, thirsty lawn in drought-stricken California, this Santa Monica front yard uses every inch of space for drought-tolerant and sustainable gardening, recycled pathways, repurposed and creative sitting areas, like this patio.
Materials used are widely spaced pink / peach flagstone pavers with pea gravel in between. The circular metal object in the center is a vintage street-hole cover that the homeowners bought on a trip. This is a perfect example of repurposing: in this case, a former industrial object becomes a decorative element and focal point for an outdoor patio. Simple, easy and original!
This yard was part of the Theodore Payne Foundation’s annual self-guided garden tour.